Cold Case Investigations and Forensic DNA

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Experience has shown that cold case programs can solve a substantial number of violent crime cold cases, including homicides and sexual assaults. Advances in DNA technologies have substantially increased the successful DNA analysis of aged, degraded, limited, or otherwise compromised biological evidence. As a result, crime scene samples once thought to be unsuitable for testing may now yield DNA profiles. Additionally, samples that previously generated inconclusive DNA results may now be successfully analyzed. To this end, the National Institute of Justice seeks to assist law enforcement agencies by developing their knowledge base, affording them opportunities to use forensic laboratories for the DNA analysis of cold case evidence, and aiding in the subsequent investigation to solve cold cases.

Solving Cold Cases with DNA Funding Program

NIJ's Solving Cold Cases With DNA program offers funds to States and units of local government to identify, review and investigate Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Part 1 Violent Crime[1] cold cases that have the potential to be solved through DNA analysis. For the purpose of this program, a "violent crime cold case" refers to any unsolved UCR Part 1 Violent Crime case for which all significant investigative leads have been exhausted. The funds can be used to locate and analyze biological evidence associated with these cases, as well as conduct CODIS hit follow-up travel and investigations. The Solving Cold Cases With DNA program has been offered for six years, with the first solicitation offered in 2005, then offered every fiscal year from 2007 to 2011 through a competitive award process.

Several law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, and crime labs across the country have established innovative programs to review old cases. Often called "cold case units," these programs have enabled criminal justice officials to solve cases that have languished for years without suspects. Most frequently, DNA evidence has been the linchpin in solving these cases. For instance, this past July a California man was found guilty of the 1974 rape-homicide of a 19-year-old pregnant woman—a case that was solved through DNA evidence nearly 30 years after the crime was committed.

Under this program, the National Institute of Justice has funded states and units of local government for funding to identify, review, and investigate "violent crime cold cases" that have the potential to be solved using DNA analysis and to locate and analyze biological evidence associated with these cases.

Review a list of awards made under this grant program.

Note

[note 1] Part I Offenses include:

  1. Criminal Homicide
  2. Forcible Rape
  3. Robbery
  4. Aggravated Assault
  5. Burglary
  6. Larceny-theft (except motor vehicle theft)
  7. Motor Vehicle Theft
  8. Arson

Learn more about the UCR from the FBI's URC website.

Date Modified: July 16, 2012