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US police forces are turning to using DNA databases in order to shed fresh light of cases investigators had thought unsolveable years ago.

In an interesting article on the subject, Reuters reports that the creation of a comprehensive DNA data bank by the FBI, which is called CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), has led to the creation of task forces by police to investigate cold cases, unsolved rapes and murder that might stretch back decades.

Up until February this year, CODIS assisted in 1,733 investigations and has helped break a number of important cases.

In May this year Nevada police were able to arrest a suspect for the kidnap and murder of a six year-old girl 23 years previously. Six year-old Lisa Marie Bonham was reported missing from a Reno park during the course of a visit with relatives in September 1977.

Portions of her clothing was discovered in a dumpster a few miles from Reno and in a national park close to the California border in the days after her disappearance.

The case went unsolved for decades, and it was not until the Nevada State DNA Database (which uses CODIS software), matched DNA from the Lisa's clothing with DNA from Stephen Robert Smith that an arrest for her murder was possible.

Laws on whose DNA can be put in the FBI database vary from state to state, with some only forwarding the sample of convicted murderers and rapists whilst others submit the DNA sample of all convicts.

Reuters reports the CODIS system now contains DNA profiles of 531,555 convicts from 36 states, the military and the FBI as well as profiles gathered at 21,904 crime scenes.

Among the agencies making most use of this data is the US Navy's criminal investigative service, which investigates crimes against servicemen or their families. It has 22 investigators in a "cold case" unit, which has solved 33 such cases since 1995.

Reflecting its role as leading light in the area, the Navy is hosting a four-day conference of 90 investigators are meeting at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis this week to hear about the latest developments in the field. ®

External Links

CODIS home page
REUTERS: DNA database solves decades old crimes

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