Philadelphia Criminal Law News

'Don't Touch the Hat': 1999 Victim Preserves DNA Evidence for 2012 Arrest

Road rage is obviously not a new problem. As we mentioned in the blog earlier this week, people get so crazy that they pull crossbows out like it was the time of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Nor was it new back in 1999, when James Schumacher was stabbed for double parking in Kensington while he put his 10-day-old daughter in the car, according to CBS 3.

At the time of the crime Schumacher's assailant fled the scene after stabbing him in the chest, hitting his heart and causing his death three days later, according to WPVI. However, even though Schumacher was bleeding profusely, he told his frightened wife to not touch the hat that had fallen off the assailant in the scuffle leading to the stabbing.

Schumacher's belief was that there would be DNA evidence on the hat that would lead to the murderer, according to WPVI-TV. Unfortunately, in 1999 the technology did not yet exist, but now it does and it has led to the arrest of Alexis Orona, who was already in prison for another crime. This leads to the issue of where DNA evidence can be used.

DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is like a blueprint for a living thing. Because every person is unique, they can be more accurately identified by comparing their DNA to that found at a crime scene or on a weapon used in a crime.

DNA testing has advanced over the years because methods of collecting DNA from different sources, such as hair, skin, saliva, etc., has improved. As DNA testing has improved, so have databases of DNA, which are compiled from those who have been convicted of certain crimes, or other registries.

This DNA evidence can be used to identify suspects who have not yet been arrested, or as evidence in a trial that links the accused to a place or an object. What it can't be used for is predicting whether someone will commit a crime, yet.

Here, James Schumacher had the foresight to tell his wife "don't touch the hat," to avoid contamination of the only evidence that could point to Alexis Orona through trace DNA evidence from hair or dandruff in it. This foresight gave police the ability to open this cold case and finally put one mystery to rest.

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