DNA testing of family members

By Yvette Yeon - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - DNA testing has advanced around the country. In California, a family member's DNA helped lead to an arrest in the so-called 'Grim Sleeper' killings that started in the 80's. But in Virginia, the effort to use that same technology is now part of a state study. Here's how our current DNA search method works.

"If police gather DNA at a crime scene, what they'll do is submit it to the Virginia databank to see if the person who left that DNA in the databank," said NBC12 Legal Analyst, Steve Benjamin.

The search for leads is then limited to the convicted felons and those who are arrested for violent crimes, because those are the only people registered into the data base. But by using DNA from family members and close relatives, the chances of finding a match are greater.

"That would give law enforcement some additional leads to pursue," he said.

Leads, Benjamin, a Richmond defense attorney says could possibly help solve one of Virginia's high-profiled cases -- the murder of Virginia Tech student, Morgan Harrington.

But while solving crimes is good for everyone, civil rights activist, Kent Willis says authorities need to proceed with caution.

"All these people, they're not suspects in the normal sense, they're all people who are related to suspects, so it's a kind of guilty by association," said Kent Willis from the ACLU. "All of a sudden you are part of a criminal investigation merely because you may be related to who committed a crime," he said.

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