How Times Have Changed

April 25 is National DNA Day.

In 1960 when I was in Miss Nelson’s biology class at Bisbee High School, I don’t believe the topic of DNA was ever mentioned. Yes, we dissected frogs and inch worms, but nobody brought up DNA. Some forward-thinking scientists may have known about it back then, but everybody else was in the dark.

When I started writing the Beaumont books in the early eighties, things hadn’t really changed all that much. Blood evidence found at crime scenes could be typed which served to rule out some individuals but didn’t rule anyone in. Hair evidence found at crime scenes could be examined under microscopes to determine if it was “similar” but it couldn’t be definitively matched.

As for fingerprint evidence? Comparisons could be made only to those on file in that particular jurisdiction’s collection of prints. There was no way to make connections between fingerprints on file in one location to those in the next town or county over. This made it possible for serial killers to operate in relatively small geographical areas without anyone ever making connections between those separate crimes.

But things have changed since then, and computer science has made all the difference! AFIS, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System makes it possible to make connections between suspects and unsolved crimes from all over the country.

The National Integrated Ballistics Information Network provides investigators with the same kind of tools regarding firearms and bullets.

Then there’s CODIS—The Combined DNA Index System. When it first surfaced, that was a game-changer in terms of crime fighting and connecting up the dots for many more of those unsolved serial killer cases.

Initially, large amounts of evidence from crime scenes ended up being consumed in order to achieve a DNA profile, but that has changed. Now it’s possible to replicate DNA found in tiny amounts at crime scenes, making more available for profiling purposes.

In 2018, the world woke up to discover things had changed overnight even more when a genealogist identified the Golden State Killer who had eluded arrest for decades. She used DNA found at various crime scenes to create a family tree and eventually narrow the field of suspects down to a single individual.

These days killers who have literally gotten away with murder for twenty, thirty, or even fifty years are slowly being hunted down and brought to account. It’s about time! In the process, innocent people who may have spent decades living under a cloud of suspicion can finally be fully cleared.

I watch a lot of true crime—blood and guts TV—as Bill calls it. (He much prefers his HGTV to my BGTV.). Often when a killer is finally brought down, people talk about closure. I’m not sure there any such thing as “closure.” No matter what, the victim is still dead. The murdered loved one is still missing from their family’s holiday celebrations, but at least they finally have answers.

So today I’m celebrating DNA day because it can be used to fight crime and provide those much need answers. It can help investigators determine who was at a crime scene and who wasn’t.

Come to think of it, though, we should probably also be celebrating cell phones, because they can do the same thing—tell investigators exactly where suspects were or weren’t at the time a crime was commited.

That’s something else nobody was talking about back in the 1960s. The characters on Startrek could punch a device on their uniforms and talk to other members of the crew, but that was all SciFi, right?

Now all I have to do is punch a button on my Apple Watch.

Boy howdy, how the world has changed!

A Blog PS:

Shortly after I finished writing the celebration of DNA, I received a gleeful call from a good friend of mine, Mary Daise, and it was too good not to send along.

First a bit of history.

Bill’s first wife, Lynn, passed away in December of 1984. We married in December of 1985. My kids and I moved into what had once been his and Lynn’s home in Bellevue’s VueCrest neighborhood.

In February of 1986, there was a knock on the front door. When I opened it, there was a tiny woman with bright red hair. She explained that her name was Mary Daise and that she was collecting money for the Heart Fund. Since she expected Lynn Schilb to answer the door, she was more than slightly surprised to find a complete stranger standing in front of her.

I invited her in, told her who I was, and explained about Bill’s and my fast-moving romance. Much to my astonishment, she had already read Until Proven Guilty. From that moment on, we were friends. She owns and has read and reread every single one of my books and has taken them with her whenever she has moved from one place to another.

In the days before Google, if I needed to find a scene or an event in one of the previous books, I could always call Mary and ask her. If she didn’t know it off the top of the head, she would search until she found it and then let me know.

Yesterday was her birthday, and a good friend and neighbor in her current apartment complex, Gilda Dumlao, made the card you see pictured here. It’s a birthday card, yes, but it’s also a tribute to our now almost forty-year friendship.

Today, April 26th, is Mary’s actual birthday. So Happy 90th, Mary, and I don’t think you’ll mind seeing this card twice.

36 thoughts on “How Times Have Changed

  1. Great article but love the card for Mary!! I am about to start reading my Beaumont books —again for maybe the 4th or 5th time. I may have to make a special “card” for myself!!

  2. That card was so very nice!

    As a Math/Computer Science major, I am astonished as to how fast technology has grown. We now have the ability to make phone calls with devices that are essentially computers. My late father, who was a physicist, kept saying that computing would keep hitting glass ceilings as processors were developed because of speed and heat required to keep them cool. Not only have we hit them, we have smashed them.
    How computing has evolved.

  3. I’m with Glenda (above)–appreciating the great card, and also reading my Beaumont books yet again. I’m on Trial by Fury right now. I was hoping the library system would have it in audio book, but it doesn’t, so I’m glad I have my paperbacks to fall back on. And yes, happy birthday to Mary–what a lovely story about the beginning and continuation of a friendship!

  4. That is a great story. I worked in child support many years ago. DNA made the job much easier. Still had guys who denied paternity but, proving it was much easier.

  5. I loved it. It made me smile and laugh, to myself. You see I am sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office.

  6. Love the story about Mary and the historical review of evidence processing. I’ve enjoyed your books much like Mary but I’m a newbie, so to speak. Only started recently and now am consuming them. I actually look forward to my nightly reading session. For many many years I didn’t read, was not able to really concentrate enough; my brain was hectic. Now I love having you take my brain on your journeys (just finishing Beaumont’s “Fire and Ice”). I do like how you’ve gotten Beau into the modern age of computers and crime solving. I’m like Beau in a way. I love technology, what it can do, what I can do with it, etc.

  7. WOW!!!
    What a tribute to you and a celebration for Mary. You are so right about the changes in our lives, some wonderful and some not so wonderful. I am feeling like my grandmother when I reminisce.
    Thank you for taking us on your many journeys.

  8. What I don’t understand is folks thinking they can get away with crimes now with all of the modern tools the police have. I think they aren’t too smart.

    P. D. James has written that sometimes a person feels so clever about what he’s done he has to brag. If only one would remember to keep quiet.

  9. I love how you make a new acquaintance into a life long friend, and how you are so accessible to your fans. Speaks well for you.

    I have read all of Beaumont and am rushing through Brady. I thought Ali would be next, but lately, because of ‘Blessing’ maybe it will be Walker. Once I catch up, then will start rereading. Always reread the ‘last’ just before the ‘next’ book comes out.

    Happy Birthday to Mary.

  10. What a beautiful card to celebrate her book choices and your friendship. Thank you for this heartwarming story.

  11. That is, without a doubt, the BEST birthday card that I have ever seen! So very creative and so incredibly kind and thoughtful of the person who made it. Thank you both for sharing! Happy 90th Birthday to Mary!

  12. This proves to me what I’ve believed all along, that you are a very caring and empathetic human! As much as I’ve loved all of your books since I first discovered them at Powell’s back in the ’80s, I think I love this story even better. You go, girl! I wish that card was available to purchase for another friend who loves your writing as much as I do! XOX

  13. What a great card and work of art! Is there a chance for a prequel book to the JP Beaumont series?

  14. We take so much for granted today about identifying criminals and bringing them to justice. It’s hard to believe such technology is relatively new. Today’s generations are unaware of how things were done in the past. One thing that Ted and I have commented upon when watching “old” TV shows and movies is, “that would have been so much easier if they had a cell phone” instead of finding a phone booth!
    Thank you for your story about Mary and for sharing her awesome birthday card!
    Wishing Mary a most blessed 90th birthday and for your continued treasured friendship!

    • I’ve noticed in the old Perry Mason shows that they smoked a lot. You don’t see that now. Also I love seeing when Perry and Paul drove in the convertible their hair never got messed up.

      • Yes! And it’s funny nowadays to see a description of shows that provide warnings such as “nudity, violence, strong language and SMOKING!

        • I never thought about it before, but Dela didn’t smoke. I think she might have been afraid that papers on her desk would catch fire. Maybe she thought it wasn’t proper for a woman in her position. I don’t think many women smoked at their desks then.

          • I don’t mean to turn this into a discussion of Perry Mason, but do you remember the episode when for some reason a client hid out in Della’s apartment? She had a very nice place. Perry must have paid her well.

  15. That is an amazingly thoughtful birthday card. I too own, have read and re-read every book you have written. I was a fan the minute I read your first paperback book, Until Proven Guilty.
    So much has changed in law enforcement since that first book. DNA has definitely changes investigation. It has also allowed surprising phone calls or knocks on doors of unknown relatives. I am always amazed how your books have kept up with the changes like DNA and A1.
    Thank you for always providing me excellent reading material and entertainment. Have a great weekend.

    Dottie Dantzler

    • You can certainly tell we are all of a certain generation. Everyone knows Perry, Paul and Della. Love it!

  16. Thank you for sharing the special birthday card of Mary Daize and the story of your friendship. It has really brightened my day today.

  17. In the “Old Days” crime- solving relied so much on “clues,” witness testimony, and conjecture that not surprisingly many innocent people were convicted of crimes they did not commit-
    Thank God for DNA that has exonerated some of the wrongly incarcerated!
    That is one reason I oppose the Death Penalty-
    In psychology experiments, people who have witnessed an enactment of a “crime”
    have been asked afterwards to identify the faux criminals- Alas, their memories turned out to be extremely unreliable! They could not remember exactly what happened, or who did what- So much for witness testimony-
    It is truly touching to know about your friendship with Mary, and how you got to know each other- Wishing Mary a very happy and special 90th birthday!
    What a wonderful card- I imagine all of us fans would love to have one-

  18. i enjoy your Blog every week! I too, own every JP Beaumont book. And my library shelves are not very big! As I age, I find it much easier to listen to the audiobooks of this series! Thank you for this connection and your thoughts

  19. I always enjoy your Blogs and this one was touching telling about your friendship with Mary. However, the two pictures didn’t come through – it said that they had been hoodwinked – so I was not able to see the card. But it was the message that was most important. Keep up the good work – always enjoy each and every book you write and always look forward to the next one. God Bless You.

  20. Wow. Lots of interesting facts in this blog. Enjoyed it. Wishing your friend a very happy birthday and wishing her many more years ahead to enjoy her favorite author.

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