DNA Samples Taken from Students in Case of Murdered 8th Grader

FOX40 has learned last Thursday, Sacramento County detectives showed up at Albert Einstein Middle School to talk to three or four students and to take DNA cheek swabs from them.

It's the latest development in the frustratingly slow investigation into the murder of 13-year-old Jessica Funk Haslam. While surveillance video was taken from Rosemont Park the night of Jessica's murder, this is the first mention of a possible DNA link to the case.

See the surveillance video here.

"My child's in a room with two detectives being questioned and grilled and I’m sure he was quite frightened, which is very upsetting,” said Michaela Brown, the mother of one of the students that was questioned.

Brown says a friend of her son who's also been questioned more than once in this investigation has left the school because of the treatment of other students who found out.

FOX40 received a message Monday morning that questioned whether those students who had DNA taken should have had their parents with them.

Surprisingly, the answer is no.

"Regardless of whether the individual is an adult or a juvenile, they are capable of giving consent. We don't require the consent of a parent if we're doing it with someone of a younger age," said Deputy Jason Ramos of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

FOX40 legal analyst Ken Rosenfeld agrees.

"Ideally, you'd want the juvenile's parents or legal guardian there, but the police don't have to have them there to take a DNA swab," Rosenfeld said.

If detectives had wanted to draw blood from the middle schoolers, then a parent would have to be present and because of the 4th amendment. Detectives would also need a warrant.

"As long as it's a non-invasive procedure - a cotton swab, taking a soda can after somebody drinks from it, or a water bottle after someone drinks from it -- that's going to be fine, that's going to be allowed," said Rosenfeld.

Administrators at Albert Einstein met their legal obligations by calling the parents and telling them what was happening, though in at least one case a voicemail message was left for a parent.

"Anytime authorities come to our school and want to talk to our students, our first priority is to make sure we let parents know immediately," said Gabe Ross of the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Tara Funk-Haslam, Jessica's mother, spoke with FOX40 Monday afternoon about the developments in the investigation.

"I do believe 100 percent in what everybody's doing as far as with the Sheriff's Department,” said Funk-Haslam. “At this point I do have faith in that what they're doing will find who's responsible for this."


FOX40 received a letter that could offer clues into Jessica's death. Read more about that angle of the story here.

Read the coroner's report on how Jessica died.

Sacramento psychics walk through the park, say they know what happened to Jessica.

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