DNA match nabs two-time burglar - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

DNA match nabs two-time burglar

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When Athens, Tennessee police arrested Dennis Michael Falls in September, 2010 for robbing the Jiffy 7 til 11 convenience store on Eastanallee Avenue, they had no idea yet they could connect him to two burglaries a year earlier, one at the E.G. Fisher Public Library, the other at Hiwassee Builders Supply. Because the robbery at the Jiffy 7 til 11 store took place at knife point, Falls' blood was drawn after taken into custody.

"When they're arrested on a violent crime their DNA's collected at the justice center," says Detective Josh Rhodes.

The sample was immediately sent to the TBI crime lab in Nashville and the profile entered into a database. Then the waiting game began for a possible match to another profile in the system.

Finally, three years later in September, 2013, a match came up. Falls left blood behind at the scenes of the two burglaries and was now caught. A guilty plea would not be far behind and
relief set in for the police and the victims.

"That was two cases that had been out there for a long time, and we were extremely thrilled to be able to close those," says Rhodes. "The day I got the results and was able to secure the warrants, I contacted both of them in person."

Julie Forkner, now director of the E.G. Fisher Library, was in charge of the reference department at the time Falls was caught.

"We're all thankful there's one less person that will think about breaking into us again," says Forkner.

But why did it take so long for the match to be made? Rhodes says it's par for the course probably due to back log.

"You have every agency in the state of Tennessee sending stuff every day," explains Rhodes.

He doesn't believe it's because the cases were pushed to the bottom of the list.

"We've seen other cases of lower felonies and higher felonies still take quite a lot of time to come back, especially when it's blood analysis," states Rhodes.

Falls is serving an additional four to six years state probation for the burglaries.

The nearby Bradley County Sheriff's Department has it's own blood analysis lab. Rhodes doesn't know the extent of the work that can be done there, but when asked if such a thing could be started in McMinn County or at the Athens Police Department, he says it would probably be too expensive.

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