Queens DA Richard Brown called the vote “an important step forward in identifying the guilty, excluding the innocent and bringing closure to the families of victims of unsolved homicides.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
The DNA Sub-committee of the State Commission on Forensic Science this week unanimously voted to approve familial match DNA testing.
“Today’s action by the DNA Sub-committee of the NYS Commission on Forensic Science unanimously approving familial match DNA searches is an important step forward in identifying the guilty, excluding the innocent and bringing closure to the families of victims of unsolved homicides,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “While the journey for justice for those families is not yet complete, this is an important milestone.”
According to the National Institute of Justice Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, familial DNA searching is a two-phase process which attempts to provide investigative leads by identifying an individual in existing DNA databases who is highly likely to be a close relative of the donor of the DNA profile derived from the evidence found at the crime scene.
Calls for the panel to quickly authorize the testing recently increased after the family of slain Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano and Brown in December implored the State to act in order to aid investigators who at the time had yet to develop a suspect in the four-month-old case.
Vetrano, 30, was beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted in the evening hours of Aug. 2 on her daily run inside Spring Creek Park. DNA collected at the scene and from Vetrano’s body yielded no hits in any law-enforcement database. East New York resident Chanel Lewis, 20, was charged in February with the murder.
“Following the tragic death of Howard Beach resident and constituent, Karina Vetrano, your state elected officials have continued to push the Commission on Forensic Science to adopt guidelines that would allow the use of familial DNA testing, a system that has been proven effective in other parts of the country,” Addabbo said. “Today, I commend the Sub-committee for the Commission on Forensic Science for hearing the advantages of proper use of familial DNA and approving its use in our state. It is our hope that by approving the careful use of familial DNA matching, we will be better equipped to solve investigations and assist law enforcement.”
Elected officials, including Brown, Addabbo and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach) testified last month before the CFS Sub-committee on DNA and urged the panel to approve expanding DNA inquiries to allow the use of familial searching. Pheffer Amato on Monday said she wanted to “thank and congratulate every member of the Sub-committee, our relentless police, our excellent Queens District Attorney, Richard Brown, and his team, and of course the Vetranos, for keeping the faith and keeping up the pressure.”
“With today’s unanimous approval of FM by the DNA Sub-committee of the Commission on Forensic Science, which was considered to be the most challenging hurdle to passage, New York State is very close to adding its voice to this search for justice,” she added. “If the Commission accepts the Sub-committee’s recommendations, it will say that, as a government, we are absolutely committed to using all available tools to convict the guilty and free the innocent. I strongly urge the Commission to do so at their next meeting; we expect that they will.”