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Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wrong suspect in BTK case wants answers about DNA sample

March 16, 2005

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— Police hunting for the BTK serial killer kicked down the door at Roger Valadez's home, coming in with guns drawn. They handcuffed the Wichita man before taking a sample of his DNA with a swab from his mouth.

Turns out, that swab proved Valadez wasn't the notorious BTK. Now he wants it destroyed, and he wants some answers about why they took it in the first place.

The DNA sample, taken Dec. 1 as police searched and seized items from Valadez's home, was one of 1,300 tested during the BTK investigation, making it one of the largest such DNA sweeps in the United States.

But when authorities arrested Dennis Rader, and later charged him with 10 slayings police blamed on the BTK killer, it came as a result of old-fashioned police work. It's the latest example, according to civil rights advocates, of a widespread DNA sweep that failed to nab a suspect.

"As the case has unfolded, it proves our basic point of our report: This mass swabbing is really unproductive. This is not how they caught the guy," said Sam Walker, a University of Nebraska-Omaha professor who has conducted a national study of DNA sweeps.

Police arrested Rader last month shortly after a computer disk was sent by the BTK killer to a Wichita television station. His pastor, Michael Clark, said police traced the disk to the church where Rader was council president. Rader, of Park City, is being held on $10 million bond as he awaits an April 19 preliminary hearing.

Meanwhile, Valadez, who was arrested on minor housing violations after the December raid, is asking a court to order his DNA sample destroyed and its profile purged from any database. He's also after an explanation from authorities as to why they barged into his home and wants photos and documents taken during the search returned.

A hearing in Sedgwick County District Court on his request is tentatively set for Friday.

"Now that they claim the search for BTK is over, we cannot see any reason for them to continue to conceal from Roger Valadez why they were looking in his house and his mouth for BTK," said Dan Monnat, Valadez's attorney.

Dist. Atty. Nola Foulston declined Tuesday to comment on Valadez's request.

But at a news conference, she sought to reassure the public that DNA profiles collected during the BTK investigation would not be placed in any database.

"We need to look at the good things DNA has done," Foulston said. "I think some people are overwrought about their concerns."

But Monnat said Valadez's request was important for two reasons.

"Number one, I think any innocent person would like to know what justification there was for numerous law enforcement officers kicking in their door and storming their house in the night," Monnat said.

"Number two, DNA information is maybe the most intimate information about a person," he said. "There is no reason for that information to be unnecessarily in the government's files. Who knows what future use the 21st century will find for DNA?"

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