Police seek grant for DNA tests in cold cases

The grant would cover selected cases in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and Kernersville

News & Record

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Detectives in the Winston-Salem Police Department's cold case unit are leading an effort to get a federal grant that would pay for DNA testing, training and other expenses associated with solving selected cases in the Triad.

The department is applying with the National Institute of Justice for a grant from its Solving Cold Cases with DNA Program. The grant would cover selected cases in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and Kernersville.

"The whole gist of it would be to try to solve a cold case through DNA and DNA testing," said Capt. Connie Southern of Winston-Salem's criminal investigations division.

"One of the pluses we see is the collaborative effort. We hope to benefit multiple agencies," Southern said.

The grant would focus mainly on solving homicides, though a sexual assault in Kernersville is among the crimes that could be resolved.

The grants can be as large as $500,000, according to the Department of Justice's website. The Justice Department is the parent agency of the National Institute of Justice.

In 2008, Greensboro police received a cold case DNA grant, which was used to investigate homicides, rapes and serious aggravated assaults. Of the $310,800 grant, about $285,800 was for overtime and $25,000 for travel and training, spokeswoman Susan Danielsen said.

Winston-Salem unsuccessfully applied for a grant of about $80,000 in 2011. Southern said the grant her department is pursuing this year would be for more because multiple agencies are involved. However, an exact amount has not been determined.

Data on the Justice Department website said the agency provided about 3,000 grants totaling more than $2 billion in 2011.

The Triad has a lot of unsolved crimes.

Winston-Salem has 106 cold homicide cases, dating back to 1939, Detective Shelley Lovejoy said. Investigators believe there is sufficient evidence in 53 of the cases that might make them candidates for DNA analysis.

"We had narrowed that down to 30," Lovejoy said. "We looked at about 30 of them that we really wanted to dive into. As we moved forward, we have taken a conservative role. A detective narrowed it down to about 15 or 20."

Between five and 10 Greensboro cases are included in the grant application. Greensboro has 84 cold cases dating to 1969, Capt. Mike Richey said.

If awarded, the grant can be used to pay salaries for full- or part-time employees who conduct case reviews, evidence handling or DNA analysis. Funds also may be used to pay overtime for investigating cold cases. Investigators could use the money to pay consultants to conduct DNA analysis.

Any agency that receives the grant is required to make regular reports to the Justice Department and to enter results of DNA testing into the Combined DNA Index System, a searchable data­base created to help law-enforcement agencies identify suspects in crimes.

The grants are to be used over an 18-month period. Grant recipients are expected to be notified around early March.
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