SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4NEWS) Police now have a new tool to quickly catch criminals. It’s called Rapid DNA testing – and it just solved its second case here in Utah – connecting a suspect to a gun. We learn more about it in our Behind the Badge report.
“This would be – for the lack of a better term – your DNA lab.” Attorney General Office investigator Nate Mutter explains how rapid DNA testing works. “This information here is what needs to be interpreted by the lab.” And Mutter says the state just got it’s first touch match.
The ANDE rapid DNA device – connected a gun to a suspect in a 2014 case. “I’m extremely excited about the gun cases. Given today’s environment with all the mass shootings and people that have guns that shouldn’t – we want to be able to hold those people accountable in essence make our community safer.”
This is the gun that was matched. It was found in a field in Sandy. But because it was a low priority, the state crime lab had yet to run a test on it.
A few weeks ago Sandy Police heard about the AG office’s rapid DNA machines. A test was run – and it was matched up to a felon who was in Utah, but is now in federal prison in North Carolina. Sandy Police spokesman Sgt. Jason Nielsen. “So, if we do have a gun case like this – we can get that DNA sample back while the person is still in jail prior to them being released.”
The AG’s office has seven trained investigators who can swab for DNA, operate the machinery and run tests. With blood and saliva – Mutter says the matches from the machine are dead on and come back in about 90 minutes. “It literally prints out a match report and it shows your match from the blood to the person and it goes in a column and it’s matching one hundred percent.” In fact, that is what happened in the state’s first rapid DNA case. Albert Hernandez broke into a house and ripped off some stuff up in Cache County in September. Investigators found some blood at the scene, but property crime evidence can take months to get analyzed at the state crime lab. That’s when Mutter and his team stepped in. “It was extremely nerve-racking.” He says running that first real test was exciting and concerning. “Even though it had been demonstrated to us. Even though we had gone through the training. It was extremely different when you are actually putting in your first case.” “The two hours felt like two days.” But when the data came back – the analyzed DNA matched Hernandez.
Results from “touch” DNA like on knives and guns also come back quickly, but Mutter says because they can be mixed samples – they need to be analyzed by an expert. And in the gun case – that took two weeks. “It was overwhelming waiting for the results – waiting for the lab. To get that interpretation back.” The hope is to speed up the “touch” DNA testing to just one day. Which will allow police agencies to get answers – while their suspects are still in custody. “This is an absolute game-changer for law enforcement.”
The state crime lab – or Utah Bureau of Forensic Services Lab – serves 175 agencies and is the only full-service forensic lab in Utah. Because it is so busy – some cases get pushed back. That’s why AG investigators and police say rapid DNA testing can make a difference in criminal cases. It can let them, right away, who is and who isn’t involved.
To learn more about the crime lab and rapid DNA testing – click on the links below:
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