The success of the “touch” DNA analysis testing using a DNA technique that in July cleared JonBenet Ramsey’s family in her death is triggering requests for the test from law enforcement officials seeking similar breakthroughs in unsolved crimes, reports USA Today. Private and state-run laboratories report increases of up to 20 percent in use of the technique. Analysts scrape or swab surfaces such as clothing or food to try to get enough microscopic cells to identify or rule out suspects in violent crimes, robberies, and burglaries. Touch DNA is used on surfaces without a visible stain that investigators suspect might contain genetic material.
Experts say the technique can provide a powerful tool to develop fresh leads in unsolved cases. “In select cases, this has the potential to find a person’s DNA when it couldn’t be found before,” says Gregory Davis, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Kentucky. David Cordle of Anne Arundel County, Md., past president of the Mid-Atlantic Cold Case Homicide Investigators Association, decided to use “touch” DNA testing after hearing the analyst who oversaw its use in the Ramsey case speak at the association’s conference. “Some people think it’s a shot in the dark,” he says. “But if you don’t have anything else, why not go for it?”