A day after reports that DNA found at an Occupy Wall Street-affiliated protest had been matched to an unsolved murder case, a law enforcement official said the link was a lab mistake—and not a break.
On Tuesday, an unnamed law enforcement official said DNA found on a chain at a Brooklyn protest in March matched the genetic material collected from a 2004 crime scene where Sarah Fox, a Juilliard student, was found dead. Several news outlets, including the Associated Press, New York Post and NBC, reported the story.
But on Wednesday, another unnamed “law enforcement official” said that the DNA was actually from a lab worker who handled both cases.
“During the process of excluding people who may have handled evidence, it was determined the DNA came from a lab worker who dealt with both cases,” the AP said.
Fox, a 21-year-old drama major and aspiring actress disappeared after she left to go running on May 19, 2004. Fox’s body was found six days later in a heavily wooded area of Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan, her clothing removed and larynx fractured. Police made no arrests in the killing, though at the time Dimitry Sheinman—a nearby resident who said he had “visions” about Fox—was the “No. 1 suspect,” according to police. DNA samples collected from a chain left behind at a March 28 protest in Brooklyn was said to match the DNA found on a pink CD player found near Fox’s body.
But the reported connection was met with skepticism by crime scene experts, who said DNA databases regularly turn up matches, which are usually debunked without, say, making the front page of the New York Post.
According to the Daily News, the lab worker who processed evidence from both cases “will likely face departmental charges for not taking precautions to prevent tainting.”