DNA database helps solve Georgia cold cases

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March 30, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Richmond County investigators say Georgia's DNA database is helping to solve cold cases in our area. In one example, deputies say a rash of burglaries in south Augusta from three years ago is now solved.

The Combined DNA Index System, CODIS for short, solved 22 cold cases in Georgia just last month alone. This year Richmond County investigators say it's helped find and keep a serial burglar behind bars.

DNA samples taken from every convicted Georgia inmate is helping to keep criminals behind bars and breaking cold cases wide open.

"It's clearing up a lot of cold cases in Richmond County, especially in the burglary division," Lt. Tony Walden said.

39-year-old Leon Tate, now in an Atlanta jail on unrelated charges, is facing multiple felonies in Augusta.

He's now accused in a string of robberies in 2004 and 2005 at a Family Dollar off of Milledgeville Road in south Augusta. It was hit eight times in just a few months, and investigators believed it was the same person.

"When we would process each crime scene, we would find blood," Lt. Walden said.

Gloves left at one scene showed the robber was being careful not to leave his fingerprints...but it's how he got inside that did him in.

"When they crawl through the hole, they would cut themselves and drip blood at the point of entry and throughout the store."

A crime scene photo shows what investigators say is Tate's blood on a box inside the store. Three years later, they say a hit in the database will keep him behind bars.

Finding DNA like blood at the crime scene is what Lt. Walden says is helping not only to solve these cases but also convict the suspects in court.

And it's much more effective than fingerprints.

"Now when someone's blood is found at the point of entry, and it's where the damage is done, and you find it inside the business, it's a little harder to convince someone that that person didn't do it," Lt. Walden said.

Tate is still serving time in Atlanta for trying to escape.

An arrest warrant has been issued for him, and once indicted he will come to Richmond County to face eight felony counts of burglary.

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