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Over 750 Chicago Murder Cases Are Still Pending DNA Analysis — Lawmakers Want To Know Why

Illinois has been notoriously bad at solving murders, the worst in the nation for the past two years.

Sam Cholke/DNAinfo
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CHICAGO — Hundreds of Chicago’s unsolved murders are backlogged at the Illinois Crime Lab, where 752 murder cases are still pending DNA analysis, some dating back as far as 2014.

In an effort to bring attention to the problem — and get some answers — State Senator Patricia Van Pelt has called a state hearing on the matter. 

Illinois has been notoriously bad at solving murders, the worst in the nation for the past two years, according to data from the Murder Accountability Project

At the Monday hearing, Sen. Van Pelt hopes to “get answers” on what is causing the delays, and find out what needs to be done to “ensure all DNA in murder cases is tested in a timely manner,” according to a representative from Van Pelt’s office.

“A backlog in DNA testing means that violent criminals are on our streets, able to kill again,” Van Pelt’s office told Block Club Chicago.

At the hearing, the Illinois State Police will be available to provide information and answer any questions. Additionally, Kenwood residents, who Van Pelt says have been impacted by the unsolved cases, will testify.

Van Pelt’s office said that it is important to hear from families who have been impacted “so that people can understand why ending the backlog is so important.”

But just why exactly is the state’s DNA evidence so backlogged? The answer is complicated, according to the Illinois State Police.

“The why is a very lengthy response which will be explained more at the hearing on Monday,” said Sergeant Jacqueline Cepeda.

Cepeda explained that the forensic lab in Chicago “serves several collar counties in addition to the city of Chicago.” She said that the lab receives approximately 1,800 cases each year, and in the past three years has completed an analysis on nearly 5,000 cases.

Cepeda said the lab does in fact prioritize cases based on the nature of the crime.

“To enhance this process, the ISP is currently working with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to establish a rush request protocol that will ensure collaboration between investigative, prosecution and laboratory personnel in the most effective manner possible to combat violent crime,” she said.

Cepeda said they continue to work on improving their methods in order to clear the backlog. She mentioned outsourcing and overtime, automated instrumentation, streamlining procedures and hiring additional forensic scientists as potential ways the state planned on reducing the backlog.

The hearing is set for Monday at 10 a.m. at the State of Illinois (Bilandic) Building, 160 N. LaSalle St.