SEATTLE - More than half a dozen convicted sex offenders in our state are under criminal investigation for crimes they may have committed after serving their sentence.
Offenders are required by law to provide a DNA sample upon release, but thousands never complied. The data is supposed to be entered into CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System, used by law enforcement agencies to track down criminal suspects.
But, some convicted offenders never served time behind bars, so their samples were never collected. Others died before DNA data was ever gathered. Now, the state Attorney General’s office is poring over cases and sparking new investigations.
"It may be justice denied, but it’s going to happen," said Bob Ferguson on Tuesday.
He said his team has gone through thousands of sex offender convictions reaching back to 2002.
"The problem had become so large, the backlog so massive, no one law enforcement agency has the resources to address this," he said.
Ferguson says his team brought 372 convicted sex offenders into compliance with the law. Because of that effort, eight offenders’ DNA profiles were matched to pieces of evidence already in the state database. Another three unsolved sex offenses are now under criminal investigation in our state, and three more are implicated in crimes beyond Washington’s borders. Another two offenders were found to have already been confirmed as suspects, or convicted for new crimes.
"I found out there were 40 violent predators on McNeil Island that never had their DNA collected," said retired police detective Lindsey Wade, who encountered the problem about a decade ago.
"How do you figure out how many people in Washington State owe DNA? It’s not an easy question to answer," said Wade.
That’s a question Ferguson and his team hope to answer, to bring closure for families suffering long after their trauma.
"I can’t go back in time 20 years and start the process, but I can work with our team and collect the owed DNA," said Ferguson. "We need to make sure this isn’t occurring in the future."
Grants from United States Department of Justice makes this work possible, Ferguson explained.
The agency continues working on cases surrounding sex offenders and will move on to other violent offenders. More information about those cases might be released this summer.