Just last year, a cold case almost two decades old in Midway, Utah, was finally solved using cutting edge wet vacuum DNA collection technology called the M-Vac System. The DNA evidence was found on the murder weapon, a rock that had been sitting in an evidence room for the past 18 years. Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch was found bludgeoned to death with the rock in question, which was still near her body. However, the evidence found at the scene was not enough to tell Krystal’s story. Fortunately, in the world of forensic science, technology is always moving forward, offering newer and more effective ways to catch criminals. Through an innovative process, Krystal’s case would eventually be closed.
Originally designed to collect pathogenic bacteria off of food surfaces, bio warfare agents from the battlefield and viruses from critical areas in hospitals, the M-Vac wet vacuum system is amazingly adept at collecting DNA material, even from porous surfaces such as a river rock, a hoodie sweatshirt or from a victim’s skin. This system is the most effective method available for collecting DNA, and is known to be effective even after other collection methods have failed to collect sufficient DNA for analysis.
The wet vacuum method works through the combination of a sterile spray impinging the substrate surface and vacuum pressure being applied simultaneously. This allows investigators to pick up much more of a sample than through the swabbing or taping method. The samples can then be spun in a conical vial or filtered through an inexpensive filtering method. The results have been validated by a private lab in Utah, which found that the M-Vac collected 40 percent more DNA from a saliva stain on polyester and 88 percent more from a bloodstain on nylon fabric than swabbing. In fact, when sampling the material AFTER the swab in a separate product verification, the M-Vac still pulled up 22 times more than the swab did.
So far, the wet vacuum system has been used in several very difficult cases that had either stalled or gone completely cold and the investigators were running out of options. In one of the first cases, a little girl had been murdered and possibly raped, and then her body had been discarded in a body of water where she lay for 8-10 hours. During that time, as every investigator knows, the DNA evidence on her and her clothing was washing away and degrading at a rapid rate. Not surprisingly, by the time she was pulled from the water and her clothing was swabbed, no suspect DNA could be detected, even with the most sensitive lab equipment and processes.
Fortunately, the forensics lab had an M-Vac System available and they were able to resample the victim’s underwear. Amazingly, the M-Vac was able to collect enough DNA material to generate a partial profile of the suspect and the case was able to move forward. Additional cases have seen similar results. Of course, not every case, but the bottom line is if there is DNA material on the evidence, even when it is minute amounts of touch DNA, the M-Vac System is the best tool to collect it.
In the case of Krystal Beslanowitch, the M-Vac wet vacuum method was able to provide critical DNA collections to close the case. Eventually this evidence led to an arrest and closure for the family.
No doubt this new method would add a compelling element to any true crime fiction story, particularly those surrounding cold cases or seemingly “clean” crime scenes. For more in-depth details on the forensics, including a video showing the DNA collection, visit http://www.m-vac.com/forensics.
Jared Bradley is the President and CEO of M-Vac Systems, based in Sandy, Utah.