The Virginia Department Forensic Science will begin providing familial DNA searches for state law enforcement agencies, Gov. Bob McDonnell announced today.
The agency has a database of more than 330,000 profiles that can be tested against DNA material from crime scenes. If a typical search does not produce a match, a familial search may identify one or more database profiles that are close to the crime scene profile. Further DNA analysis can be conducted to determine the likelihood of a family relationship before the names of potential relatives are provided to law enforcement for further investigation.
DFS Director Peter Marone said, “We want to be able to release one name.” The agency takes very seriously its duty to protect the identity of those in the database and will not provide a list of possible suspects, he said.
Califronia and Colorado are the only two states that use familial DNA now, and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey gave Virginia a leg up in starting the procedure by providing the software for it. DFS has reviewed the Colorado system and found it suitable for Virginia, McDonnell said.
Although it “must be used cautiously and sparingly,” familial DNA is an important tool in investigating the “most difficult and heinous crimes where the safety of the public remains a concern,” McDonnell said in a press release.