- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

CHARLOTTESVILLE (AP) — More than 160 DNA samples collected from black men during a police search for a serial rapist have been destroyed, and this week an additional 50 samples will be incinerated.

Charlottesville police Chief Timothy J. Longo vowed in April to have saliva swabs and other DNA evidence periodically destroyed when testing shows that a sample does not match the serial rapist’s profile.

The chief’s promise came as he faced strong criticism for requesting DNA samples from scores of black men in the hunt for a rapist who has preyed on women for more than seven years.

Some men who submitted samples had expressed concern that their DNA profiles remained in the hands of authorities even after they had been ruled out as possible suspects.

Chief Longo oversaw the destruction June 7 of 164 pieces of DNA evidence collected by city and Albemarle County investigators. A private company placed the evidence in an incinerator for 30 minutes at 1,300 degrees, he said.

“It was dust,” said Sgt. Ralph Barfield, the city’s top forensic investigator. “There was absolutely nothing left.”

A state laboratory recently returned to police an additional 50 genetic samples that had been collected by city and University of Virginia officers. The samples are scheduled for incineration this week.

The police plan to send out letters to inform each person that his DNA sample was destroyed.

Before Chief Longo announced the new investigative guidelines April 16, two men had asked that their samples be returned, and the city’s top prosecutor honored the requests.

One of the investigative changes Chief Longo announced was that investigators would start informing potential suspects that they could refuse to provide a sample.

The new policy ended the practice of testing black men simply because of a reported resemblance to a composite drawing of the serial rapist. It also created a process by which officers and detectives would consider other factors before approaching a possible suspect for a sample.

City police have collected three DNA samples since April 16.

“The investigators are being more thoughtful about whether to approach someone and ask for a [saliva] swab,” the chief said.

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