Cold-case prosecutors seek DNA from dead California inmates

Jack Leonard (Los Angeles Times) | March 22, 2013

Opening a new frontier for solving cold cases, California prosecutors are hunting for DNA from killers, rapists and other prison inmates who died before authorities obtained their genetic profiles.

Prosecutors from Sacramento, Los Angeles and Orange counties are sifting through old court exhibits and examining long-since forgotten crime-scene evidence in search of blood, saliva and other material that can be tested for DNA. Once obtained, the DNA is compared with the genetic profiles from unsolved cases that have DNA from unidentified perpetrators.

Prosecutors say they believe the program is the first in the nation to target potentially thousands of offenders who have died in prison or while on parole before a biological sample could be tested for DNA as required by state law.

Last year, the program made its first cold-case hit after prosecutors discovered that coroner’s officials in Sacramento still had blood from an autopsy conducted on serial killer Juan Chavez, who hanged himself in Folsom Prison in 1999. Chavez pleaded guilty to robbing and strangling five middle-aged men in Los Angeles County during the mid- to late 1980s.

Once Chavez’s genetic profile was placed in the state’s DNA criminal databank, authorities found that it matched DNA on a cigarette butt left at the Westlake-area apartment of a man strangled in 1990.

Read more at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-dead-inmate-dna-20130323,0,4812841.story

Photo credit: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times / November 11, 2003

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