Rapid DNA Tech Big Asset In Missing Girl Investigation
May 30, 2019, 6:20 PM | Updated: 6:22 pm
LOGAN, Utah — This week, most of us heard about Rapid DNA for the first time. It was one of the biggest investigative assets in the Lizzy Shelley investigation this week. The name says it all: faster results identifying DNA.
Logan Police used it to link critical pieces of evidence to the missing girl and her accused killer.
Most of us are familiar with traditional DNA and the way it helps investigators connect people with crimes. With rapid DNA, a person with minimal training could swab my glasses and come up with my DNA profile in less than two hours.
“I’m sold on this technology. We’ve seen it work over and over again,” said Nate Mutter, the assistant chief of investigations with the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
He’s one of seven people in that office trained on the only two Rapid DNA machines in Utah.
“We saw the importance of it over the weekend,” he said.
But, the Utah Attorney General’s Office has helped law enforcement across the state use Rapid DNA in many cases, since last fall.
“It expedites investigations, which in turn expedites prosecutions, and takes bad folks off the street,” said the investigator.
In the Lizzy Shelley case, they tested for DNA on multiple items.
Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen spoke about the new technology in a press conference yesterday.
“We’ve done a knife and Alex’s watch and hooded sweatshirt that are all DNA positive for Lizzy’s DNA on those items,” said Chief Jensen.
They got results quickly, that led to criminal charges against Alex Whipple, the man accused of killing Lizzy Shelley.
“I believe that definitely helped Logan PD focus their investigation and expedite that, and charges came very fast which eventually led to the recovery of Lizzy,” said Mutter.
Without the Rapid DNA technology?
“We may still not have Lizzy recovered,” he said.
To get a DNA profile, the Rapid DNA testers in the AG’s office take samples with cotton swabs. They load them into a box, mounted with a lot of complex circuitry, which is essentially the lab. That box is then loaded into the DNA profile instrument that returns results in less than two hours. The system was certified for accuracy by the FBI last year.
“It’s automated,” said Mutter. “So really for law enforcement that takes away anything that we can mess up.”
In a big case, like the Shelly case, he says confirmation DNA tests are done at the state crime lab.
“It’s working, and people are being held accountable much faster than they had before because the investigations are able to move forward so fast.”