The Inconvenient Science of Racial DNA Profiling
On July 16, 2002, a survey crew from the Department of Transportation found Pam Kinamore's nude, decomposing body in the area along the banks of the Mississippi known as Whiskey Bay, just west of Baton Rouge. The police tested the DNA and quickly realized that they were dealing with a serial killer: the same man who had killed two other white, middle-class women in the area.
The FBI, Louisiana State Police, Baton Rouge Police Department and sheriff's departments soon began a massive search. Based on an FBI profile and a confident eyewitness, the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force futilely upended South Louisiana in search of a young white man who drove a white pick-up truck. They interrogated possible suspects, knocked on hundreds of doors, held frequent press conferences and sorted through thousands of tips.
In late December, after a fourth murder, police set up a dragnet to obtain DNA from some 1200 white men. Authorities spent months and more than a million dollars running those samples against the killer's. Still nothing.
In early March, 2003, investigators turned to Tony Frudakis, a molecular biologist who said he could determine the killer's race by analyzing his DNA. They were unsure about the science, so, before giving him the go-ahead, the task force sent Frudakis DNA swabs taken from 20 people whose race they knew and asked him to determine their races through blind testing. He nailed every single one.
Still, when they gathered in the Baton Rouge police department for a conference call with Frudakis in mid-March, they were not prepared to hear or accept his conclusions about the killer.
"Your guy has substantial African ancestry," said Frudakis. "He could be Afro-Caribbean or African American but there is no chance that this is a Caucasian. No chance at all."
There was a prolonged, stunned silence, followed by a flurry of questions looking for doubt but Frudakis had none. Would he bet his life on this, they wanted to know? Absolutely. In fact, he was certain that the Baton Rouge serial killer was 85 percent Sub-Saharan African and 15 percent native American.
"This means we're going to turn our investigation in an entirely different direction," Frudakis recalls someone saying. "Are you comfortable with that?"
"Yes. I recommend you do that," he said. And now, rather than later since, in the time it took Frudakis to analyze the sample, the killer had claimed his fifth victim. The task force followed Frudakis' advice and, two months later, the killer was in custody.
Click to view image: '105288-RacialProfiling.jpg'
|Liveleak on Facebook|