Thousands of DNA samples from Washington criminals are missing from DNA database

The DNA of thousands of convicted criminals who are supposed to be in the state's DNA offender database is missing. 

This means there are tens of thousands of Washington state criminals living among us whose DNA could be linked to other crimes that we don’t know about — they were released from custody without their DNA being taken.  

Now, the Attorney General’s Office and King County Sheriff’s Office are working to tackle the issue. 

CODIS is the criminal offender database that holds DNA profiles of criminals and DNA from unsolved crimes. The more DNA profiles in the database, the higher likelihood of getting matches. 

That's why this number is so unsettling: the Attorney General’s Office estimates there are 30,000 convicted criminals in Washington whose DNA is missing from the database. It’s an issue they’ve been working to remedy for over a year. 

Of these 30,000 missing profiles, the AG’s office found 107 sex offenders who slipped through the cracks and are living in King County.

"We rely on samples in the CODIS database quite frequently to solve our cases and to bring justice to the victims," says Det. Sgt. Jason Escobar of the King County Sheriff’s Office.

When presented with the list of 107 sex offenders, he jumped into action. 

"We made this is a priority." 

Using funds from the US Marshal's Office, Sgt. Escobar assigned two detectives to take on the enormous task. He says most of their work tracking down the sex offenders had to be done on off hours. 

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"We started with 107, and that number started dwindling rapidly." 

To date, the sheriff’s office has gotten DNA from 60 sex offenders in King County, no easy task during a pandemic.

The AG's Office says since the launch of this mission last summer, 900 lawfully owed DNA samples have been collected. Of those, 700 have been entered into the CODIS DNA database, so far producing matches in seven unsolved cases. 

The horrific 1986 murders of Bremerton woman Nikki Anderson and her 4-year-old daughter Adrienne Hale are one such case where detectives have DNA from the crime scene, but no match. 

Across Washington, there are nearly 2,000 unsolved murders and roughly 2,000 unsolved rape cases. Investigators say adding the lawfully owed DNA profiles to the database could be key in finding answers and getting justice for many. 

The Attorney General’s Office and the King County Sheriff’s Office say this is an ongoing effort. As to how this happens in the first place, the AG’s office says that’s something they’re looking into. 

In some cases, it may be the responsibility of the court to collect a DNA sample, in others the prison or jail. Anyone convicted of a felony, and certain misdemeanors in Washington state, is required by law to give their DNA. 

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