DNA collection now part of felony jail booking

Locally collected data becomes part of FBI’s CODIS database

DNA sample

Logan County Sheriff’s Office Detective Phil Bailey holds a DNA collection form and buccal DNA swab that are now part of the Logan County Jail’s booking process for defendants facing felony charges. (EXAMINER PHOTO | MANDY LOEHR)

A swab on one side of the mouth, a fingerprinted thumb and a completed form with identifying information is all it takes, but these simple steps of collecting a DNA sample play a vital role in solving sometimes difficult, complex and even violent criminal cases.

As of this week, this DNA collection process has become part of the standard booking procedure at the Logan County Jail for defendants facing felony-level charges, Logan County Sheriff’s Office Detective Phil Bailey and Sheriff Randall J. Dodds report. 

Previously, local arresting officers had been charged with this task collecting a DNA sample starting in 2012, the time when the state of Ohio began mandating that DNA samples be obtained from adult and juvenile felony offenders, Detective Bailey explained. 

The DNA sample kits are mailed to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation laboratory in London, and then are uploaded into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. 

However, the shift to conducting DNA sampling during booking at the local 284 S. County Road 32 jail follows suit with the same procedural change at a number of other area jails and detention centers. This update makes the DNA collection process more streamlined, as sometimes felony offenders could be missed when a warrant was issued by one officer and then served by a different law enforcement officer or department, Detective Bailey explained. 

“It made sense to add this to our standard procedure during jail booking for felons,” he said. “It takes about three extra minutes of time for our jail staff. 

“The state of Ohio provides us with the forms and swabs, and the jail staff is charged with filling out the forms with the individual’s information, obtaining a thumbprint on the form, and then performing a quick swab of the inside of the person’s cheek.”

All of the DNA sample kit materials are paid for by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, including postage to mail the items. 

These samples quickly become a tool that has been able to link crimes, Detective Bailey said. CODIS enables federal, state, and local forensic laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby connecting serial violent crimes to each other and to known offenders, according to the FBI’s Website, www.fbi.gov

Utilizing this CODIS technology, the Logan County Sheriff’s Office has received some recent “hits,” or alerts from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office regarding local cases. 

“DNA analysis has made great strides in recent years,” Sheriff Dodds said. “We’re very fortunate to have this crime-solving tool at our disposal.”

A link to another crime was found from the DNA sample from Marquevous E. Watkins, who was sentenced to life in prison during May for his role in the murder of Zanesfield area resident Jeffrey Brentlinger. The offender’s DNA sample collected here was connected to a separate robbery in Lima.

In addition, re-employing DNA technology to older cases has been useful as well, the detective said. CODIS has matched the suspect in a 1993 rape and attempted murder in Quincy, where the female victim survived, to the same DNA of a suspect in a 1992 rape and abduction in Sidney. 

Detective Bailey received an alert about the case link in 2015, he said, but so far, the suspect has not been identified. If the individual was ever arrested for another offense, it could be a major break in these two cases. 

“If that suspect’s DNA is ever put into CODIS, we would get a hit on it right away.” 

The detective also emphasized that only offenders arrested for a felony charge or convicted of a felony crime are entered in CODIS, and not DNA samples obtained from the victims of crimes. 

The FBI Laboratory’s CODIS began as a pilot software project in 1990, serving 14 state and local laboratories. The DNA Identification Act of 1994 formalized the FBI’s authority to establish a National DNA Index System for law enforcement purposes, according to www.fbi.gov.

Today, more than 190 public law enforcement laboratories participate in NDIS across the United States. Internationally, more than 90 law enforcement laboratories in more than 50 countries use the CODIS software for their own database initiatives.