Donald Good has been in jail for 14
years after pleading guilty to a murder that happened in 1992. He is now charged with the 1987 rape of a woman
at the Huntington Mall. Good’s DNA was tested and found to match evidence
collected at the crime scene.
Through a West Virginia law passed in
1995, convicted violent felons are required to give DNA
samples. Backlogged DNA was recently
sent to the Marshall University Forensic Science Center where a DNA profile was created. Terry Fenger is the
director of the center.
“All we need is a small drop of blood or
in some cases a buckle swab, which is a just swab of the inside of a cheek;
that provides enough DNA for us to
do the DNA profile. We develop the
full profile and review it based on our accreditation standards,” Fenger said.
Sheri Lemons is the DNA Technical leader for the West Virginia State
Police in South Charleston. She says the experts analyze the crime scene
evidence and then put it through the CODIS, or Combined DNA
Indexing System to see if they can find a match.
“The final step is to run it through
what we call a genetic analyzer that actually looks at the DNA characteristics that are unique to that stain;
it’ll actually identify the markers if it meets the criteria that are put
out by the FBI and then the sample is loaded into the database and searched,”
Lemons says they’ll know immediately
whether the sample matches the DNA
of someone in the system. The system will not only look for matches in the states
records, but also in a national DNA
“That’s exciting. That’s what our job is
all about and that’s why the CODIS system is designed the way it is and that’s
why we come and do this every day. These are the things that we want to see. This is the way it was designed to work and we want to see these things happen
and it is exciting, to enter that in and see a match pop up - it does happen pretty
quickly - and to think 'wow, this may help solve a crime,'” Lemons said.
Brent Myers is a lieutenant with the State
police and works in the DNA Lab.
He says the database has changed the way they operate.
“The investigators had to identify a
suspect through traditional law enforcement means and send us a reference
sample from that individual to compare to the DNA
profiles we’ve developed from the crime scene evidence,” Myers said. “If they
did not develop a suspect, analyzing the data would not generate any information
that could be used.”
Myers says the DNA
database will begin to help solve an increasing number of cases, because most
felons aren’t committing their first crimes.
"There’s been research indicating that
a relatively small number of individuals will commit a large percentage of the
crime, so if you’re able to get all of those individuals' profiles into the
system, then if they have left biological material at a crime scene, we will be
able to provide investigators that material; then they’ll be able to do their
job,” Myers said.
Myers says the key to doing this is
making the database larger.
“The big thing is getting more and more
of the population of the individuals who commit crimes getting their samples
into the database, so if they commit more crimes in the future we’ll be able to
give investigators a lead quicker,” Myers said.
Lt. Myers says he’s hoping new legislation
this year will make it possible to get DNA
from juveniles and from others that commit less serious crimes.