Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $996,045)
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's (FDLE) mission includes promoting public safety by providing services in partnership with local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies, as well as delivering both investigative and forensic science services throughout the state. The FDLE seeks funding to improve the processing and identification of missing persons and unidentified human remains, including migrants. The FDLE presently houses and supports a Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse and an Unidentified Deceased Initiative. The latter is a joint initiative with the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, also staffed by FDLE personnel. The Florida State Crime Laboratory System provides accredited DNA testing services at six FDLE regional crime laboratories, five county crime laboratories, and the FDLE DNA Database (CODIS). The proposed project intends to provide DNA testing services to Florida law enforcement and medical examiners to attempt to identify unidentified human remains (UHR) and process family reference samples (FRS) from relatives of missing persons. The award will fund supplies for in-house STR and Y-STR DNA testing of these samples. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) technology enhances the robustness of the search process in CODIS within the UHR and FRS index, increasing the potential for detection of familial associations.
Funds from this award will be utilized to outsource mtDNA testing, not offered by the Florida crime labs. The FDLE operates both Familial Search and Genetic Genealogy Investigations Programs. Both are established and will aid in identification of UHR victims of violent crimes, when other investigative avenues have been exhausted. Funds will be utilized for supplies to conduct Y-STR testing for familial searches against the state qualifying offender and arrestee database, and to outsource samples for SNP DNA sequencing, upload to public databases that permit law enforcement use, and genetic genealogy research. Florida’s backlog of UHR and FRS is high due to lack of available federally funded DNA services in recent years. FDLE seeks to fill the gap through new and established channels, utilizing grant funding coupled with existing capabilities and infrastructure. Funds will facilitate more timely processing of UHR and FRS within Florida and minimize interruption to FDLE’s existing casework and database services. The multi-faceted approach FDLE proposes would provide value to law enforcement, medical examiners, and the public through identification of UHR and help bring closure to families of the missing. Identifications will also ultimately aid in homicide investigations and enhance public safety.