Crucial evidence for sex crimes and how it's changed over the years
FORT PIERCE, Fla. (CBS12) —
Evidence can make or break a case.
Most people instantly think of crime shows when they think about a case being solved with DNA evidence from skin or hair leading to a perpetrator, but CBS12 News found out that’s not what is needed for a sexual assault case.
“Biological fluids have the most concentrated amounts of DNA,” said Lesley Perrone, the Indian River Crime Labe Director. She explained the best evidence in a sexual assault case is semen or saliva.
This evidence is collected by nurses called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. This week, experienced nurses are training to become “SANE.”
Perrone spoke to them on Wednesday and said to them, “you’re really starting to do the job of a crime scene investigator.”
She said the real work starts with these nurses, with what they hear and see from a victim.
‘When they’re with a nurse, they’re thinking about their health and well-being,” Perrone said.
She explained that victims may think they are giving nurses medical information, but it could lead to key evidence in a case.
For instance, where the evidence is.
Perrone said it’s not always found in a rape kit.
"The victim might give info of where DNA could be found," she said. "It might be on clothes versus in a kit or on a towel inside a car.”
Analysts only get this evidence after a victim has decided they want to move forward with a criminal case and contacted law enforcement, which could be immediately after an incident or years later.
“We put it into evidence and he or she has time to decide,” said Sgt. Joe Norkus with the Port St. Lucie Police Department.
Norkus said he wants to prosecute perpetrators but the victims health is more important.
“The goal is for the survivor to go through the system unscathed,” he said. "We want them to get emotionally sound and empowered and back in control of their life.”
Norkus said they will keep evidence as long as they have to.
Perrone explained that 15 years ago, blood and fluid evidence needed to be refrigerated, but now they don’t keep fluids.
She said nurses are “instructed to dry it down, so we can keep it at room temperature and still be able to do testing for many years.”