Utah’s first guilty plea with Rapid DNA technology took just weeks to close case

The first criminal prosecution to use rapid DNA technology in Utah is underway, much faster than a criminal prosecution normally would be. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — In just one week, law enforcement's newest secret weapon helped solve its first case in Utah.

Rapid DNA has only been in use for a couple weeks. The portable machine analyzes DNA in less than two hours and 27-year-old Albert Hernandez of Hyrum is literally the new face of criminals caught with the help of rapid DNA technology.

On Sept. 19, Hernandez broke into a Cache County home, stole some stuff and ran off. He left behind DNA Cache County Attorney James Swink says would normally take months to process.

“He broke through a window, there was blood at the scene of the cabin and, also, there was DNA that was taken off a Diet Mountain Dew can," Swink said.

Swink says Hernandez pleaded guilty pretty quickly.

"We were able to corner him really quickly and he knew it; once we had the DNA. he knew it," Swink said.

Swink worked with Nate Mutter in the state Attorney General’s Office. Mutter is one of seven people trained on the Rapid DNA machine.

“This is one step in the right direction,"Mutter said. "Obviously, it was a successful outcome, and that's what we want to see.”

The AG's office owns and operates two analyzers. DNA-filled test tubes are put into the mobile machine, and results are returned in about 90 minutes.

“It just doesn’t happen that fast in the criminal justice system,” Swink said.

Hernandez pleaded guilty to burglary, theft, possession of meth and obstruction of justice. So, with the state's first criminal behind bars thanks to the new tool, who's next?

“There are several in the works, but I have a feeling we're going to get hit with numerous in one day,” Mutter said.

This technology can be used by any agency across the state at no cost to them or the taxpayer. Cache County Sheriff Chad Jensen — whose department worked this case — says this can be used on property crimes to homicides and everything in between. He expects the AG's phone to start ringing off the hook from agencies across the state.

Hernandez is behind bars right now, waiting to be sentenced.

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