Advanced DNA technology narrows down unsolved Las Vegas homicides

Advanced DNA technology narrows down unsolved Las Vegas homicides
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 11:54 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department works with a lab in Texas that provides advanced DNA testing.

Othram Labs has helped LVMPD detectives solve multiple decades-old cold cases over the last year.

The lab is working with the department on a number of cold cases. The collaboration so far has identified a suspect in unsolved murders, but in a recent case, Othram used forensic evidence to help eliminate a possible person of interest.

In March of 1999, a robbery at a bar in the west valley turned into a murder. 33-year-old Steven Covell was shot to death as he attempted to flee the bar. The killer got away. Investigators recovered blood evidence on the sidewalk outside the door of the bar.

LVMPD forensics identified the blood as an unknown female.

Investigators thought it was possible that the woman could have been connected to the murder.

Late last year, LVMPD called on Othram for help. The $5,000 for the testing was funded by philanthropist Justin Woo and his non-profit, Vegas Justice League. The evidence was sent to Othram for forensic-grade genome sequencing testing to build a genealogical profile for the unknown female.

Othram was able to find a match.

Detectives then went to interview the previously unidentified woman. It turned out she had a fall outside the bar just a few days before the murder, which is why her blood was at the crime scene.

“What [the technology] allows you to do is to not only find the people that are involved in the scene, but rapidly exclude those that are not,” Founder and CEO of Othram David Mittelman said. “This is definitely a lead that doesn’t need to be explored anymore, and they can commit their finite resources and limited time towards working the next step in this case.”

The murder is still unsolved, but the lab’s founder said it shows the power of this technology.

“There’s always the idea of, can you identify the victim or suspect of the crime? I like to think of what we do as more than that,” Mittelman said. “It’s a way of reducing uncertainty.”

LVMPD’s homicide unit has previously said there are hundreds of cold cases in the department.