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Famous Cases Using DNA Tests

August 7, 1998

In less than 20 years of widespread use, DNA testing has produced some notable results:

_In 1987, serial rapist Tommy Lee Andrews became the first American ever convicted in a case involving DNA evidence. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for rape, aggravated battery and burglary.

_Currently, the families of two girls born three years ago in Charlottesville, Va., are struggling to cope with the disclosure the children were switched at birth. The mix-up was revealed by a DNA test conducted in a child-support dispute.

_Earlier this year, German police investigating the murder of an 11-year-old girl tested the saliva of 16,400 men who live in the area where the crime was committed. When that DNA evidence tied him to the murder, Ronny Rieken confessed and has since admitted killing another girl.

_The bodies of Russian czar Nicholas and his family were given official burials last month, 80 years after their murders. DNA evidence provided identification of the skeletons found in a mass grave in a forest outside Yekaterinburg, even though the bodies had been doused with acid.

_In June, DNA testing solved a mystery dating back to the Vietnam War, allowing the Pentagon to identify remains exhumed from the Tomb of the Unknowns as those of Air Force pilot Michael J. Blassie.

_Former nurse Mark Bravo, convicted of raping a patient, was freed in 1994 when a DNA test showed he had not been involved in the crime. A California court has awarded him $3.9 million in damages.

_Last fall, Texas Gov. George W. Bush pardoned 36-year-old Kevin James Byrd, a man cleared by DNA tests after serving 12 years in prison for rape.

_The last two victims of TWA Flight 800 were identified 13 months after the Paris-bound plane crashed off Long Island. With DNA tests confirming the final two, all 230 people aboard the plane have been identified. TWA Flight 800 was the first commercial plane crash in which DNA samples were obtained for every victim _ from relatives or personal effects, including hairbrushes, toothbrushes, clothing and stubble from electric razors.

_Long after she was raped, an Indiana woman thought she spotted her assailant on the street. Police arrested the man, took some blood and sent it to a crime lab for DNA analysis. Robert Flowers said he hadn’t committed the crime, and lab results showed he was telling the truth; as his DNA didn’t match the rapist’s. But it came so close, the lab just had to ask: Did Robert Flowers have a brother? He did. Eventually, Robert’s lookalike brother was convicted of the rape.

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