Friday, October 9, 2009

Intense coverage of federal DNA backlog

Reporter Robert Napper got the e-mail from the FBI after 3 p.m. Tuesday -- not much time to dig for a story, but dig he did. With the help of reporter Duane Marsteller, an expert at research and database reporting, Napper turned a story with national implications: The FBI's DNA database backlog could have contributed to the serial home invasion attacks that gripped Manatee and Sarasota in fear this year.

The headline: Feds had suspect's DNA during home invasions

For months, investigators have been digging into 11 cases that may have been by the same invader/rapist/murderer. When they finally got a match to Delmer Smith III's DNA in four of those cases, there was renewed energy and hope that they might have the "monster," an apt description.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube held a press conference this morning, acknowledging the community's concerns on the database backlog and trying to offer assurances on the investigation.

Buchanan's web site states: "Buchanan has contacted the FBI about the backlog, which was blamed for a delay in the processing of home invasion and sexual assault suspect Delmar Smith’s DNA."

We'll continue to cover this developing story, and welcome your input.

-- Joan

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