FBI profilers have recently identified several serial killers as being white?when they were actually black?which may have delayed their capture. Since race is one of the easiest ways to identify someone, police departments want to figure out how to identify a suspect’s race from DNA evidence left at the crime scene.

You’d think that this would be easy to do but it’s not. For one thing, despite their appearances, most people are a mixture of several different races. Researcher Tony Frudakis has invented a technology that breaks the ethnicity of a murder suspect down by percentage. It hasn’t made an error in more than 3,000 blind tests.

In September 2002, a police profile suggested the serial killer terrorizing Louisiana was probably a white man aged 25 to 35. After studying DNA found at one of the crime scenes, Frudakis concluded that the Baton Rouge serial killer was about 80% African-American and 15% Native American. After months of frustration, investigators began looking for a dark-skinned perpetrator and finally arrested Derrick Todd Lee.

Crime fighters have realized that they’ve been relying too much on traditional profiling. After the slaying of one woman in 2002, two witnesses told authorities they saw a black man watching the victim’s house on the day of the killing. One even drew a picture which resembled Lee, but authorities continued to look for a white man.

“We’ve got to get away from this whole law enforcement profiling,” says author and forensics expert Patricia Cornwell. “If you’re working on laboratory rats or robots, it might work. But the fact of the matter is these killers, their patterns, are just as varied as yours and mine might be.”

We all need to tools to help us discover what’s really going on.

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