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Mix-Up "Big Danger" In Sect's DNA Tests

The court-ordered DNA tests on the 416 children and teens removed from the polygamist compound in Eldorado, Texas could determine who their parents are with "99.999 percent" certainty, and might even provide evidence of incest within the sect, an expert says.

But the high number of people whose DNA will be tested at the same time means there's also a "very big danger" that samples could get mixed up, he adds.

On The Early Show Monday, Lawrence Kobilinsky, professor of forensic science at John Jay College in New York, told Russ Mitchell he suspects the testing will take "a couple of months.

"This is complicated testing. It's not simply paternity testing where you have the triad -- the mother, the child and the alleged father. We have 416 children. We've got mothers and fathers. We are hoping that we will have the DNA profiles on everybody in the community. If there are uncooperative people and we don't have those profiles, it'll make things even more complicated."

If some sect members don't cooperate, Kobilinsky continued, it could be "hard to find paternity in each case. Some critical genetic profile could be missing, and then you would not have another male that matches up."

The number of sample involved is another concern, he said, making it "a very big danger" that samples could get mixed up. "Chain of custody is critical in paternity cases," Kobilinksky stressed, "and here, where you're dealing with so many people, it becomes absolutely essential."

"It is probably the most complicated paternity case I have ever seen," Kobilinksy noted.

But the results will be "conclusive to the point where the probability of paternity or maternity will be measured in the range of 99.999. So, I think people will certainly be able to link the children with both mother and father."

Asked if the testing will be able to determine if there was incest going on, he replied, "I believe there will be. When you have situations like that, people are more closely related, DNA technology is able to establish kinship, so we can do a paternity, we can do kinship. It's the same kind of testing that we use for criminal matters."

Kobilinksy explained to CBS News that, with DNA testing, "You do a cheek swab, a photograph, a fingerprint, and try to get whatever information they can. They take one swab of the cheek and let them air dry and package them. Then they are brought back to the lab. The lab has to make sure the chain of custody is preserved and make sure the specimen is kept sealed. This applies to any paternity case; if they mix up samples, you could get a father excluded when he really is the father. Everything has to be documented. You have to bar code the swabs and fingerprints so everything is in order, and nothing can be challenged down the road. People in this business recognize that if they don't protect the chain, don't do collection properly, results could be challenged and compromised. It's also imperative that you know who you're taking a cheek swab from.