UPDATE: It turns out that the only connection between the DNA sample lifted from a subway gate at a recent Occupy Wall Street protest and DNA collected in the unsolved 2004 murder of Juilliard student Sarah Fox was an NYPD lab worker who processed both, the Daily News reported Wednesday.
The matching DNA was found to be the NYPD employee’s, which means that the samples were contaminated. According to the Daily News’s sources, the employee, whose identity has not been released, will likely face departmental charges for failing to prevent tainting.
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It could be straight out of a pulpy crime drama, but this time it’s for real. A DNA sample collected at a recent Occupy Wall Street protest eerily matches DNA collected in the unsolved 2004 murder of 21-year-old Juilliard student Sarah Fox. Does this point to a connection or mere coincidence? Was the DNA lifted at the protest in fact that of a protester, and, further, what would have prompted the NYPD to lift DNA from the scene in the first place?
(by Alissa Fleck)
The sample collected in connection with OWS was found on a chain used to “prop open the gates at an East Flatbush subway station…designed to let straphangers ride for free,” reports am NY. Realistically, the sample could have come from anywhere.
The DNA is a match to that taken from Fox’s CD player, which she brought with her on a jog in May of 2004, immediately prior to her disappearance and murder.
The shared DNA did not hit on any known criminal in the database, reports am NY. Officials are quick not to jump to conclusions, saying it’s possible evidence was simply handled by a common officer in both cases. The sample on Fox’s CD player was never shown to match her case’s primary suspect or any friends or family.
So is it simply coincidence, or is there a more sinister element at play—could this discovery provide renewed hope for the 8-year-old unsolved murder?
Dr. Lawrence Koblinsky, a forensics expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told NBC New York, “the likelihood is high the person who left that DNA on the CD player is the killer of Sarah Fox.”
The link is odd and serendipitous enough as is, but additionally strange seems the decision to collect DNA evidence in the case of an OWS protest. The collection of DNA in an isolated incident like this one begs the question of when it is protocol for the NYPD to collect a DNA sample. What sort of cost does it incur and how useful is it, in most cases?
The NYPD’s press office did not immediately respond to requests for such information, but the New York State Legislature reached an agreement on a bill in March of this year which would allow for the collection of DNA from those convicted even of misdemeanors. WNYC reported this would make NYS the first “all crimes DNA” state in the country, according to Governor Cuomo.
“DNA collection is one of the most reliable and cost-effective tools that we have in law enforcement,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.
While this may not directly apply to this particular case, it shows New York’s heightened emphasis on the importance of DNA collection, even in cases where it might seem largely unnecessary. Still, many questions remain unanswered in this stranger-than-fiction discovery.
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