NOTE: This story was originally published on May 3, 2007.
Some might expect Karen Foster to rest now.
But after almost 13 years of campaigning to find the man who raped and killed her teenage daughter and last week’s long-awaited charges against a New Hampshire convict, Bonnie Craig’s mother is not laying down.
She has a new fight: Expand the DNA database that is credited with finding Kenneth Dion, the man charged with killing her 18-year-old daughter in 1994.”
Let’s do it for Bonnie’s sake,” she said.
Foster is pushing a proposed bill in the Legislature that would change DNA collection requirements in the state’s criminal justice system. She’s making calls around the state to legislators and law enforcement leaders trying to gather support for the legislation.
Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, who received one of the many Foster calls in the past few days, said, “She’s a warrior and she’s using this as an opportunity to make something good happen.”
She is bringing to light what was a low profile bill. Senate Bill 33, introduced by Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, expands mandatory DNA collection to anyone arrested on a felony charge or a crime against another person. The proposal bolsters a state law enacted in 2003 that requires DNA samples from convicted felons and those convicted of crimes against other people.
French said the bill, which had been with the Judiciary Committee for months, is now being fast-tracked for a committee hearing. And there is a possibility it could get tacked onto other anti-crime legislation which is further along in the approval process.
Foster thinks the law will make a difference. In Bonnie’s case, Dion was in and out of jail multiple times in Alaska after she was slain. Had authorities been required back then to collect DNA from accused felons, they might have caught up with the accused man, she said.
The bill, in its current form, requires authorities to destroy the DNA sample if an accused person is exonerated.
Law enforcement officials throughout the state could save time, money and lives with a swab of the cheek, proponents of proposed DNA collection requirements say.”
Just think about how much money was spent on Bonnie’s case alone,” Foster said.
Bunde called the DNA collection process “the 21st century’s version of fingerprints.”
The idea would cost the state $370,000 in the first year and $220,000 in subsequent years, according to Department of Public Safety figures. It would increase the number of DNA samples processed by the state crime lab by 40 percent, or about 1,680 samples per year.
Similar laws have passed in seven states -- including California, Texas and Virginia -- over opposition that has claimed the process is an invasion of privacy.
Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, says he supports the bill. But he said the crime lab is understaffed and backlogged. Recent reports say more than 1,000 DNA profiles are waiting to be entered into the database.
Foster says she’s not going to stop with the bill. Her next battle? To make it mandatory that the DNA tests be done within 60 days. “If a criminal is given the right to a speedy trial I don’t think entering this data in a timely fashion in order to help victims is too much to ask,” she wrote in a letter to legislators.