FDLE's Fort Myers Crime Lab Marks One Year Anniversary for DNA Services

Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Commissioner Gerald Bailey and Ft. Myers Special Agent in Charge E.J. Picolo today recognized the one year anniversary of the addition of a DNA analysis section to the agency's Fort Myers Crime Laboratory. Since the opening of the new section in October 2007, scientists have worked 490 service requests containing thousands of pieces of evidence. The Lab last month gained approval to submit DNA profiles directly to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), also known as the DNA Database. As a result, 13 DNA "hits" have been made - matching the DNA profiles of known offenders to previously unknown DNA samples left at crime scenes.

"Expanding the Fort Myers Lab was a key component of a statewide, multi-faceted plan to bolster FDLE's ability to process DNA evidence," FDLE Commissioner Bailey said. "We think the successes we've seen so far are a good indicator of what's ahead for the future."

The Ft. Myers lab initially began conducting DNA screening and then transitioned to conducting full DNA analysis in February 2008. The final phase of the lab's development was approval to enter DNA profiles into CODIS. The laboratory underwent an accreditation process through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) and a review by the FBI's National DNA Index System (NDIS).

The Ft. Myers Crime Lab serves law enforcement in 10 counties and currently averages a 45 day turnaround time for conducting DNA analysis. "Time and time again we see forensics help solve crimes," said SAC E.J. Picolo. "Bringing this technology right into our region has enabled us to serve our customers quickly and more efficiently."

"This facility is an invaluable asset to law enforcement efforts. Already DNA processed in Fort Myers has helped us solve a case and arrest a documented gang member," Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter said.

The Collier County Sheriff's Office arrested Carlos Acosta and charged him with breaking into a home in Golden Gate in April. Earlier this month, the agency was notified that a CODIS match had been made using blood evidence from the scene of the crime that was linked to Acosta. Acosta had a Department of Corrections DNA profile in the CODIS system. This was the first match made at the Fort Myers lab.

"Being able to use DNA to solve cases is a substantial leap forward for local law enforcement rather than relying on just the chance fingerprint left behind at a crime scene. Often, criminals use different means to avoid detection and this tool allows law enforcement professionals to use different possibilities such as sweat, blood or even chewing gum to solve crimes. Having the convenience of a lab in Fort Myers, we hope, will allow us to solve even more cases," Sheriff Hunter said.

FDLE has been offering DNA services since 1990. In addition to Fort Myers, FDLE provides DNA services at its crime labs in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tampa and Orlando. Florida's DNA Database contains more than 513,000 offender samples and has made 9,481 hits since its inception.

Media Availability:
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey will be available to meet with media today at the Ft. Myers Regional Operations Center from 1:15 - 2:15 p.m. The Ft. Myers Operations Center is located at 4700 Terminal Drive, Suite 1, in Ft. Myers.

For more information, contact:

Trena Reddick
Public Information Officer
FDLE - Fort Myers
(813) 878-7239 or 878-7300