650 DNA samples of convicted criminals from Seattle expected to go into a national database

SEATTLE - Leah Griffin is a rape survivor and she says it's something that affects her every day, but she`s managed to channel that trauma into advocacy.

“We are testing kits as we speak,” Griffin said.

She worked to help get the passage of a measure to finally address the backlog of 11,000 rape kits in Washington state. Now she is also supporting another measure expected to pass Seattle City Council.

In Seattle, 650 DNA samples from convicted criminals have sat frozen for the last 5 years not being tested by the state.

“Definition of the crime the city was using was not matching up enough with the state crimes,” Griffin said.

City Attorney Pete Holmes says the council`s vote next week should remedy that issue, allowing misdemeanor convictions from Municipal Court to get back into CODIS, a national database, handled by the FBI.

“Perpetrators better take home the knowledge that their samples are going to be compared nationwide,” Holmes said.

“Then we will be able to put identity on some of these predators,” Griffin said.

Griffin says many times, a rape kit will come back with DNA hits but the identities of the perpetrators are still unknown. She’s hoping that by expanding the national database more arrests will be made.

The measure will go after uploading DNA samples from 8 different types of misdemeanor convictions. Crimes like harassment, indecent exposure and assault in the 4th degree with sexual motivation.

Holmes says people with those types of sexually motivated crimes, although misdemeanors, are strong indicators that they could commit more serious crimes.

“Every Ted Bundy probably started with something less serious,” Holmes said.

Holmes says the goal is to crack cold cases but also prevent future crimes.

DNA evidence did help catch the Golden State Killer, responsible for at least 50 rapes in California.

And locally, DNA evidence also netted a double murder conviction against William Talbott II last month. He’s now serving a life sentence for the 1987 murders of a young Canadian couple.

Griffin says the progress with DNA samples in Seattle would not have been possible without State Rep. Tina Orwall.

“We know that DNA evidence is a critically important tool law enforcement uses in bringing justice to these violent crimes,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines. “It has been a great opportunity to partner with the City of Seattle to get our systems back on track, keep our communities safe and prevent violent offenders from committing additional crimes.”