AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Public Safety says a 2019 bill aimed at collecting DNA from people charged with certain crimes has paid huge dividends to solving cold cases.
The Krystal Jean Baker Act, which allows the collection of DNA samples from those charged with any of 24 different felonies and compares them with existing crime scene DNA samples in a nationwide database, has helped Texas DPS solve more than 250 open investigations in its first year, the agency says.
Under the bill’s formal name of House Bill 1399, law enforcement isn’t required to wait for a conviction to gather a DNA sample. When a person is arrested for a qualifying felony, authorities can get a cheek swab and send to the DPS lab to be entered into the database.
“The hard work of our crime lab employees and law enforcement officials is allowing us to make great strides in solving crimes faster, and in some cases, crimes that otherwise may never have been solved,” said Steven McCraw, DPS director.
“Only a year after its passage, this law has become a valuable tool in getting criminals off our streets and bringing justice for victims and their families. We expect additional success as this process becomes an integral and vital part of the criminal justice landscape,” he said.
More than 16,000 DNA samples from offenders have been entered into the national database since the law was enacted, DPS says. The matches have helped solve 93 sexual assault investigations, by far the most of any criminal investigation, according to DPS data.
Travis County had 18 DNA matches come from the law, the fourth-most in Texas. Harris County had 78 matches, followed by Dallas (47) and Tarrant (20) counties.
The law is named for Krystal Jean Baker, a 13-year-old Texas City girl abducted, sexually assaulted and killed in 1996. While DNA evidence was collected at the time of her death, no arrests were made until 2010. It was then the suspect’s DNA sample was taken on an unrelated charge in Louisiana, and the sample matched Baker’s case. Two years later, the suspect pleaded guilty to her murder in Chambers County.