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MU Forensic Science Center collects DNA of criminals across the country

On February 17, 2014

What used to be the old Marshall University football locker room now houses a high-tech, greatly esteemed forensic laboratory that performs forensic DNA testing for West Virginia and numerous other states throughout the country.

The Marshall University Forensic Science Center also conducts relationship testing and produces DNA profiles for all convicted offenders in the state of West Virginia, which goes into a database known as CODIS.

CODIS, or the Combined DNA Index System, is a system that holds the DNA profiles of convicted offenders within the state of West Virginia. After the DNA samples of the convicted offenders are analyzed by the professionals in the Marshall CODIS Laboratory, the findings are given to the West Virginia State Police, who upload them to the CODIS system, which is then distributed to the National DNA Index System, maintained by the FBI.

“Once they are convicted, their blood is collected and that blood is then sent here for us to test,” said Jason Chute, the technical leader for the Forensic DNA Laboratory.

Chute said that the laboratory receives approximately 2,000 blood samples that are collected by the West Virginia Department of Corrections each year.

Not only does the MUFSC complete the DNA analysis for CODIS, but the center is also the offsite storage location for these samples.

“The state police send us a blood card,” Chute said. “We then keep a part of that blood card just in case something would happen and we have to retest the sample.”

In addition to compiling the DNA profiles of convicted offenders all across the state, the MUFSC also takes on projects from other states that request assistance.

Chute said that the highly revolutionized facility at Marshall benefits communities far beyond the city of Huntington.

“We conduct actual forensic testing for criminal cases in jurisdictions all over the United States. Anywhere from Miami-Dade to Los Angeles,” Chute said.

Other states often turn to the expertise of the professionals that operate within the MUFSC.

“In Detroit, approximately 10,000 sexual assault kits were backlogged and Detroit officials sent 800 of the kits here to be tested,” Chute said.

With the advanced robotic technology and a highly trained staff, the Marshall Forensic Science Center is being utilized by agencies all over the country.

Morgan M. Switzer can be contacted at switzer12@marshall.edu.

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