An Associated Press review found tens of thousands of DNA samples missing from state databanks across the U.S. because they were never taken or were lost. Combined with big crime lab backlogs that result in DNA samples sitting on shelves for years without being analyzed and entered into databanks, the missing material prevents investigators from cracking untold numbers of cases. Some of the gaps have had tragic consequences.
“If you got missing samples, some of those people are out there raping your wives and abducting and murdering your children this week,” said former Charlottesville, Va., police Capt. J.E. Harding. Lab supervisors, state police, and prison officials blame the failure to collect samples on confusing laws and a lack of coordination among the many different law enforcement agencies and others responsible for taking DNA. The AP found 27 states either failed to collect some DNA samples or are unable to say whether they took one from every offender who owes one.