Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $500,000)
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office (CCPO) has a proven commitment to using advanced DNA technologies to solve violent crimes. Between 2013 and 2020, the CCPO investigated 7,024 cases resulting from the testing of previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits collected in Cuyahoga County. The investigations resulted in 1,040 prosecutions representing crimes against 933 unique victims.
Unfortunately, not all 1,040 prosecutions represent indictments of known offenders. Some of these indictments are “John Doe” defendants, meaning there is a CODIS upload but no CODIS “hit.” In 2020, the CCPO created a genealogy committee to review and prioritize such cases for the suitability of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG). To date, the committee has approved 29 sexual assault cases for FGG, and the resulting genealogy leads have solved 8 stranger rapes so far.
Having successfully established a procedure to evaluate cold case sexual assaults for FGG, we turned our sights on unsolved homicides. In 2020, we obtained a list of profiles in CODIS with no "hits" that our forensicl lab identified as potentially linked to unsolved Cuyahoga County homicides. Using 2021 BJA funding (15PBJA-21-GG-04357-DNAX), we conducted a preliminary review of the list. After eliminating adjudicated cases and non-homicides, we identified 282 DNA profiles in CODIS with no hit from unsolved homicide cases. We now turn to the task of identifying which of these 282 profiles can and should be prioritized for FGG.
The CCPO seeks funding for (a) one full-time investigator; (b) one part-time prosecutor; (c) one part-time project manager; (d) travel; (e) overtime for our local lab analysts; and (f) FGG.
To fully leverage forensic evidence in unsolved homicides, we propose the following goals: (a) utilize FGG to identify violent offenders, 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 FGG leads in an evidence-based, victim-centered manner.
These goals will be achieved through the following deliverables: (1) leveraging our existing structures, including experienced personnel, to identify cases most likely to yield FGG results that can be prosecuted, and to investigate and prosecute FGG leads; (2) utilizing FGG to identify and apprehend violent offenders linked to cold case homicides; and (3) entering criteria cases into ViCAP and NAMUS to help solve additional crimes.