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DNA technology helps close 2 Danville cases

DNA technology advancements

Travis Robinson | News 8 at 5

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Danville police are closing the books on two different cases in three weeks, thanks to DNA evidence.

With the most recent case, police say a man crashed his car during a police chase and got away. When they tracked him down, he said it wasn’t him. Now, five months later, he’s finally being charged because of DNA found in the vehicle.

John William Schocke, 49, now faces charges that include reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and resisting law enforcement because his DNA was found on the airbag of a vehicle involved in a police chase.

“When you’re hit in the face with an airbag, and you flee the scene and leave secretions and saliva and blood on that airbag, it’s hard to deny that you weren’t the one that was hit in the face,” Nate Lien, public information officer with Danville Police Department. “So it just kind of made our case that much better.”

Danville police say DNA testing has evolved so much that it is now allowing them to solve different types of crimes.

“A lot of these cases with our pursuits and with stolen vehicles, we weren’t necessarily using trace DNA,” Lien said. “We were using other things like hair fibers, fingerprints and different things like that. But now, we’re starting to utilize DNA swabs to find that trace DNA. If they’ve touched something in the car, if they’ve touched the shifter, if they’ve touched the steering wheel, or in this case, if they’ve been hit in the face with an airbag, we’re able to swab that DNA off there and send it off to the lab to make a match.”

While the process is easier, it’s still not like in the movies, where a DNA match is made in seconds. It takes a while and the lab also needs a matching sample in its Combined DNA Index System to figure out who the DNA belongs to.

“The CODIS provides a central repository for samples that have been previously collected from felony arrests, felony convictions, unidentified remains that have been found,” said Ron Galaviz, assistant public information officer with Indiana State Police. “There’s a number of different places that these come from.”

That doesn’t mean testing is useless if there’s no DNA match in the system. Adding new DNA to the system can help identify crimes committed by the same person in the future.

“Any time a criminal is somewhere, they’re leaving DNA. They can’t get away with it,” Lien said. “We’re going to find something if they touch something, if they breathe there, if they perspire on something, we’re going to catch them.”

Police say while the advances in DNA testing is exciting for the future, it still comes down to standard, old-fashioned police work to get the job done.

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