M-Vac Helps Investigators Collect Touch DNA From Rock, Solve Krystal Beslanowitch Murder

| Courtesy Wasatch County Sheriff's Office Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch

| Courtesy Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office
Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch

As many would expect, M-Vac Systems has been closely following the Krystal Beslanowitch murder trial as it was one of the first major cases the M-Vac was used on and was certainly the case that received the most significant press coverage when the story broke in 2013.  With the critical nature of the DNA evidence in this case, especially when the major profile from the murder weapon (rock) was collected by the M-Vac System, we had to be there to witness the testimony and learn how the DNA evidence would be explained, attacked and defended. Emily Jeskie, a DNA analyst who works in Salt Lake City, was the prosecutions witness on 22 September, 2016, and she testified about DNA, DNA extraction, and how the suspect, Joseph Simpson’s DNA was found on the two granite river rocks that were used to bludgeon Krystal to death in 1995. Here’s a rundown of most of the major events or points brought out during the testimony.  These were taken directly from Twitter posts throughout the day:

Emily Jeskie on the stand. Describing her credentials, lab accreditation, protocols etc. Worked in DNA testing for 12 yrs #simpsontrial

Emily Jeskie takes proficiency test every 6 months and highly qualified in DNA testing. Has testified in court over 40 times

Emily Jeskie describing DNA profile process and how DNA can survive over long periods of time, especially on evidence

DNA analyst discussing electropherogram from rock. Mixture of at least two contributors but there is a major profile

4 rocks, a cigarette butt and a reference sample form Joseph Simpson were submitted to private lab to be analyzed for DNA

Comparable DNA profiles obtained from 3 rocks, a cigarette butt and reference samples. 2 rocks, cig butt and Simpson matched

2 rocks also matched DNA profile from Krystal Beslanowitch   joseph-simpson

M-Vac forensic DNA collection system was used to collect DNA from rocks, careful to avoid blood stains

Jeskie describing statistical analysis of DNA profiles to jury. Some alleles are stronger in certain populations

Jeskie discussing DNA secondary transfer. 21 nanograms Simpson DNA on rock. Usually secondary or transfer DNA much smaller

Defense now cross examining Jeskie. Questioning lab validation practices and Jeskie’s credentials

Defense questioning why lab did not test ALL of item 6 (2 river rocks). Reason is the area untested was victim blood

Defense discussing DNA transfers, including primary transfer from hand (touch DNA) to rock, cheek to buccal swab etc

Defense asking lots of questions about potential DNA transfers, DNA quantities on rocks and vag swabs, where Simpson DNA found

Defense strategy appears to be that Simpson DNA (sperm) was transferred from victim to rock via secondary transfer

21 nanograms DNA material collected from rocks. The major contributor of that is Joseph Simpsons

At quantification, lab determined there was 21ng of total DNA and 8ng of male DNA. That ratio justified STR vs Y-STR test

Ms Jeskie done. Did well supporting DNA work considering tough questions and potential to get tripped up on cross examination

#Simpson #Trial #Beslanowitch #DNA #Joseph #Wasatch #County #Heber #Provo #River #homicide #murder #swab #MVac #coldcase #trial #Krystal

How a Vacuum Solved a Utah Cold Case

I’ve done a lot of research on the topic of DNA as a mystery and thriller writer, and because of my background as an attorney.


Just when you think you know everything a writer needs to know about DNA, you find another fascinating morsel.

Let me preface by saying that DNA can be unreliable. In my books, DNA is used for confirmation of the villain’s guilt, which is the way it happens in true crime cases. The real-life case of Krystal Beslanowitch, the conclusion detectives came to based on DNA seems more conclusive than usual, because of a special vacuum:

In 1995, 17-year-old Krystal Beslanowitch was found lying face-down in a bed of rocks beside a river in Utah, bloodied and bludgeoned to death. Murdered.

| Courtesy Wasatch County Sheriff's Office Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch

| Courtesy Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office
Krystal Lynn Beslanowitch

What happened? Who did it? Krystal had lived a rough life. Her father died when she was four, and she ran with a rough crowd. After her death, investigators in Wasatch County, Utah interviewed 30 people and administered polygraph tests. They compared details of her case to the recent murder of a prostitute in Salt Lake City, but nothing quite matched up. The case went cold.

Until 2013. A vacuum DNA collection system called the M-Vac was invented in 2002 to suck bacteria off of foodAfter someone in the FBI got wind of the new machine, the M-Vac started being applied to crime investigations. The results were astounding:

…It could glean 40 percent more DNA from a saliva stain on polyester than a cotton swab, and 88 percent more from a blood stain on nylon fabric.
The Salt Lake Tribune

M-VAC® System

Detectives still had a rock collected from the scene of Krystal’s murder. Using the M-Vac on it, they were able to get a full DNA profile from touch DNA on the rock. The M-Vac uses a wet-vacuum approachcombining a sterile solution spray and a very effective vacuum. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, it’s described as being so effective at gathering evidence that if, for example, scientists used it on a blanket, they could collect everything that blanket had touched in its whole life.

Authorities had long suspected a resort bus driver in the Salt Lake City area named Joseph Michael Simpson in the case of Krystal’s murder. But they could never get enough DNA from the rock to match Simpson to the case conclusively. After the M-Vac gave authorities a full picture of the touch DNA from the rock from the murder scene, they tracked Simpson down to Florida, waited until he flicked a cigarette butt, collected DNA from it, and found it to be a match.

The same detective who worked on the case in 1995 was able to personally put the handcuffs on Simpson.


Simpson was charged with aggravated murder.

Do true crime stories solved by DNA like this fascinate you? DNA doesn’t provide all the answers, but sometimes it’s that last piece of evidence that authorities need in order to close a case and provide justice.

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