This Week in Forensic Science

No one has hours to scour the papers to keep up with the latest news, so we’ve curated the top news stories in the field of Forensic Science for this week. Here’s what you need to know to get out the door!





NamUs Announces New Contractor, Sub-Contractor (Forensic – 4/2/2021)

  • A new contract to manage the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) was awarded on March 31, 2021 to North Carolina-based Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International. This will allow the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to evaluate program strengths and provide direct federal oversight, ensuring its transparency to the American taxpayer. RTI will partner with the University of North Texas, meaning that NamUs will continue to benefit from the expertise of a veteran staff of forensic analysts intimately familiar with the program’s mission. A system of built-in contingency plans, including at least two Combined DNA Index System upload sites dedicated to missing and unidentified persons cases, is designed to ensure that future forensic testing services can continue without interruptio



Forensic Anthropology is in Her Bones: Taylor Helps Identify Youngest Green River Killer Victim (Mercer Island Reporter – 4/2/2021)

  • Over the years, Taylor and many others involved with the case scoured websites for missing people, checked dental records, placed DNA in CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) and more before calling upon the forensic genealogist to help crack the case.


Slain Wife of Former Philly Police Officer Identified Through DNA as 1977 Delaware Jane Doe (KIRO7 – 4/2/2021)

  • In 2008, the details of the case were reviewed for entry into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, also known as NamUs. As part of the case entry process, a DNA profile from the remains was extracted by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.

    That profile was entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, but no matches were found in the database, police officials said.

    Then came Parabon NanoLabs. One of Parabon’s specialties is DNA phenotyping, a process of predicting a person’s physical traits and ancestry through their genetic profile.


DNA Evidence Helps Identify Homicide Victim 30 Years Later (KSNT – 4/2/2021)

  • A decades-long homicide investigation is one step closer to being solved thanks to advanced technology in DNA evidence.

    Shawna Beth Garber has now been identified as the victim of a gruesome murder that happened on Dec. 2, 1990, when she was 22 years old.


Image of Unknown Green River Killer’s Victim Developed with DNA Technology (KMTR16 – 4/2/2021)

  • Investigators are hoping to finally identify one of the Green River killer’s two remaining unidentified victims after a composite image of her face was developed using modern DNA technology.

    The victim died more than 35 years ago and her remains were discovered, along with another victim, on Jan. 2, 1986. She is known to King County sheriff’s investigators only as “Bones-17.”


Nephew’s DNA Helps Close Cold-Case Murder of 15-Year-Old Aunt Killed Seven Years Before His Birth (Daily News – 4/2/2021)

  • The nephew of a cold-case murder victim, born seven years after her gruesome 1976 slaying, helped put her accused killer behind bars.

    Louis Colon Jr. told the Daily News how his DNA sample, sent to multiple ancestry websites, led to a recent call from Pennsylvania State Police and the Wednesday arrest of long-sought murder suspect Luis Sierra, 63, of Queens.



Investigators Employing Advanced DNA Testing to ID Palisades’ John Doe (East Idaho News – 4/2/2021)

  • The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office hopes advanced DNA technology can help identify remains found in 2002 near Palisades Reservoir.

    The partnership between Othram Inc. and the Sheriff’s Office comes after almost two decades of trying to identify the remains uncovered after a man walking his dog near the reservoir found part of a skull. According to a sheriff’s office news release, Othram Inc. is a private Texas laboratory that examines forensic evidence with advanced DNA testing to identify the remains of close family members.



Cold Case: WI Authorities ID Remains Discovered in 1978 as Man Missing from Kenosha (ABC7 – 4/2/2021)

  • The department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department identified the remains with the help of the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit organization formed to identify deceased people using forensic genealogy. The DNA Doe Project received assistance from the International Commission on Missing Persons in The Hague for DNA extraction.



First Humans who Crossed the Bering Strait some 15,000 Years Ago had Indigenous Australian DNA that is Now Found in the Bloodline of South America Tribes, Study Finds (Daily Mail – 4/2/2021)

  • A genomic analysis of individuals from a number of indigenous South American groups uncovered hallmarks of Australasian influence in Peru and Brazil, and showed it was first introduced through the Pacific coastal route before the formation of the Amazonian branch.



DNA Methylation from Bacteria & Microbiome using Nanopore Technology Discovered (EurekAlert! – 4/5/2021)

  • Bacterial DNA methylation occurs at diverse sequence contexts and plays important functional roles in cellular defense and gene regulation. An increasing number of studies have reported that bacterial DNA methylation has important roles affecting clinically relevant phenotypes such as virulence, host colonization, sporulation, biofilm formation, among others.



Modern Crime-Solving Methods vs. the Mystery of World War II Deaths (The New York Times – 4/6/2021)

  • DNA-based techniques that have successfully tracked down elusive serial killers may soon be used to help identify thousands of American service members “known but to God.”



Bakersfield Man to Stand Trial for 1980s Killings in LA County’s First Genetic Genealogy Case (ABC23 – 4/7/2021)

  • Decades after the slayings of two women, a Bakersfield man will face a jury in Los Angeles County’s first investigative genetic genealogy case, the LA District Attorney’s Office announced.

    Horace Van Vaultz, Jr. is charged with two counts of murder with the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, as well as sexual assault allegations.