An effort to collect overdue DNA samples has concluded, and is already helping to investigate unsolved sex offenses in Washington.
OLYMPIA, WA — The Attorney General’s Office has collected 372 new DNA profiles from sex offenders, which are already being used to resolve several unsolved cases. Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s announced Tuesday that his team had concluded a years-long program to collect DNA from registered sex offenders who had been legally required to hand over their DNA, but had previously failed to do so.
“There is currently no statewide, uniform process for collecting DNA samples from offenders,” the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) explained in a news release. “Currently, the practices for collecting court-ordered DNA samples vary between counties, and can result in samples not being collected.”
The AGO has lobbied for a more consistent DNA collection protocol for several years now, but until the state creates a comprehensive program, the agency took it upon itself to gather the hundreds of uncollected DNA samples that sex offenders were lawfully required to hand over.
“Out of respect for survivors and their experience, this work must be done,” Ferguson said. “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.”
At the start of the project in October 2019, the AGO identified 635 registered sex offenders who owed a DNA sample in Washington, but 257 samples were not collected because the offenders had died, did not currently live in Washington, were in prison in other states, or a variety of other reasons. Of the 372 samples that were collected, eight resulted in a “hit” when entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a nationwide DNA database. A hit means the offenders profile matched DNA already held in the database.
Of those eight hits:
- Three were linked to unsolved sex offenses in Washington, which are now being reviewed.
- Two confirmed previous convictions or suspicions.
- Three were from offenses that took place outside of Washington. The AGO is notifying law enforcement in those states of the new hit.
Six DNA samples still need to be collected: one in Clark County, three in Snohomish County and two in Columbia County. The Attorney General’s Office says it is working with law enforcement agencies in those counties to gather those remaining samples, but has not heard back from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
In the meantime, the AGO is moving on to the next phase of its DNA collection project: collecting DNA from offenders of all other types of violent crimes.