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Best Practices for Handling “Cold Hits”

Moving Cases Forward

Cold hits between two unsolved cases can provide additional information to the investigators about both cases, even though an individual’s name is not available. It may allow the investigators to find a common suspect, or information from one case may refocus the investigation of the other.7

A hit between an unsolved case and a case that matched a suspect provides the name of the potential suspect for the unsolved case. The agency investigating the unsolved case can then expand the search to include that individual. After investigators are notified of a cold hit, a confirmation DNA sample must be acquired from the identified suspect. This sample can be obtained through consent, search warrant, or abandonment. It is important to include the prosecution at this step to discuss the most appropriate approach for sample collection.8,9

7 Connecticut: examples of cold case successes »
8 Criminal Histories of Sex Offenders Identified Through DNA “Cold Hits” PDF download: 48kB
9 Criminal Practice Report – Scientific Evidence, Methodologies for calculating significance of cold hit DNA match satisfied Frye, 20 No. 2 Crim. Prac. Rep. 7 (Jan. 2006) PDF download: 127kB

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