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Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Cold Case DNA Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $535,000)

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office (CCPO) is committed to using the newest DNA technologies to solve violent sexual assaults and homicides. Between 2013 and 2020, the CCPO investigated approximately 7,024 cases resulting from the testing of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) collected in Cuyahoga County between 1993 and 2009. The investigations resulted in over 800 indictments.

        However, testing all kits did not solve all cases. Many cases remain unsolved because, even though forensic analysis produced a DNA profile suitable for upload to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), there was no resulting “hit.” As a result, the CCPO has indicted over 170 sexual assault cases as “John Doe” defendants. The CCPO has received prior BJA SAKI funding to apply advanced DNA methodologies to up to 40 John Doe defendants. Those efforts have proved successful -- to date, FGG has solved six Cuyahoga County stranger rapes and identified two defendants tied to more than one SAK.

        However, the BJA SAKI funding only applies to homicides with a sexual motivation. The CCPO has learned that there are potentially hundreds of unsolved cold case non-sexual homicides and missing person cases in Cuyahoga County with a profile in CODIS, but no “hit.” The CCPO now seeks to obtain funds to review a list of approximately 517 DNA profiles in CODIS in Cuyahoga County cold case homicides and/or missing persons cases with no CODIS “hit,” and to apply advanced DNA methodologies to those without a sexual motivation to help identify, apprehend and prosecute suspects in violent crimes in Cuyahoga County.

        To ensure that we have fully leveraged the forensic evidence related to unsolved homicides to identify and prosecute suspects, we propose the following goals for this award: (a) utilize advanced DNA methodologies to identify suspects, thereby reducing the number of unresolved violent crime cold cases in Cuyahoga County where a DNA sample is in CODIS; and (b) investigate and prosecute the leads resulting from the application of advanced DNA methodologies in an evidence-based, victim-centered manner.

        These goals will be achieved through the following deliverables: (1) leveraging our existing structures, including experienced CCPO personnel, to investigate and prosecute cold case homicides or missing persons cases; (2) utilizing advanced DNA testing and related methodologies to identify and apprehend suspects linked to cold cases; and (3) entering sexual assault, homicides and missing persons cases into ViCAP and NAMUS to help solve additional crimes.

Date Created: December 17, 2021