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DNA sophistication: Will violent crime be obsolete some time in the future?

By Lee Cleveland - January 2, 2023

This past weekend, Washington State University graduate student Bryan Christopher Kohberger was taken into custody in Scranton, Pennsylvania by police and FBI agents. He is being held for extradition to Moscow, Idaho for first-degree murder in the November 13 stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students that shook the country.

N.B: Obviously, he is innocent until proven guilty and we are in no way making judgments. However, unless colossal mistakes were made by the FBI and police, the DNA evidence strongly suggests Kohberger was somehow involved.

Following the murders, police apparently took DNA from the scene, ran it through a public database, and then used high-tech genealogy techniques to connect the DNA to Kohberger through his family members, CNN said.

Pete Yachmetz, a security consultant and former FBI agent, recently told the New York Post that in investigations like this one, DNA samples are often put through a national DNA database maintained by the FBI.

Yavhmetz believes the FBI obtained all of the DNA evidence from the home, analyzed it, removed the DNA belonging to the victims, and then started a process of elimination with the remaining DNA they had (Which could have included samples from 20, 50, or 100 people).

“What most likely happened is that the crime scene was a mess and there was DNA evidence left all over the place,” Yachmetz told the New York Post Sunday. “So what they did was retrieve all the DNA evidence they could and analyzed it.”

Unlike years past, noticeable amounts of blood or saliva aren’t required to obtain someone’s DNA these days.

In the now-famous interrogation of the then-murder suspect, Russell Wiliams in 2010, OPP interrogator Jim Smyth explained how the process for obtaining and interpreting DNA is far more sophisticated than was the case in the mid-90s.

“Are you familiar with how DNA works?” Smyth queried the now-convicted double murderer.

“One of the challenges with have with DNA in 2010 is that it’s become so precise… I can think back 15 years ago when I started in violent crime investigation, for us to get a DNA match the sample we have to find probably would have had to fill half of one of these cups because they destroyed so much of the sample in the testing.”

“Essentially, DNA has become more and more precise… When you and I walked in this room today, we could have sat down, talked for 30 seconds, walked out [and] a CSI officer could have come in 3 or 4 days from now and did some swabs here and he would have found your DNA and my DNA, and probably a lot of other people’s DNA.”

“… A little bit gross to think about, but as we talk a little bit of [saliva] comes out of our mouth that contains our DNA; our skin cells contain our DNA.”

When or if the national DNA database is vastly expanded and advances are made to make the process of analyzing DNA less costly and even more efficient, will violent crime become obsolete?

Obviously, and unfortunately, violent crime isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and will probably continue to remain a part of American culture for the rest of our lifetimes; but, the incredible advances in DNA – just in the last 25 years alone- have made getting away with murder, rape, and deadly forms of assault far, far more difficult.

Even if someone shoots his/her victim from 40 feet away and doesn’t physically interact with them, the shooter’s DNA will likely be at the scene.

Needless to say, we aren’t there yet but at what point will would-be criminals of serious crimes be too fearful of getting caught and ultimately decide not to follow through on their intended actions?

Will continued advancements in DNA acquisition and verification reduce violent crime by 90 or 95 percent 100 years from now?

Will enhancements in DNA technology eventually make violent crime, like pay telephones and pagers today, antiquated?

If so, when? And if not, why?

I’m far from a DNA or criminology specialist so please share your thoughts below.


Tags: idaho student murders