(The Center Square) – Suspects in eight crimes have been identified or confirmed thanks to a recently completed DNA collection and matching program, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced in a statement.
Sex offenders in the state are legally required to provide their DNA. However, in many cases either no sample was taken or it had not been tested against the national DNA database.
The “lawfully owned” DNA project, begun in 2019, is an effort to bring the state’s DNA collection up to date. So far, it has resulted in the creation of 372 new profiles, which were then compared with the national database.
The comparison yielded three matches for unsolved cases in the state, two matches confirming that the offender was either already a suspect or had been convicted of the crime.
Three others profiles matched DNA collected in crimes outside Washington. Appropriate law enforcement agencies in those cases will be notified, the statement said.
Overall, the project identified 635 registered sex offenders were identified from whom a DNA sample had not been collected. Of those, 257 were deceased or had left the state.
Authorities have yet to collect samples from six others, one in Clark County, three in Snohomish County, and two in Columbia County.
The national Combined DNA Index System, was established in 1994 and contains over 3 million DNA profiles. Washington state law requires that DNA be collected from all felony convicts and all registered sex and kidnapping offenders, which can then be compared to the Index for potential matches.
However, the method for collecting and testing samples varies from county to county, and some cases slip through the cracks. To fix the problem, local agencies need to create consistent collection and testing protocols, according to the Attorney General’s Office Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Advisory Group.
Ferguson hopes the lawfully owned DNA project will help clear the backlog of untested sexual assault kits and result in more criminal convictions.
“Out of respect for survivors and their experience, this work must be done,” Ferguson noted. “This project is bringing justice to survivors of assault, rape and other violent crimes. The more cold cases that are solved, the safer our communities will be.”