Hundreds of Cases Backlogged at CBI

By: Kieran Wilson Email
By: Kieran Wilson Email

DNA analysis takes time and resources; something CBI says it doesn't always have.

There are many reasons the CBI has hundreds of cases with DNA waiting to be looked its labs. One reason is the recent move of the facility from Montrose to Grand Junction; the other is rushing certain cases because of court dates while leaving others on the back burner.

David Linnertz Division Director of CBI’s Grand Junction office and he says, "most of the time we have 200 to 250 cases that we're dealing with." Homicides, sexual assaults, car accidents; the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in Grand Junction has been inundated with DNA evidence collected from crimes committed in 1/3 of Colorado. Linnertz says, "we have a constant backlog due to the number of cases that we receive and the time it takes to work them and the prioritization of those cases."
Among those cases with DNA still sitting in the CBI lab are insurance cards and other items belonging to Paige Birgfeld; the missing and presumed dead soccer mom who lived a double life as an escort.

Linnertz says of cases like Birgfeld’s, "they are not prioritized as high as similar cases that have suspects with court dates." Highest priority cases are those that have to be rushed to meet court deadlines, the next cases that are looked at are homicides and sexual assaults for which suspects have been named.

Deputy district attorney Dan Rubinstein says that a case involving DNA takes about nine months. He says, “the wheels of justice turn slowly and when DNA is involved that's especially true." Rubinstein says without knowing what the DNA analysis turns up it's hard for the prosecutor to know the strength of their case and on the flip side, it's tough for defense attorneys because they do not know what the evidence against their client is. Rubinstein says, "CBI does a fantastic job when they are able to get testing done but they're not given enough resources to actually do this."

With more than 200 cases and each having the potential to have hundred's of sample's needed to be looked at; CBI has minimal resources. Linnertz says he has just two DNA analysts and one more in training but says that's it for now due in part to the hiring freeze enacted by Governor Bill Ritter in September. Linnertz says, "we're trying to address everything we can to increase the time we spend working cases."

Another part of the backlog issue is that up until a month ago the two DNA analysts were also analyzing crime scenes, leaving other cases DNA samples sitting untouched in the lab. Since then they say they've made significant progress in many cases.

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