My understanding is that the bodies are significantly decomposed, which could (and likely means) that a lot of the DNA has degraded as well, making it much harder to match enough markers to positively identify the body. If the DNA hasn’t degraded too much, then it’ll only take days, for a combination of the paperwork and labtime restrictions, and the actual tests involved. If the DNA is degraded, then they might have to find mitochondrial DNA, which is a lot harder to isolate and test, which requires more time even before the actual DNA identification tests can occur.
There are also possibly issues of “waiting their turn”, however this case has so much coverage that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was rushed through, simply because it is so high profile.
The local NBC news here in Los Angeles this afternoon said that they were making this case a priority so it won’t have to “get in line” so to speak. I couldn’t find a printed article that said that in so many words, but here is one that addresses it and answers some of the other questions. Identification Focused Solely On Laci Peterson
I heard from a relative in California that it had leaked out that the body was missing its head, feet and hands. Not quite sure how reliable that is but it would definately slow down the identification process.
We were talking about this in class tonight, there are a couple of reasons. First, there is no rush. A dead body doesn’t have any appointments it needs to make, and the media can wait. Take their time, to be sure everything is done properly…don’t want to run the risk of OJ style botching the testing.
Second, if they don’t have any of Laci Peterson’s DNA to compare the body to, they’d have to get samples from her family, and build up a probable DNA profile of Peterson to check the body against. That will take some time, obviously.
However, the fact that the body is decomposed and was in the water won’t affect the DNA itself. Sure, it’ll affect how much there is (blood loss, along with the head and legs/feet) but the DNA doesn’t start mutating because it gets wet.
Provided they have a sample of Peterson’s DNA, the tests themselves would probably take no more than a day or two. Before they release the information to the press, they’d probably inform Peterson’s family, and if it is her body, they may arrest any suspects (Scott Peterson jumps to mind, even though he is not “officially” named as a suspect) before informing the media. All of that would take some time. Also, if the press is told that it will take 10 days, and then 6 days later, results are announced, the police will look like they are really efficient and dedicated, so by giving a generous estimate, they’d get good PR.