A Florida-based company called DNAPrint Genomics Inc., was the only private contractor invited to make a lengthy presentation to a recent California Homicide Investigators Association conference, says the Los Angeles Times. The firm has been hired to help in about 25 cases, two of which have resulted in arrests. In a Louisiana serial killer case, a task force that included Baton Rouge police used DNAPrint to conclude that the suspect was probably not a white man, but a black man.
Los Angeles police detective Dennis Kilcoyne, a conference organizer, said, “They say this technology is developing so fast that, just around the corner, we will have a speck of something from a crime scene, and DNA will tell us hair and eye color. The stuff they are talking about is very ‘Star Wars.’ … We can’t comprehend what’s down the road.” On a more practical note, L.A. detective Daniel Myers said that “in cases where we have DNA but don’t know a suspect, it might be nice to have a profile.”
DNAPrint’s investigative branch claims to be able to help investigators narrow searches for suspects, or for unidentified victims, by comparing information from their DNA with data from sample groups tested around the world. The company breaks down information from individuals’ DNA into percentages matching that of sample groups of sub-Saharan Africans, Native Americans, East Asians and Indo-Europeans.
Some experts doubt DNA tests’ ability to predict racial identity, because people of all colors tend to have mixed ancestry. “I would be surprised” if the test were very accurate, said Wayne Grody, director of the DNA Diagnostic Laboratory at UCLA. Police officials said they would need an independent evaluation considering the service.