This Week in Forensic Science – ISHI News

Apr 05 2019

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!




Body Found on James River 3 Years Ago ID’d Using DNA, Genealogy Database (CBS 6 – 3/29/2019)

  • Authorities said DNA and a genealogy database were key to identifying a man whose body was discovered along the banks of the James River in Chesterfield County more than three years ago.


The Rise of Genetic Testing Companies and DNA Data Race (Forbes – 4/1/2019)

  • As obtaining an individual’s entire genome has become fast and cost-effective, the DNA databases of genetic information are growing by the terabyte. As a result, the rise of direct to consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies and an explosion of data emerging from individual DNA derived from personalized genetic testing brings us both promise and perils.


DNA is Solving Dozens of Cold Cases. Sometimes It’s Too Late for Justice. (The New York Times – 4/1/2019)

  • The increasing use of DNA and genetic genealogy has given new momentum to solving cold cases in the United States, from the arrest of the Golden State Killer suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 73, in California last year to the announcement in Alabama last month that Coley McCraney, 45, had been charged with raping and murdering two teenagers.

    But for some families the technology comes too late. Unlike in the DeAngelo and McCraney cases, there wouldn’t be the satisfaction of an arrest for the families of Clifford and Linda Bernhardt




How True Crime Podcast ‘The Murder Squad’ Will Crowdsource Investigations (Fortune – 4/1/2019)

  • There’s no shortage of true crime podcasts these days, but a new one debuting Monday, The Murder Squad, is trying to stand out—by regularly inviting the listener to be part of its investigations into murders and disappearances. With fans of the genre already donning their amateur detective hats (just take a look at Reddit threads devoted to Serial and Making a Murderer), the idea is to both entertain the audience and use it to solve cases.


Chief Genetic Genealogist who Helped Solve April Tinsley Murder Meets with Victim’s Mother in Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne NBC – 4/1/2019)

  • Family members of 8-year old April Tinsley, for the first time on Monday, marked the anniversary with knowledge that the girl’s killer has been caught and sent to prison.

    An event in April’s Garden also allowed Tinsley’s mother to talk with the person who helped police track down the man responsible for the crime.


How Scientific is Forensic Science? (JSTOR – 4/2/2019)

  • We like to think that physical evidence is a foolproof way to lock in a conviction. The problem is that forensic science isn’t exactly a science.



Journalists Need to Stop Enabling Junk Forensics (The Washington Post – 4/2/2019)

  • I’ve noticed in covering this issue that journalists seem to love stories about how new “science” and new expertise are being used to solve crimes. We swallow them up, often without a hint of skepticism. That tends to legitimize those fields.


Research Center, Innocence Project, Statistics Magazine Mark Anniversary of ‘Strengthening Forensic Science’ Report with Special Issue (Iowa State University – 4/2/2019)


Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (FBI – 4/2/2019)

  • What Testing Backlogged Sexual Assault Kits is Teaching Law Enforcement About the Crime


DNA Mixtures: A Forensic Science Explainer (NIST – 4/3/2019)

  • What are DNA Mixtures? And why are they sometimes so difficult to interpret?


Inspired by DNA Tech in Golden State Killer Cases, Alabama Police Crack Decades-Old Double Murder (CBS This Morning – 4/3/2019)

  • An Alabama man is expected to appear in court Wednesday after new DNA technology linked him to a decades-old double murder. Coley McCraney, 45, faces charges in the 1999 killings of two high school students, Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley. Investigators used the same technique that led to the arrest of the alleged Golden State Killer.



Can Genealogy DNA Link to the Wrong Suspect? (CBS 13 Sacramento – 4/3/2019)


Case Study: Israeli Kinship DNA Leads to Murder Investigation (Forensic Magazine – 4/4/2019)

  • A Bedouin woman was reported missing by the manager of a women’s shelter in Israel in January 2016. The 28-year-old’s family did not ever contact police—and they did not provide DNA samples to the national database to try and make the search easier for authorities.

    But authorities had DNA of four of the woman’s relatives in the nation’s version of the CODIS forensic database—and the genetic experts were able to link their genetic markers to a set of unidentified human remains, touching off a murder investigation, as reported in the journal Forensic Science International.



A DNA Testing Site Turned This Woman from an Only Child to One of 30 Siblings (FOX 31 Denver – 4/4/2019)

  • Shauna Harrison knows that every morning she could wake up to learn she has a new sibling.

    In the past two years, she has already gone from living her life as an only child to discovering through a DNA testing service that she is one of 30 people that share the same biological father.



FBI Says that the Person Claiming to be Missing Teen Timmothy Pitzen is Not Him (ABC News – 4/5/2019)

  • The FBI announced today that DNA testing confirms that the person found in Kentucky on Wednesday who claimed to be a missing child is not him.

    The man reportedly told authorities that he was Timmothy Pitzen, who was last seen when he was 6 years old and his mother took him out of school early in 2011, days before dying by suicide.