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Texas man charged with murder based on DNA from torn fingernail missed by police

Embarrassed Texas cops said Wednesday they overlooked crucial evidence and were able to charge an Austin man with murder only after he fingered himself in the case — literally.

The man, Drexell Washington, 21, of Austin, was identified through DNA derived from a small speck of torn fingernail found in the victim's car six days after investigators overlooked it, NBC station KXAN of Austin reported Wednesday.


He's accused of shooting and killing Reynaldo Ortega, 19, of Austin during an attempted robbery in the parking lot of an apartment complex April 9. A second man who was with Ortega was wounded.

Detectives examined the car for evidence and released it to Ortega's brother the next day. Five days later — six days after the killing — Ortega's brother found the fingernail fragment as he was cleaning the car, apparently missed by investigators, police said Wednesday.


DNA analysis connected the fingernail to Washington, police said, according to KXAN.

Corrections records show that cops didn't have to look far to find Washington — he was already in the Travis County jail after having been arrested April 19 on unrelated drug charges. He was charged with murder and remained in jail Wednesday in lieu of $500,000 bond, the records show.

Austin police Sgt. Brian Miller said detectives had learned from the incident and wouldn't let it happen again.

"It is a little bit worrisome that we missed it," he said at a news conference.

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