Genetic genealogy grant bill clears Legislature, paving the way to solve cold cases, assaults and more

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'We are embracing a future where technology and genetics converge to unlock cases that have remained unsolved for too long.'

The Senate has cleared legislation aimed at increasing law enforcement capabilities to solve crimes by identifying human remains through genetic genealogy.

The bill (SB 678) heads next to the Governor for his signature. If signed, it would establish a grant program within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to help state and local agencies or medical examiner’s offices access advanced forensic technology techniques.

The bill aims to address Florida’s backlog of 19,000 cold cases, 75% of which have DNA evidence awaiting further analysis. The program would also help agencies identify at least some of the 904 unidentified human cases — 99% of the cases are suitable for forensic genetic genealogy testing. There are also more than 1,000 unsolved sexual assaults in Florida, whose investigations could also benefit.

“Today marks a pivotal moment in our ongoing effort to pursue public safety and justice in Florida. With the passing of SB 678, we’re not just adopting a new set of tools for law enforcement; we are embracing a future where technology and genetics converge to unlock cases that have remained unsolved for too long,” said House bill sponsor Rep. Adam Anderson.

“This legislation is a testament to our unwavering commitment to the victims and their families, guaranteeing that no stone is left unturned in our pursuit of justice. It embodies our collective resolve to leverage every scientific advancement at our disposal to make our communities safer and bring solace to those who have been waiting for answers.”

The bill would allocate $500,000 annually to cover expenses related to the use of forensic genetic genealogy methods. FDLE would oversee fund allocation.

The grant funding under the bill would enable laboratory testing, genetic genealogy and law enforcement investigation techniques to create DNA profiles more compatible with genealogical databases.

“In recent years, the scientific barriers to solving cases have been largely overcome, leaving funding as the major obstacle,” said Kristen Mittelman, the Chief Development Officer for Othram Inc., a company that processes evidence, including DNA. “This first in the nation dedicated fund designed to harness the latest technology and ensure equity and effectiveness in our criminal justice system will be transformational.”

The Suncoast Police Benevolent Association also praised the bill’s passage, calling it “a legislative milestone that propels law enforcement in our state into a new era.”

“This legislation is a game-changer, offering a significant boost to our investigative capabilities. It enables agencies throughout Florida to effectively combat crime and swiftly identify unknown human remains with the aid of advanced genetic genealogy techniques,” Suncoast PBA President Jonathan Vazquez said.

“Today’s enactment of SB 678 signifies a significant milestone in our collective effort to uphold the integrity of our profession and the safety of our citizens. As Police Officer Union President, I commend the foresight and dedication of those involved in the passage of this legislation, and I am confident that it will greatly enhance our ability to serve and protect the people of Florida.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].

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