Rosalind Helderman reports on the Virginia Politics blog that the state is introducing a new technique to broaden its use of DNA evidence to solve major violent crimes, Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell (R) announced Monday.

New computer software will allow the state to search its database of DNA information collected from those arrested of certain crimes and look not just for direct matches to DNA collected at new crime scenes but for near matches that suggest that a family member of the person in the database should be considered a suspect.

Such familial DNA searches are underway in California and Colorado, where the software was developed but is prohibited in many states due to privacy concerns.

Last year, police in California used the technique to identity Lonnie David Franklin Jr. as a a suspect in the so-called “Grim Sleeper” case. Franklin was fingered after police figured out that DNA evidence collected at a crime scene closely matched DNA on file from Franklin’s son.

The practice, widely opposed by civil libertarians, was also used by California police last week to charge a sex offender with sexually assaulting a woman in 2008.

“It is vital that our law enforcement agencies have every available tool at their disposal to protect public safety and investigate the most violent crimes in the Commonwealth,” said Mc­Don­nell said in a statement.

Read the entire post on the Virginia Politics blog.