Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $500,000)
Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA
CFDA No. 16.036
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s (DA’s) Office seeks to expand the Cold Case DNA Prosecution Team (Team) which is devoted to the goals of increasing the number of violent crime cold case prosecutions and decreasing the number of unsolved violent crime cold cases awaiting prosecution. The first objective is the prosecution of violent crime cold cases where DNA evidence has been obtained, but no suspects have been identified. There are currently 1,460 violent crime cold cases in Sacramento County where suspect DNA profiles failed to match known profiles in CODIS or other databases. The second objective is to decrease the number of cold case violent crimes where suspect DNA has been identified. The expansion of the Team would allow for a dedicated criminalist to focus solely on the testing and analysis of evidence associated with violent crime cold cases. In turn, this would increase the capacity to address these cases and expand our capabilities to solve and prosecute these cases.
The DA’s Office, in partnership with allied agencies, has identified suspects using forensic genetic genealogy and has successfully prosecuted four cases. In addition, we currently have two active prosecutions where the suspects were identified by forensic genetic genealogy. The first successfully prosecuted case involved the notorious rapist and serial killer Joseph DeAngelo, also known as the “Golden State Killer.” This case was prosecuted in Sacramento County in collaboration with five other counties. While the DA’s Office has had some success solving violent crime cold cases, we have many cases left to solve and will demonstrate the need for additional resources to accomplish this goal.
The Team currently consists of three project groups: genealogy, investigative, and prosecution. The Team seeks to add a fourth project group: forensic analysis. An experienced criminalist from the DA’s Laboratory of Forensic Services would be dedicated to obtaining DNA STR profiles from preserved items of evidence and reference samples. All profiles would be uploaded to pursue match leads and familial searches. Where no matches occur, the Team will develop genome profiles to pursue forensic genetic genealogy. The mission will be to develop single nucleotide polymorphisms profiles or full genome sequencing from evidence samples and pursue forensic genetic genealogy to identify those responsible, eliminate the innocent, and seek prosecution of the offenders where the evidence warrants it and bring justice to victims long overdue to receive it.