SW La. Crime Lab links into national system

Reported by Theresa Schmidt

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Analysts at the Southwest Louisiana Crime Lab are helping to solve cold cases like never before.

They do the testing that is often so critical to accurately identify suspects and ultimately bring them to justice. An analyst uses a laser micro dissection microscope to not only verify the presence of sperm but cut a section from it to develop a DNA profile. "The DNA testing started four years ago but they had to meet various requirements to achieve accreditation," as Lab Director Tracy Legros explains. "We're accredited in the department of drug chemistry and that is, all the drugs that come into the laboratory are done in that department. Latent fingerprint analysis, so fingerprints are performed in the laboratory. Toxicology for the blood alcohol program, we do that at this laboratory. And DNA analysis."

The lab was accredited in 2008 but only recently became what they call CODIS compliant. That means the lab is now part of a national system that allows local DNA profiles to be compared to those in other states. Oh it's made a big difference already. We've only been up for two months with the CODIS system and we've already solved some major rapes that had not been solved before.

One is a rape 15 years ago, now solved with the arrest of Jonathan Frank whose DNA is allegedly linked to the crime.  Says Legros: "We got a hit which then the State Police Crime Lab in Louisiana notifies us that it hit which means it matched somebody in their database. We then let them know information about our case. Then they run that sample again to confirm the hit actually did match. There's a lot of checks and balances because we don't want to say something that's wrong."

And Legros says every day they are getting new matches and excited about the prospect of solving many more cold cases.

The Southwest Louisiana Crime Lab is only the 72nd lab to receive international accreditation from the American society of crime lab directors.

And it's the first multi discipline lab in Louisiana to become so.

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