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!





Forensics Professor’s Body Farm Work is ‘Way Grosser’ but Meaningful (Knox News – 4/9/2021)

  • When Dr. Lee Meadows Jantz was a student at Farragut High School in the early ‘80s, she had never even heard of anthropology.

    Now, she’s associate director of the Forensic Anthropology Center (FAC) at UT and a distinguished lecturer in the anthropology department. She first learned about the discipline from a friend who was taking a human osteology class.



The True Story of How Prince Philip’s DNA Solved a Russian Romanov Murder Mystery (The Telegraph – 4/10/2021)

  • In 2018, the true story of how the Duke of Edinburgh helped piece together the murders of Tsar Nicholas II and his family was told by the Science Museum in an exhibition detailing how his DNA provided the key.

    The Duke, who offered a blood sample to experts attempting to identify bodies found in unmarked graves in 1993, provided a match with the Tsarina and her daughters, related through the maternal line, proving once and for all their fate.


New Center to Combat Global Human Trafficking (Forensic – 4/12/2021)

  • Each year, an estimated 800,000 people are trafficked globally, though the true number may be higher. In a quest to arm officials and stakeholders around the globe with more accurate and trusted data to better understand and address this global problem, the University of Georgia has established a new interdisciplinary center to combat human trafficking through research, programming and policy development.


New Method for Measuring Human Decomposition (Forensic – 4/12/2021)

  • In a criminal trial that involves a death, it often is critical to know when the person died. But law enforcement and medical examiner communities need more accurate and standardized methods, with known error rates, to estimate time since death.

    To help get us closer to those standards, National Institute of Justice-supported researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, designed and demonstrated a new method for estimating time since death (postmortem interval) that builds on the commonly used Megyesi et al. method for measuring human decomposition. Using the Megyesi et al. method, forensic examiners divide observations into three portions — head and neck, trunk, and limbs — and assign scores to each section based on the presence or absence of set decomposition criteria. Those scores then generate a total body score — a number that correlates to observed human decomposition stages. The new method calculates a decedent’s total body score by summing decomposition scores from 16 regions of the body instead of three.


DDP Identifies Remains Found in 1978 (Forensic – 4/12/2021)

  • On Aug. 15, 1978, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call to investigate human remains found by loggers in a remote wooded area near the Village of Warrens, Township of Knapp, Jackson County, Wisconsin. Search of the area by officials resulted in the recovery of a skull, lower mandible, and vertebra. The results of a limited autopsy indicated the deceased was a white male between the ages of 28 and 52. A silver-colored “Medi-Stud” brand earring, normally used by piercing salons, was also discovered near the remains, leading investigators to theorize the deceased had at least one pierced ear. Any other remains were never located. His death is regarded as “presumed homicide.”

    Then, on March 31, 2021, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, DCI, (WDJ), the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), and the DNA Doe Project (DDP) announced the identity of the Wisconsin man known only as “Jackson County John Doe 1978” for 43 years as Dennis Regan McConn.


Michigan Governor Establishes Forensic Science Task Force (Forensic – 4/12/2021)

  • Saying the “misapplication of forensic science is the second most common contributing factor in wrongful convictions in the United States,” Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) has established a task force to strengthen the use of forensic science in her state.

    In late 2019, the National Registry of Exonerations revealed that 131 wrongfully convicted people have been exonerated in Michigan, with 20% of the cases involving false or misleading forensic evidence as a factor that led to the wrongful incarceration. While Michigan is the 10th most populous state, it ranks fifth in exonerations. Since the release of this report, a handful of state lawmakers have been calling for a forensic science commission in the state.



Laramie County Sheriff’s Office Partners with Othram to Identify a Baby Boy Found in Wyoming ( – 4/13/2021)

  • In February of 1988, a couple walking in Cheyenne, Wyoming came across a deceased infant in a culvert near Happy Jack Road and McKinney Drive. They immediately notified law enforcement and an investigation began. Investigators reported that the the baby boy was 6.5 lbs at the time of discovery and was described as Caucasian with brown hair, and blue eyes. The baby was found wrapped in a blanket. An autopsy revealed that the child had air in his lungs and stomach, indicating the child had been born alive. Ruling the death a homicide, law enforcement investigators thoroughly pursued all available leads hoping to identify the infant or his family. Detectives canvassed regional hospitals, schools and the Air Force Base, but 30 years later, the case remains unsolved.



New Evidence Leads to Arrest of Prime Suspect in 1996 Disappearance of Kristin Smart (Forensic – 4/13/2021)

  • The longtime suspect in the 25-year-old disappearance of California college student Kristin Smart was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder and his father was booked in jail as an accessory to the crime.

    Paul Flores, 44, who was the last person seen with Smart on the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo before she vanished in 1996, was taken into custody in the Los Angeles area. His father, Ruben Flores, 80, was arrested at his Arroyo Grande home, where sheriff’s investigators conducted their latest search for evidence.

    San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson said the arrest warrants were issued after a search of the elder Flores’ home last month using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs. He said evidence was found linked to the killing of Smart but they had not yet located her body.



Florida: It’s a Felony to Handle Someone Else’s DNA (Forensic – 4/14/2021)

  • In terms of privacy, the state of Florida has led the discussion thus far, and has just added to it with a bill that would recommend felony charges for handling someone’s DNA without their explicit consent.

    SB 1140/HB 833 has passed the Florida House and is currently in the Senate. The bill imposes criminal penalties of up to felony in the second degree for obtaining the DNA of another person without their consent, which holds a sentence of up to 8 years in jail if found guilty.



US Cold Case Murder Mystery Could Be Solved Using Irish DNA (IrishCentral – 4/14/2021)

  • Twenty-nine years ago Jane Doe, aged between 65 and 70,  was discovered at the side of a highway. The victim is now believed to DNA links to Ireland and Michigan police and the DNA DOE Project are asking the Irish to take DNA tests to help their analysis.