Finding answers to DNA backlog

Local News

ILLINOIS (WCIA) — At least one state representative wants to audit the Illinois State Police’s forensic lab.

WCIA-3’s very own Jennifer Roscoe is sponsoring a resolution to look into a backlog of DNA evidence. Her concern, along with many others, is how long it takes to get results back.

The resolution will try to determine what the problem is and how to fix it to get violent criminals off the street.

Law enforcement agencies say the backlog can prolong their investigations. In at least one instance, DNA evidence was sent to an out-of-state lab because results weren’t being received quickly enough.

In the case of Holly Cassano, those results were available in just 24-hours. They could match the DNA sent to the lab in Virginia to the DNA at the Illinois State Crime Lab.

Because of that, they were able to arrest someone who’d been right under their noses for years. Cases like this are one reason lawmakers want to look into the problem further.

In just about every case, DNA evidence is left behind. When you can match it, criminals are put away. But, what happens when it takes months for the results to get back?

“What we’re hearing from people we’ve worked with is it’s between six months or a year. A lot of times it’s closer to ten-months to a year before those kits are even processed.”

Jaya Kolisetty works with people who have been sexually assaulted. She says people put their lives on hold waiting months for answers.

“It can cause a lot of stress, a lot of tension for people as they’re waiting. Is there anything in there?”

It’s why State Represenatative Sue Scherer wants to find the problem. She’s sponsoring a resolution to audit ISP and find out what’s taking so long to get results back from evidence kits.

“But, it’s silly to try to fnd the solution when you don’t know the problem. This is a much better use of our finances, I feel.”

After speaking to state’s attorney’s, Scherer says one potential reason is there is more evidence to test than ever before.

“Once this whole DNA testing really took off, now they’re wanting to do DNA testing on everything, on robberies, and on hand prints on burglaries and on guns. That’s really a whole ‘nother story picking that off a gun and that’s tying up the labs where it used to be when there wasn’t all this DNA.”

The plan is to find the problem and fix it, even if it means moving finances around to do it.

“I feel like, at that point, we’re going to have to look at other ways and means of finding the finances of perhaps things we’re still spending money on that are out-of-date and now we need to quit doing that and spend the money over here.”

The associate director of RACES says she’s heard one other reason it’s taking so long: There aren’t enough technicians to handle all the evidence.

Scherer says there’s no way to know until after the audit. Once that happens, they’ll move forward.

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