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DNA extracted from a beard hair left at the scene of an armed burglary has led to the arrest of a suspect in the case, one year after the crime was committed.
Sheriff's deputies in Oneida County, New York, say that an armed man confronted a woman inside her home last December. Although the man escaped, the woman was able to grab hair from the man's beard before he fled, The Associated Press reports.
After sending the hair sample in for testing, it came back as a match for 54-year-old Leon Tennant, who was already in jail in another county on an unrelated charge.
How Does DNA Evidence Work?
As you probably know, DNA exists in the cells of all living organisms. In the 1980s, it was discovered that individuals could be identified by the repetition of patterns within a DNA strand. A test was developed allowing law enforcement to match DNA samples recovered from crime scenes to samples collected from criminal suspects.
Because of its accuracy, DNA evidence has become increasingly relied upon by both prosecutors and defense attorneys in criminal proceedings to prove a defendant's guilt or innocence. Recent advances in technology have allowed DNA testing to be conducted on relatively small amounts of DNA, making DNA evidence available in an increasing number of cases.
In the case of Leon Tennant, the DNA from his beard hair was enough to provide law enforcement with enough evidence to arrest him and charge him with first-degree burglary.
Burglary is typically considered the unlawful entry into a home, business, or other structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. Under New York burglary laws, a first-degree burglary occurs when the building is a dwelling and the defendant is armed with a deadly weapon, causes injury, or displays what appears to be a firearm.
A conviction for first-degree burglary in New York can result in up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $5,000, or double the defendant's gain from the burglary. Tennant is currently being held without bail.