MANATEE -- The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced Wednesday it has caught up with its backlog of DNA from more than 90,000 federal prisoners.
The bureau also has changed its timing of collecting DNA from prisoners. DNA now will be taken when they are first sent to prison instead of at the end of their sentence, according to officials at the Bureau of Prisons.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, who helped get the ball rolling with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and pushed the FBI to catch up with its backlog of more than 295,000 federal prisoners, applauded the news in a media release.
“DNA is an extremely important and effective tool for law enforcement,” Buchanan said. “I will continue to work with the Bureau of Prisons to ensure that DNA evidence is available in a timely manner to help prevent violent crimes in the future.”
Buchanan has been involved in the issue since the local arrest of murder suspect Delmer Smith III in 2009.
Among other crimes, Smith was charged in the slaying of Kathleen Briles in her Terra Ceia home Aug. 3, 2009, which authorities say could have been prevented if Smith’s information had been entered into the database immediately following his stint in federal prison for a bank robbery, which was first reported by the Bradenton Herald.
Because his DNA was not in the database, detectives in Sarasota were not able to link him to four home invasion attacks, which occurred before Briles’ death.
The link to Smith came when detectives asked the FBI to enter his DNA into the database following Smith’s arrest for a bar fight in Venice.
“Unfortunately, in our community a violent criminal remained at-large and was able to keep committing crimes,” Buchanan said in the release. “We must remain vigilant in making sure that we do not repeat the mistakes that the Bureau of Prisons has gone a long way toward correcting.”
Having an updated system will allow law enforcement to match DNA found at crime senses to DNA from people who have been through the federal prison system, something that could have helped solved Briles’ case along with others.
“First we ought to give Congressman Buchanan our gratitude for pushing this issue,” said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube. Clearing the database backlog will not only help protect those living in Manatee County, but across the country, he said. “It’s another tool to help fight crime.”
Kathleen Briles’ widower, Dr. James Briles, said he was happy to hear the news and considers it a small victory in his wife’s case.
“Hopefully it will help solve some unsolved crimes and keep people safe in the future,” he said.
Smith is facing first degree murder and burglary charges in relation to Briles’ slaying along with several other charges including a sexual battery charge in Sarasota.