Serial killer discovered with DNA evidence

Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:56pm EST

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(Reuters) - By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK Jan 17 (Reuters) - A serial killer nabbed after giving a DNA sample in connection with a drunk-driving conviction more than a decade after his murder spree was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison on Tuesday.

Francisco Acevedo, 43, whose case prompted calls for expansion of the state's DNA database to track criminals, was not even a suspect in the murders of three women in Yonkers, New York until he applied for parole in 2009 while in prison for drunk driving, prosecutors said.

He provided a DNA sample as part of his parole application that was, as a matter of routine, entered into the federal Codis database which helps match suspects to DNA evidence taken from crime scenes.

Acevedo never got parole and instead his DNA was linked to the murders of Maria Ramos in 1989, Tawanda Hodges in 1991 and Kimberly Moore in 1996, prosecutors said.

He had sex with each of the women before beating and strangling them, said prosecutors with the Westchester County, New York District Attorney's office.

"This defendant, a serial killer, was incarcerated on another charge and would never have been identified as the killer of these three women had he not voluntarily given a DNA sample so that he could be paroled," said Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore in a statement.

DiFiore said the case underlined a need for the expansion of New York State's criminal DNA database, as called for last week by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address.

New York currently collects DNA from those convicted of felonies or certain misdemeanors, including petty larceny and violent crimes, but not low-level misdemeanors.

Cuomo, with support from many law-enforcement agencies, said he wants to change the law to expand collection of DNA to include anyone convicted of any crime.

The governor said the state's database, created in 1996, has provided leads in over 2,700 convictions and led to 27 exonerations, but only allows the state to collect DNA from about half of all defendants convicted of crimes.

The state's Division of Criminal Justice Services said it contains more than 410,000 convicted offender profiles.

Officials could not say how often a DNA database match leads to a breakthrough in a so-called cold case, although the Manhattan District Attorney's office has said at least five rape and murder investigations, one dating back to the 1970s, were resolved in 2011 after DNA evidence led to a suspect.

In some instances, prosecutors are able to indict an unknown suspect based on a DNA profile and thereby stop the clock running on the statue of limitations, even in cases where it may take many more years to identify a suspect.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune)

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