The Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab has always been on the forefront of new technologies. Back in the 1980s, the lab helped develop the original DNA testing technique and is now the second state to use a new DNA method that could solve countless cold cases.
With a new state-of-the-art technique, a knife handle that was previously unable to be tested because of a small DNA sample can now be tested. DNA can now be detected and a potential suspect identified.
The new process allows investigators to extract a DNA profile from only eight to 10 cells. Previously, technicians needed at least 40 to 50 cells or the size of a quarter, said Todd Griffith, the state crime laboratory superintendent. The new technique increase detection limits tenfold.
“This really brings detection down in profiles were we knew there was a trace amount and we could not get a full DNA profile,” Griffith said. “We are now going back to look at older cases where there was not enough to get a sample.”
The crime lab has already analyzed six cases where the original technique produced little or no results. Technicians are now analyzing anything from a cigar tip, bleached remains to bindings used in a kidnapping case.
“All six cases have yielded a full DNA sample,” Griffith said.
With the new profiles, they will be placed in the Combined DNA Index System, which searches Arizona and national DNA databases for a suspect.
The Payson Police Depart-ment along with agencies around the state sends evidence to the DPS laboratory for testing. It costs around $475 and takes four to six weeks to conduct a DNA profiling test.
Previously the Payson PD did not have to pay for DPS crime lab services, but in July, the legislature, looking to balance the state’s budget, cut the crime lab budget by half to $7.8 million. Shortly after the cut, DPS announced that all state agencies, including fire, police, sheriff’s departments and medical examiners’ offices would now get a bill for lab work.
This prompted PPD to scale back on evidence processing by around 80 percent. Evidence is sent on a case-by-case basis and only if warranted.
DPS has asked Payson to enter into an annual agreement based on past use. In 2007, Payson ran up a bill of $200,000 after submitting 800 evidence samples.
DPS reduced that bill by two-thirds after taking $5 million from the Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission and applying it to its crime lab.
That reduced the cost to all departments. Payson will be charged $30,000 for 2007 services.