How DNA testing will be used in the case against Craig Michael Wood

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Good afternoon:

I have received several emails asking me repost as a separate post my comments yesterday about DNA testing in the Craig Michael Wood case.

Here they are with some grammatical changes to promote clarity:

I suspect Wood may have committed a sex crime, since I do not believe he kidnapped Hailey for the sole purpose of killing her.

The ligature marks on her arms and the child pornography seized by the police during the search at his residence suggest he may have committed a sex crime.

I also suspect he may be a serial killer, even though he supposedly does not fit the profile. My suspicion is based on the brazen kidnapping in front of witnesses and the speed with which he committed the crimes, cleaned up the crime scene and prepared to dispose of Hailey Owens’s body. But for the lack of duct tape, he might have gotten away with her body and disposed of it before police arrived at his house. That would have complicated and possibly prevented a successful prosecution.

Whether I am right or wrong will have to await the results of the investigation and forensic DNA testing.

Meanwhile, I can describe the forensic DNA testing that will take place so that everyone understands the procedure and how it works.

During the autopsy, the medical examiner likely swabbed her mouth, anus and vagina separately using sterile swabs, packaging each swab separately and securely so that no foreign DNA could contaminate any of the swabs. They would have been submitted to the DNA lab together with a dried bloodstain obtained from her blood at the autopsy to develop a DNA profile from a known individual to use as a reference sample for comparison purposes.

A DNA analyst should be able to obtain a complete DNA profile from a small cutting obtained from the dried bloodstain (13 genetic sites, plus a sex determinant).

The analyst will take a cutting from each swab and place each one in a separate test tube containing a small amount of distilled water. After soaking the swabs for a certain period of time to allow the dried biological fluid on each swab to go into solution, the analyst will remove the cuttings and spin the test tubes to collect any biological substances present at the bottom of each tube.

After pouring off the solution, the analyst will place a portion of the residue from each tube on separate microscope slides and examine each slide for the presence of spermatozoa and female epithelial cells.

Epithelial cells come from the lining of the vagina, anus or mouth and slough off during intercourse.

By using a process called differential extraction, the DNA in each sample that contains spermatozoa and epithelial cells, assuming they are present, will be selectively released by first adding a mild chemical that breaks down the wall of the nucleus of every epithelial cell releasing the DNA into solution.

The chemical is not strong enough to break down the nucleus of a sperm head and release the male DNA.

After the female DNA is extracted from the epithelial cells, the male DNA is released into solution by adding a stronger chemical.

The analyst will then use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which is the biochemical process developed by Dr. Kary Mullis in 1983 to create millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence of interest.

This process is applied to the extracted DNA enabling easy typing of the sequence of interest from a biological sample containing DNA from just a few cells.

By using a process similar to gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GCMS), the male and female DNA can be typed and compared to the known samples obtained from Hailey Owen’s bloodstain and a buccal swab obtained from Craig Michael Wood.

The DNA profile obtained from the female epithelial cells should match the DNA profile obtained from Hailey’s bloodstain at autopsy at all 13 sites and the sex determinant, assuming complete DNA profiles are obtained from both samples. Partial profiles would be expected to match at the same sites.

The DNA profile obtained from the sperm heads or male fraction, assuming any spermatozoa are present, would likely match the DNA profile obtained from a buccal swab obtained from Mr. Wood after his arrest (which is standard operating procedure in sex crime cases.

The DNA profile obtained from a mixed sample containing both the female DNA from the epithelial cells and the male DNA from the sperm heads should contain alleles matching both known sources at each of the 13 STR/DNA genetic sites and the sex determinant should indicate a mixed sample containing DNA from at least one male and one female.

Most likely the pieces that cut out of mattresses during the search of Wood’s residence are stained with a substance that reacted positively for the presence of blood.

If so, the stains will require confirmatory testing at the crime lab.

DNA in dried bloodstains preserves virtually indefinitely. If they are human bloodstains, the DNA lab may be able to develop a complete nuclear STR/DNA profile and mitochondrial DNA profile that can be compared to the missing persons database for potential matches.

Mitochondria exist outside the nucleus of a cell. They contain DNA. Because there is only one nucleus in a cell and many mitochondria, there is substantially more DNA in the mitochondria compared to the nucleus. For this reason, mitichondrial DNA degrades (breaks down) more slowly than nuclear DNA.

Unlike a complete STR/DNA profile, which is specific to a person, mitochondrial DNA is inherited from and matches a person’s mother’s DNA.

Thus, siblings with the same mother will have identical mitochondrial DNA and all will also match the maternal grandmother.

In the cases of many missing persons, the mother, grandmother, or a sibling have provided biological samples from which a mitochondrial DNA profile was developed to potentially identify unidentified human remains.

If a mitochondrial DNA profile developed from a human bloodstain found on a mattress at Craig Wood’s residence matched a mitochondrial DNA profile from a mother, grandmother or sibling of a missing person, it would be possible to identify the missing person as the source of the bloodstain, even if the body of the missing person is never found.

I suspect, but obviously do not know, if Craig Michael Wood is a serial killer. We will have to wait and see what develops during the investigation.

From my experience as a member of the defense team representing Gary Ridgway, probably the most prolific serial killer in our nation’s history, there really is not a single profile that applies to all serial killers.

Various so-called profiling experts have stated that Wood is not a serial killer because he does not fit the profile.

I do not believe they know what they are talking about.

24 Responses to How DNA testing will be used in the case against Craig Michael Wood

  1. colin black says:

    What type of Wood does not float?
    Woods insanity blackout claims.

  2. shyloh says:

    Without me having to go back and read from the beginning of this story. WHO brought up the blackouts? I am just curious, this entire incident happened so fast.

      • shyloh says:

        Thank you professor. I kind of guessed it, but wanted to make sure. After all the blackouts were years ago and now starting all over again perhaps. He needs to confess this has happened in the past as well. (meaning grabbing children in the daylight and killing them, and ?? possibly raping them.) He was even smart enough to remember the blackouts. Yea good excuse!

        • Yep. Actions speak louder than words.

          If I were to express the concept in lawyer-speak, I would say the circumstantial evidence of his premeditated intent and knowledge that he was committing crimes is so overwhelming as to leave no doubt in a reasonable mind that he was in full command of his faculties, if not his urge to rape and kill a child.

          Insanity is a legal definition, not a medical or psychological definition. You won’t find it in the DSM.

          The insanity defense generally requires a defendant to plead insanity and prove by a preponderance of the evidence that, due to a mental disease or defect, he was unable to distinguish between right and wrong and conform his conduct to the requirements of law.

          The defense focuses on a defendant’s mental state and requires him to admit committing the acts he is accused of committing.

          Contrary to popular belief and urban legend, the defense is rarely successful because even so-called crazy and delusional people usually attempt to conceal the crime they committed and/or deny that they committed it. Their actions show that they knew they were doing something wrong even if, for example, they thought God commanded them to do it.

          Wood’s behavior would not pass the insanity defense.

  3. bettykath says:

    Thanks for the DNA tutorial.

    What if there is no sperm, e.g. if a rapist wore a condom or he was unable to ejaculate? Is it likely that there might be another source of DNA?

    In the current case, if he were successful in dumping her body but it was found, how long would the sperm DNA be available?

    • colin black says:

      I doubt he would even consider wearing a condom after all if his plan had been implimated
      No body would ever have been found to test.
      He wasn’t a serial rapist whom may wear a condom as his victims survive.

      No he I M O was a serial lust pedophile whom craved sex with young girls.

      As mentioned he was well prepared an seemed practiced in disposing of his victim or victims.

      The chances off him being an avid viewer of child porn .And having blackouts whereupon he unawares kidnaps an rapes a young girl an having done so.

      Sets to covering up his crime an disposing of his victim/victims body are zero.

      And no defence attorney would even consider proposeing such an obviously absurd an unbelievable scenario.

      The only hole or empty space In this Monsters brain Is were compassion empathy and decency are situated

    • Rachael says:

      Common DNA evidence:

      The following list shows some common sources of DNA evidence:

      A weapon, such as a baseball bat, fireplace poker or knife, which could contain sweat, skin, blood or other tissue
      A hat or mask, which could contain sweat, hair or dandruff
      A facial tissue or cotton swab, which could contain mucus, sweat, blood or earwax
      A toothpick, cigarette butt, bottle or postage stamp, all of which could contain saliva
      A used condom, which could contain semen or vaginal or rectal cells
      Bed linens, which could contain sweat, hair, blood or semen
      A fingernail or partial fingernail, which could contain scraped-off skin cells

  4. Vicky says:

    In case anyone is interested. Live Stream of the vigil can be viewed:

    http://www.ky3.com/video-photo/live

  5. Michael Dunn Prosecutor Talks to ‘New Day’

    http://newday.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/20/michael-dunn-prosecutor-talks-to-new-day/

    The interviewer gets it wrong re: Trayvon Martin.

  6. kllypyn says:

    i suspect this is not the first time he has committed a crime against a child.

  7. Malisha says:

    If this man has a history of 40 to 50 blackouts in his past (apparently recorded in prior evaluation) he may have some very serious mental problem, even dissociative identity disorder. A lot of territory should be covered; he should be evaluated. There is a distinct possibility of other crimes. OR this really could be a first and only crime.

    • You’re absolutely right and one of the first tasks for defense counsel will be to put together a mitigation team with a lawyer knowledgeable about mental disorders and a mitigation investigator. The two of them will need to enlist a team of experts to test Mr. Wood’s brain functioning and diagnose his condition.

      They will be looking for what death-penalty lawyers refer to as “a hole in the brain,” meaning an organic brain disorder or injury (as opposed to a personality disorder) that inhibits his ability to function normally and causes him to act out in a violent, unpredictable and uncontrollable manner.

      It’s difficult to hold someone accountable for behavior they cannot control, especially if they do not realize what they are doing and holding them accountable means sentencing them to death.

      On the other hand, the Hailey Owens kidnapping and murder shows someone who appears to know that what he is doing is unlawful and he is working as fast as he can to conceal the crime and get rid of her body before the police arrive.

      That behavior exhibits intentionality, planning, and awareness of what he is doing and the consequences he might face, if caught.

      And then there is the child pornography and God only knows what may be recorded on his videos and dvds.

      I don’t mean to suggest that the child pornography means he is a killer, but it is a factor to consider together with the dead 10-year-old kidnap victim with the ligature marks on her arms who was executed by a single gunshot to the back of her head.

  8. JJ says:

    How long does it take for the lab to process the DNA samples and produce a report?

    • Vicky says:

      The Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab is located in Springfield. Maybe such a high profile case will receive priority. Otherwise, it usually takes months for DNA testing to come back, since there is often a back log of samples awaiting test results.

      • Backlogs in DNA labs are usually caused by the flood of new samples for typing from felony arrests and convictions.

        Active cases under investigation or cases with newly charged defendants are usually fast-tracked to make arrests and prepare for trial because of speedy trial rules. High visibility cases like this one also get fast-tracked, particularly if they might be death-penalty eligible as this one is. The same applies to a case like this where there is a possibility of matching mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) profiles from stains at his residence to mtDNA profiles in the national missing person database or matching his nuclear STR/DNA profile to STR/DNA profiles in the national unsolved crimes database.

        The prosecutor would dearly love to present DNA evidence of other crimes to the grand jury, assuming such evidence exists, to get an indictment charging those crimes.

        The DNA lab should be able to complete the testing by the end of next week.

        Alternatively, the FBI Crime Lab might be able to complete the testing sooner than the Missouri Crime Lab.

    • No time at all. They can do this as fast as they want to.

  9. Vicky says:

    I agree with the premise that Wood has killed before. Nobody can say with absolute certainty what goes through the mind of a serial killer or anyone else for that matter, with the exception of that individual. And even then, the individual might not even know.
    What I do believe is that it is more likely that Wood is a serial killer than this being his first time to move beyond his fantasies.

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