Local News

New DNA testing machine at Wake Tech could provide results in under two hours

Posted November 23, 2021 6:27 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2021 10:24 a.m. EST

— Advances in technology when it comes to DNA have grown considerably in recent years. But one thing that hasn't seen a widespread change is the turnaround time for processing DNA.

However, a first-of-its-kind machine at Wake Technical Community College may just be the answer to faster results, in under two hours.

Behind DNA testing is real science that makes a viable difference in criminal cases.

Janie Slaughter, the head of the Criminal Justice Department at Wake Tech, knows that. Slaughter recently got a grant to purchase a DNA processing machine that can test a sample in roughly one hour and 46 minutes.

"A normal DNA run at the SBI lab can take 24, 36 hours," Slaughter said. "Unidentified human remains, a lot of times, are not a priority."

In some cases, it can take months for the results to be returned because of a backlog at the state lab.

Slaughter is working with local agencies, assisting them in their cases. At one point earlier this month, the State Crime Lab had 49 DNA kits pending testing from Raleigh police and 94 kits pending testing from law enforcement in Wake County.

"When you've got so many active cases, these sort of filter back into the cold case if you will," she said.

On Tuesday, Slaughter was trying to match an unidentified sample with family members investigators believe the dead person may be related to.

"We have two we believe are relatives, a father and a mother and then we believe this is the son," she said.

For Slaughter, this technology may not only solve crimes, but bring much-needed closure to families.

"An unsolved case to me is just as important as one that is active because that is still someone's loved one that wants answers," she said.

Investigators know every piece of evidence is important when it comes to solving crime, and the goal is that eventually this machine will make its way into law enforcement agencies across the state.

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