08.04.10

Legislation Introduced in the House to Permit Familial DNA Searches

Washington, DC – For nearly 25 years, a serial killer roamed the streets of South Los Angeles, murdering 11 people.  According to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck, the challenge facing the LAPD was the fact that it had the DNA from the suspect, but there was no match in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  After the LAPD conducted a Familial DNA search of California’s DNA database and received a hit, a reverse family tree was prepared, which allowed detectives to evaluate all persons related to the Familial DNA match. The investigators began to focus on Lonnie David Franklin Jr., the father of the Familial DNA match.  Franklin was placed under surveillance and investigators were able to obtain samples of his DNA.  Franklin's DNA was sent to the labs, which resulted in an exact match of the "Grim Sleeper" murder suspect, allowing the LAPD to finally crack the years-old serial killer case in July. 

“In the case of the Grim Sleeper, law enforcement did outstanding work for many years,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).  “When police requested a state check of Familial DNA, we were fortunate that the match occurred in California.  If the Grim Sleeper’s son had been arrested and jailed in Nevada, no match would have been made.  The Utilizing DNA Technology to Solve Cold Cases Act instructs the FBI to expand the science of Familial DNA testing by creating a mechanism for conducting familial searches of the national DNA database.  Searching the national database would increase the capacity of law enforcement to solve crimes, taking murderers and rapists off the streets and keeping our families safer.”

Specifically, the Utilizing DNA Technology to Solve Cold Cases Act of 2010 instructs the FBI to:

  • Implement a national standard by creating a system whereby a state can request a familial search of the national DNA database;
  • Implement a number of procedures to protect the privacy and civil liberties of individuals, and ensure that familial searching is implemented in such a way as to provide the maximum amount of oversight of how the evidence is used; and
  • Report annually to Congress on the number of familial searches requested and their outcomes.

Under the legislation, local law enforcement will be required to make the request through a state law enforcement agency to provide an additional layer of oversight.  In addition, results will be reported to the state laboratory instead of directly to the law enforcement agency.  Finally, only investigations of murders and serious sex crimes will be eligible for familial searches.

“The “Grim Sleeper” was a case that spanned nearly 25 years of investigation and claimed the lives of 11 innocent victims,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. “It was not until we attempted to use Familial DNA that our investigators got the clue they needed. Familial DNA testing proved to be an invaluable tool that assisted our detectives in the apprehension of the "Grim Sleeper" murder suspect, and the ability to utilize the national database would strengthen that tool even further."