How a Denver rape probe got the FBI to change policy and release kinship DNA
On Sept. 28, 2003, a Denver woman was raped and beaten so savagely her eye had to be surgically removed. Police had only a vague description of her assailant. And DNA evidence recovered from the victim didn’t match any of the more than 50,000 profiles of convicted felons in Colorado’s DNA offender database.
So Denver authorities ran the rapist’s DNA through the FBI’s National DNA Index System, which contains DNA profiles from more than 3.5 million convicted offenders and nearly 44,000 arrestees nationwide.
That search didn’t produce an exact match, either. But it did yield a close match with a convicted felon in Oregon whose DNA profile in that state’s database was similar enough to the Denver rapist’s to strongly suggest that the two men might be closely related.
With the Oregon offender’s name and date of birth, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey figured, police could determine whether the man had a close relative—a father, a brother or a son—in the Denver area at the time of the rape. If he did, and police could somehow get their hands on a sample of that person’s DNA, it would settle the matter right then and there.
But when Morrissey asked the FBI for the identity of the Oregon felon, he says, the FBI—which maintains the national DNA database and oversees the exchange of information between states—flatly refused. He was told the FBI had a policy prohibiting the release of any identifying information about an offender in one state’s database to officials in another state unless the offender’s DNA is an exact match with the DNA evidence found at a crime scene.