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DNA used to obtain Monterey burglary arrest warrant

Monterey County The Herald,
By DANIEL LOPEZ, Herald Staff Writer
Link to Article

Monterey, CA

Monterey: County's first DNA-backed arrest warrant

Monterey police say they used DNA evidence to obtain an arrest warrant for an unidentified serial burglar by naming him "John Doe."

Sgt. Bill Clark said it is the first time in Monterey County that such a warrant has been issued based on DNA.

Issuing an arrest warrant when the suspect's identity is unknown allows law enforcement to satisfy the statue of limitations for prosecution, he said.

That means that if the suspect is identified and arrested, the offense can be prosecuted regardless of how much time has passed since the crime. The statute of limitations for prosecution of burglary and most other felony crimes in California is three years.

In January, the state Supreme Court upheld the use of John Doe arrest warrants in reviewing an appeal by a man who was tried and convicted of a 1994 rape, though the six years statute of limitations had expired. With a DNA profile of the suspect, the warrant was requested four days before time expired and the trial court judge found there was probable cause and issued an arrest warrant for "John Doe."

Monterey's John Doe is a suspect in a Nov. 20, 2009, burglary at the Great Looks hair salon at 850 Munras Ave.

Hair clippers and other property with a value of about $600 was stolen after a window was broken between 4:50 and 7:39 p.m. to get inside, Clark said.

The officer investigating the break-in and theft collected evidence at the salon that was submitted to the state Department of Justice for analysis.

Clark wouldn't say Friday what was collected, but police said that last month, DNA profiling identified the suspect as a male.

The profile was entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System and matches were made to DNA evidence submitted from an unsolved burglary in San Mateo and one in Los Altos, Clark said.

Police believe the same man may be responsible for other crimes.

"It appears to be a serial burglar," Clark said, adding that a DNA profile is unique.

The Los Altos burglary took place Aug. 5 at a hair salon. The match from San Mateo, police said, is linked to an April 9 furniture store burglary.

Monterey police detectives have been in contact with officers in the two cities in an effort to identify the suspect, but they have little information, Clark said.

There are no surveillance videos of the Monterey break-in that could help, he said.

The burglar could be identified if he is arrested for a felony in California.

State law allows law enforcement to collect a DNA sample from anyone arrested for a felony. In other states, a sample is collected only after conviction.

The decision to seek a John Doe arrest warrant was made, Clark said, after connecting the suspect to more than one crime.

"We have somebody involved in multiple burglaries," he said.

The warrant was approved Monday.

In Monterey, property crimes are a significant problem, Clark said, with theft cases reported in 2009 resulting in losses of about $500,000.

To address the problem, police are receiving training in DNA collection from crime scenes and the evidence is submitted to the state Department of Justice, as is standard to do when investigating violent crimes such as sexual assault.

"It's using new technology to help us identify criminals, Clark said. "These people are involved in many other crimes."

Daniel Lopez can be reached at 646-4494 or .

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