Illinois Senate committee hearing highlights DNA processing backlog in Chicago murder cases

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Col. Sean Cormier, of the Illinois Division of Forensic Services, testified about the backlog of DNA evidence.

State officials held a public hearing Monday after an ABC7 I-Team investigation revealed that a backlog in DNA evidence is has stalled 750 murders from being solved.

The Illinois Forensic Science Lab is still analyzing DNA from more than 750 Chicago murder cases from the last three years, according to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the ABC7 I-Team and acknowledged by Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago.

Van Pelt, who chairs the Senate Public Health Committee, called for Monday's hearing at the Bilandic Building in the Loop to hear from families and community activists impacted by the backlog, but also state officials to get answers.

RELATED: Hundreds of Chicago murders may remain unsolved due to DNA processing delays

"The last thing we want are murders walking around feeling real happy about killing people and getting away with it," said Van Pelt.

For more than an hour, Illinois State Police Forensic Department officials answered questions and admitted that the problem is growing. An increase in cases, low staffing and a lack of communication between the labs, law enforcement and the legal community were the reasons the Illinois State Police said their backlogs began ballooning in 2010.

"We are absolutely not happy with the backlog and are doing everything we can, working hard every day, to address this issue," testified Col. Sean Cormier, of the Illinois Division of Forensic Services.

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Illinois State Senator Patricia Van Pelt wants to draw attention to a backlog in solving murder cases, specifically when it comes to the state processing DNA evidence.



State police also said they have an overall crime backlog of 13,390 cases. They estimate that, with increased staffing, it will take 5 years to eliminate their backlog.

Funding would be the next challenge. Van Pelt said she plans to be a fierce advocate for that in Springfield. She plans to hold another hearing on the matter in the spring.

"There is a lot of people that are concerned. It's just that, we didn't even know that the analysis was that far behind. We didn't know it was years late. That has come to the light. We're putting it on the front burner so we can change that. Whatever needs to happen, we want to make it happen," Van Pelt said.

FAMILIES WAIT FOR ANSWERS

Last month, Carmia Tang said her son Jeremy's case has still not been processed. He was murdered in September 2017 and she said that the "The DNA may give justice."

On Monday, she echoed those concerns to state leaders.

"It started about Jeremey and I wanted to fight for Jeremy but it's so much bigger than that now. It's about everybody," Tang testified.
Reginice McBride lost her son, 36-year-old Ronald James, last year. The father of five was shot in the head during a robbery near the United Center while he was in his car.

"They told me they have the DNA from a mask a young man wore," McBride said through tears. "I want justice for my child. I want justice for my grandchildren."

McBride said she's spent sleepless nights waiting for his case to be solved and has been told that police have DNA evidence on a shirt and a mask that two of the three assailants were possibly wearing.

"It's a feeling of distrust. I don't trust them. I feel like they can get it out and it depends on whose case it is. It's like my son's life or my son's case is not that important to them and a lot of other children. If we're not high-profile cases, then we're nobody," McBride said.
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