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Truro abuzz over 'swab' DNA testing

Cape Cod Times | January 7 2005

TRURO - This tiny town, suddenly the "Village of the Swabbed," hunkered down in the sleet yesterday and tried to shrug off the spotlight.

The bad weather forced the cancellation of more mass DNA testing, a new initiative by investigators to help solve the three-year-old Christa Worthington murder case. And it gave members of the community time to reflect on the vagaries of their new world, where polite policemen ask strangers to open up and contribute a bit of spit on a glorified Q-tip.

"It just shows me that they have no idea," said Theresa Rogers, who works at MFM Interiors in central Truro. "I just don't like the idea that they're going out and asking people for DNA."

Yesterday's precipitation slowed down the saliva harvest. Massachusetts state police Trooper Christopher Mason, the current case officer on the Worthington investigation, said that police wouldn't be asking for spit in bad weather.

"We want people to be as comfortable as possible when they approach us," Mason said. "We don't want them standing out in the rain or snow."

It is likely police will be asking for DNA samples in Truro over the weekend, Mason said, adding that the DNA testing program would likely continue for at least a week, perhaps longer.

"The people of Truro aren't going anywhere. We don't have to get it done in one day."

Mystery man sought
Police are seeking the identity of a man who had sex with Worthington in the time contemporaneous with her slaying, and are hoping the large-scale, voluntary DNA screening will provide a sample that matches DNA left on Worthington's body by that mystery man.
On Wednesday, police solicited DNA samples from 75 men at several public gathering spots in Truro. Men who submitted a swabbed saliva sample also had to provide their name, date of birth and race.

Fred Simonin, owner of Highland Grill and Pizza on Route 6 in Truro, allowed police officers to spend three hours in his business Wednesday morning, asking customers to provide DNA samples.

"Most people just said, 'sure,'" said Simonin, who estimated that approximately 20 men gave DNA samples to the police.

"There was no pressure to do it. Two people refused; one of them said it was too much like Big Brother."

Simonin said he gave a sample to police. "Why not?" he said. "I'm not going to kill anyone."

Highland Grill customers were still talking about the swab-a-thon yesterday. One Truro resident, who declined to provide his name, thought giving spit was kind of an adventure.

"It's an experience"
"I figured, this might be my only chance," he said. "I've never been swabbed. I don't know what it's like. It's an experience. What the hell do I care?"
"A free slice of pizza with every swab!" yelled a wag in the back. "I don't think so," replied Simonin.

"I can't see how it's hurting anybody, unless they screw up the test," Simonin said. "I think they're just trying to get everybody thinking about the case, and they're hoping someone shoots their mouth off."

Shelly Goff, who works at the Highland Grill, thought men should be able to refuse the DNA test without repercussions. "They shouldn't look at you closer if you don't want to give a DNA sample," she said. "They should already know enough about the case."

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe has said that investigators "will be compelled to look at why people won't" submit a DNA sample.

For some members of the community, the DNA dragnet seemed a bit scattershot.

"How are they going to swab all the people who just come down on weekends?" asked Rogers. "There's a whole scene of, say, divorced guys who come down here on weekends to a family home.

"And I don't think they should exclude Wellfleet and Provincetown. People who live on the Outer Cape move through all the towns, especially in the winter when there's not much open."