Julie McElhiney was only 13-years-old when she was murdered by now 66-year-old Curtis Tucker, who has recently pled no contest to the 1974 crime. How did Oakland law enforcement officials finally figure out who ended her life? They used DNA evidence that was 40 years old.
Oakland police Sergeant Michael Weisenburg is a cold-case worker in the department and was reviewing Julie’s case about 4 years ago. What he discovered is that there was still viable DNA evidence on some of the clothes she was wearing at the time she was murdered and sexually assaulted (CA Penal Code 269). After 4 years, the nationwide DNA database item he entered came up with a match, that of Curtis Tucker. He was promptly arrested.
California voters will remember that it was Proposition 69 (“DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime, and Innocence Protection Act”), passed in November 2004 that allowed Tucker to be brought to justice and for Julie’s family to finally find peace. What Prop 69 effectually created was a DNA database for known criminals. Since 2004, it is normal procedure to take not only fingerprints and palm prints, but also DNA samples from anyone who is arrested, thus making it easier on law enforcement to identify repeat offenders and to solve cold cases in which DNA technology was not yet available. Some argue that this is a breach of individual freedom; others point to rare cases such as Julie McElhiney’s and are satisfied.