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Solving Cold Cases and High-Profile Arrests — Just a Day at Work for Detectives

By Murray Weiss | June 15, 2011 11:02am

By Murray Weiss

DNAinfo Contributing Columnist

The two Special Victims detectives who arrested Dominique Strauss-Kahn were photographed taking the dignitary out of the  stationhouse to central booking. French citizens were shocked to see the powerbroker head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading candidate to become the next President of France in handcuffs.

Mon Dieu! French police do not employ such embarrassing techniques, they cried. Images of suspects in handcuffs could prejudice a jury. And theories got worse. Some critics, particularly in France, claimed the Strauss-Kahn "perp walk" was a humiliating public campaign to not only smear him, but to promote the careers of the detectives who arrested him.

To anyone who knows SVU detectives Alan Sandomir and Steven Lane, though, nothing could be further from the truth.

Sandomir is an ex-U.S. Army Intelligence officer who lived in the shadows during the Cold War in Europe. He wears suspenders and belts, at the same time, is extremely conservative, enjoys a good book, and does not drink or hang out.

"There aren't many criminals who ever met someone like him," a former colleague said, referring to his straight-laced, abstemious ways. "In fact, there aren’t many cops who have ever met someone like him."

Steven Lane hates wearing ties and his lone connection to fashion is short beard. Easy-going and an outdoorsman type who enjoys working on cars, Lane cut his teeth in the NYPD's narcotics division. He later found his passion working dangerous assignments in the warrant squad tracking down wanted felons. He is said to be so self-effacing and "ego-less" that he does not care about taking credit for a case.

For them, Strauss-Kahn was just another suspect accused of attacking an innocent victim that had to be taken off the street.

But don't believe me.

Take a look at last week’s arrest a Lerio Guerrero, 32, in the vicious rape of 28-year-old college professor on Orchard Street nearly 13 years ago.

Sandomir and Lane were the arresting officers in that cold case, too – and they made that collar without a whiff of attention.

The duo had been tracking the college professor case for years along with scores of other unsolved rapes cases in Manhattan. 

They are the two Manhattan SVU detectives who specialize in reviewing cold cases and especially assaults where a suspect's DNA was recovered.

Their work with DNA started not long after 9/11 when the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner received federal funds to purchase sophisticated equipment capable of handling sophisticated DNA analysis.  The medical examiner had been asking for the money for years, but it took the collapse of the towers to free up the funds.  The Medical Examiner's Office needed help expediting the identification of WTC victims.

Tragically, there were not many remains recovered at Ground Zero. The M.E. gave access to other units. Sandomir and Lane jumped at the prospect of running DNA. Sandomir had a college science background that attracted him to the field. Lane perceived DNA analysis as another weapon to catch predators.

Manhattan District attorney Cy Vance Jr. has said the suspect in the 1998 college professor rape cut his hand on the shard of glass that he held against the professor’s throat. Two Brooklyn detectives recently picked up Guerrero for trespassing near the scene of a new sex assault. They noticed he had tossed away a cigarette and retrieved it. His DNA matched the professor’s rapist.

Guerrero had previous brushes with the law, but his DNA was never taken before because of the types of crimes he had committed.  Vance and others noted this case underscores the need for New York State to expand the taking of DNA from criminals.  The media picked up that story, which I have written about numerous times. But no one noticed the arresting officers: Sandomir and Lane. 

They processed Guerrero just as they had done with Strauss-Kahn. Guerrero pleaded not guilty, was held without bail and sent to Rikers Island.  And Sandomir and Lane went back to work looking for next arrest.

Murray Weiss writes a regular column for DNAinfo. He is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, columnist and editor, and is considered an expert on government, law enforcement, criminal justice, organized crime and terrorism.