Rapid DNA Used by Prosecution


On September 4, 2013, a break-in occurred at a home belonging to an individual deployed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force. The burglars stole approximately $30,000 worth of property, including firearms, electronic equipment, computers, televisions, military equipment including a bulletproof vest, clothing, several guitars... and even the cable box. The investigation yielded a suspect who was subsequently arrested for the crime based on witness statements and other evidence. A blood sample taken from the scene provided a DNA profile that matched the suspect who had been arrested and charged with the crime.

While utilizing DNA from property crimes is not new, the way that DNA evidence was processed is quite new: It was done in less than 90 minutes, on a stand-alone Rapid DNA device being tested and validated by the Palm Bay (Fla.) Police Department.

Working closely with the State Attorney’s Office for the 18th Judicial Circuit, the Palm Bay Police Department is set to use the DNA profiles obtained using this Rapid DNA technology—the RapidHIT 200 from IntegenX—in a criminal prosecution. It is the first-ever application of rapid DNA technology in a criminal investigation.

Since it received the RapidHIT 200 unit in November 2012, the Palm Bay Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) has been working with the manufacturer, using actual crime scene evidence samples to test and validate the equipment’s accuracy and reliability. In January 2014, the CID began processing samples from active cases.

“What we’ve done is taken actual crime scene evidence, including this burglary case and many others, and processed the samples using the RapidHIT 200,” said Captain Diana Blackledge, who leads the CID and its Rapid DNA program. “We compared all of the results with those from an accredited lab and they all matched. This validates the device as giving reliable and accurate profiles.”

The Palm Bay Police Department is now using the Rapid DNA technology on a weekly basis, in an effort to generate investigative leads, eliminate potential suspects, and provide evidence to convict offenders in court.

“We have met with the Palm Bay Police Department and have been following their progress with Rapid DNA processing for more than a year. We are prepared to present this case in court using the evidence they have developed from their program,” said Phil Archer, state attorney for the 18th Judicial Circuit of Florida. “This case is particularly important as it involves a person victimized while serving our country.”

At the beginning of 2014, the Palm Bay Police Department also added a local DNA database—using the SmallPond DNA profile matching system—to its Rapid DNA program. Palm Bay is now able to cooperate with other local agencies, including Melbourne, West Melbourne, and Cocoa police departments, to collect and share DNA profiles from local suspects and local crimes.

“The ability to solve selected crimes in less than a day is essential to protecting the public,” said Palm Bay Chief Doug Muldoon. “The use of this new technology is our paramount responsibility to the community.”

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