04/09/2003

DNA Testing of Police Urged in La. Killings

Serial killer stalking southern Louisiana could be wearing a uniform.

By The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La., -- Speculation that a serial killer stalking southern Louisiana could be gaining the trust of his victims by wearing a uniform has prompted calls for police officers to undergo DNA testing.

Authorities say there have been no signs of forced entry where the victims were murdered or abducted. That has led to speculation the murderer could be anyone from a delivery man to a police officer -- a man using a uniform to get to the women.

State Rep. Yvonne Welch said that taking cheek scrapings or saliva swabs for DNA testing from the police could clear law enforcement of suspicion, if it does not catch the killer. DNA linked one man to the five murdered women.

"Women have told me they're afraid to stop when it's a police officer. The women ought to be able to feel safe that the police are the ones that are protecting them," Welch said.

But police, Gov. Mike Foster Jr. and the mother of one victim said such a step could divert time from more important investigative work in the case.

"I don't know if it's a waste of time. I don't want to tie up resources on speculation," Police Chief Pat Englade said. "We don't want to get into the business of randomly swabbing everybody in Baton Rouge."

Authorities have embarked on a massive DNA dragnet to find the killer of the five victims -- four in Baton Rouge and one in Lafayette.

More than 1,000 men have been swabbed, picked to "volunteer" for the tests based on tips or information generated in the investigation. Defense attorneys in Baton Rouge have said some of their clients have agreed to the testing to avoid speculation they could be the killer.

Welch wants as many men as possible swabbed. She said she is paying to have DNA samples taken from her husband and son to clear them.

Englade said police need probable cause to force someone to submit to testing. He said some police officers were already tested because of specific tips. However, testing thousands of officers could distract the crime lab, he said.

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