OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Earlier this month, the Osceola County Sheriff's Office joined a short list of Central Florida departments with their own DNA pre-screening labs. The sheriff's office now hopes the new lab will mean swifter justice in cases.
This week, WFTV got the first look inside Osceola’s new lab to see how it will help deputies close cases.
On Wednesday, three trained Florida Department of Law Enforcement technicians used the new lab to search for evidence of blood, saliva or any bodily fluid with enough genetic material to forward to the state crime lab. There, a genetic profile can be extracted that could help investigators in Osceola County identify a suspect.
To preserve the chain of evidence, only four people have access to the lab: the three technicians trained to use it and their supervisor. The lab is locked at all other times.
“Prior to having our DNA screening lab, we did send all our evidence to FDLE, and it could take three to six months,” said Twis Lizasuain, of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.
Even then, after months of waiting, many of those samples didn't contain any DNA at all. And since investigators can only submit up to five samples to the state at a time on major crimes, they don't want to waste time and resources on the wrong evidence.
The sheriff's office spent $100,000 on the new lab which works alongside the latent print lab, which deputies can match crime scene fingerprints to those currently stored in a national database.
WFTV spoke to some residents who believe the money was a small price to pay if justice is served.
“Maybe that way they can catch a person a lot faster,” said resident Karen Dulaney.
Osceola County DNA screeners have already checked for DNA evidence in close to a dozen cases and forwarded that evidence to FDLE.