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State Crime Commission unanimously backs expansion of DNA collection

Posted at 3:21 PM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-04 15:21:19-05

RICHMOND, Va. – On Monday, the Virginia State Crime Commission voted unanimously to endorse expansion of DNA collection. The commission has worked to draft a bill to expand the Commonwealth’s DNA collection.

Members of the commission recommend adding seven additional misdemeanor offenses:

  • assault and battery
  • domestic assault and battery
  • trespassing
  • petit larceny
  • shoplifting
  • obstruction of justice
  • destruction of property

Staff will draft legislation to send to the General Assembly for consideration in January.

On Nov. 29, the parents of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham testified in front of the commission.

“Our daughter Hannah, an 18-and-a-half-year-old second year student at the University of Virginia was plucked off the streets of Charlottesville, raped and murdered by a man Jesse Matthew who should have been in jail,” testified Hannah’s father John Graham.

The Grahams want DNA collection extended to additional class one misdemeanors. Currently, DNA collection is required for those convicted of felonies and 14 misdemeanor crimes.

The Grahams said Jesse Matthew would not have been able to rape and murder their daughter in 2014 had that law been in effect in 2010 when Matthew was convicted of criminal trespassing.

DNA collection would have linked him to a 2005 rape and attempted murder in Fairfax and the killing of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington in 2009.

“I’m living every mother’s worst nightmare. I urge you to do what you can to stop this from happening to another woman and her family,” said Hannah Graham’s mother Sue Graham.

“A very dangerous sex offender and murderer would have been incarcerated and not been at liberty to inflict his evil on my daughter,” John Graham testified.

“In Virginia we’re waiting for them to commit a felony,” said Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding. “Her study showed that in fact in Virginia 70% of those convicted of a violent crime or burglary had a previous misdemeanor conviction I think that’s pretty compelling data.”

Opponents raised privacy and cost concerns. The ACLU released the following statement to the commission.The agency said mandatory collection has already gone too far beyond what is reasonable or justifiable.

The Grahams said it is the government’s responsibility to keep citizens safe.

“How could you bring yourself to face the next Sue Graham if you didn’t do your upmost to keep her daughter and all other young women safe when you had the opportunity?” John Graham asked.

The Grahams say they are private people and as difficult as it is to speak out and tell their story, they know how important it is.