New DNA machine yields conviction for Richland Co. Sheriff

Published: Dec. 10, 2015 at 4:21 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 20, 2015 at 4:53 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's an instrument that makes life easier for Dr. Gray Amick.

The $250,000 instrument, known as RapidHit 200, is already paying off for the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

RapidHit 200 is a special DNA machine that Richland County was first to adopt in the country. It's a machine that only takes 90 minutes to find a DNA match, unlike traditional machines.

"It extracts the DNA, amplifies the DNA, and separates it for us to be able to interpret the profile," Amick said.

The RapidHit 200 has already helped convict a man – 24-year-old Brandon Berry.

"We had a look at the evidence. It was a pair of shoes and a pair of pants, and those two things had visible blood on them, and we were able to make cutting from those and run them on the instrument," Amick said.

The Sheriff's Department said, back in the summer of 2014, Berry tried to rob a man who was getting out of his car at an apartment complex on Oakcrest Drive. Deputies said there was a struggle, but Berry ultimately shot the victim before running off.

Later that day, deputies said they arrested him by coincidence after a traffic stop turned into a car chase. It was after that when Amick and this machine linked the bloody clothes on Berry back to the victim and attempted murder.

"It's like DNA in a box. It does all the regular DNA analysis that we would do in a lab, but it does it in one unit, and it does it in two hours," he said.

"Before, our normal turnaround time was probably 24 hours on a rushed case -- maybe a couple days -- or normal turnarounds of probably a months," Amick said.

Which means, now, Amick and the others can do more work faster to convict more criminals.

The machine can't be used for all DNA samples, particularly small ones where there's only a finite amount of DNA to collect and analyze.

Amick said it's just part of the equation and said the lead investigator, the crime lab, the solicitor's office, and others all deserve credit for the recent conviction.

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