DNA testing in Alexis Patterson case expected to take days, maybe weeks: "Science is a process; it takes time"

MILWAUKEE -- Could a seven-year-old girl who went missing in Milwaukee 14 years ago, now be a grown woman living in Ohio? That's the question Milwaukee police hope DNA testing will answer.

Alexis Patterson disappeared on May 3rd, 2002 in the area near Hi-Mount Community School.

Police say an Ohio woman resembling a computer-generated photo of what Patterson may look like as a young adult has volunteered a DNA sample -- but determining whether her DNA and Patterson's are one and the same isn't as simple or speedy as TV and movies have led us to believe.

Alexis Patterson

Hollywood may have distorted our perception of DNA testing.

DNA testing

"It's glamorized because you have results by the end of the show," Chris Johnson, forensic scientist/DNA analyst said.

Johnson and others at the Milwaukee Crime Laboratory refer to this as the "CSI effect."

"Science is a process. It takes time. Generally our turnaround time is in the 45 to 90 day window," Johnson said.

Alexis Patterson

The police chief in Bryan, Ohio spoke with FOX6 News on Monday morning, July 11th and indicated his department was asked by Milwaukee police for some help in the Patterson case.

Chief Michael Willis said he sent a police captain to the Ohio woman's home last week. She apparently turned over a birth certificate and other documents. The captain also got a saliva DNA test from the woman. Chief Willis tells FOX6 News that DNA sample along with the documents were then mailed to Milwaukee police.

DNA testing

The captain from the Bryan Police Department told FOX6 News the woman cooperated fully in this investigation. He said she did not have to provide a DNA sample -- there was no court order -- but she did so voluntarily.  The woman also provided officials with divorce records from Fulton County, Ohio -- the county adjacent to where she lives now.

"She cooperated. The DNA was total cooperation on her end. She did not have to give that to us if she didn't want to. I didn't have a warrant or ability to force her in any manner to give that up. She cooperated thoroughly and gave all the documents and gave the DNA freely. The subject gave a birth certificate and a passport and some documents on her whereabouts since she's been here -- and was that under a different name than Alexis Patterson," Bryan Police Captain Christopher Chapa said.

Chapa said the woman's birth certificate is from Belize.

Chapa told FOX6 News this woman in Bryan, Ohio does not believe she is Alexis Patterson.

Alexis Patterson

"She does not believe it's her. She says she's been with the people she's with her entire life. It's not her and she doesn't know why this is happening," Chapa said.

Chapa said there was a disturbance at the Ohio woman's home over the weekend. Some who had read about the case on Facebook gathered outside her home and were yelling back and forth. Chapa said this woman, who may or may not be Alexis Patterson, simply wants to get on with her life.

Alexis Patterson

Johnson described some of the challenges, and why DNA testing takes a bit of time.

"We`re taking about swabs of touch DNA evidence or cold case samples where DNA is easily degraded so its challenging at times to generate enough DNA to get a profile. We need a second set of eyes looking at all that information and making all those comparisons before the results go out the door," Johnson said.

But there is one thing that may speed up the testing in this case.

DNA testing

"Once it's in the news or it's high-profile, then obviously we give it a higher profile -- so we assign it sooner to analysts and get it done as soon as possible," Carlton Cowie, lab manager said.

Still -- we are talking days -- potentially even weeks as opposed to hours.

Alexis Patterson

We do not know where the DNA sample from Ohio will be tested.

Chapa, the police captain in Bryan, Ohio, told FOX6 News the sample was sent to Milwaukee police last Wednesday, July 6th.