Small samples of DNA are often used to clear up cold cases. Police recently revealed a discarded cigarette butt helped them charge a Texas man over the murder of a 50-year-old woman on Mother’s Day 2016.
Byron Lloyd Collins, 29, was recently picked up by authorities at the same complex in Baytown where Natalia Shal died from stab wounds in 2016 according to the Beaumont Enterprise. ABC 13 reported Collins was charged with capital murder.
Nataliya Shal, 50, was found facedown in her Baytown apartment. She had been stabbed. Collins is accused of trying to sexually assault Shal before the stabbing, according to court records.
Media reports stated Shal’s husband, David Englerth was out of town at the time of the killing. He tried to contact her, but was unsuccessful so he called police and asked them to check on her.
Police saw the victim’s body through her apartment window upon arriving at the scene.
DNA was recovered from the crime scene. Initial analysis found it did not match anything from police databases. However, in early 2017, investigators in Bayport found out about the use of familial DNA testing to help identify suspects who were not already in police systems.
In June 2017, they got a hit, matching the DNA from the scene to Collins’ brother in prison.
Police then placed surveillance on Collins. They were able to match his DNA to a discarded cigarette to the crime scene on Dec. 18.
In recent years, the use of familial DNA testing has become more widespread across the country. However, the method remains controversial because it raises constitutional issues. California was one of the first states to use this form of testing, but it remains a last resort.
Lab officials look for a relative by scanning various genetic profiles in the offender database and seeking DNA samples that match a criminal suspect’s along with several markers.
Testing usually focuses on part of the Y-chromosome passed down the male line, identifying full brother or father-son relationships.
As more genetic markers for DNA go into offender databases, the technology is likely to become more precise, geneticist Frederick Bieber, a professor at Harvard University’s medical school and an expert on the technique, told The Los Angeles Times.
That could help identify more distant relatives and track down offenders who aren’t yet in the system.
Juries are often swayed by forensic evidence but DNA evidence is not always reliable. Human error may skew the evidence gathering process.
If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced Dallas defense attorney.