Criminal Justice

Is DNA Evidence from Occupy Protest Linked to Unsolved 2004 Murder?


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Updated: Investigators trying to learn the identity of an Occupy protester have found a link to an unsolved 2004 murder.

Genetic material taken from a chain at an Occupy protest matched DNA on a portable CD player that belonged to 21-year-old drama student Sarah Fox, NBC4New York, the New York Times and the Associated Press reported. The CD player was found in a park several days after Fox’s body was discovered there in 2004, the Times says.

The chain was used by Occupy protesters to prop open a subway exit door for free rides. Police had entered the DNA profile into a database hoping to find the identities of the culprits. The database turned up the link to the slaying, but did not identify a specific person.

However, later Wednesday, the New York Times and NBC4New York reported that a person who was briefed on the investigation asserted that the match was the result of an error, that the Office of Chief Medical Examiner laboratory supervisor had tainted both the DNA sample on the chain and the DNA sample on the CD player.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office disputed that. “We’ve excluded all medical examiner personnel,” spokeswoman Ellen S. Borakove said. The Times notes that the Medical Examiner’s Office keeps a database of workers’ DNA in order to eliminate such errors.

No one was ever charged in Fox’s murder, though police did identify one suspect, a psychic who claimed to have visions about the case. According to the Times, the new findings raise questions about whether police focused on the wrong person.

Updated at 5:26 p.m. to note the unnamed source’s assertion that the DNA link is the result of a lab error.

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