A DNA Mix-Up Involving a Washing Machine Kept a Man in Jail for 3 Years

In October 2019, Mr. Singer caught a lucky break when he spoke to Winnie Kurowski, a forensic chemist at the Acadiana Criminalistics lab, on the phone. Prosecutors had said the knife marked as item 16 was used to slit Mr. Poche’s throat and stab him multiple times. And yet, according to Ms. Kurowski, it did not contain even a drop of the victim’s blood.

Why would item 19, the washing machine lid, contain the victim’s DNA but not item 16, the murder weapon? A theory was forming. “A 6 and a 9 look the same when they are next to each other,” Mr. Singer observed.

Mr. Singer shared the paperwork with Suzanna Ryan, an independent DNA analyst. Based on her review, she too suspected a switch and asked to retest the samples. At Pure Gold Forensics, a private lab in Redlands, Calif., she found that the only identifiable source of the DNA on the washing machine swab was not the victim, as the paperwork suggested, but Ms. King, Mr. Verret’s girlfriend. This made sense because they lived together. The only identifiable source of DNA on the knife was the victim, a detail missing from the paperwork. This reinforced that the two had been switched; the washing machine had been processed as the knife.

At a hearing on June 5, Mr. Singer and Ms. Ryan presented what they had found. Then, citing the Acadiana Criminalistics report that said, with 99.9 percent certainty, that the DNA from the swab taken from Mr. Verret’s washing machine was from Mr. Poche, Mr. Singer confronted Ms. Kurowski. “We can just toss this in the garbage until you do some retesting, right?” he said.

“Yes,” Ms. Kurowski said, according to a transcript.

Ms. Kurowski directed a request for comment to her lab supervisor, who said he could not discuss the case.

A day after the hearing, the district attorney, Bo Duhé, told The Acadiana Advocate that his office would “expeditiously review” the test results from Ms. Ryan’s lab “and make the appropriate decisions about how to proceed in this case.”

On June 8, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Mr. Verret was released from jail. (Louisiana’s 16th Judicial District Attorney’s Office confirmed this development, but otherwise declined to comment.)


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