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Illinois State Police On Huge DNA Backlog: 'We Have A Lot To Do'

DNA analysis
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The Illinois State Police was under fire Monday for the state’s huge backlog in testing crime-scene DNA.

Grieving family members say they’ve waited and waited to hear from police about the crime lab analysis of their relatives’ murders.

At a state Senate hearing, they focused their frustration on detectives who did not keep them informed about the progress of their case, and the long delays in getting DNA evidence tested.

Latonya Moore’s daughter, 26-year-old Shantieya Smith, went missing last May in Chicago. She was was found dead in June.

"I haven’t even found out how my daughter was murdered,” Moore told senators. She says she’s called police to ask about the status of her daughter’s case, and been frustrated when return calls are promised but never happen.

“West side and south side — when it come to us, we get swept under the rug. But when it come up north side or somebody else happen, it’s like a racist thing,” Moore said. “Everybody should be treated equal.”

Robin Woollery, assistant deputy director of the Illinois State Police’s Forensic Sciences Command, says there are 5,121 pending DNA cases. She says there are 527 open homicide cases at its crime lab in Chicago.

“The first thing I’d like to say is: the families have my sincere condolences. My mother’s heart — as a mother — goes out to them,” Wollery said. “We have a lot to do. We have a large backlog we need to address, and we’re going to do everything we can to meet that.”

The state police says it plans to hire more people, implement a robotic system to automate some testing, and create an online portal where sexual assault survivors can track the progress of their DNA kits.

But it also says getting the backlog under control could take years.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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