Forensic lab solving cold cases could close if federal grants go away

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by Lauren Trager / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 10:58 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 17 at 11:00 PM

(KMOV) -- A rape case from more than 20 years ago has finally gotten a big break. According to prosecutors, Mark Frisella was just recently linked by new DNA testing to a brutal attack in a St. Louis park in 1992.

He has now been charged and is awaiting trial.

But the program that helped crack this, and other cold cases, could go away.

The three people who work every day solely on DNA for old cases are paid through a federal grant and there are no guarantees they’ll be working to solve these cases next year.
“I’m hoping it won’t go away,” said Anne Kwaitkowski with the St. Louis Forensic Lab.

Currently, she and other analysts at the lab are working close to 600 cases. Half of them had previously gone cold.

“Even with the cases that had DNA done before, they didn’t have the newest and best technology used on them,” Kwaitkowski said.

A few years ago, the lab began receiving grant money to continually re-run old cases, attempting to find new matches in increasingly larger local, state and national databases.
Last year, they got $350,000 from the feds to do it.

And their efforts are working.

In 1991, a woman was found near Manchester and Sublette, raped and beaten so badly she suffered brain damage.

But justice came 18 years later. Mark Frisella was found guilty of the crimes, only after he was been linked by new DNA evidence.

Tuesday, Frisella was charged again: this time for a rape at knifepoint in Marquette Park in 1992.

Prosecutors say new DNA testing there, too, cracked the case.

“We are just really, really amazed at the technology that allows us to go back and solve cases this old,” Kwiatkowski said.

But Kiatkowski worries that the money’s about to run out.

“I know we were guaranteed up through 2012, but after that....” she said, shaking her head.
Without it, she told News 4, the city’s efforts to solve old crimes will surely suffer.
News 4 will of course, stay on this and let you know what happens.
 

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