Home > Uncategorized > FORENSICS 162: WHERE BE DNA


March 19th, 2013

This essay might be of special interest to writers of detective and mystery novels who would like to enrich their stories by providing their readers with a gift of extra details. It might also be of general interest to many other readers, especially those who are CSI and NCIS fans.


Whether or not they deserve it, pit bulls have a bad reputation. Owners of the breed might take some pride in reading about a pit bull mix that gave his all to defend his family when three masked men invaded their home in Barberton, Ohio and robbed a woman and her son. The dog chewed some on one of the intruders and was shot and killed for his effort.

The police were left with no evidence. Catching the perpetrators appeared to be hopeless. but an inventive detective had an idea. Not knowing if his idea would work or not, he used his laptop computer to search the internet for information. He then swabbed the inside of the valiant pet’s mouth and submitted a collection of skin cells to a laboratory for analysis. DNA was found that was not only human it matched that of a criminal whose DNA was on file.

Unfortunately, before the burglar was arrested, he had broken into a home in Akron, Ohio. He shot and wounded a 19-year-old girl and shot and killed a 16-year girl who was four months pregnant.

An event also involving a dog and DNA occurred when a would-be burglar in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England picked the wrong house to burgle. The back door of the house had a cat flap; and the burglar reached through it, apparently trying to open the door. Nobody was home at the time, and he must have felt he could get inside without being noticed. His choice of houses to burgle was definitely a bad one because, in addition to a cat, it was the home of a large Rottweiler named Missy. The police not only found more than enough of the burglar’s blood on the door and its surroundings from which to extract DNA, they also found enough still on Missy’s teeth to enable them to trace the burglar.

A lesson to be learned from the foregoing is that DNA can be found in some unusual places.

Surprisingly, there is actually a canine DNA sample collection kit available. It includes swabs, envelopes to hold used swabs and an envelope in which to hold the envelopes containing the used swabs while being transferred to a laboratory for analysis. It also includes instructions for its use. Many persons use collection kits to have their pet’s DNA analyzed to determine their genetic backgrounds.


During the few years that I have been posting these essays, many of you have sent me comments via e-mail. I very much regret that there have not been enough hours for me to respond to every one. I want you to know, however, how much each comment has meant to me. Knowing that you have taken the time to read my pieces and to send me your comments makes the time I spend researching and writing them more than worthwhile. I don’t regard you as fans. Rather, I think of you as friends with a common interest.

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  1. March 19th, 2013 at 13:22 | #1

    Methinks you’ll get more than a few emails from grateful Rotts this month, Amalgam. Fascinating stuff and very timely for me, as for whatever reason I know a large number of canine advocates for the breeds that have a bad rep. I knew a woman – the aunt of nature writer Farley Mowat – who owned a fierce watchdog that was trained not to bark but only attack. Boxing promoters used to borrow the pooch to guard receipts, which were kept in a darkened room along with Fido. Thanks again for yet another winner in the canon of valuable info you’ve created. I wish you had time to answer all those friend/fans too, because your praises should be spread far and wide!

  2. March 20th, 2013 at 05:30 | #2

    Love this post! It’s sad, of course, that the first burglar you spoke of was not caught before he injured and killed other people, but surely future violence by this man was averted all the same. And what an interesting aspect of DNA usage to incorporate in a story! Brilliant! Canine DNA sample kits, eh? What a world! What a world!

    Really absorbing stuff, as always :)

  3. Robert Jones
    March 20th, 2013 at 08:38 | #3

    Thank you for opening my comments and for your comments.
    On the subject of territorial and defensive dogs, Angus, my Bouvier des Flandres (a large dog), loved to play with children and would not even growl at a woman. He enthusiastically greeted our friends, but defended our property. When it sounded as if someone was trying to break into our house, one tremendous WHOOF was all it took to make it clear that doing so would be extremely unwise.

    Angus was black, with a white goatee. His father was yellow, fierce looking and made his living as a guard dog. He had been trained to give particular attention to anyone holding a gun. He was guarding a gas station and was inside its office, when someone with a gun tried to hold up a customer at the pumps. Without a word being spoken, the dog dove through the glass front window of the office to get to the robber. I can only imagine what the latter must have thought when he heard the crash of breaking glass, saw it exploding outward and, through it all, saw a yellow monster from Hell hurtling directly at him with teeth bared, eager to take hold of his gun hand.

    There was a store in a bad section of Detroit wherein lived two big, black bouviers. They spent most of their time sleeping in the front window of the store. I don’t know if the store had a burglar alarm, but it didn’t really need one.

    Thank you also for your kind words. A timely arrest of the murderer mentioned was unfortunately delayed while his lawyer was arranging a meeting for him with the police. The dog probably did save a number of persons’ lives, though.

  4. March 20th, 2013 at 12:23 | #4

    Angus still awaits his own book, as I remember many of the incredible feats that worthy canine performed…

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