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Lab backlogs frustrate families and police alike

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People keep asking why charges haven't been filed against a teenage mother who slept while her puppy killed her eight- week old baby by eating it alive. I keep asking too, and the answer I get is "we're waiting on drug test results." If the mother had drugs in her system, the charge could be different than if she didn't.

I did a story today on the one year anniversary of the kidnapping and rape of a five-year old girl in Broken Arrow. No one has been arrested, but, earlier this year, a man who looks like the suspect, was arrested for molesting an eight year old girl. People want to know if he's the one. Police say they are waiting on DNA results.

I interviewed an Owasso mother who is in the deepest grief after a man who was driving a truck, slammed into a bridge and killed her son, who was in the backseat. Because that man has a history of drunk driving, she wants to know if he was drunk that day. Police in Missouri, where the wreck happened, can only tell me they are waiting on blood results from their lab.

It seems the problem is everywhere, backlogs, backlogs, backlogs. There was a time, when if you told the OSBI lab a case was the highest priority, the fastest they could get it back was six months. Less urgent cases could take two years.

The OSBI has made great strides, but, it's still a struggle. And, people please understand, it's not like it appears on TV crime shows, where everything is done in an hour.

The backlogs are nationwide and only getting worse, as more and more states pass laws requiring DNA samples be taken from no longer just rapists, but, murderers and also adding robbers and other violent offenders.

A national study on the problem was done with John Ashcroft was the U.S. Attorney General and it came up with all kinds of reasons why we have the backlog.  We don't have enough trained people in our labs. When we get trained people, we don't pay them enough. There are tons more samples coming in and even many people required to give a sample, haven't done so.

Maggie Zingman is the mother of Brittany Phillips and she's made it her life's mission to travel the country and try to find her daughter's killer and to educate people about the backlog in the national DNA base, called CODIS.

It is years behind. That means someone could be sitting in prison right now and his DNA taken, but, not in the database yet. Say, it finally gets in there in five, six, seven years.  And, say there's a hit in Brittany's case or another unsolved case. Solving the crime would be great, but, knowing her family could have had peace years earlier would be gut-wrenching. Plus, knowing police spent valuable time and money tracking down other suspects would seem like a terrible waste.

If we, as a society, want DNA to be part of the crime solving network (both convicting and freeing people), then we need to dedicate the funds and find the people to get us caught up, so families and police departments aren't waiting and waiting for life altering answers.

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