As surprising as it might sound, the League City Police Department is pioneering in the collection of DNA evidence to help solve cold cases. According to KHOU 11, detectives from around the country have been coming to League City to learn more about the M-Vac, a special vacuum which can gather hard-to-collect DNA. Police in Little Rock Arkansas, for example, have been in contact with local police to learn more about the M-Vac.
Prosecutors frequently rely on DNA evidence in sexual assault and homicide cases. But DNA is sometimes hard to collect. This is where the M-Vac comes in. The League City Police Department obtained their M-Vac in 2019 and has immediately put it to use. They have focused on “cold cases”—those cases which remain unsolved after several years, even decades. DNA evidence can degrade with time, but the M-Vac excels at collecting enough DNA material to create a profile of a criminal suspect.
The vacuum is especially good at pulling DNA from automobile carpeting and pressure treated lumber. It sprays a solution and then sucks it up, pulling up dried fluids or skin cells which contain a DNA fingerprint. Techs then run the solution through a machine to extract the DNA.
Detectives in Salt Lake City, for example, solved the 1977 murder of a 16-year-old girl by running the vacuum over a piece of clothing which had been shoved in her mouth. The DNA extracted led to the conviction of a Florida sex offender 40 years later for the murder.
The common method of gathering DNA has been to run a cotton swab over places where detectives suspect DNA might be found. There is still a place for cotton swabs, especially where detectives can see blood splatter. But the M-Vac gives them an option when they are trying to find traces of DNA off clothing and other items. In 2019, the machine was selling for $42,500—a hefty sum, but worthwhile if it can solve old cases.
Defendants Can Benefit, Too
DNA evidence does more than convict people. This evidence sometimes leads to exonerations as well. For example, a man in Idaho was released from prison when DNA collected by the M-Vac eliminated him as a participant in the rape-murder of a woman 20 years prior. The police had managed to coerce a confession out of him, but the DNA evidence led to his freedom. With the new DNA evidence in hand, police arrested and charged a man for the woman’s murder.
Detectives in Florida even used the M-Vac to confirm a suspect’s alibi. He had claimed to only be in one part of an apartment, and the DNA evidence collected supported that claim. Police then crossed him off the lists of suspects.
We Are League City Criminal Defense Attorneys
DNA evidence does not play a role in every case. But when available, it sometimes helps prove our clients’ innocence. To speak with a criminal defense lawyer in League City or Galveston, contact Tad Nelson & Associates today.