New & Improved Forenic Test for Stamp... Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Edit Profile

Zodiackiller.com Message Board » Zodiac Letters » General Letter Discussion » New & Improved Forenic Test for Stamp DNA « Previous Next »

Author Message
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Ray
Username: Ray

Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 1:31 pm:   

Here's some news regarding a new test available to forensic labs...

http://www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/fsc/current/technical/20 07_01_technical01.htm
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Yarbchris
Username: Yarbchris

Registered: 9-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 2:55 pm:   

Interesting article. It would be a shame if we don't see new and improved technology used on the Zodiac case.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Mike_r
Username: Mike_r

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 3:42 pm:   

Hi-

I am really glad that you located and posted this article. Unless I am missing something, the article represents exactly what should NOT be done with letters from the real world, especially ones that were subject to external contamination, as is the case for the Zodiac letters. In fact, the method which SFPD used to extract the DNA from their envelope flap is one of the biggest keys to determining whose DNA they have at this point.

The problem with this type of extraction is that DNA from BOTH sides of the stamp is extracted, not just the side that was licked. The entire samp, both the surface that was licked and attached to the paper, as well as the external surface of the stamp that was exposed to the outside world, are extracted! This can lead to exogenous DNA from the outside of the stamp being analyzed as if it were from the person who licked the other side of the stamp.

I spoke to Dr. Ed Blake, an expert in DNA analysis, in 2003. He said that as far as the present SFPD DNA is concerned, "The devil is in the details." How they chose to extract the DNA from the envelope flap is the key at this point, and since SFPD doesn't see fit to share its "Materials and Methods" with the public, we are left to wonder whose DNA was amplified millions of times via PCR and then used to "eliminate" suspects.

As regards PCR, the combination of using a dual-sided extraction of an envelope flap that is from a letter that was outside of the chain of custody (as ALL, repeat ALL, the Zodiac letters were, as per ABC--and don't forget that "outside of the chain of custody" is simply a euphemism for the letters kicking around someone's house and being handled by who-knows-who for years at a time) and then combining that type of extraction technique with another technique (PCR)that can take the smallest fragment of DNA and multiply it millions and millions of times, is asking for trouble. More specifically, it is asking for contaminant DNA from the outside of the stamp or flap to be mistaken for DNA from the person who actually licked the glue in the first place.

Maybe that is why Mike Maloney, when questioned about the DNA shortly after the ABC show, called the fragment "preliminary." When he was then askled in a follow-up question if it was invalid, he paused to consider his answer and then said that is was "invalid."

So what exactly did happen on the ABC show? It made for great and captivating drama but for really lousy science, IMHO. The responsible thing for them to do was to analyze several envelopes and stamps for DNA and prove to themselves that the same DNA was on each. Then they'd know that they had DNA from the person who licked the stamps and envelopes. But good science fell by the wayside in favor of good ratings, since the DC Sniper case would not wait for them to do more analysis of the evidence in October 2002.

Mike
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Ray
Username: Ray

Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 4:40 pm:   

That's exactly right, Mike. The fact of the matter is that there is no known sample of Zodiac DNA. This is not to say that we don't have access to any. We just haven't had the SFPD motivated enough to commit the resources required to follow this through as far as it will take them, which is supposedly what you're supposed to do when investigating homicide. I have opined that if the sample was contaminated, a likely source might be Paul Stine. Of course, I'm speculating and the source really wouldn't matter. But I was greatly disappointed at how it all played out. The bottom line is that this case deviates well outside the normal paradigms of police procedure, evidence, and suspect behavior. I submit that if it did not, Zodiac would have been caught long ago. It follows then that so must the investigation proceed beyond the routine, and must persist even when things aren't going well.

Chain of custody, handling, testing methods...there are so many problems with this it's frustrating. But maybe not forever.

What a great post, Mike.

Ray
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Douglas_oswell
Username: Douglas_oswell

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 5:05 pm:   

I'm in agreement with you, Mike. And I think you'll find something similar with the fingerprints.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Mike_r
Username: Mike_r

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - 5:48 pm:   

Hi Guys-

If anything good is going to come of the publicity surrounding this movie, it has to be movement on the DNA front and with the physical evidence in general. SFPD cannot be permitted to say such things as "forensics will solve the Zodiac case" and then be so ourageously cynical as to close the investigation down BEFORE they analyze all the letters for DNA. The interview that Tom did with Maloney in 2005 is, IMHO, one of the most important pieces of information on this site. Maloney knows that games are being played. Hopefully, the public can be educated about that fact and pressure can be brought to bear on the department to do the job they are paid to do and try to solve their most famous case, instead of playing petty politics.

Now, I cannot say that the DNA that SFPD has right now is definitely a contaminant. If SFPD used the correct technique for removing the DNA from the envelope--and by that I mean steaming the glue off the back of the flap without immersing the outside of the flap in any solvent (or steaming the front of the flap)--then they may well have Zodiac's DNA. The problem is that we don't know how SFPD got the DNA off the envelope, so we can't assign a level of probability to the DNA they now have.

In addition, they do have a piece of evidence that is definitely NOT a piece of contaminant from someone who handled the evidence since 1969, and that is the little reddish-brown hair from the Stine envelope. That hair was trapped in the glue and protected from the outside world by the stamp for 27 years (i.e., until 1996, when it was discovered). If SFPD is so short of funds, manpower and time, they can send this hair out to be analyzed for mitochondrial DNA. The test costs about $2000. However, they can probably find a lab to do it gratis just to help solve this high profile case. (I'd be glad to make the phone calls for them or even donate $100 towards the test.) For that amount of money, they are getting DNA that they know cames fomr the person who licked THAT stamp.

The odds are that this hair does not come from an innocent postal employee, who just happened to lick the stamp for the letter writer. After all, Zodiac was described as having had reddish-brown hair, which is the same color as the hair from the stamp. Let's go with the odds here...they favor the notion that the hair is from the stamp licker!

As for the fingerprints, I happen to know that it was pretty standard for tons of police cars from all over the place to converge on crime scene that had "unusual" presentations. The Stine scene certainly qualified as that. One retired SFPD officer opined that the crime scene would probably have resembled a "circus" that night, as cops fromr all over the place who could sneak off their beat came for a look at the DB. However...

I heard a rumor this summer that a first responder swears that the "bloody prints" are legit and can be used for elimination, at least in his estimation. (This is not how they are used by the department.) This statement that he made, as well as another complete shocker that affects my research directly, are not verified at this point in time.

Mike
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Douglas_oswell
Username: Douglas_oswell

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 12:17 am:   

I think it would help the discussion, Mike, if we stopped referring to those prints as "bloody prints." The FBI referred to them as "latents that show traces of blood," and weren't even able to classify them--they're not sure whether they're fingerprints or palmprints.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Mike_r
Username: Mike_r

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 5:45 am:   

Hi Doug-

Sorry. I am using the vernacular here that has been commonly used over the years. They were supposedly latents that were "associated with blood."

Mike
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Davidmm
Username: Davidmm

Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 10:20 am:   

Isn't there clearly a smear of blood beside the door on the cab? It certainly looks like a bloody, smeared, handprint. I've always assumed that was the "bloody print" of lore, and that they also had latent prints from elsewhere in the cab.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Douglas_oswell
Username: Douglas_oswell

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 2:30 pm:   

You can have a bloody, smeared handprint with no identifiable ridge patterns if the person who left it was wearing gloves or some other concealing artifice. Given the amount of blood in the cab, I'd expect there to have been many such prints in sight.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Mike_r
Username: Mike_r

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007 - 3:45 pm:   

Hi Doug-

This may be OT, but you made reference to issues that may come up with regard to the fingerprints. Can you elaborate, maybe in a new thread, if there is some new info about these prints to which you might be referring?

My understanding is that these prints are far from smears with no ridge pattern. I've seen prints that are purported to be the ones from the cab and they look like they are on a fingerprint card with labels as to which finger is which. How they ended up there I don't quite understand but the ridge pattern on these prints is excellent.

Aren't they on this site somewhere?

Mike
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Mike_r
Username: Mike_r

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 9:51 am:   

Hi-

I am always sad to see threads about the DNA die out so quickly. With all the visitors to this site, I am always hopeful that an investigative reorter may stumble onto one of the threads and realize that the DNA represents a big story that has to be told, and that the time to do it is when the Fincher movie generates worldwide publicity for the case.

We here can argue all we want and discuss circumstantial cases against the various suspect until we are blue in the face. But the only thing that is going to allow this case to be solved is a committed effort on the part of law enforcement to develop as much high-quality DNA as possible, so that we can be sure that we are ruling suspects in and out with confidence. This can even include Riverside PD and the 1967 letters.

The problem is that SFPD is currently standing in the way of the truth and of progress in the Zodiac case. The article that Zoellner wrote about my research in 2000 was entitled something like "Amateurs Stir The Embers of the Zodiac Case". Now the title of the article could read, "SFPD Sweeps Those Embers Under a Rug." As long as the status quo is maintained and SFPD is not pressured from the outside to to the job they owe the people of their city in the Zodiac case, they will keep the DNA evidence in a drawer somewhere and hide behind their lame excuses.

In about 2003, I decided on my own that SFPD was playing political games with the evidence, since no other explanation made sense to me; it was a process of elimination. I was easy to write off because I was a guy whose suspect had been "cleared by DNA." But in 2005, we learned on this site from no less than a retired SFPD Inspector that police politics are exactly what is holding the DNA evidence hostage. The problem is how best to promulgate this issue, so that the public becomes aware of this game and SFPD is forced to do the analyses. For that we need someone from the media to get involved once again.

I've made this analogy before but it is worth repeating in this crucial year. SFPD operates with money that is obtained from public tax dollars. A similar situation exists in academia. But there is a difference in how accountable each must be to the public whose money they spend.

Let's say that someone from UCSF wants to study the salinity of the water in SF Bay. They would apply to the US government for a grant. After the get the money, they would design and carry out their sampling protocol. At the end of the study, they would publish a paper in a scientific journal on their study. This paper must be "peer reviewed." That means that scientists who have knowledge of oceanography and scientific sampling regimens would assess the design of their sampling protocol from what is called the "Materials and Methods" section of their paper. The sampling and mathematical/statistical analysis of the results would have to stand up to this scrutiny before the paper is accepted by the scientific community and published.

Let's say that for this study, a professor from the university went down to the Bay and took one sample of water. The salinity reading is 80 PPT. They conclude that the salinity of the entire Bay Area is therefore 80 PPT, which is extremely high and causes widespread alarm among fishermen and environmentalists. If they then tried to publish this result, it would very quickly be rejected by the peer review committee. The University would be asked to redo the study, so that they do a much more rigorous sampling regimen from hundreds of points in the Bay, as well as at varying depths of water, etc. This is the only way in which to arrive at a salinity profile that truly represents an average of all salinity readings from the Bay. (As it turned out, the one sample the scietist took was from an area of the Bay that was contaminated by a pipe that pumped highly saline water from a salt factory into the waters. By taking only one sample from a contaminated area, they overestimated the salinity of SF Bay. Subsequent sampling "averaged out" this one high reading and revealed it as the anomaly that it was. Salinity was actually 35 PPT, which is normal for seawater.)

Now let's look at SFPD. They are using public funds to conduct science in a lab and analyze samples of DNA out of the public eye. But there is a difference between SFPD and the University lab. SFPD does not have to publish its results Therefore, members of the public and scientists cannot see how they are carrying out their scientific research. We have reason to fear what they do, since the lab not only lost accreditation in the 1990s, but it also previously analyzed the 1978 Zodiac letter for DNA, which, forged or not, is apparently BELIEVED by even SFPD itself to be forged!

We do not ask that SFPD be forced to publish the results of their DNA analysis, as in the exact nature of the four alleles they found that comprise the fragment of DNA. There is no need for that. But it would not in any way reveal sensitive evidence in an "ongoing" investigation if SFPD were forced to reveal its "Materials and Methods" to the public, so that they can be peer reviewed in a public forum. The public has a right to know if SFPD used an extraction technique similar to the one posted in the link above to get its sample from the letter. Such an extraction technique can lead to contaminant DNA being analyzed (especially in letters that were outside of the chain of custody) when it is combined with the PCR technique.

There is no "Zodiac task force". SFPD has complete domain over the Zodiac letters and the reddish-brown hair from the stamp. Their position is clear: They do not intend to analyze the letters for more and better DNA. SFPD is the fox guarding the henhouse of evidence! It was no coincidence that when ABC shined the lights of its cameras on the department in 2002, the first DNA was miraculously developed. But this was supposed to be just the start, not the end, of DNA research. Miraculously, when the glare of those cameras was turned off, the evidence went right back where it was--in a darkened drawer.

The look of glee in Dr. Holt's face when those three other letters showed up was just a tease. They have now joined their cohorts in the darkened drawer. It will take the media to get these letters out of their hiding place.

Mike
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Douglas_oswell
Username: Douglas_oswell

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Friday, January 12, 2007 - 10:21 am:   

Mike, I've seen copies of those fingerprint cards as well, and I can clearly see ridge patterns on a number of the prints. Those cards, however, contain all the prints found in and on the cab, not just the prints deemed to be associated with Zodiac. Obviously one should be able to pull a large number of very good prints from a public conveyance such as a taxicab. The FBI documents, however, distinguish very clearly between the prints assumed to be those of Zodiac and the rest of the prints. Here's how they're described in the documents:

All of the latent prints in our case were obtained from a taxi cab. The latent prints that show traces of blood are believed to be prints of the suspect. The latent prints from right front door handle are also believed to be prints of the suspect. These prints are circled with a red pen. The other latent prints many of which are very good prints, may or may not be prints of the suspect in this case. [FBI files, SFPD Intra-Department Memorandum, October 19, 1969]

and

One latent fingerprint previously reported as being from tip area of a finger and two latent impressions previously reported as being either fingerprints or portions of palm prints ... [FBI 15-37]

So what we're talking about are two latents that show traces of blood that may be either fingerprints or palmprints--they're not sure which; and a latent from the tip area of a finger, which is not associated with blood. None of these can be categorized and none of them can be matched either to one another or any other prints associated with the case.

That's pretty feeble stuff, in my estimation.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Mike_r
Username: Mike_r

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 1:11 pm:   

Hi Doug-

Here is something that has always troubled me. In the 1991 affidavit, Armstrong says, "...there were so many fingerprints in this public cab, that it is unknown that, in fact, they have the Zodiac's fingerprints at the crime scene or not..." This is a far cry from what I heard this past summer.

However, it has been intimated to me that "one investigator" feels that these prints are of such a nature that they could be used for exclusion. In fact, when I spoke to Toschi a few years ago, he used to word "pristine" to describe some prints. I do not know if he meant that the ones thought to be from Zodiac were "pristine," or if he was trying to imply anything their value to the investigation with respect to exclusion. At the time, I was at a public phone on lunch hour and did not have time to explore that avenue. This was after the ABC show in 2002.

Mike
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Tom_voigt
Username: Tom_voigt

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 1:17 pm:   

I think the main reason there's so much conflicting info is because people sometimes forget if they're supposed to be lying or telling the truth.

Those women's gloves were pristine, too. Too bad they didn't belong to Zodiac.
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Douglas_oswell
Username: Douglas_oswell

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 2:34 pm:   

Mike, I'm more inclined to believe what I read in the official documentation than any kind of off-the-cuff remark from an individual, regardless of the source. Good Lord, even the eyewitnesses (including the victims) are all over the map when it comes to the consistency of their statements!
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

Douglas_oswell
Username: Douglas_oswell

Registered: 4-2006
Posted on Saturday, January 13, 2007 - 2:35 pm:   

Tom, your observation is a good one. In the final analysis, there's only one truth, but a million variations on a lie.

Add Your Message Here
Post:
Bold text Italics Underline Create a hyperlink Insert a clipart image

Username: Posting Information:
This is a private posting area. Only registered users and moderators may post messages here.
Password:
Options: Post as "Anonymous"
Enable HTML code in message
Automatically activate URLs in message
Action:

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | Help/Instructions | Program Credits Administration