FOX 17 gains exclusive access inside jewelry store robbery investigation

Posted at 8:58 PM, Sep 04, 2014

LANSING, Mich.- Two armed robberies by a group of suspected criminals in April remained unsolved until Thursday.

The FBI announced they have a suspect in custody caught thanks to DNA evidence left behind at the crime scene.

Michigan State Police invited FOX 17 into their rarely seen laboratories for an exclusive inside look at how it’s all done.

In April, the Michigan State Police Lab in Grand Rapids received a sample of blood from a masked man who was shot in the arm during the armed robbery at Medawar jewelers.

“That DNA profile is then imported into the DNA index system, the CODIS database where our profiles we generate are searched against the profiles that were generated from the crime scene sample,” State CODIS Administrator Scott Bruski said.

CODIS is the Combined DNA Index System. That’s an index of all violent felons, sex offenders and prisoners.

Bruski took us for a tour of the CODIS lab in Lansing where MSP ran that DNA sample found at the Medawar crime scene against the FBI’s national database.

The match came back as Nathaniel Pembrook of Philadelphia, who had three previous felony convictions for robbery, firearms and theft by receiving stolen property.

“Once a week all the profiles that got put in at the state level get put into the national database, where it's searched from all the other profiles from other states,” Bruski said.

Investigators also tried to use facial recognition to identify the suspects.

“Our facial recognition is one of the largest databases in the country with over 7 million criminal images in the database, including scars, marks and tattoos and those types of things,” Director of Biometrics and Identification Jeremy Slavish said.

It measures the distance between the eyes, cheek bones, the length of the cheek bones and overall head shape.

They used that software against the security footage at Tapper's Fine Jewelry in West Bloomfield, the second jewelry store believed to have been targeted by Pembrook and three to five others. Police say they got away with $1.4 million dollars worth of Rolex watches during that robbery.

Nathaniel Pembrook is awaiting extradition to Detroit, where he faces life in prison.

The FBI is still asking for tips to help find the other suspects involved. You can call their tip line any time at 313-965-2323 with information.