10/06/2006

Calif.: Grant to help solve DNA cold-hit cases

Jaxon Van Derbeken
San Francisco Chronicle
Copyright 2006 San Francisco Chronicle
All Rights Reserved

Expressing frustration about what they called a backlog of 61 "cold-hit" cases in which DNA matches have identified possible suspects in years-old killings and rapes, city officials and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced a one-year, $400,000 grant Wednesday to deal with the caseload.

District Attorney Kamala Harris said the money will go toward making cases against those who have been identified using DNA samples collected from every convicted felon in the state.

Harris and other city officials did not spell out exactly how the money will be spent. The district attorney's office said the money would go toward the police crime lab and prosecutors "to employ a specialized approach to solving and prosecuting cold murder and sexual assault cases.''

Harris' office said the figure of 61 cold-case matches came from the state Department of Justice's database, based on an assessment done about a year ago. "We're all frustrated,'' Harris said of the pace at which the cases are being handled.

Deputy Police Chief Morris Tabak, head of criminal investigations for the Police Department, said the department's crime lab has sent more than 700 DNA samples generated from crime scenes to the state database. He said that of those, 110 had been matched to suspects, and that "all the ones that have probative value we assign out immediately."

About a dozen of those cases have led to criminal charges, he said.

Tabak said that just because the case comes back as a match from the state database does not mean the case is solved. The department has to do follow-up investigations to make sure there is corroborating evidence. 

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