One day after Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced he’d asked the state to approve a new type of DNA analysis in hopes that it would help police develop additional leads in the case of a female jogger found strangled this summer in Howard Beach, State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said Friday he has introduced legislation authorizing the use of the so-called “familial DNA” to assist in solving violent crimes in New York.
In a statement released Friday, Boyle said he had drafted the measure after a phone conversation last week with Philip Vetrano, father of Karina Vetrano, 30, whose body was found near a bicycle path at the north end of Spring Creek Park in Queens the night of Aug. 2. Police said Vetrano had been sexually assaulted.
“Having worked on DNA-related legislation for over 25 years, I see the use of ‘familial’ DNA testing as the next significant step in assisting our law enforcement officials in solving these sickening crimes and getting these violent criminals off our streets,” Boyle said in a statement. “We cannot allow any ambiguity in our state laws to delay use of this important crime-fighting tool any longer.”
The announcement by Boyle came one day after Brown said he had asked that the Division of Criminal Justice Service’s Commission on Forensic Science approve the use of familial DNA, despite the fact it remains a controversial method — one that allows investigators to identify suspects whose genetic profiles are not in a law enforcement database but whose relatives have had their DNA cataloged. A traditional DNA search is successful only if there is a match with a known genetic profile already in a database. Familial DNA searches expand the search to include relatives of the people whose genetic profiles are in a database.
Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for Division of Criminal Justice Services, noted that familial DNA searches will be discussed Friday at the commission’s quarterly meeting in Manhattan.
“The Commission on Forensic Science is constantly evaluating scientific techniques to better assist law enforcement and obtain justice for victims,” she said Thursday in an emailed statement. “The commission will continue to work closely with our partners in local law enforcement to provide them the most cutting-edge tools they need to investigate and solve crimes, without compromising individual protections.”
Friday’s public debate over the use of familial DNA searches is the first step in the process of considering the potential use of such a method in New York, Kava said.
Then, the commission’s DNA subcommittee must conduct a review and make recommendations to the commission.
Currently, familial DNA searches are done in nine other states, including California, Texas and Virginia.
There are no laws in New York barring such techniques from being used here, Kava had said.
Officials said the main reason New York doesn’t use familial DNA searching is ambiguity in state laws and regulations governing DNA testing.
Vetrano went jogging in the afternoon and when she did not return, her father, Philip Vetrano, called police. Her body was found near the path not far from 161st Avenue and 78th Street.
Among the physical evidence the NYPD recovered from Vetrano’s body was DNA belonging to a man, Brown said. Investigators searched New York State’s DNA database, which contains more than 600,000 DNA profiles, and a database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the DNA profile did not match any known offenders.
Vetrano’s father, Philip Vetrano, 60, of Howard Beach, is lobbying officials to allow law enforcement to use this investigative tool to not only help solve his daughter’s killing but to help solve other crimes.
“This is a good tool, and it’s a tool we need to use every day. Criminals need to be incarcerated and they need to be punished,” he said. “We’re working on it, and we have every law abiding citizen behind us.”