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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, May 24, 2005

DNA from cold cases to be tested

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu police have identified about 20 pieces of DNA evidence from unsolved homicides and other violent crimes that will be sent to a Mainland lab for testing using a $300,000 federal grant.

This is the first time police have used federal money to pursue a DNA match for evidence from longstanding unsolved cases, some of which date back as far as the late 1970s.

Police would not comment on specifics about the evidence nor would they say how many cases are involved, but the cases are some in which no suspect was ever identified.

The evidence has not been sent yet because the department is waiting to ensure that the lab it is considering using is suitable to conduct the testing, said Michelle Yu, Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman.

The testing will be paid for by a grant from the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), police said.

In order to qualify for the grant, police departments and law-enforcement agencies were told the evidence had to come from cases in which no suspect has ever been identified.

CODIS enables federal, state, and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders. It is the largest shared network of DNA information in the country.

CODIS grants are administered by HPD, which runs the only crime lab in Hawai'i, according to the attorney general's office.

The grants help pay for DNA testing of evidence from murders, assaults, robberies, burglaries, rapes and missing-persons cases.

HPD and the state attorney general's office both run cold-case units that look into unsolved homicides, but do not have an agreement to work together.

The attorney general's unit is based at Pearl Harbor and works to consolidate state law-enforcement resources to close unsolved murder investigations.

Analysis of DNA evidence is a key element in the resolution of old and new criminal cases. Investigators rely heavily on DNA to solve most cold cases.

As of June 2004, HPD had sent 1,772 samples of DNA from Hawai'i felons to the national database.

HPD has cooperated with the squad's efforts, police said. The attorney general's unit employs at least three retired HPD homicide detectives.

The state attorney general's Cold Case Squad also received a CODIS grant for more than $500,000, said Christopher Young, criminal justice division supervisor for the attorney general's office.

Reach Peter Boylan at 535-8110 or pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.