DNA Upon Arrest: Solving Cold Cases or Presuming Guilt?

By Rebecca Beitsch


When someone fatally shot an 82-year-old man who was checking his mailbox in the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville one afternoon in September, police had few leads to go on. When someone shot at police stations in Indianapolis a few weeks later, police again were unable to identify a suspect.

Police connected the two crimes because shell casings showed the same rifle was used in both. But their big break came when they were able to match DNA left on the casings and on a note left at one of the police stations with a DNA sample taken from a burglary suspect in Ohio in 2015. The match led to the arrest of Damoine Wilcoxson, 21, of Indianapolis, for the crimes.

Wilcoxson was never convicted of burglary in Ohio. But because Ohio is one of at least 32 states that allow police to take DNA samples from people as soon as they are arrested for a felony and enter them into a national database, Indiana authorities were able to crack the case.

“We had no leads,” said Todd Meyer, prosecutor for Boone County, Indiana, where the murder occurred. “Without the DNA we were able to obtain from his felony arrest in another state, I believe the case would continue to be unsolved. We had nothing to lead us in that direction.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the January 23, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.