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!




‘She Was Not Trash’: Body Found in Indiana Is Identified After 30 Years (The New York Times – 4/14/2022)

  • Advances in DNA technology helped the authorities to identify remains found near a highway in 1992 as those of Margaret Ann Sniegowski Jr., who had disappeared from her home in Ohio.



How DNA Technology Helped Solve North Richland Hills Cold Case (NBCDFW5 – 4/15/2022)

  • Thanks to DNA technology a North Richland Hills cold case involving a bank robbery suspect who shot and injured an officer has been closed.


Man who Murdered Lisa Fracassi Identified via Investigative Genetic Genealogy (Honolulu Police Department – 4/15/2022)

  • On November 3, 1994, Lisa Fracassi, a 37-year-old female, was found dead in her Waikiki apartment, located at 415 Nahua Street.  Reports indicate she had been strangled to death.  Fracassi was also known as “Lika” by friends and was last seen in the early morning hours of October 31, 1994, in the Waikiki area.

    In 2020, the HPD, with assistance from the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General, Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division, was able to enlist the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a private company that specializes in forensic genetic genealogy research. Using DNA evidence from this investigation, Parabon Genealogist CeCe Moore was able to develop a list of potential persons of interest in this case. Further DNA comparisons and a reexamination of fingerprints left at the scene resulted in the identification of a male named Cecil H. Trent as the primary, and likely only, suspect in this case. Trent was 29 years of age at the time of Fracassi’s murder, and died in 2013, in Honolulu, Hawaii.


Local Woman Missing Since 1980s Identified in Cold Case Investigation in Illinois (Kettering Health – 4/15/2022)

  • DNA and genealogy technology used to identify the woman in the Miami County case known as the Buckskin Girl in 2017 was credited with identifying the remains of a missing woman from Miami County in the 1980s whose remains were found in Illinois. Brenda S. Black had been missing since the early 1980s when she last had contact with her family. Because of news coverage on the Buckskin Girl case, and additional use of DNA, Black was officially identified in a cold case death investigation in Will County, Illinois from 1981, Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said in a media release.



‘Cowboy Hat Bandit’ ID’ed After 19 Years, But Dies Before Arrest (Forensic – 4/18/2022)

  • A suspect has been identified in the 19-year-old cold case shooting of Officer Jeff Garner. The identification was made after a thorough and intricate investigation involving North Richland Hills Police, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Dallas and Oklahoma City field offices.

    Garner was shot on March 3, 2003, after attempting to stop a man who, unknown to Garner, had just robbed a bank in Watauga, Texas. Since the incident, the suspect has remained at large.



Veteran Doe Network Helps ID 1978 Homicide Victim (Forensic- 4/18/2022)

  • District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer and Captain James Dougherty of the Ridley Township Police Department announced that the victim of a 1978 homicide has been identified as Kevin Alvin Jude Carroll.

    The victim’s remains were discovered on Dec. 13, 1978, in Ridley, Pennslyvania. The victim had been shot multiple times.

    An extensive investigation was conducted at the time the remains were found, but the victim remained unidentified, and no suspects were identified. The unidentified victim’s information was uploaded to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).



California ‘Happy Face Killer’ Victim ID’d After 29 Years (ABC News – 4/18/2022)

  • A victim of the Happy Face Killer has been identified nearly 30 years after her body was left near a California highway, authorities said Monday.

    Patricia Skiple of Colton, Oregon, had been known only as “Blue Pacheco” for the color of her clothing until genetic genealogy was used to identify her last week, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said.



Ancestry’s New Tool Separates DNA into Parental Sides (Forensic – 4/20/2022)

  • Ancestry’s SideView technology is a first-of-its-kind scientific innovation that separates DNA into parental sides, giving AncestryDNA customers new insights into which side of the family they inherited their genetics from. With more than 20 million people in its growing consumer DNA network, Ancestry is the first company to be able to provide this type of genomic information without requiring a parent to be tested.

    Phasing or understanding genetic inheritance without having genetic samples of an individual’s parents is a problem that scientists have been trying to solve for decades. Now with SideView technology, Ancestry can phase a customer’s entire genome into parental sides using the DNA they share with relatives in the AncestryDNA database—their DNA matches—to provide an even greater level of detail for genomic discoveries. Grouping of matches is the first critical step in phasing DNA using SideView technology. SideView technology groups matches with a precision rate of 95% for 90% of AncestryDNA customers thanks to the size and statistical power of the AncestryDNA match network.

    This process enables ethnicity inheritance, the newest AncestryDNA feature being powered by SideView, which informs a customer which side of the family they received each of their estimated ethnicities from.



DA’s New Innocence Commission Gets its First Exoneration in 32-Year-Old Case (Forensic – 4/20/2022)

  • Following an extensive review and investigation by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Innocence Commission, District Attorney Chesa Boudin announces the exoneration of Joaquin Ciria for being wrongly convicted of killing Felix Bastarrica.

    Ciria, who is now 61 years old, was arrested 32 years ago and has maintained his innocence from the beginning. New evidence presented by Ciria’s counsel provided convincing proof that  Ciria was convicted on the basis of false testimony for another man’s crime. Ciria’s case was the first one reviewed by the Innocence Commission since its formation. Monday, the court vacated his conviction and the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the case against him.


Man Charged in 1987 Rape, Accused of Posing as Radio Host Don Geronimo (The Washington Post – 4/20/2022)

  • In 1987, a man claiming to be locally famous radio host Don Geronimo phoned a 14-year-old girl and told her she had won $1,000 and a trip to Hawaii, police said. To collect the prize, the man told the teen, she needed to meet him at a Fairfax County radio station.

    When the girl arrived, the man abducted her and took her to a dirt road where he brutally raped her, police said.

    After more than three decades, Fairfax County police announced Wednesday they have charged a 59-year-old Ashburn man in the horrific assault following a breakthrough in the case using the same genetic technique police relied on to uncover the identity of the infamous Golden State Killer.



Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Team with Othram to Identify 2018 John Doe (DNASolves – 4/21/2022)

  • In May 2018, skeletal remains from an unknown man were found scattered in a wooded area near 145 Highway 80 near Meridian, Mississippi. The man was found without identification documents and there were few clues to who he might be. Investigators were unable to determine the ancestry of the unknown man, but they estimate that he might have been between 5’3” and 6’1” feet. The case was entered into NamUs as UP79041, but with little to go on, the case soon went cold.

    In 2021, the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation teamed with Othram to use Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to help generate new leads that might identify the unknown man or a member of his family. Skeletal remains were sent to Othram’s laboratory, DNA was extracted, and a genealogical profile of the unknown man was built. The funding to support this case was provided by Mississippi native and philanthropist, Carla Davis. Carla also executed the genealogical research necessary to generate investigative leads for the agency. Investigators used the leads to complete their own investigation and confirm that the unknown man was in fact, David E. Reed, a Navy veteran born in 1951.