Socks, Styrofoam cups some of the odd objects helping police crack cases

Posted at 7:25 PM, Jul 14, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-14 19:25:13-04

It might look like just a random sock left in the backyard, but for police investigating a burglary in Portsmouth, it turned out to be a gold mine of evidence and the single key to cracking the case.

According to search warrants uncovered by a NewsChannel 3 investigation, a burglar stole several TV's from a house on Summit Avenue in Portsmouth.

Investigators say he forgot about one of his socks, stuffed with the TV's power cord, during his getaway.

That sock eventually made its way to the Eastern Crime Lab in Norfolk.

“Criminals think, ‘If I cut myself at a crime scene, they can get my DNA,’ but they don't necessarily know if they leave a sock or a hat behind, we can get their DNA off that,’” said Anne Pollard, who works for the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.

Their technicians were able to extract a full DNA profile from the inside of the sock.

“Any type of clothing that you’re wearing is first off going to absorb perspiration from your skin, and can rub off skin cells from the surface. All of that will have DNA in them,” said Pollard.

Since police didn't have a suspect in the case, scientists at the crime lab turned to the State of Virginia's large DNA databank to try to find the culprit.

“We can take the DNA profile from evidence in the case, enter it into the databank and search against the profiles of the convicted felons that are in there,” said Pollard.

It seems the burglar in this case had been in trouble before.

Out popped an exact match for the DNA--Portsmouth Police tell NewsChannel 3 they are about to make an arrest any day.

Socks might also be a key piece of evidence in another burglary case in Chesapeake.

Alonte Booth is now behind bars after police say he broke into a home on Guenevere Drive and tore open a brand new pack of socks to cover his hands while sifting through stuff to steal.

Investigators say while he didn't leave behind any fingerprints, Booth did leave behind the socks, and they are now being tested for his DNA.

It’s not just random pieces of clothing cracking cases.

“Toothbrushes, Chapstick, bottles and cans, coffee cups,” said Pollard. “People will drink out of a soda bottle, eat food out of fridge or leave a fork behind, and those things we have gotten DNA from as well.”

In two recent cases in Norfolk, investigators are hoping some of those odd items can be used in prosecutions.

They sent an empty liquor bottle from a recent robbery at a Motel 5 on Military Highway to the crime lab, as well as a Styrofoam cup from a murder scene on Trice Terrace, to see if DNA found can match up to their suspects.

“We've gotten DNA profiles off partially eaten food, hamburgers, cookies, and pizza crusts, twice,” said Pollard. “At this point I’m not surprised at anything left behind at crime scenes.”

Police hope it keeps happening so they can put more criminals behind bars.