• More than 100 DNA swabs linked to convicted criminals mistakenly destroyed by SPD

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff , Essex Porter

    Updated:

    The Seattle Police Department is asking the Office of the Inspector General to review policies and procedures after the department discovered the SPD evidence warehouse staff mistakenly destroyed 107 DNA swabs associated with misdemeanor criminals.

    In 2016, KIRO 7 first reported the problem of the DNA not being tested - and most of those cases involved criminals in sexually motivated crimes.   

    Police said the remaining 548 DNA swabs have been turned over to the City Attorney's Office and will be delivered Thursday morning to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

    "I honestly wasn't surprised that Seattle PD didn't follow through and do what they were supposed to do," said sexual assault survivor Leah Griffin.

    Griffin says that's because only recently is society at large taking sexual assault more seriously.
    She fought for years to change the law so that samples from criminals convicted of misdemeanor sex-related crimes could be tested and entered into the national DNA database to see if they'd committed more serious crimes.

    "If that perpetrator had been convicted for stalking in Seattle and that DNA had been entered into the national database, we'd be able to link those crimes," she said.

    >>RELATED: KIRO 7 investigation leads to testing of DNA from sexually motivated criminals

    Seattle police said there were no open criminal cases related to the destroyed samples.

    But that can't be said definitively. 

    >> RELATED: DNA of sexually motivated criminals not being entered into database

    While investigators don't know of any open cases, it's unknown if any of those destroyed samples would have matched DNA in an international criminal database of unsolved cases. The samples were supposed to be tested for DNA matches in that database.

    >>RELATED: Lawmakers pledge to fix criminal DNA problem after KIRO 7 investigation

    The swabs were held for safekeeping in the SPD evidence warehouse pending acceptance by the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

    In August 2016, KIRO 7 uncovered that DNA that could link criminals to hundreds of unsolved crimes had gone untested for years in Seattle. 

    Last month, a new state law allowed for the DNA to be tested, three years after lawmakers promised to take action.

    After KIRO 7's Amy Clancy exposed the problem that left the DNA untested, State Rep. Tina Orwall, of Des Moines, led the fight in the Legislature to test it.

    "It was surprising and disappointing," Orwall said, discussing the destruction of evidence.

    Seattle police aren't sharing how or why the samples were destroyed. They've asked the new police Office of Inspector General to investigate.

    "I think that Chief Best and I were both very dismayed that this happened," Mayor Jenny Durkan said.

    The samples were apparently collected at the King County Jail, then sent to Seattle police.

    "They were transferred from the King County System to the Seattle Police Department system. There wasn't the right paperwork in place, and for a series of circumstances that occurred, they were accidentally destroyed," Durkan said.

    Griffin said Seattle police should now go back to the convicted criminals whose samples were destroyed and collect new DNA.

    "These are known predators. They've been convicted of crimes. The police, if they wanted to put in the effort to really make this right, would go out and recollect that evidence."

    Orwall says this problem will be avoided in the future. Police departments won't have to store DNA for long anymore since it can now be sent to the state crime lab.
     

     

    See our previous coverage — including an explanation of the city and state law wording that led to the DNA testing problem in the videos below. 

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