DNA identification of old cases "hit and miss" - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

DNA identification of old cases 'hit and miss'

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

How many old rape kits sit in evidence closets around Lake Charles and Calcasieu Parish perhaps containing the DNA that could solve cold crimes?

We don't know the number, but we do know not each kit represents an unsolved case. For example, some kits are samples taken from a suspect.

Local law enforcement officials say they are committed to solving the old cases as new information is developed.

In the case of Darwin Hutchinson, his DNA entered the system after being caught when he tried to flee a rape crime scene in 1999.

Sgt. Richard Harrell, with Lake Charles Police,  investigated the case. It was a crime scene he remembers vividly. 

"Hutchinson tried to exit the door. He was tackled. He went straight to the ground. When he hit the ground, his gun slid out, his ski mask hit the floor, a roll of duck tape hit the floor. Some gloves hit the floor," said Harrell.

If the 1999 rape had gone unreported, Hutchinson might never have been caught, and then later linked to a double rape in 1992,  as Leanne Suchanek, with the SWLA Crime Lab explained.

"So we can credit that first arrest and conviction for putting his DNA profile as a known profile into that system," said Suchanek.

She admits old cases, such as the 1992 rapes, are hit and miss as far as DNA evidence.

"We were very lucky in this case that there was ample DNA to get a complete profile for a match," said Suchanek.

Commander Matt Vezinot with the Calcasieu Sheriff's Department oversees the crime lab. He  said there's an ongoing effort to re-visit old cases, not just rapes, as new information develops.

"Whenever there's new information, then it would be re-evaluated to see if there's another DNA profile we don't have that maybe we need. So, that new information really helps the investigators figure out what does the next step need to be," said Vezinot.

He said DNA recovered today is put in the database called CODIS, which is the Combined DNA Index System.

"If it doesn't come back with a match, it stays in the DNA database and it's continually searched. So, if a year or two or three or four or five years later, another profile is entered into the system,  it'll automatically find that match," said Vezinot.

Plus, he agrees DNA evidence is only one piece of the puzzle in criminal cases.

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