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State Officials Hope New DNA Law Will Help Track Down Criminals

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Big Brother is growing in North Carolina. Some people say it is a good thing.

Starting Monday, all convicted felons in North Carolina will be required to submit DNA samples to the state. It will take money and manpower to process and store that DNA, but investigators believe it will make the streets safer from people like Linwood Forte.

Forte is a convicted murderer who almost got away. He was apprehended after investigators linked his DNA to 10-year-old crimes.

"DNA is rock-solid evidence," said Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Currently, state law requires only convicted


felons to give DNA samples to the state. Cooper helped push through a new law requiring


convicted felons to submit samples.

The law goes into effect Monday.

"It just makes sense that the more samples you have in there, the better chance you're going to have of solving the case," Cooper said.

The burden for taking blood samples will fall to state prisons and local jails. The samples will then go to the State Bureau of Investigation to be added to the statewide database.

"You know, you always have problems when you start something new," Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said. "But I think we'll work through it. Everyone knows it has got to be done."

Harrison said his office will get no extra money to make it happen.

"If we can solve just one unsolved crime by doing it, then we have accomplished something," he said. "I'm all in favor of it."

The Wake County jail already is using DNA databaase kits to test people. There is a backlog of convicted violent felons, but come Dec. 1, there is going to be a lot more people lining up to sit in the chair and have their blood drawn.

"All we need is a small tube of blood," said Dr. Obi Umesi, the Wake County jail doctor. He has been trying to clear the backlog before the law changes.

"We have already done 100, and, hopefully, we should be caught up by Dec. 1."

The idea of a DNA database is spreading like wildfire in states across the country. Just five years ago, only five states collected DNA from convicted felons. One more jumped on board in 1999, and another in 2000.

The number of states doubled in 2001. By last year, 23 states collected DNA from all felons.

This year, seven state legislatures, including North Carolina, added DNA from felons as an important crime-fighting tool.

Local investigators hope the law will help pinpoint suspects like Forte, who may lurk right under their noses.


Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Paul Ensslin, Web Editor

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