New Technology Adding Speed, Accuracy To DNA Testing

Sep 18, 2019, 6:50 PM | Updated: Sep 19, 2019, 8:31 pm

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah  – State officials are crediting advanced technology with helping them solve more crimes using DNA evidence in Utah.

A decade ago, officials at the state crime lab used DNA evidence to solve 200 cases each year statewide. Utah Department of Public Safety Crime Lab Director Jay Henry said they solve ten times that number due to advancements in technology.

Utah Department of Public Safety Crime Lab Director Jay Henry gave KSL a closer look at the lab Wednesday as part of National Forensic Science Week.

“The nature of policing is changing,” Henry said. The state lab moved into a new state-of-the-art facility in Taylorsville less than three years ago.

Henry said DNA evidence processed at the new lab helped crack several high-profile cases this summer.

“What’s more exciting too, for us, is just having the ability to tackle the urgent cases with a lot more speed,” Henry said.

“We can use robotics, and we can use digital technology, and things like that to help us do things faster,” said Heather Mills, a forensic scientist manager at the crime lab.

In the old lab, each DNA sample had to be processed by hand.

“Now, we can process a lot of samples using a robot with the same quality, and it allows us to push those samples to the lab much quicker,” Mills said.

Robotic testing of DNA samples not only improved speed but also made the process more efficient and accurate. Humans take about three hours to test 16 samples. A robot can test 96 samples in three hours, and eliminate human error.

Urgent homicides and burglaries are prioritized and typically process in 30 days. With the most urgent cases?

“We’re able to provide DNA testing results as quickly as eight hours for a case if we need to,” Henry said. “That’s our ultimate goal: get information that investigators can use for facts and help them resolve the case.”

Today, they have more people doing the work and more space for their forensic tools.

Officials also recently resumed DNA testing at the state crime lab on property crimes after a three-year layoff while they caught up on sexual assault kit testing.

“Research has shown that when we test DNA from burglary scenes and enter those profiles into the CODIS (Combined DNA Index) database that we get twice as many suspects identified and cases resolved, and twice as many prosecutions,” Henry said. 

Twenty cases have been submitted from various Utah agencies since July, Henry added.

“We’ve developed DNA profiles from those cases entered them into the CODIS database, and we’ve got hits,” he said.

While officials cannot talk about specific cases, Henry said he is optimistic about the case results from the property crimes DNA testing.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Utah Task Force 1 Headquarters (KSL-TV)...
Jed Boal

Utah Task Force 1 gives insight into search & rescue efforts in Turkey

Two American search & rescue teams similar to Utah's Task Force 1 are heading off to Turkey to help the country recover from a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
18 hours ago
Katija Stjepovic

Utah arts and cultural jobs are surging after COVID pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic pulled the curtains on most of Utah's arts and cultural jobs, but after nearly three years, they are reemerging. 
18 hours ago
Two men accused of stealing a wallet from a car in Lehi, then charging $5,600 in fraudulent purchas...
Madison Swenson

Two men steal wallet from car, charge $5,600 on victim’s credit cards

Police are asking for the public's help in identifying two people involved in a car burglary in Lehi.
18 hours ago
(Iron County School District)...
Eliza Pace

The ‘quiet angels’ that helped Enoch schools through tragedy

Although nothing can be done to change what happened on Jan. 4, communities are finding ways to heal by doing good and looking for the good.
18 hours ago
Emergency vehicles at the crash location of a freeway chase that ended up with no injuries. (KSL TV...
Madison Swenson

Car ends up in embankment after driving recklessly through Salt Lake County

A pursuit in Salt Lake County ended Tuesday afternoon after the driver struck another vehicle while trying to escape a traffic stop and slid down an embankment.
18 hours ago
Judge Ronald Russell sentenced former Kaysville chiropractor Kenneth Pierce to terms amounting to 1...
Emily Ashcraft

Ex-Sandy fire captain admits hiding cameras where teens undressed, uploading child porn

A former Sandy fire captain has pleaded guilty to hiding cameras at a business where girls would undress and to uploading child pornography.
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
New Technology Adding Speed, Accuracy To DNA Testing