KERN COUNTY, Calif. — A 14-year-old crime was recently solved in Kern County thanks to DNA evidence. This comes as Kern has one of the most cutting edge DNA units in its crime lab right here in Bakersfield, an official from the district attorney’s office saying it was the first jurisdiction west of the Mississippi to have special types of technology that can handle more complicated and low amounts of DNA.
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, DNA is like a genetic guidebook in every human being. For law enforcement it can also act as a GPS, leading to answers in long-unsolved crimes.
“it’s not like CSI where you have the sample, you look at the suspect and then it flashes green,” said Joseph A. Kinzel, assistant district attorney, Kern County District Attorney's Office.
Kinzel says DNA evidence is not that easy. But thankfully, Bakersfield College Professor of Criminal Justice, Dr. Tommy Tunson says it’s an exact science.
“Whether it’s DNA from your hair, from your blood, from your skin, it’s an exact science. It’s going to be totally identifiable no matter what.”
Here’s how it works, first local law enforcement will take that possession of evidence, then the Kern Regional Crime Lab will take samples of biological evidence.
“Maybe it’s a drop of blood, taken from that evidence item. There may be a big Q-tip that they use with sterile water. Then they collect it and put that into the tube,” said Kinzel.
Once it gets to the lab, Kinzel says, they’ll look over a specific group of about 20 alleles in the DNA, which are different types of genes.
"But the ones they’re looking for don’t actually control much about you. It’s not the gene that gives you blond hair, or blue eyes. Because that’s something that’s common amongst a lot of people.”
It’s actually the traits you don't see, the “junk DNA” he says, that tell those in the lab what they need to know.
"It’s exonerated people, but it’s also found people guilty many years later,” said Tunson.
Once they do have a suspect, Kinzel says, they can take the DNA from the suspect and DNA evidence electronically stored from the crime scene and see if there’s a match. Kinzel added it’s something they double and triple check to ensure their accuracy.
"Sometimes it’s good enough or of a high enough quality to be compared where it can be compared on state, national or even local databases to see if it is a match with other known offenders. A lot of times that can cause leads.”
And because not one person has the same DNA, Dr. Tunson added that you can identify people even better than fingerprints.