BARBERTON, Ohio - DNA evidence found inside of a dog's mouth apparently helped police in Ohio solve a home invasion that happened last October.
However, the suspect, 24-year-old David Stoddard, was not charged or arrested in the Barberton incident before he allegedly shot and killed a pregnant, 16-year-old Akron girl three months later.
According to Lt. Brian Jamison of the Barberton Police Department, Stoddard was indicted Thursday for aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary in connection with an incident that happened on Oct. 6 at a Jefferson Avenue home.
In that case, police said three masked men burst into the house, fired shots and robbed a woman and her son.
Police said the family dog, a pitbull mix, bit one of the suspects on his left arm. The dog was shot and killed by one of the intruders, officers said.
Officer Chris Mitchell helped process the scene and applied cotton swabs to four corners of the dog's mouth, hoping to find DNA skin cell evidence from the suspect who was bitten.
"Before I did it, I actually got on my laptop in my cruiser and looked it up because I never heard of it being done before and I didn't know if there was any precedent for it," Mitchell said.
On Dec. 5, Barberton police received a letter from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification in Richfield that indicated a potential DNA match to Stoddard.
The officers were stunned that DNA from the dog's mouth potentially cracked a case that otherwise could have gone unsolved.
"We were surprised that it worked, really. We had no other evidence in the case basically. It was at a dead end," Jamison said.
Investigators said they tried to track down Stoddard several times at his home on 14th Street in Barberton, but were unable to locate him.
Officers also contacted Stoddard's attorney, John Sinn.
"His attorney wanted to make an appointment to turn him in and we would charge him at that time," Jamison said.
But that never happened and police did not issue a warrant for Stoddard's arrest.
On Jan. 6, Stoddard allegedly broke into an Akron home on East Archwood Avenue, and shot and killed 16-year-old Anna Karam, who was 4-months pregnant. Jessica Halman, 19, of Norton, was also shot. She has since been released from an Akron hospital.
Jamison said part of the reason a warrant wasn't issued after receiving the DNA results was the hope that Stoddard would get picked up, cooperate and name the other two home invasion suspects.
"Of course, we're wishing that we could have gotten Mr. Stoddard before that incident (the murder) happened. No one had any idea what Mr. Stoddard's thought process was at that time," Jamison said.
Jamison also said that BCI wanted another sample from Stoddard to confirm their DNA test results.
"They wanted us to get David Stoddard, take a swab from him, and then resubmit that back to the lab so that they could confirm their results," Jamison said.
Sinn said Stoddard was supposed to meet with Barberton police on Jan. 7, but that never happened because Stoddard was arrested a day earlier for the Akron murder.
Sinn said he had active conversations with Barberton police prior to the murder, and isn't critical of the way the department handled the investigation.
"I think they were really going about it smart in the sense that they didn't want to arrest him before they had a chance to get a statement from him," Sinn said.
Stoddard is being held in the Summit County Jail. He's facing multiple charges, including aggravated murder in connection with the Akron incident.
Sinn said Stoddard has pleaded not guilty and hinted at a possible defense.
"My client indicates that he doesn't have a recollection of those events," Sinn said.