Mother hopes DNA arrestee law will lead to daughter's killer

A FOX23 Investigation into the change.

TULSA, Okla. — Quick Facts:

  • Maggie Zingman's daughter was murdered 12 years ago
  • Zingman spent 8 of the last 12 years trying to get DNA arrestee legislation passed in Oklahoma in hopes it leads to her daughter's killer
  • Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law requiring DNA collection at arrest for certain crimes and violent offenses
  • Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU questions the legality of DNA collection prior to conviction
  • Lawmakers and law enforcement officials believe it will help catch killers and rapists before they reoffend

Catching killers and rapists before they strike again.

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The mother who fought for years for the newly signed DNA arrestee law in Oklahoma hopes it will finally lead to her daughter's killer, but one group is already fighting back.

“When the vote came, it brought me to tears,” said Maggie Zingman,; her daughter Brittany Phillips was murdered 12 years ago.

“All the senators stood up and gave me a standing ovation, but I felt it was more for Brittany, you know?”

Zingman invited FOX23’s Shae Rozzi to her daughter’s gravesite in Tulsa to share the news with her daughter that their legislation finally passed.

“People tell me I’m brave or people tell me I could never do this, but I have no choice,” she said.

At just 18 years old, Brittany was found raped and murdered in her south Tulsa apartment in 2004.

Zingman has spent most of the last 12 years on her caravan to catch a killer. She drove across 46 states sharing her daughter's story and pushing to get states to pass laws requiring that DNA be collected at arrest for certain crimes instead of waiting for a conviction.

“I sort of fear that if we find her killer, we're going to find out that he was arrested numerous times, that he came through the system and that because we didn't take the DNA then, that he was out there doing it again,” Zingman said.

"We can get results in as soon as 24 hours. We can put samples into the database in 36 hours,” said Leslie Katzilierakis with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s DNA lab.

OSBI said if the DNA arrestee law passed two years ago, hundreds of crimes -- including 14 murders and 25 sex crimes -- could've been prevented.

The 2014 serial rapist who attacked 7seven women in Tulsa before dying fromin a car crash was identified by DNA.

As a felon, his DNA was in the Codis database and evidence collected from his crime scenes matched his profile.

Collecting DNA at the time of an arrest can save investigators time and money and could ultimately could save a life.

“We're talking about bad crimes, murder, assault, child sexual assault, child physical assault .. It casts a wider net where we capture those people maybe when they first offend instead of when they offend the fifth or sixth time,” said Oklahoma state Rep. Lee Denney.

Denney co-sponsored the bill Gov. Mary Fallin just signed into law, making Oklahoma the 29th state to pass a DNA arrestee law, according to dnasaves.com

Denney told FOX23 this will also help those who are falsely accused.

“If we collect this DNA, it also exonerates the innocent as well as implicates the guilty,” said Denney.

It's the collection before a conviction that has the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU concerned.

“Once you have the DNA of a person, you can tell an incredible amount of information that's frankly none of the government's business,” said Brady Henderson with the ACLU of Oklahoma.

They also question whether it violates Fourth Amendment rights.

“It's likely to be challenged because the taking of DNA is inherently a search. It's actually taking cells that are part of my body. I own them, they're mine,” Henderson said.

The United States Supreme Court sees swabbing a suspect's DNA similar to taking fingerprints or picture when someone is arrested.

Rozzi had to agree to a DNA swab to enter the Tulsa police crime lab for an elimination sample.

Analyst Kelly Borycki said she's seen arrestee laws work.

“We have actually had hits to other states that are collecting arrestee samples. So someone here or a crime that's been committed here will hit to someone who's been arrested in another state,” said Borycki, DNA analyst with the Tulsa Police Department.

As for Brittany Phillips' murder, Tulsa police said they've collected more than 150 DNA samples from potential suspects and are still working on locating others.

“I think what really pushed me is that no parent should ever go through this,” Zingman said.

Fallin is planning a ceremonial signing of the arrestee law soon.

Tulsa police would like to go a step further than the arrestee law. TPD Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker would like to see DNA taken at death from anyone whose body ends up at the medical examiner's office.

He said then they'd know if possible suspects died.