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Little piece of torn fingernail enables police to file murder charges

By Mason White 5:32 AM May 9, 2013
Drexell Washington 

By: Eva Fett
(Scroll down for video) A man was nailed by police as being a murderer after police tested a little piece of his torn fingernail, according to a statement released by police in Texas.

Texas Police said Wednesday they overlooked crucial evidence and were able to charge an Austin man with murder only after they tested a small piece of torn fingernail found among the evidence.

The man, Drexell Washington, 21, of Austin, was identified through DNA derived from a small speck of broken fingernail found in the victim’s car.

He is accused of shooting and killing Reynaldo Ortega, 19, of Austin during a robbery attempt in the parking lot of an apartment complex. A second man who was with Ortega was wounded.

Detectives examined the car and released the car Ortega’s brother the next day. Five days later, six days after the murder, Ortega’s brother found the fragment of fingernail as he was cleaning the car, apparently, missed by investigators, police said Wednesday.

DNA analysis connected the fingernail to Washington, police said.
Corrections records show that the police did not have to look far to find Washington, as he was already in the Travis County Jail after being arrested on unrelated drug charges.

“It is just amazing what a little piece of torn fingernail can achieve these days. It is even more surprising that the murder victim’s brother was able to find the torn fingernail while cleaning the car. I don’t know anyone who can spot a little piece of torn fingernail, it is like finding a needle in a haystack,” Connie Watson, 23, of Tempe, Arizona told after learning what led police to arrest Washington.

Washington was charged with murder and remained in jail Wednesday in lieu of $500,000 bail, records show.
Austin police Sergeant Brian Miller said detectives had learned a lesson from the incident and it will not happen again.
“It’s a bit worrying that we missed the fingernail,” he said.Mobile video not loading? Click here to view