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State officials still mum on box of untested DNA samples, internal probe

Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security officials still aren’t discussing publicly how a box of DNA samples sat undiscovered for years.

The Forensic Science Commission plans to talk about the internal investigation into the box of 1,600 DNA samples at its Monday meeting.

The samples dating back to 2001 were discovered in 2014, but that discovery was kept secret until the News Journal reported on it in September. The samples had not been entered into a national database of offenders, and one sample potentially could have prevented a Wilmington man from allegedly committing two additional rapes before being arrested.

At least one commission member has called for an independent review. But Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Robert Coupe said an internal investigation is nearly complete and he hopes commissioners will wait for that.

“At that point, if members still feel that another investigation is needed, then we can have that discussion," he said. "But I would ask that they allow this investigation to play out.”

But commissioners’ discussion will be behind closed doors.

Coupe said the investigation, while nearing completion, is still confidential.

“So we will be going into executive session, which is a private session so I can provide some update to the commission members," he said. "But we’re not ready to release a public report yet.”

Coupe said part of the inquiry looks at why an investigation was only launched after the News Journal made the box’s discovery public.

He said he’ll review the probe’s findings with the Delaware Department of Justice.

By law, the Forensic Science Commission is to provide oversight and guidance to the Division of Forensic Sciences. But it’s unclear what authority it actually has. The board can only vote to make recommendations.

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