CLAY COUNTY – The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has acquired an M-Vac system to improve obtaining DNA samples at crime scenes.
The machine works similar to a carpet cleaner, CCSO Sgt. Eric Twisdale said, and is more accurate than DNA swabbing. It extracts material from dampened surfaces, whether it’s clothes, wood, concrete or tree limbs, with a tube that connects to a small nozzle.
“If you name it and you can squirt water on it, you can vacuum it (with M-Vac),” Twisdale said.
The base machine and equipment cost about $43,000 through a Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence grant. CCSO is the first in Northeast Florida to use the technology. Twisdale called the M-Vac a valuable piece of equipment.
Clay County had 835 reported domestic violence offenses, including 36 rapes, 86 aggravated assaults and 690 instances of simple assault, according to state Department of Law Enforcement’s 2018 annual report. Domestic violence-related crimes account for a sizeable amount of CCSO’s calls each year.
Twisdale said the equipment would help deputies convict more perpetrators.
“We’ve been combating domestic violence and trying to get a reduction in domestic violence for years and bring attention to it,” Twisdale said. “Quite frankly, I’d relish the day we don’t have to use this machine for domestic violence, but unfortunately, I think that will never happen. In those cases, at least we’ll have this equipment to help combat it ... this will basically help solidify their conviction.”
The M-Vac machine is important for cold cases, Twisdale said. The M-Vac Systems’ website lists numerous cold cases where the M-Vac made a breakthrough.
“They’re solving cases that are 17, 20, 25 years old,” Twisdale said. “One of them was a 17-year-old case where a rock out of a riverbed that was in evidence was tested numerous different ways with negative results. They used the M-Vac and got a DNA sample.”
CCSO’s six crime scene technicians received training from M-Vac Systems CEO Jared Bradley. Crime scene tech Tiffany Thibideau said the M-Vac had multiple uses.
“These has been one of the biggest things we’ve been able to receive,” Thibideau said. “Not only will this help against domestic violence, but also homicide and cold cases. It’ll be around for a really long time to help with those.”
CCSO’s domestic violence web page provides links to the Quigley House. The Quigley House’s domestic violence hotline numbers are 904-284-0061 and 800-339-5017.