Utah Non-profit DNA Testing Lab to 'Revolutionize Cold Cases'

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The Utah Cold Case Coalition, a non-profit in Utah, just signed a lease for lab space in an office building in the city of Murray where they plan to build a DNA testing lab that will completely transform how cold cases are handled. The non-profit was first formed to bring attention to the cold case murder of six-year-old Rose Tapia in 1995, and it wholly relies on volunteer staff.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, its co-founder Karra Porter, a defense attorney, said, “This is going to revolutionize cold cases across the United States. We saw this need and it was too big to ignore.”

An estimated 103,780 of the murders that have occurred in America between 1996 and 2016 remain unsolved, said a report by the U.S. Department of Justice. In the state of Utah, The Utah Department of Public Safety website has recorded about 400 cold cases that run the gamut from missing persons to murders to unidentified bodies.

Crowd Funding

Porter hopes to begin by helping solve Utah’s cold case and moving from there to help police all over the country. The coalition launched a GoFundMe page with a beginning goal of $81,000 and hopes to raise a total of $200,000 for DNA lab equipment.

The GoFundMe page says: “Despite being staffed by volunteers, we're one of the most creative and aggressive cold case organizations in the U.S. We began in Utah, but are now contacted by families and law enforcement throughout the country.  Early on, we learned how much evidence has not undergone DNA testing due to its high cost.  We're doing something about it.”

Francine Bardole pointed out to the Tribune that the department has an enormous backlog of untested DNA, rape kids, and more and that DNA testing could take anywhere from 8 to 18 months. According to a police investigator in the Utah city of West Jordan, a DNA lab would help immensely to lessen the time and cost it takes to deal with cold cases.

“The price can be overwhelming,” Bardole said, adding that going to a private lab can cost about $6,000.

She asked, “How many departments can afford to pay, on one case, $6,000?”

The Utah legislature passed a law last year that required law enforcement agencies to enter cold cases or any cases that go unsolved for at least three years into the database.