The DNA was later used to tie her to son to a crime, resulting in him being charged for the 17-year-old case that went cold.
It was in 2018 when Eleanor Holmes and her husband were approached by two plainclothes detectives from Orlando who had informed them that they needed their assistance with identifying someone who had been found dead many years ago. The detective told the couple that “they were loo
king for the person’s relatives and had been using DNA and genealogical records to stitch together a family tree they had hoped would lead them to a name,” says NBC News. The officers informed the couple that they had already gathered samples from some of their other relatives and now needed theirs.
With the information leaving Holmes feeling worried that someone in her family had passed about without anyone knowing, she complied with the officers’ request and gave a DNA sample right then and there. The officers thanked Holmes and left. A few days later, Holmes received a call from the girlfriend of her son Benjamin Holmes Jr. She had told Holmes that police arrested him for the fatal shooting of Christine Franke, which occurred back in 2001. NBC News says the officers used the DNA samples they retrieved along with genealogical records to “tie him to the crime.”
It was at that moment the new source says that Holmes realized that the officers had lied to her to get a sample of her DNA and then used it to “build a case against her son.”
Can police officers lie in order to collect evidence that can be used to solve a case?
While this is definitely a question that an experienced criminal defense lawyer ought to answer, the news source did attempt to address it. The source says that the Department of Justice (DOJ) “requires “informed consent” from non-suspects before collecting DNA for a genetic genealogy investigation.” However, in the event a law enforcement agency “decides that getting such consent would “compromise the integrity of the investigation,” then investigators may obtain the sample covertly, but must first get approval from a judge.”
The source went on to explain that the policy applied to cases involving federal authorities, which means the Franke case would be excluded as it was handled by a local police agency.
How did detectives use Holmes’ DNA to connect her son to the crime scene?
After officials made several attempts at identifying who might have killed 25-year-old Christine Franke, they only hit dead ends. It wasn’t until years later after officials began entering crime-scene DNA into genetic testing company websites that they were able to identify who the Golden State Killer was. Officers assigned to the Franke case attempted to use this same method to identify Franke’s killer.
The source says that after the detective had collected Holmes’ DNA, they sent it to a crime lab in Florida, “which determined that the suspect was one of her two sons, Reginal Holmes [or] Benjamin Holmes Jr., who both lived in Orlando.” After following both of the men, police were able to rule out Reginal Holmes as a suspect which only left Benjamin Holmes Jr., as the culprit. Now, although Holmes has been charged with shooting and robbing Franke, he denies the allegations. His criminal defense lawyer has also said that his client never knew or met Franke and “has no idea how his DNA ended up at that place.”
Holmes plead not guilty to the charges and a trial date has been set for some time in June. During the trial, you can bet that the question of whether or not officers were legally allowed to lie in order to obtain a DNA sample from Holmes’ mother will be brought to the attention of the court.