Early in the investigation into a series of violent home invasions, detectives had DNA evidence that could have identified the suspect.
SARASOTA | Early in the investigation into a series of violent home invasions, detectives had DNA evidence that could have identified the suspect.
They compared the DNA to 7 million known samples from criminals and prison inmates across the country, but they did not find a match.
Meanwhile, the invasions continued, with perhaps nine more similar attacks in Sarasota and Manatee counties, including some where victims were sexually assaulted and one in which a Sarasota woman was killed.
Yet the DNA should have matched the man now arrested on charges connected to four of the invasions - 38-year-old Delmer Smith III, who is a paroled federal prison inmate who provided DNA samples to the FBI during his incarceration.
But it turns out the FBI is way behind in entering the DNA samples into its CODIS DNA database that would have allowed local authorities to connect Smith to the crimes before several of the other attacks happened.
Smith has been linked to as many as 11 cases, including an April murder on Jo-An Drive.
While Smith has so far been charged in only four cases, and not the murder, he is the prime suspect in the others, officials say.
While officials were glad to bring some closure to the case, they acknowledged the FBI backlog kept them from finding Smith sooner.
"We can't sit here and point a finger at anybody because the reason there is a backlog is financial," Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said Wednesday. "It takes manpower to input this information into the system. And that takes funding."
About 295,000 DNA samples are waiting to be entered into the federal system, which is used by law enforcement agencies across the country, Knight said.
The FBI is using a new automated system that could potentially speed up the process.
Smith spent 15 years in prison for a Detroit bank robbery and first gave a DNA sample to prison officials in March 2008. He was released from federal prison in September 2008 but his DNA was not entered into the system at that time.
The sample was not entered until September 2009, when Smith was arrested during a Venice bar fight and taken into custody for violating his parole.
After the vicious bar brawl, police began to look at Smith as a suspect in other crimes.
A match was confirmed Oct. 1 and detectives began inquiring about Smith's background. They found he had been arrested at least five times in the 1990s for crimes ranging from arson to armed robbery.
The DNA evidence that ultimately led to Smith was found after a Feb. 22 invasion on Osage Terrace in Sarasota County.
A man tied up two women and raped one of them, and detectives found his DNA in the home.
They later discovered the same DNA in two other residences and formed a task force to capture the man.