Criminals often get nicknamed by police as a result of unique methods of committing their crimes. In Wyoming, a burglar left a distinctive calling card: a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The sandwich, along with a cup of coffee, contained DNA evidence, which linked the burglary suspect to the repeated robberies of a hardware/equipment store and a JC Penny store.
The DNA found on the sandwich and coffee cup linked the suspected burglar to six different burglaries, three at the same hardware store and three at JC Penny. The half-eaten sandwich was found at the scene of the first burglary and ever since the police had been calling the burglar the PB&J burglar. At the scene of one of the JC Penny burglaries, police found a coffee cup which linked the suspect to the scene of the crime.
The Proof Is Between Two Slices of Bread
The DNA evidence recovered from the cup and sandwich are not all the police relied upon. The suspect had allegedly pawned several power-tools and pieces of jewelry that were taken during the burglaries at both locations. Additionally, it was reported that the suspect was slashing prices on his stolen goods and attempted to sell rather expensive chainsaws for half-price.
Initially, the DNA recovered from the PB&J did not match anyone in Wyoming's state DNA database. However, a match was discovered in the Colorado state database, which lead authorities to the suspect. On top of the arrest for the burglaries, the suspect was also arrested behind a sporting goods store with burglary tools, and is facing charges for that as well as separate charges for interference with a peace officer and criminal entry.
States maintain independent databases for the DNA of criminals. In this case, Wyoming did not have a match. However, with the cooperation of another state's law enforcement, they were able to run the DNA recovered from the sandwich and find a match.
Nearly half the states have laws that require anyone who is arrested to provide a DNA sample, which gets inputted into a database. The collection of pre-conviction DNA for inputting into a database has sparked some controversy since law enforcement began the practice.