Thursday night, just hours after the measure passed the House, the Senate approved a budget conference report which includes language drafted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to encourage the FBI to expand the availability of familial DNA testing to solve cold cases.
"Despite the painstaking efforts of law enforcement to stop him, the Grim Sleeper roamed the streets of South Los Angeles for nearly 25 years, murdering at least 11 people," Rep. Schiff said. "When police ultimately requested a state check of familial DNA, we were fortunate that the match occurred in California. If the Grim Sleeper's son had been arrested and jailed in Nevada, no match would have been made and the accused killer would still be at large. The language included in the conference agreement that now awaits the President's signature instructs the FBI to expand the availability of familial DNA testing in appropriate cases while ensuring privacy rights for Americans. Searching the national database would increase the capacity of law enforcement to solve violent crimes, taking murderers and rapists off the streets."
Specifically, the conference report language encourages the FBI to facilitate familial DNA searches of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database of convicted offenders, and to work with the National DNA Index System (NDIS) Procedures Board to put policies in place to allow only for investigations of serious violent and sexual crimes where other investigative leads have been exhausted. The language follows on legislation Congressman Schiff recently reintroduced known as the Utilizing DNA Technology to Solve Cold Cases Act that would put in place a national system allowing for familial DNA searches in certain restricted cases. The bill introduced by Rep. Schiff incorporated input from a variety of stakeholders on how to make a familial DNA system work effectively across state lines, and mirrors guidelines developed by the California Department of Justice in 2009.
According to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck, the challenge facing the LAPD in the Grim Sleeper case was the fact that it had the DNA from the suspect, but there was no match in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). After the LAPD conducted a familial DNA search of California's DNA database and received a hit, a reverse family tree was prepared, which allowed detectives to evaluate all persons related to the Familial DNA match. The investigators began to focus on Lonnie David Franklin Jr., the father of the Familial DNA match. Franklin was placed under surveillance and investigators were able to obtain samples of his DNA. Franklin's DNA was sent to the labs, which resulted in an exact match of the "Grim Sleeper" murder suspect, allowing the LAPD to finally crack the years-old serial killer case in July 2010.
"The "Grim Sleeper' was a case that spanned nearly 25 years of investigation and claimed the lives of at least 11 innocent victims," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. "It was not until we attempted to use Familial DNA that our investigators got the clue they needed. Familial DNA testing proved to be an invaluable tool that assisted our detectives in the apprehension of the "Grim Sleeper' murder suspect, and the ability to utilize the national database would strengthen that tool even further."