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The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab is preparing to expand its criminal DNA testing to include a controversial technique known as familial searching, a tool that could breathe new life into aging cold cases by identifying close relatives of suspects. 

Louisiana intends to join a growing list of states that over the past decade have cautiously adopted the technique, which has been hailed by detectives as a potential game-changer in solving crimes but has been assailed by critics as ethically and legally questionable.  

The testing, at least initially, will be reserved for the most violent cases, including killings and sexual assaults, in which DNA was collected from a crime scene but failed to match any of the millions of genetic profiles in the national criminal database.

Joanie Brocato, the State Police lab's DNA manager, said officials hope to acquire software that will allow analysts to scan the database for promising "partial matches," or profiles that share several genetic markers with a suspect.

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