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!




A Researcher Needed Three Hours to Identify Me From My DNA (Bloomberg Businessweek – 4/12/2019)

  • Using just my DNA, a genealogist was able to identify me in three and a half hours.


Politicians Question NYPD’s DNA Database of Innocent Citizens (New York Post – 4/12/2019)

  • The NYPD has collected a vast database of innocent people’s DNA over the past few years, and now several City Council members are demanding more information about it.


Genetic Genealogy, Discarded Coffee Cup Leads to Arrest in Washington County’s Oldest Cold Case (CBS News – 4/12/2019)

  • Investigators say they’ve identified a suspect in a Washington county’s oldest cold case using genetic genealogy and DNA from a discarded coffee cup. CBS affiliate KIRO reports 77-year-old Terrence Miller was arrested at his home Wednesday in the 1972 murder of 20-year-old Jody Loomis. Loomis was last seen Aug. 23, 1972 riding her bike from her home in Mill Creek, north of Seattle, to the pasture where her horse was boarded.




Backers of a Kansas DNA Task Force Say It Could Exonerate Wrongly Convicted Prisoners (KCUR – 4/12/2019)

  • Bushnell’s organization was among the parties who approached Kansas State Sen. David Haley, who serves on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee and introduced legislation to create a task force unlike any other in the country. A Closed Case Task Force ideally would set precedent nationwide by developing a protocol on the notification system for DNA evidence.

    A task force comprised of 14 stakeholders would develop a reporting system for DNA evidence, ensuring all associated parties in closed and cold cases are notified when a match is found in the system.


Texas Authorities Identify 2 Victims in Decades-Old ‘Killing Fields’ Murders Using Genetic Genealogy (ABC News – 4/15/2019)

  • Investigators in Texas have identified the remains of two women in a decades-long cold case by using genetic genealogy .

    The murders of the women, named Jane Doe and Janet Doe, were part of a larger murder mystery known locally as the “The Calder Road Murders” or “The Killing Fields,” involving four women in total, according to authorities.


45 Bodies Found in Clandestine Graves in Mexico (The Washington Post – 4/15/2019)

  • Officials confirmed the discovery of up to 45 bodies at clandestine burial sites in Mexico, with an estimated 30 cadavers found in one spot in the northern state of Sonora and 15 buried under the patio of a multifamily house on the outskirts of Guadalajara in Jalisco state.



Handheld DNA Tester Can Quickly Identify Illegal Shark Fins (National Geographic – 4/15/2019)

  • The device, which has been used for detecting Ebola and genetically profiling tumors, is now being put toward fighting wildlife crime.


The Future of DNA is Unfolding Now (Newswise – 4/15/2019)


Washington State Bill Aims to Clear Backlog of 10,000 Rape Kits, Establishes ‘Survivor Bill of Rights’ (Forensic Magazine – 4/16/2019)

  • Despite previous laws addressing sexual assault kit testing and tracking in the state, Washington still faces a backlog of approximately 10,000 kits yet to be analyzed. But with the latest bill, passed unanimously through the state’s Senate on Thursday, lawmakers hope to further shorten the wait and lessen the burden for survivors.


Stonehenge: DNA Reveals Origin of Builders (BBC News – 4/16/2019)

  • The ancestors of the people who built Stonehenge travelled west across the Mediterranean before reaching Britain, a study has shown.


Sex Assault Kit Bill Aims to End Fear of Victim-Blaming, Prevent Case Backlog (Action News 2 – 4/16/2019)

  • State legislators want new laws in Wisconsin to protect victims of sexual assault and ensure there’s never another backlog of untested rape kits.

    Tuesday afternoon, Kaul joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers to announce a bill that would give survivors power and create timelines on when sexual assault kits must be submitted to the state crime lab for testing.



Experts Call for Making DNA Testing Mandatory in Violent Crimes (Businesswire – 4/16/2019)

  • In a compelling debate on forensic DNA technology’s role in fighting crime, organised at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club–South Asia, forensic, legal, and policy experts attributed the rise in crimes against women in India to more reporting of cases rather than an extraordinary spike in violence. They observed that increased reporting was a positive trend based on awareness and activism resulting from popular movements like Nirbhaya and #MeToo, along with improving investigative & forensic infrastructure. However, experts cautioned that India, where more than 100 rapes are reported daily1 and only one in four of them sees conviction, DNA evidence was only being used in a fraction of cases and called for DNA collection & testing to be made mandatory in all violent crimes.



Maryland State Police Hit DNA Milestone (WBAL – 4/17/2019)

  • Maryland has now recorded its 7,000th positive hit on its DNA database.

    Maryland State Police say the hit involved a case out of Charles County. It was part of a 2003 rape case.



Shaking Hands Could Transfer Your DNA – Leaving It On Things You Never Touched (Science News for Students – 4/17/2019)

  • People can transfer DNA from others after they touch them, potentially complicating a crime scene, new data show



Two Murders Stumped Police for 40 Years. The Key was Sitting in a Bathroom Cabinet. (The Washington Post – 4/18/2019)

  • Using updated DNA techniques, including genealogical research, investigators have tied Martinez to the two crimes. But as the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported on Wednesday, solving the decades-old killings also hinged on something so common that it’s found in nearly every household — a cluttered bathroom medicine cabinet.



Ancient DNA of Crusaders Reveals Warriors Were Also Lovers (Newsweek – 4/18/2019)

  • Between the years 1095 and 1291 A.D., Christian invaders fought a series of religious wars against Muslim armies in the Near East—primarily to secure control of important holy sites—in what we refer to today as the Crusades.

    Now, a DNA study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics has cast new light on this tumultuous era and the interactions that the Crusaders—who numbered in the hundreds of thousands—had with local populations.