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CMU Professor Takes DNA Testing To New Levels

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Andy Sheehan Andy Sheehan
KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan began his broadcast journalism...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — He’s not your typical Sherlock Holmes, but this CMU professor is in demand by police around the world.

He’s putting bad guys in jail with a DNA analysis technology he invented called True Allele.

“True Allele is the most advanced and most powerful system for commercial DNA evidence interpretation that exists,” said Mark Perlin of Cybergenetics.

Using a supercomputer, True Allele succeeds where conventional DNA analysis can’t — getting results from tiny and damaged bits of DNA.

It led to the conviction of former State Trooper Kevin Foley in the murder of Indiana County dentist John Yelenic.

Perlin analyzed a sample of DNA from under the victim’s fingernails — a mixture of the victim’s and another person’s. True Allele established at a probability of 189 billion-to-one that that other person was Kevin Foley.

The conviction has been upheld by the state Supreme Court.

“It’s established science as good as breathalyzer, fingerprints or any at this point,” Perlin said.

True Allele is now being used by the Allegheny County crime lab for its most difficult cases, including Akaninyene Akan — who threw away a cigarette butt while serving time in California. Perlin’s analysis of that tiny bit of DNA led to his extradition and conviction back here for the rape of a Pittsburgh woman.

“It truly changes the playing field for what evidence we can use in court,” Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams said.

And it cracked a murder outside the McKeesport Elks Club. Police had a baseball cap hat with DNA from three different people — and a gun, also with DNA from multiple people. True Allele found that only one man: Leland Davis — had his DNA on both.

Simply put only his DNA is on the hat and the gun.

“Only his DNA is common to both pieces of evidence,” Perlin said. “Because the computer could separate out the genotype of each of the contributors.”

“And so you have a conviction,” KDKA’s Andy Sheehan asked.

“I don’t the County of Allegheny does,” Perlin said.

Perlin says he’s a scientist, not a cop, so it’s equally satisfying to him to exonerate someone who is innocent as it is to convict a criminal. In his words: we go where the truth leads us.

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