Advancements in DNA technology helping Lake Co. police departments solve more cases than ever before

It’s new technology that is being used to help police departments solve crimes and give crime victims peace of mind.

It’s called "touch DNA" and it’s a forensic method used to analyze DNA left behind at crime scenes.

Only a very small sample is needed to analyze and could be the key to cracking cases.    

“The samples we are testing now, I never in my wildest dreams thought about trying to test,” said LeAnne Suchanek, DNA Technical Manager at the Lake County Crime Lab.

DNA technology has improved immensely over the years and samples collected now are very different from years ago.

“It had to be something that was visible. Now, we’re getting DNA profiles from an invisible amount of cells,” said Suchanek.

Touch DNA is solving crimes every day, said Suchanek.

“It comes from contact with the skin or maybe clothing that has skin cells. It transfers from one item to another,” added Suchanek. “It’s absolutely amazing. It helps us so much to be able to solve crimes. Back in the 90’s, we wouldn’t have been able to solve."

“We’re using it in more cases than we used to,” said Mentor Det. Sgt. Rich Solvenkay.

Mentor police turned to the Lake County Crime Lab and Touch DNA for help in ending a crime spree last year — four break-ins at three locations in a matter of days.

Someone was targeting grocery and convenience stores, throwing bricks and rocks through windows and doors. Once inside, he was helping himself to cartons of Newport cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets.

“It was items he was using to break the glass or door. We took the rock and brick to the Lake County Crime Lab and they were able to get good DNA off the materials,” said Solvenkay.

Little did Kyle Mahaffey know that the tools of his trade would lead to his arrest.  

The Headlands IGA was one of the stores Mahaffey targeted.

“We’re spending 16 hours a day here working and then stuff like this happens and it’s aggravating," said Sonny Patel, owner of the store.

Surveillance cameras captured Mahaffey throwing a brick through the front door of the store twice in a few days. He’s thrilled with the new technology that help solve the case.

“It helped us. Hopefully, it’s helping everyone else who needs it. Peace of mind,” said Patel.

Mahaffey is locked up, serving about three years behind bars.

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