A shocking break in the 2004 murder of Juilliard student Sarah Fox appeared to link DNA found near her body to an Occupy Wall Street protest from this year, but it’s increasingly looking like a bogus match. Last night, the New York Times reported via an anonymous source that the DNA sample supposedly discovered at both scenes was from actually from a staff member at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, while the office insisted they had “excluded all medical examiner personnel.” But now, two sources tell the paper the DNA belongs to an NYPD employee involved in the investigation. While neither the lab nor the police department will say for sure, the long-shot connection is almost definitely just human error.
“The information has leaked out,” said Ray Kelly of the initial connection. “It’s not come officially from the police department. Somehow this information is out in the public domain. I’m neither going to confirm or deny it.” He added that the investigation is “ongoing.” The Daily News, however, reports that the worker who processed evidence in both cases will probably be punished for the high-profile screwup.
Occupy Wall Street is none too pleased with the negative association, and some have insinuated that the NYPD leak was a sensational smear campaign and another example of overpolicing. “Obviously it’s a terrible murder, but the story here is really the NYPD rubbing for DNA on some chains at a peaceful Occupy Wall Street demonstration,” said one Occupy spokesman. “That’s a lot of resources to give to something when there’s so many other things in this city that need such desperate resources.”
The Times has some background on the NYPD’s increased DNA collection:
In 2011, the city medical examiner’s office issued some 11,000 reports involving DNA collected from crime scenes, compared with about 3,000 in 2006, Dr. Prinz said. Reports generally correspond to a single incident, and may involve multiple samples. … In 2011, the medical examiner’s office entered DNA profiles taken from about 2,050 criminal events that year into the F.B.I.’s DNA database. About 24 percent of those resulted in a match against the DNA profiles of known individuals …
But for Sarah Fox’s family, it appears to have just been a strange burst of false hope.