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Queens Chronicle

Queens DA asks state to OK familial DNA testing to solve Vetrano case

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Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2016 10:38 am

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill have joined more than 9,000 people in calling for familial DNA testing to be used to crack investigations, using the unsolved killing of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano as the impetus for the request.

“I am particularly interested in applying this technology in an ongoing investigation of a recent, unsolved brutal murder in Queens County," Brown said in a latter to Michael Green, executive deputy commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice and chairman of the state Commission on Forensic Science. I understand that this technology has proven effective at generating important DNA investigative leads in cold cases in many other states and thus it could presumably help to solve any number of New York State cases — including that of the Queens case.”

Familial DNA testing is a process in which investigators use a sample found at a crime scene to determine if it matches that of anyone’s close relative who already is in state and federal databases. Such leads could provide investigators with a path to the perpetrator.

Investigators found strands of DNA on Vetrano’s corpse and her cellphone when she was found dead on Aug. 2 but it matches nobody in any criminal databases. The 30-year-old was sexually assaulted and strangled to death, according to an autopsy report.

"The killer remains at large, the public remains in danger, and the suffering of the victim’s family is amplified by law enforcement’s inability to yet solve this most awful crime," Brown said in his statement. "The victim, her family, and the public deserve justice and we have an obligation to use every means at our disposal to identify the murderer. I believe that familial searching can be a powerful investigative tool in this case.”

A petition on Change.org with more than 9,000 signatures urges the U.S. Department of Justice to approve the testing, also using Vetrano's murder as the inspiration for the request.

While familial DNA testing has been used in other states, as well as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, some claim it violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

O'Neill supported Brown's request, saying in a statement issued by the DA's office, "The success of any investigation depends directly on the amount of available evidence and information to assist the detectives. Access to existing data sources may provide valuable leads to assist further investigative efforts. I join Queens District Attorney Brown in urging the New York State Commission on Forensic Science to authorize access to these DNA files.”

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