Thursday, August 31, 2000

Saliva sample linked suspect to murder of seamstress

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A saliva sample initially not tested by a DNA lab ultimately led police to their suspect in the murder of a Cincinnati Opera seamstress.

        A swab taken from Doris Bertsch's body was found to have an enzyme matching the saliva of convicted murderer Fred Furnish. The private Nashville lab used by Covington police in the in vestigation of the killing did not initially test the saliva.

Fred Furnish
Fred Furnish
Doris Bertsch
Doris Bertsch
        Mrs. Bertsch, 70, was strangled in her Kenton Hills home Nov. 25, 1997.

        Investigators working on the case thought all the many pieces of evidence sent to the lab were tested, said Covington Police Lt. Col. Bill Dorsey. Instead, Detective Jim Coots learned recently that technicians at Micro Technologies make decisions on what samples they think would be best to test.

        “We need to better communicate with these scientists,” Col. Dorsey said. “We didn't know their protocols.”

        Detective Coots re-examined the DNA testing after sitting through a DNA expert's testimony in an unrelated trial. The scientist said the lab tests the samples it thinks might be best. He asked Micro Technologies to test the rest, and the match was discovered.

        Mr. Furnish was indicted last week in Mrs. Bertsch's death. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

        Both Col. Dorsey and Commonwealth Attorney Don Buring say the new DNA results would not have prevented the June 1998 murder of Ramona Jean Williamson in Crestview Hills, for which Mr. Furnish has been convicted. Col. Dorsey said Mr. Furnish did not become a suspect in Mrs. Bertsch's death until after Mrs. Williamson's killing.

        Mr. Furnish, 32, waits out his appeals in prison in Eddyville, Ky., where he was sent after his conviction last summer for the 1998 killing. A housekeeper found the body of Mrs. Williamson, 66, in her home.

        Mr. Furnish became a suspect after a carpet-cleaning receipt with his name was found on her table. He was arrested three days later.


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