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Albemarle Sheriff calls for Change in DNA Collection Protocols

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding says he wants to see a growth in Virginia's DNA database. He says if this had been the case five years ago, Hannah Graham would never have met her accused abductor Jesse Matthew.

Harding says collecting swabs from people convicted of misdemeanors would allow early detection of predators before they commit serious crimes. Not only does he say that it could catch criminals faster, but that the data could exonerate people in jail that were wrongly convicted.

Matthew was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing in 2010. Harding says if his DNA had been taken then, he would have been linked to a sexual assault in Fairfax that occurred in 2005, and would likely be behind bars.

Delegate David Toscano says he supports Harding and will fight to have a mandate approved in February's legislative session. Harding says a similar mandate has already been approved in New York, and the data is encouraging.

"Just five and a half years, it solved 965 crimes, 51 murders, 222 sexual assaults, because they took it from people who committed petty larceny, almost the same type of figures from trespass, and that's what Jesse Matthew was convicted of,” said Harding.

"I think there are a lot of people who are concerned about what happened in Charlottesville last year, in the last several months, and I think they're wanting to look for new things that we can do to prevent this from happening in the future. I think there will be a lot of support for a bill like this,” said Toscano.

Toscano says the biggest hurdle to getting the bill passed is the fiscal impact. The state would need to fund thousands of new DNA kits. Toscano says a bill he would support would not include DNA swabs for traffic violations.

Harding says New York's data proves the program works, and he hopes to see it in place in Virginia soon to keep people safe.

For more information, click here.

Albemarle County Sheriff's Office Press Release

Albemarle Sheriff J.E.”Chip” Harding 10/13/2014

Hannah Graham – Another Unnecessary Victim

I have been advocating for several years that Virginia should expand our DNA Databank to include all criminal convictions. Currently our databank mostly includes convicted felons.

Every day we wait to expand the Virginia's DNA Databank, we risk one of our loved ones falling victim to an attack from a violent predator that could have been prevented and a person wrongly convicted sits in prison.

• New York State Governor Cuomo recently championed the initiative and it allowed his state to be the first to have an all criminal conviction databank. He pointed out that: In the 5 1/2 years since petit larceny-the pettiest of crimes-has been a DNA eligible offense in N.Y. State , convicted offender samples have helped solve 965 crimes, including 51 murders, 222 sexual assaults, 177 robberies and 407 burglaries. DNA samples taken from individuals convicted of second-degree criminal trespass have been linked to 30 homicides, 110 sexual assaults and 121 burglaries, among other crimes.

On average, offenders linked to crimes in N.Y. State had three prior non-qualifying convictions before finally being convicted of an offense that required a DNA sample to be taken. My observation over my past 40 years in Virginia's Justice System is the same. One can check the record of almost any Virginia serial predator and see the same –some examples are:

• Hannah Graham would have never met her accused abductor Jesse Matthew if his DNA had been collected when he was convicted of criminal trespass in Charlottesville in August of 2010. His DNA would have generated a “hit” at that time in the databank to the 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax. (Washington Post reports lab certificate on file in Fairfax Court) If convicted of that attack he most likely would have been in a jail cell at the time Hannah was walking on the Charlottesville Downtown mall.

• One of Charlottesville's most notorious serial rapists in the past 30 years is Shannon Malnowski. Malnowski had a felony assault reduced to a misdemeanor in 1992 and a felony breaking and entering reduced to a trespass charge in 1994. In 1996 he raped a UVA student who was out jogging and in 1997 a 78 yr old professor's wife in broad daylight in some bushes near the Culbreath Theater. In 2000 a student was raped on the Charlottesville High School track. Malnowski became a suspect and we obtained his DNA. It “hit” in all three cases. He was sentenced to life plus 50 years. If a DNA sample had been taken for the misdemeanors, he would have been caught after the first rape and the latter two rapes would have never occurred.

• If Nathan Washington had contributed a DNA profile when convicted of a misdemeanor in 1998, he never would have been the notorious “Charlottesville Serial Rapist” who raped at least 7 women over a 10 year period .His DNA would have “hit” from a rape in 1997 of a woman in Waynesboro. I would not have had to go into one of his victim's homes and see blood spattered over three walls where he had beaten and raped her for hours. His 6 Charlottesville rapes would have never occurred.

• The famous “East Coast Rapist” who had 18 known victims. Half those victims would have been saved on Nov. 11, 2003 when, Aaron Thomas was convicted of a misdemeanor Assault and Battery. The 3 teenagers out on Halloween night in Dale City, VA would never have been assaulted.

I hope that all Virginian's will consider contacting their representatives in the General Assembly and advocate for databank expansion. The time is now to allow DNA technology better protect our loved ones.


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