Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DNA Evidence Links Unsolved Murder To OWS Subway Protest? UPDATE: Lab Error?

The NYPD made a rather startling announcement last night. They indicated that DNA evidence gathered at the crime scene for the 2004 murder of Sarah Fox matches DNA found on a chain used by OWS pranksters in a March 2012 stunt to lock open gates for subway stations so that commuters could go through for free.
Officials have linked forensic evidence from the 2004 murder scene of a 21-year-old Juilliard student to the scene of a recent Occupy Wall Street subway protest, NBC 4 New York has learned.

DNA evidence from the scene of Sarah Fox's murder in Inwood Hill Park eight years ago has been connected to DNA from a chain left in a subway station by Occupy protesters in March, NBC 4 New York first reported Tuesday.

Fox was found nude and strangled in the park in May 2004, days after she disappeared during a daytime jog. Investigators recovered her pink CD player in the woods just yards from her body.

Sources said Tuesday the DNA found on the CD player matches DNA found on a chain left by Occupy Wall Street protesters at the Beverly Road subway station in East Flatbush on March 28, 2012.

That Wednesday morning, protesters chained open emergency gates and taped up turnstiles in eight subway stations and posted fliers encouraging riders to enter for free.

A "communique" posted online later that day by the "Rank and File Initiative" described the act as a protest against service cuts, fare hikes and transit employees' working conditions.

It was attributed to "teams of activists, many from Occupy Wall Street... with rank and file workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the Amalgamated Transit Union."

No one was arrested in the March subway protest incidents. Police are continuing to investigate, and are now working to try to identify the source of the DNA found in common with the chain and the CD player.
There's any number of ways that the DNA could be a match. The same person that murdered Fox could have been among those providing the chains used to chain open the subway entrance or could have been among those who actually chained it open. It could be a transit worker or someone else entirely - such as someone who came into contact with the chains as they walked through.

Some people will attempt to link the murder to OWS, but without having the suspect in custody, there's no way to know for sure. It will depend on where the DNA was obtained from the chain - to rule out inadvertent contact with the chain such as someone passing through at one of the affected stations.

If it is found that someone involved with OWS was involved in this murder, it would be yet another black eye on the group, which had protested at Zuccotti Park for months and which sparked similar protests nationally.

Well, there was another possibility that I hadn't considered before, but which is now a more likely scenario - lab error.
The DNA that investigators initially believed was recovered from skin cells on the slain woman’s portable compact disc player and from the chain found after the March protest came from a laboratory supervisor at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the person briefed on the matter said.

“The O.C.M.E. tainted the samples and it was the O.C.M.E. supervisor’s whose DNA was on both,” the person said.

But Ellen S. Borakove, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's Office, said, “We’ve excluded all medical examiner personnel.” She added that the office was still working on the test.

The Medical Examiner’s Office maintains a database of employees’ DNA for the purpose of eliminating such errors.

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