Missouri state law to help police solve cold cases

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

KENNETT, MO (KAIT) - Police agencies in the show-me-state have started training for a new DNA profiling system after a state law went into effect Friday. Under the legislation, police agencies are required to obtain DNA from suspects arrested and convicted of violent crimes. According to authorities, House Bill No. 152 will help prosecutors and police agencies solve cold cases or find new suspects where information is difficult to obtain.

"They would be required to submit a DNA sample. Basically in doing that, they take a buckle swab, which is a small rough cue tip, and they rub it in their cheek on the inside and take a sample," said Steven Sokoloff, Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney.

Sokoloff told Region 8 News Friday the law will help police find new leads. He gave the following example, which involved a robbery in the city of Kennett.

"The original submission of the mask was not for DNA, but rather for hair samples that the officers said they observed. It turned out they were just loose threads, but when the lab personnel looked at the thing and examined it, they determined that they thought there were some potential samples there. Not only did it match up with our suspect on the robbery case, but it also came up with a cold hit from the city of St. Louis on a commercial burglary where they had recovered some skin cells off of a rock that had been thrown through a business window," said Sokoloff.

Sokoloff said the new law changes and expands the list of offenses in which DNA samples can be obtained.

"We've had a couple of cases that have produced cold hits from CODIS. Obviously that indicates it's of some value," said Sokoloff.

Law enforcement agencies in southeast Missouri will undergo training in early September. The Missouri State Highway Patrol Lab will train officers how to search for and handle DNA evidence.

"What we're working on now is training law enforcement to be looking for possible sources of DNA samples at crime scenes where they didn't' beforehand," said Sokoloff.

Sokoloff said the Missouri Prosecutor's Association supported the bill when it was going through both houses of the Missouri legislature.

Sokoloff said when DNA is obtained from an individual not convicted of the offense, and then the data is destroyed along with other medical waste.

"It's a tremendously useful tool. I think it's of great benefit because the nice thing about DNA evidence is that it's not going to give you an error," said Sokoloff. "One of the things that this stuff does do is, it creates an expectation on the part of the jury pool that you're going to have DNA available all the time. Sometimes it's just not available. There's just nothing there that's going to produce it."

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