WHO: Walter Ellis
WHAT: During what police say was a 20-year killing spree in Milwaukee, Ellis left his DNA on all seven of his victims. But when he was supposed to give a DNA sample to the state crime database while imprisoned earlier this decade, he turned in another inmate’s bodily fluids.
THE OUTCOME: Ellis could not be matched with his final victim in 2003. Investigators didn’t connect Ellis to any homicides until this fall, when they seized genetic material from his toothbrush.
EVEN WORSE: The Associated Press found tens of thousands of DNA samples missing from state databases nationwide, either lost or never taken. Huge backlogs at U.S. crime labs leave DNA samples shelved for years without being analyzed, so untold numbers of cases remain unsolved. And 27 states either failed to collect some DNA samples or are unable to say whether they took one from the necessary offenders.