New York Times: And you thought all you had to worry about when you checked into a hotel was bedbugs.
On Page 18 in the Manhattan district attorney’s filing recommending dismissal of the sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a detail that was disquieting if not disturbing: In his $3,000-a-night hotel suite, detectives found semen stains on the carpet and the wallpaper from other men.
“That is not a surprise to me,” said Lawrence Kobilinsky, the chairman of the department of sciences at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has done forensic work in places like hotel rooms. “People think when they go to a hotel, they’ve got a nice, clean pristine place to stay. I did a study in hotel rooms with UV lamps and I found stains all over the place, not just on floors and furniture but on bedding, the linen, the bedspreads. I found it all over the place.”
In sum, he said: “You know you’re not getting a sterile environment when you check into a hotel.”
It is enough to make some say they would never stay in a hotel room again.
Some of Dr. Kobilinsky’s discoveries might be enough to make them stay out of a lot of places, too. Movie theaters, for example. “I went into movie theaters in various places within New York City,” he said, “and I found dried semen samples on the seats. And I had to do it surreptitiously with a hidden camera to document what I had seen.”
But back to what detectives found in Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite at the Sofitel New York, on West 44th Street, where a 33-year-old housekeeper said she had been sexually assaulted.
“It’s a forensic fact that when you go in and look at a crime scene in a hotel,” Dr. Kobilinsky said, “you’ve got to be careful interpreting what you see.” There could be “historical DNA,” he said, that is, DNA from the room’s previous occupants.
That, apparently, was the case when detectives began going through Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s suite.
Three stains on the carpet “contained the semen and DNA of three different unknown males,” according to the filing recommending dismissal of the charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn, “and one other stain contained amylase and a mixture of DNA from three additional individuals.” Amylase, the filing explained in a footnote, is “an enzyme found in semen, saliva and in other bodily fluids, including vaginal fluid.”
There was also a stain on a section of wallpaper, the filing said. It “contained the semen and DNA of a fourth unknown male.”
Dr. Kobilinsky he was not surprised that the police found DNA in the suite that did not match Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s. “Who knows how old those stains are?” he said. “DNA is a pretty sturdy molecule. It doesn’t deteriorate that readily, and not from aging. It is true that certain bacteria or fungi can break down DNA and certain types of soil can break down DNA, but normally it’s in a place where it’s not being assaulted, so to speak, by environmental factors, it survives. So it could be a day, a week or a month old, or possibly older.”
Vacuuming a rug, as hotel housekeepers routinely do, would not normally destroy the DNA, he said.
But what about subsequent guests?
“The chances are minimal that you’re going to become infected with some agent present in semen, not that it’s impossible,” he said. “But viral substances will survive several days unless something intercedes. H.I.V., for example, will survive under those conditions for at least four or five days. But the chances of somebody coming down with an infectious disease are almost zero.”