Two murder cases are only the most recent Southland crimes solved by the Glendale Police Department's nearly all-female forensics team.
Amid a string of deadly robberies, a clue was left behind at America Market in Glendale.
“One of the suspects had dropped a hat when he left, when he was fleeing the scene of the robbery,” said police Lt. Bob Zahreddine.
No one was killed in that incident, but the hat would prove to be a key piece of evidence for the forensics team, which works out of the Verdugo Regional Crime Lab.
In the 1980s the crime lab was predominantly staffed by men. As for why it is now mostly comprised of women, there's no definitive answer.
“I think it's a combination of CSI and people understanding what a crime lab is, as well as a lot of women going into biological sciences in college,” said Lisa Brewer, the facility's director.
A DNA sample was carefully taken off the hat and processed. It would inevitably help solve two fatal robberies that followed.
“Both of those were in the city of L.A. We were able to connect those to a robbery that occurred here in the city of Glendale,” said Zahreddine.
One of the murders happened a Chevron gas station in Los Feliz. The robbers shot and killed a clerk — a grad student working his way through school.
The other robbery happened at a Mar Vista marijuana dispensary where the owner was shot and killed.
“They were shot for no reason,” the lieutenant said. “I mean, both clerks complied with the robber, and the robber – just without thought — just shot both of these individuals to death.”
Detectives knew more lives were at risk and that they needed to work quickly. A description of the suspect and video led the Glendale and Los Angeles police departments to connect the white hat to the two L.A. murders.
“The suspect whose DNA sample was identified had been arrested here in Glendale a couple of years ago for a felony and then subsequently he had to submit a DNA sample to the database,” Zahreddine said. “That's how we were able to get the match.”
Zahreddine credits the forensics team with solving the case and saving lives.
“It is so gratifying to know we were able to get evidence processed quick and get those two monsters off the street before they hurt someone else,” he said.