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SATI e-News: January 29, 2007


Felons’ DNA Found to be Missing from Virginia Database

Authorities recently realized that the DNA of a significant number of Virginia felons was missing from the state’s database, prompting a massive review which could take several months, according to the Washington Post. The missing records could number in the thousands, diminishing the effectiveness of DNA in criminal investigations nationwide. The problem in Virginia came to light in December of last year when an investigation into a series of Charlottesville rapes revealed that the records of suspects with criminal backgrounds were not included in the database.
Authorities are not certain why the gaps occurred but advanced several possible explanations. One possibility is that local and state agencies simply failed to take samples from offenders. Paul Ferrara, Virginia crime lab director told the Washington Post, “...until about 10 years ago, blood samples were to be taken by qualified medical technicians, which may not have been available.” Another possible explanation is clerical errors such as misspelled names or incorrect social security numbers.
Experts are concerned there might be gaps in the DNA database in other states for these and other reasons. Legislation in some states to expand the pool of samples for offenders of lesser offenses such as burglary may be taxing the system. Bill Marbaker, president of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors told the Washington Post, “Whenever you dump a tremendous increase in the samples to be tracked and collected, there’s more chances of things being overlooked and things falling through the cracks.”
“Felons’ DNA Missing from VA Database,” Washington Post, December 21, 2006.


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