MANHATTAN — The evidence snafu that linked an Occupy Wall Street protest with Juilliard student Sarah Fox's murder has been a blessing in disguise for the eight-year-old cold case homicide, sources told DNAinfo.com New York.
The revelation that DNA from Fox's CD player belonged to an NYPD lab technician finally solved a mystery that has plagued investigators since the 21-year-old's body was found in a heavily wooded section of Inwood Hill Park back in 2004.
Now, a significant obstacle to filing charges against her killer has been eliminated, law enforcement sources told "On the Inside."
Prosecutors had always known that the attorneys for anyone ever charged with Fox's murder could always claim their client was innocent and refer to the previously unidentified DNA as belonging to the "real killer."
But that line of defense was significantly diminished when that DNA was matched to a sample found on a chain used to prop open a Beverly Road subway gate during a March Occupy Wall Street protest designed to let straphangers ride for free.
The two DNA swabs were matched Monday night in a state databank but turned out to belong to a technician in the NYPD who handled both cases and somehow contaminated the evidence with his or her own DNA.
It is unclear whether the technician will face any disciplinary action or be retrained as a result of the laboratory screw-up.
Fox, a Juilliard student who had just moved to New York, disappeared while jogging in Inwood Hill Park on May 19, 2004. Her naked body was found a week later in the park during a massive manhunt that involved hundreds of cops.
Her CD player was also recovered, but no fingerprints were found. A DNA sample later turned up, sources said, confounding detectives as they systematically elimiated suspects.
The lone exception remains Dimitry Sheinman.
Sheinman, who lived in Inwood and frequently walked his Rhodesian ridgeback dog off the leash, became the prime suspect in the murder after he revealed details about Fox and the crime scene that only the killer and cops could know.
Sheinman claimed he was clairvoyant and used those powers to glean his information. He eventually left the U.S. for South Africa, and returned in June, saying he was using his extra sensory powers to be in contact with Fox and to discover a new name for cops to pursue as a suspect.
Sources told "On the Inside" that the police were aware of the name, and had long ago ruled him out as a suspect.
NYPD insiders and prosecutors were also surprised that NYPD evidence collection personnel had gone to the unusual length of taking swabs from the Beverly Road chain. But sources noted that it's far more common these days to take DNA swabs, given the technological ease and relatively low cost compared to previous years.