RENO — Law officers investigating the suspected kidnapping of a young woman in Reno say there has been a big response to their appeal for private donations to speed up the processing of DNA samples from convicted offenders.
As of Wednesday, the Washoe County Crime Laboratory had received more than $70,000 of the $150,000 needed to eliminate a backlog of about 3,000 samples yet to be processed.
Another $93,000 has been pledged but not yet received, sheriff’s officials said.
Local officials said a new state law requires the samples but provided no money for processing.
The samples will be entered into state and national DNA databases, which could provide a link to the suspected abduction of Brianna Denison, 19, on Jan. 20, Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said.
It’s possible that eliminating the backlog also could result in other murders, rapes, robberies and cold cases being solved, he said.
Authorities say the man who is believed to have abducted Denison has been linked by DNA to at least two other sexually motivated attacks against University of Nevada, Reno students within blocks of where Denison was last seen. That DNA has not matched any stored in the state and national databases.
Monday’s plea for donations was a result of area business leaders and private residents approaching Haley about how they could help with the Denison investigation, he said.
Deputy Brooke Keast, sheriff’s office spokeswoman, said when $150,000 is raised, further donations will be used to eliminate the next round of convicted offender samples to be entered into the databases.
The Metropolitan Police Department’s crime lab in Las Vegas and the Bode Technology Group in Virginia will process the backlog and officials have said it will take them about one month to turn the samples around.
Linda Krueger, director of the forensic laboratory for Las Vegas police, said her office has agreed to process more than 1,800 DNA samples from Washoe County in the next month.
Her department, unlike Washoe law enforcement, doesn’t have a backlog of DNA samples because of a federal grant that began in September 2006, Krueger said. The department used $118,800 of the grant for overtime pay to clear the backlog of 4,655 DNA samples from convicted offenders in Clark County, including Henderson and North Las Vegas, she said. The grant program ended Jan. 20.
Henderson and North Las Vegas police said they perform their own DNA tests, but then send them to Las Vegas police for analysis.
The results of the DNA tests are entered into a national database called the COmbined DNA Index System, or CODIS. In 2007, the database made 121 matches to help solve cases or link them to other cases being investigated in Southern Nevada, Krueger said.
Reno police said they were continuing to run down leads in the Denison case.
About 70 tips were generated from a segment Saturday night on the TV show, “America’s Most Wanted.” Civilian volunteers continue to search the region for evidence in Denison’s disappearance.
Review-Journal writer Antonio Planas contributed to this report.