Grim Sleeper, Westside Rapist, Milwaukee Madman: DNA sampling misses its mark again

When a serial killer is finally nabbed, some now ask: "What took so long?" LAPD believes that the long-elusive Grim Sleeper may ultimately be identified through a DNA swab. But the national news now features stories about police or jailers failing to take required DNA swabs from felons -- some of whom later prove to be long-acting serial killers.

Police in Milwaukee, investigating a string of cold-case slayings, have finally identified their prime suspect by obtaining DNA from his toothbrush. Yet Walter E. Ellis sat in prison for three years, and under Wisconsin law he should have been DNA swabbed, and identified, long ago. Nobody knows what went wrong. 


Police

say Ellis, arrested Saturday, murdered nine women from 1986 to 2007.

In prison from 1998 to 2001, he should have given a DNA swab under

a 2000 state law requiring corrections officials to take, and file, the DNA from

all felons.

Wisconsin agencies are now at loggerheads over who shoulders

the blame for the preventable homicides committed by the alleged

madman.

Wisconsin's

Department of Corrections insists it took Ellis' swab but police say

his DNA profile was not in a statewide database.


The L.A. Weekly, in a July cover story, explained how cops caught the Westside Rapist, who

terrorized women in Southern California from the 1950s through

the 1980s. John Floyd Thomas raped and strangled elderly white

women. He escaped detection because a DNA swab was never

taken. Although a sex offender, he had fallen through the cracks in the

system. Some cops believe the Grim Sleeper has also been in jail at some point, but evaded a DNA swab.


Now,

Milwaukee is experiencing the same kind horror. According to blog

reports and official statements after the arrest, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn said, "This case

was solved with shoe leather -- and science." 


But

the real issue is why the science -- taking DNA swabs, and inputting that evidence into a shared database -- is so hard for law enforcement to get right, allowing people like the Milwaukee Madmen and Westside

Rapist to evade detection and kill again.

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