44 ‘Hits’ Found in DNA Testing of Old, Backlogged Virginia Rape Evidence

DNA testing in 431 cases of collected but previously untested biological evidence recovered in Virginia rape cases has resulted in 44 DNA database “hits.”

Hits are when a DNA profile matches a known profile held in the state’s DNA database — primarily the profiles of convicted felons — or matches the DNA profile of an unknown person recovered from another crime.

Officials did not identify the 44 cases Wednesday in a presentation to the Virginia Forensic Science Board. The results are being turned over to law enforcement for possible investigation, said Brad Jenkins, biology manager for the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. It is not known if any crimes have been solved as a result, he said.

Jenkins said Wednesday that the testing so far has found roughly 100 profiles that could be run through the database, which then resulted in the 44 hits. “The majority of those have been to in-state offenders,” he said. Officials said nine were for out-of-state offenders. “We have not had any case-to-case hits,” he said.

The testing is being done under grants sought by DFS and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, who said last year that the effort would build a stronger DNA database, possibly link crimes together, put away dangerous offenders and help victims.

After the meeting Wednesday, Jenkins said he did not believe all the hits have necessarily reached police. “Some are still in the report-writing phase so law enforcement may not know about all of them yet,” he said.

Jenkins and Linda Jackson, the department’s director, briefed the board Wednesday on developments in the continuing project.

In 2015 a statewide inventory of law enforcement agencies by the DFS found that for crimes occurring from 1985 to June 30, 2014, there were nearly 3,000 untested “PERKs” — physical evidence recovery kits — in their possession that might hold biological evidence that could reveal a suspect’s DNA profile.

A $1.4 million grant is funding the testing of those kits — collected prior to July 1, 2014 — from which the 44 hits resulted.

An additional roughly 1,200 untested kits from July 1, 2014 until June 30, 2016 — when state law required all kits to be submitted for testing — will be tested under another grant, officials said. After June 30, 2016, there should be no further untested kits in light of a recent state law requiring law enforcement to submit the kits to DFS for testing with limited exceptions.

The most common reason cited by law enforcement agencies for not performing DNA testing on evidence was that it was not relevant to the investigation or needed for prosecution — for example where consent was the suspect’s defense.

Another often-cited reason was that the victim decided not to assist in the investigation or pursue prosecution.

Jackson said the testing started with the backlogged rape kits from the Fairfax County and Virginia Beach police, the jurisdictions with the most kits to be tested.

This story originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch