Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 2:31 p.m.
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.
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
Wisconsin agencies are now at loggerheads over who shoulders
the blame for the preventable homicides committed by the alleged
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.
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."
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.