Samples of DNA taken last week from a Stafford County man under investigation in the slayings of three Spotsylvania County girls do not match evidence found at the crime scenes, law enforcement officials said yesterday.
Despite the news from the FBI lab, authorities investigating the slayings of Sofia Silva, 16, Kristin Lisk, 15, and Kati Lisk, 12, said they cannot rule out Melvin Hogan, 32, as a possible suspect until the FBI analysis of additional samples--including carpet fibers taken from his home, van and workplace--has been completed.
"Right now, we're saying that the DNA does not match him," said Maj. Howard Smith, a spokesman for the Spotsylvania County sheriff's office, adding that the investigation of Hogan would continue until "all the evidence is examined."
Hogan, who until recently worked at a carpet-cleaning business in Prince William County, said he received a call yesterday from a Spotsylvania detective who told him that the DNA from his blood and saliva samples was not a match and, therefore, "you're not the guy."
Hogan reiterated yesterday that he thinks he has been unfairly targeted by law enforcement officials and that he has alibis for the days the girls disappeared.
"The only relief I have is that everyone will know that my DNA came back negative, and I'm not the guilty party," Hogan said. "I have no feeling of vindication. . . . I'm very angry."
Investigators have said they obtained a warrant to gather DNA samples from Hogan after an incident two weeks ago in which he allegedly approached a 15-year-old Spotsylvania girl at her home and commented on her "attractive looks." The girl said he also asked her questions about her sexual experience and asked her for a hug.
"The average guy who flirts around doesn't get put through this," Hogan said. He said that he believed the girl was older than 15 and that he is guilty only of showing poor judgment and "disrespecting" his wife.
Hogan was first interviewed after the Lisk sisters disappeared on May 1, 1997, and residents in the Lisks' neighborhood reported seeing a white van in the area. Hogan had a white van and was working a half-mile away, but investigators said they did not have probable cause to obtain warrants to collect evidence from him until his Oct. 11 conversation with the 15-year-old girl.
Hogan, who has been suspended from his job with Squeaky Clean Cleaning Service since his name surfaced in news reports this week, said he has not heard from his employer and is unsure whether he will be allowed to return to work.
"My innocence was proven before and has been proven once again, but at the expense of my family's privacy, dignity and loss of employment," Hogan said in a prepared statement. "To my wife and employers, I will never make a mistake like this again if given another chance; this has been the ultimate wake-up call."
Smith said yesterday that Hogan has never been a suspect and is one of about 50 people from whom investigators have collected DNA samples. "This was nothing more than another lead," said Smith. "He never has been a suspect in this case."
Smith said he was pleased with the speed with which the FBI lab in the District analyzed the DNA samples, a process that can take weeks.
How quickly an analysis is done depends on many factors, including the quality of the sample and the type of testing, said Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman.
"This case was given a high priority, and it was worked diligently from the time we received it," said Bresson.
Even so, Hogan's wife, Concetta, expressed anger at the week-long wait for the test results, saying the ordeal has permanently transformed her family's life.
"Well, I just don't know how we'll get our lives back in order with this much publicity," she said. "If he doesn't work, then how are we supposed to even financially make it?"