Harley Feldman’s mission revisited

I’ve gotten to know Harley Feldman through our local chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Harley is a brilliant, soft-spoken guy and successful businessman. Three years ago his daughter Allison was brutally murdered at her home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Allison’s murderer was apprehended this past April. I wrote about the story at the time and am filing this update after meeting with Harley last month.

The broad outlines of the story are set forth in stories here and here. The video below also presents the story on the day Arizona law enforcement announced the arrest of Allison’s murderer. This was a big local story.

The story was so big that Phoenix’s KPNX 12News has just named it one of its top 18 stories of 2018. The year-end 12News story is accessible here. I want to add some background that fills out the story based on my conversations with Harley in April and again last month. Mala Blomquist also covers the story in the Arizona Jewish Life feature “Justice for Allison.” This story warrants attention outside Arizona.

Allison’s murder sent Harley on a mission to help the police find Allison’s murderer. Scottsdale Police worked the case intensely without result. The murderer had taken time after killing Allison to wipe down the scene with chlorine solution. Scottsdale Police recovered no fingerprints left by the perpetrator, although they did find three separate DNA samples that he had overlooked.

To assist law enforcement’s search for Allison’s killer, Harley advocated for the authorization of Arizona law enforcement to use a familial DNA search. Arizona state Rep. Maria Syms took up the cause. Rep. Syms enlisted the support of Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich. They authorized the use of a familial DNA search in the hope it would lead to Allison’s killer. Harley credits them all for overcoming the inertia that prevails elsewhere to inhibit the use of familial DNA by law enforcement.

The familial DNA search based on DNA collected at the scene led the authorities to the perpetrator’s brother, who had long been in state prison on multiple counts of child molestation. The identification of the perpetrator’s brother led authorities to the perpetrator; his blood had previously been tested and retained in connection with a dismissed DUI charge. Having conducted the familial DNA search, the authorities solved the case in two days. Without it, Allison’s murderer would still be at large. He is now held in Maricopa County Jail on $5 million cash bail pending trial.

Arizona is now one of 12 states that authorizes the use of familial DNA searches by law enforcement. What rationale can possibly be offered against it to solve open cases? No reason has been advanced that withstands the slightest scrutiny. There is no good reason for law enforcement not to use the technique. “Privacy” is a shibboleth cited by foot-dragging authorities, but this is not an issue of privacy. Racial disparities also seem to have something to do with the resistance by the ACLU and others to the use of familial DNA. Yet any suspect identified through a familial DNA search still retains all of his Fourth Amendment and other rights applicable to search, arrest and conviction.

Harley advises me that familial search is lawful in Minnesota and has been used on five cases since it became available in 2015. Law enforcement is nevertheless inhibited from further use of the technology here by pressure from the ACLU and others. Harley asks other states “to embrace Familial Search for difficult to solve crimes and help families resolve the loss of a loved one.” I am grateful to Harley for his help in letting me share this story with readers.

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