Nearly 17 years have passed since Misty Copsey disappeared during the Puyallup Fair, 16 years since her jeans, sock and underwear turned up in a ditch near Highway 410.
Puyallup police have known for two years that six hairs found in those jeans were suitable for DNA testing, and they’ve known for at least a month that they’d probably be asked to publicly account for why they hadn’t requested that test.
What are police waiting for?
On May 22, following The News Tribune’s publication of an exhaustive account of the investigation into Misty’s disappearance, police spokesman Dave McDonald said, “I expect that it’s likely we’re going to ask for a test, and very soon.”
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The state crime lab has yet to receive Puyallup’s request. Puyallup police said Wednesday they still intend to submit one, and soon.
We’d like to believe them. But this wouldn’t be the first time the police have said they were pulling out all the stops and in reality doing little.
Their misgivings about how the jeans were found – by a group of volunteers that included Misty’s mother, Diana Smith, and an amateur sleuth obsessed with Misty’s case and others – are not unreasonable.
Cops are paid to be suspicious. But if this investigation has been plagued by one thing, it’s misplaced suspicion. Police have been far too wary of people who badgered investigators for help and not nearly wary enough of people who quietly faded from view.
Puyallup’s foot-dragging on the DNA test is all the more perplexing because police have everything to gain by the results.
If the hairs belong to Misty or her mom (whose jeans Misty was wearing when she disappeared), police will have been right to discount the evidence’s value. They will have proved their detractors wrong.
If, on the other hand, those hairs belong to someone else... well then, Puyallup just might have a shot yet at catching a homicidal criminal. It’s happened to colder cases than Misty’s.
The sooner the police order that test, the sooner we’ll know.