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Attorney General Lockyer, San Diego Police Chief Bejarano Announce That State DNA Databank Links Suspect to 1993 Double Homicide

Wednesday, March 21, 2001
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer and San Diego Police Chief David Bejarano today announced that a "cold hit" made earlier this month in the California Department of Justice (DOJ) DNA Laboratory in Berkeley links a suspect to the murders of two San Diego children.

Scott Thomas Erskine, 38, is currently serving a 70-year sentence in Wasco State Prison for sexual assault, kidnaping, and weapons possession convictions. He was linked to the March, 1993 murders of 9-year old Jonathan Sellers and 13-year old Charlie Keever when evidence from the crime yielded a DNA profile which matched Erskine's DNA profile stored in the DOJ Convicted Felon Databank.

"Eight years ago, these murders devastated two families and stunned the community," said Lockyer. "But the investigators and forensic scientists never gave up, and when they turned to our expanding DNA database, we were able to provide a crucial element – the identity of the suspect."

"This case is a dramatic example of scientific advances in law enforcement," said Chief Bejarano. "Criminalists in our lab had the foresight in 1993 to recover, document and preserve evidence that some day might be unlocked through new generations of DNA testing. That day has come -- and two families can begin to find closure to their personal nightmares."

California law requires blood and saliva samples to be taken from individuals convicted of any of nine specified felony sex and violent crimes. The samples yield DNA profiles, which are stored in the DOJ Convicted Felon Databank in the Berkeley DNA Lab. DNA profiles extracted from crime scene evidence are compared to the profiles in the Databank. Erskine's DNA profile is in the Databank as a result of the numerous felony sexual assault convictions, as well as conviction for kidnap and weapons possession convictions, in April, 1994.

Upon taking office in 1999, Attorney General Lockyer pledged to eliminate the backlog of more than 100,000 unanalyzed convicted felon blood samples. The lab is now on pace to eliminate this backlog by July 1, 2001, when there will be a projected total of 200,000 DNA profiles from convicted felons that will be searchable against DNA profiles from crime scene evidence.

Lockyer believes that expanding the qualifying offenses for inclusion into the DNA Databank will increase the number of suspects identified and crimes solved, and he is sponsoring legislation to add residential burglary, first-degree robbery, arson, and carjacking to the current list which includes rape, murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, domestic violence, kidnaping, child molestation, mayhem and torture.

Three additional unrelated DNA "cold hits" were made by the state's DNA Lab between March 2nd and March 6th when 10,000 newly developed DNA profiles of convicted felons were compared to DNA profiles extracted from crime scene evidence from unsolved cases. Local law enforcement agencies have been notified about these identifications and are proceeding appropriately with that information. Details will be made available as the suspects are arrested or charged with those crimes.

Including these four "cold hits," a total of 33 suspects have been identified by the DOJ DNA Convicted Felon Databank since it was established in 1994. Twenty-nine of these "cold hits" have made since January, 1999.

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