SEARCH FOR A KILLER: Police Have DNA Evidence In Spokane Stabbin - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

SEARCH FOR A KILLER: An Inside Look Into WSP's Crime Lab

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CHENEY, Wash – DNA evidence can often make or break a case, and the evidence collected in Sharlotte McGill’s murder is top priority at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in Cheney.

Spokane Police are hoping the evidence collected at the murder scene helps them find the killer.  While the lab manager can’t say specifically what was collected, or how many pieces they're testing, we do know the evidence collected in McGill’s murder arrived days ago, and that the analysis is already underway.

 

“Yes, we do have the evidence from the McGill case in the laboratory, and we are expediting that,” said lab manager Kevin Fortney.

 

The Spokane Police interim chief asked the lab to make the case a ‘top priority,’ meaning that the case was pulled from the rotation of incoming cases to be processed now.  Since the lab in Cheney takes DNA samples from crimes all over eastern Washington, it’s backlogged with cases, and it’s usual turn around time right now is 6 months.  That means had this case not gotten the ‘rush’ orders, it may have been fall before analysts got to work.

 

Now, at least two analysts – including a DNA specialist – are already working full time to process the evidence.

 

"We are definitely working on it,” said Fortney. “The analysts may not be with their hands in the evidence the entire time, because there are processes where something had to sit and soak or sit and extract, has to run on an instrument... So there are processes where the work is ongoing."

 

But a ‘rush’ case doesn’t mean a ‘rushed’ scientific process or DNA analysis.

 

"This is a top priority,” Fortney added.  “We also are citizens here in the City of Spokane, and any time the public is at risk, in a case such as this, it does become our top priority.  Just understand we are working on this, we want to make sure we do it in a rapid time frame, but we also want to make sure there are no mistakes."

 

It still may be weeks before the DNA analysis is complete.  Once one specialist examines the evidence (i.e. a piece of clothing), they identify where biological stains may be and take samples.  They write a report and compile the data, and then a second specialist repeats the process to make sure everything is double-checked and correct.

 

"We don't want to accuse someone wrongly, and we also - if we do have the right person - don't want the things that we do to cause that whole thing to be overturned in court.  So we're very particular about how we do this analysis."

 

The crime lab must be very careful, because it’s the results that come from that building that will hopefully lead to a suspect’s identify, and later down the road, the killer’s potential conviction.

 
PREVIOUS COVERAGE:
 
SPOKANE, Wash. - KHQ's Kelsey Watts and photographer Trevor Smith got a look inside the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab's DNA room, where the evidence in Sharlotte McGill's murder is being processed.

The crime lab kept the actual evidence in the case, as well as details surrounding what items have been collected and how many, confidential.

However they do say this case is a top priority or 'rush' case, meaning it's been pulled out of the order of received cases and is being processed now. Crime Lab manager Kevin Fortney says, had that not been done, it would have taken 6 months to get through the backlog of the other pending cases before evidence in this case would have been analyzed.

Fortney says while the evidence in McGill's case is being 'rushed,' that does not mean the process of scientific analysis and DNA processing can be rushed, and it may be weeks before the DNA analysis is complete.

 PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Spokane police say they have DNA evidence that may identify the man who killed Sharlotte McGill on May 3 as she was walking her dog along the Spokane River.

It may take some time to get the DNA results and investigators are still asking the public for help in identifying the man who jumped out of the bushes and stabbed the 55-year-old woman.

Before she died at the hospital McGill described her attacker as a black man in his 30s with a bad eye.

***************************************************************************

LATEST PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SPOKANE POLICE DEPT: Major Crimes Detectives are continuing their investigation into the Sharlotte McGill murder. Nearly a week has passed since McGill's death and detectives continue to evaluate each tip received.

 

As days pass, the level of community concern has increased dramatically. Because of the limited description of the suspect, citizens have been simply reporting people they see acting suspiciously who meet the general description.

The description of the suspect is based on information obtained from the victim. Responding officers heard McGill's basic description of the suspect: "A black male, in his 30s, with a bad eye." Unfortunately, McGill was unable to provide any additional information before she passed away.

The Police Department must strike a critical balance, protecting the rights of innocent people with the need to locate a single man suspected of murder.

On May 3, 2012, just after 8 a.m., Sharlotte McGill was stabbed to death along a dirt path in the 1800 block of East South Riverton while walking her dog. When McGill cried for help, citizens rushed to her aid and called police.

SPD would like to caution citizens from approaching anyone they believe may be the homicide suspect; instead, SPD encourages citizens to contact 911 immediately. Officers will screen each call and respond appropriately. Meanwhile, a Major Crimes detective has been assigned to review every single tip received in this case, and proceed accordingly.

Forensic evidence has been submitted to the WSP Crime Lab and WSP Chief John Batiste has assured SPD that this case will be a top priority. Investigators are waiting for DNA results, which could take weeks to months.

SPD Crime Analysis has researched past police reports and compiled a list of names of individuals matching the suspect description. Patrol officers and detectives are attempting to contact those individuals to determine if they had any involvement with this crime. We are working step by step to eliminate any possible persons of interest.

UPDATE: Spokane Police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe visited our studios today to answer questions about a killer on the loose. DeRuwe cleared up questions surrounding the suspect's description.

Thursday (5/3/12) At 8:11 a.m. on 5/3/12, 55yo Sharlotte McGill was walking her dog (Lily) on a trail near the area of 1800 E. South Riverton. McGill lived in Apt Complex across the street from the scene with her daughter). According to McGill, a man jumped out of the bushes, stabbed her several times and fled. McGill screamed for help and made her way from the trail up to the street where a construction worker (Chris Kunz) heard her cries, rushed to assist her and called 911.

McGill was transported to the hospital where she died from her injuries. The dog was uninjured in the attack.

The suspect was described as a black male, 5'5" to 5' 10" in early to mid 30s wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants, and having a "bad" or "crazy" eye.

Neighbors in the area say they had seen a man matching the description in the area recently. Spokane Police detectives detained a person matching the description (Robert Yovino) but released him.

Friday (5/4/12)

On 5/4/12 Police Chief Scott Stephens said they're using all available resources to catch the killer. The entire Major Crimes Unit, Patrol officers and special investigative officers were assigned to the case for a total of 25-30 people. He also said that they are looking at homeless shelters because they believe the suspect might be a transient. Stephens said they had collected a lot of evidence and had sent it to the WSP Crime Lab and managers there said they would make it a "top priority".

Some of the evidence includes clothing from Robert Yovino and McGillis' dog which had blood on it.

Chief Stephens said they've received a lot of tips from people in the community.

Later that day police released a picture of a car battery found near the crime scene and said that it was possibly stolen be the suspect and asked for help from the public locating the car it came from.

KHQ talked to a woman (Sherrie Wright) who said a similar thing happened to her by a suspect with a similar description. There was a police report, but detectives wouldn't say if there was a connection.

Sunday (5/6/12) Memorial for McGill.

Monday (5/7/12)

On Monday 5/7/12, Police located a car that had its battery stolen and processed the car for evidence. The battery however didn't match the car but police processed it anyway.

Tuesday (5/8/12)

Obtained 911 calls from Billie McKinney, Chris Kunz and Janelle (neighbor)

Police went to at least one homeless shelter to hand out a flier about the case and got a name from a security guard there of a guy who matches the description.

Learned that police have a 2nd working theory that the suspect was a car prowler that was stealing car batteries and selling them at a local recycling center. Chelsea talked to the manager out at Pacific Steel and Recycling. They provided police with months worth of surveillance footage and I.D. for customers.

Alex went to Wenatchee and talked to former co-worker and friends who all describe Sharlotte as a super awesome person.

Talked to the city about the upkeep of the trail. They aren't responsible for that portion of the trial but they still do some maintenance of it. The last time they trimmed the bushes in that area was about a week before the murder.

There was a stabbing in Bremerton on the 3rd. A young woman was stabbed to death by an unknown suspect. Doesn't sound like the two are related but KOMO Radio contacted SPD about our case to discuss similarities.

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