Now the 53-year-old Georgia man credits a DNA database with allowing him to sleep at night.
Ivey’s mother, Geneva Strickland, was found burned to death inside her Jonesboro home on Halloween in 2007. Seven weeks later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Timothy Alan Booth, of Hampton, on murder, kidnapping and arson charges after getting a hit in the DNA database.
Booth, a convicted felon, had his DNA collected while serving in the state’s prison system for other crimes. He is one of thousands of convicted felons across the nation who have DNA stored in a federal database.
On Thursday, the GBI announced it had solved more than 1,500 cases because of its DNA database.
“I doubt the case would have been solved without DNA,” Ivey said Thursday from his Blackshear home. Booth remains in the Clayton County jail. His trial is scheduled to start this fall. “They talked to everybody in the family and had no idea who did this to mom.”
The GBI began DNA testing in 1991. Georgia began adding DNA to the FBI’s national database in 1998.
At that time, the database only included people convicted or charged with sex offenses. In 2000, the legislature passed a law to take DNA from all incarcerated convicted felons, said Ted Staples, the GBI’s manager of forensic biology.
Ivey said he is thankful for that change. Booth’s DNA was added to the database after the new law was implemented.
Booth had served eight separate prison sentences in Georgia prior to Strickland’s death, including time for breaking into cars, forgery and DUI, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
In the first year after the DNA database was expanded, the GBI solved 70 cases.
On Thursday, the GBI reported 1,511 success stories, including rapes, murders and robberies. They include an 18-year-old rape case in Atlanta that investigators solved this week through a DNA hit.
Those successes also include Calvin Johnson who was wrongly convicted of raping a College Park woman 10 years ago, said Aimee Maxwell, director of the Georgia Innocence Project.
Staples, who oversees the state’s four crime labs, said DNA is perhaps the biggest leap in forensics since the science started.
“It helps solve cases where law enforcement don’t have a clue who did it,” he said. “A case sits there for 18 years and all of a sudden you pick up the phone and say this DNA is matching. You either get complete silence [from the investigator] or an immediate outburst of enthusiasm.”
Ivey was at his home 180 miles away from the scene of his mother’s murder when he got a call from the GBI.
“It took seven weeks and they called me and told me they picked the guy up,” Ivey said. “They put his DNA in the database and it kicked out that guy’s name. He had been in trouble before so they had his DNA.”
Investigators said Booth, a friend of Strickland’s family, broke into the 68-year-old woman’s home in Jonesboro. He allegedly bound her with an Ace bandage and then set the house on fire, investigators said. An autopsy showed the woman inhaled smoke and suffocated.
Ivey’s attorney, Darrell Reynolds, did not return a phone call Thursday.
Police said Booth, who worked as a handyman for Strickland, knew the woman kept large sums of cash in her home.
“My mother was everything to me. Even though I was 50 years old, she still put my same Christmas out just like I was 3,” Ivey said. “It was a nightmare. I’m hoping that DNA will fix it at his trial.”
The GBI’s database currently contains 187,887 DNA samples - everything from semen and blood to hair and saliva-covered cigarette butts.