A prostitute whose strangled body was found in a vacant house has become the seventh known victim of a serial killer who targeted streetwalkers in Wisconsin for more than two decades, police said Tuesday.Additional DNA testing is underway for 2 dozen additional unsolved murders.
Police believe the suspect, whose identity is unknown, strangled five other prostitutes and had sex with a 16-year-old runaway whose throat was slashed. Another suspect likely killed the teen, police said.
DNA results came back Tuesday linking the death of Florence McCormick, 28, to the killer. [...] The earliest death linked to the serial killer was in 1986 and the latest was in 2007.
Whenever I hear about a case like this where all the police have which concretely identifies the murder victims to a specific individual is DNA I think about the many DNA testing backlogs around the US and the decision of some police departments to not submit certain rape kits for testing.
Chaunte Dean Ott was convicted in 1 of these murders, the only one where the victim was not a woman of color, but his conviction was overturned because the DNA in that case didn't match Ott. That victim, Jessica Payne, was a 16-year-old runaway. The story doesn't say what connected Ott to Payne. According to the story it hasn't been determined whether Ott will be retried.
As a story in the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal highlights, this DNA match alone doesn't prove guilt so the presence of another man's DNA doesn't alone prove innocence. However, the odds are against this DNA belonging to a man not involved in these murders.
The tests show the same person had contact with seven women who were murdered, Gahn said, but that does not guarantee a conviction or even enough to charge the suspect - assuming he is found.
"Until the person is identified, I don't think we can make any conclusions about the strength of the case," Gahn said. "It goes behind a person of interest. That person has some explaining to do."
Investigators have run the DNA profile found on the murdered women against DNA databases nationally with no hits. That means the suspect is not in prison and has not provided law enforcement with a genetic sample in any state, he said. Wisconsin has required all felons to provide DNA since 1996.
This case especially highlights the flaw in not testing rape kits when the identity of the alleged rapist is known and consent is used as a defense. Those who will rape people they know may also commit serious crimes against strangers and vice versa. If the same criminal's DNA is present in both types of crimes the undeniable crime (murder, for example) may be solved by thoroughly investigating all rapes which are viewed as unprovable (spousal or date rape, for example).
In a recent case the DNA collected from a flasher matched 2 unsolved rapes so this connection can be made between known and unknown offenders. Processing all rape kits in a timely manner can do more than solve existing cases, it can save lives.