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 Tip Reopens 1986 Cold Case, Leads to Identity of Jane Doe (Forensic – 4/21/2023)

    • When Paula Boudreaux vanished from Golden Meadow in Lafourche Parish in August 1986, investigators pulled out all the stops. One clue led to another and another, but ultimately detectives were unable to determine what happened to the 22-year-old mother of a 4-year-old son.

      When skeletal remains were discovered by a sportsman near Slidell, LA in January 1989, DNA technology wasn’t what it is today. The remains were sent to the LSU Forensic Anthropology Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Lab, and the St. Tammany Parish Coroner wasn’t even involved.

      Thirty-three years later, St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Charles Preston contacted the FACES Lab and requested a joint inventory of overlapping and unsolved cases, wanting to ensure that no one slipped through the cracks—gaps in history, technology, and leadership.

      In October 2022, an email tip to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) suggested investigators look at Paula Boudreaux’s case and that there may be a link to the unidentified remains from 1989. NamUs contacted Cold Case Investigator Chris Knoblauch at the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office, and things started to fall into place.



Advanced DNA Testing on 1981 Rape Kit Leads to Arrest (Forensic – 4/21/2023)

  • The Texas Rangers have made an arrest in a 42-year-old cold case. On April 13, 2023, the Rangers arrested 68-year-old Larry Allen West for the murder of 18-year-old Carol Joyce Deleon. He was taken into custody at his residence in San Antonio. West was linked to the killing through new evidence in the case that was subjected to Advanced DNA testing under the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) program, which is funded by the Department of Justice/ Bureau of Justice Assistance (DOJ/BJA).


Women Leading the Field of Forensic Science (NBC4 Washington – 4/21/2023)

  • Women are increasingly playing a bigger role in solving crimes — not just with a badge, but through science. News4’s Mauricio Casillas shines a light on the next generation of scientists who will play a role in helping solve crimes.



Dubai Police Can Now Compare Over 1.8 Million Ballistic Fingerprints Worldwide in Under an Hour (Gulf News – 4/23/2023)

  • Dubai: Dubai Police, through the General Department of Forensic Science and Criminology, has successfully integrated its Ballistic Identification Network with Interpol’s database. This scientific achievement in forensic sciences enhances Dubai Police’s ability to compare over 1.8 million ballistic fingerprints worldwide in under an hour.


    Major General Ahmad Thani Bin Ghalita, director of the forensic department, said Dubai Police is the first Arab law enforcement agency to link ballistic fingerprints with Interpol’s database. He added: “This significant milestone enhances the force’s efforts in unravelling the mysteries of crimes, identifying the type of firearm, and determining the user’s identity.”


Public’s Help Needed to Identify Jane Doe Found in 1980 (DNA Doe Project – 4/24/2023)

    • 43 years after a young woman was found in a parking lot near Westlake High School in Thousand Oaks, she remains unidentified. Now, investigators with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and the DNA Doe Project are asking the public to share information about a specific family tree.

      The team of investigative genetic genealogists at the DNA Doe Project have been working to identify Ventura Jane Doe since 2018, analyzing distant cousin matches to her DNA profile and building a family tree to try to connect all her relatives and locate the right branch that will reveal her identity. It’s a daunting task, reaching all the way back to a couple who lived in a community known as Bajío de la Tesorera (or “La Blanca”) in the Mexican State of Zacatecas.

      They have determined that one of Ventura Jane Doe’s parents is descended from Martin Parga (1847-1902) and Catarina Montellano (1853-1895), who had 14 children. Investigators would like to learn more about five of their daughters born in the latter half of the 19th century – Monica, Basilia, Feliciana, Josefa, and Sotera. Other than their birth records and a few records pertaining to Feliciana and three of her children, no records from the later lives of the five sisters or their descendants have been located.

      “Due to a fire in the Civil Registry office in Ojocaliente, Zacatecas, where many of the births, marriages, and deaths of residents of La Blanca were recorded, much of the documentation was lost,” explained Carl Koppelman, investigative genetic genealogist with the DNA Doe Project.

      There is a large community of people closely related to Ventura Jane Doe who currently live in the neighborhoods surrounding the Belvedere and Boyle Heights districts of East Los Angeles who have ancestral roots in La Blanca, Zacatecas, and have the same surnames of her closest known relatives – Parga, Lira, Aleman, Betancourt, Chavez, Chairez, Ramos, Ortiz, and Ibarra. If you recognize your family names in this list, please reach out.

      The DNA Doe Project is asking for anyone with information regarding the five Parga sisters – Monica, Basilia, Feliciana, Josefa, or Sotera, and any of their spouses/partners or descendants to please contact us by email to with the subject “Ventura”.




DNA Doe Project Resolves 100th Case (DNA Doe Project – 4/25/2023)

    • Less than 6 years after its founding, the DNA Doe Project has reached an important milestone: its 100th identification. That’s 100 people, former Jane and John Does, who have had their names restored and 100 families who finally have answers about what happened to their loved ones, sometimes decades after they disappeared.

      Established in 2017 by co-founders Dr. Margaret Press and Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, the DNA Doe Project was conceived as an experiment in the use of genetic genealogy to identify Jane and John Does, otherwise known as unidentified remains cases. With a small trailblazing team of genealogists the group successfully identified its first Jane Doe, known as Buckskin Girl, announced to the world on April 11, 2018. The team used a DNA profile developed from her remains and information on public websites to build a family tree that led to Marcia King. Buoyed by this success, the group soon dove into more cases. With 100 successful identifications now behind them, the next 100 cases are already underway.

      Since its founding, the DNA Doe Project has grown to include 80 volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who are some of the most talented and experienced practitioners in this emerging field. Working in teams and in partnership with law enforcement and medical examiners across the country, the project’s volunteers have devoted tens of thousands of hours to the cause.

      Advances in DNA science have made it more possible than ever to develop a profile that can be uploaded to the two databases available for law enforcement cases – GEDmatch Pro and FTDNA. Samples of bone, blood, tissue, and rootless hair from unidentified remains can be analyzed, including many that are highly degraded or contaminated.



Horry County Police Department Teams with Othram to Identify the Persons Responsible for the 2018 Murders of Robert and Robbie Ford (DNASolves – 4/25/2023)

    • On August 18, 2018, the Horry County Police Department responded to a report of an abandoned vehicle in the area of Cookes Circle and Highway 917. They found a 2005 Ford Escape registered to Robert Marion Ford, Jr. that had been partially burned. Other officers responded to the Ford home and found Robert Marion Ford, Jr., 59, and his son, Robbie Stetson Ford, 25, shot to death in their yard.

      Crime Scene Investigators processed the scene of the abandoned car and found three cigarette butts on the ground outside the driver’s door. They also found a partially burned skull cap on the driver side floor board. A DNA profile was developed from the cigarette butts and the skull cap. That profile could not be matched to anyone and the case went unsolved for two years.

      As part of their investigation, the Horry County Police Department partnered with Othram in hopes that forensic genetic genealogy could assist in identifying the person responsible for murdering the father and son and whose DNA was found at the scene of the burned car. Othram’s in-house genealogy team performed forensic genetic genealogy research to generate new leads about the suspect’s probable identity. Othram provided leads to Horry County Police Department investigators, who were able to collect a reference DNA sample from Randy Dean Grainger of Loris, South Carolina.



DNA and Wrongful Conviction: Five Facts You Should Know (Innocence Project – 4/25/2023)

    • The emergence of DNA technology, which has the ability to provide irrefutable proof of wrongful convictions, inspired Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld to co-found the Innocence Project in 1992. Since then, the organization has used DNA technology and litigation to help free and exonerate hundreds of innocent people.

      Here are five crucial facts about DNA and wrongful conviction you should know. 




Report Details the Forensic NGS Landscape and How to Make it Grow (Forensic – 4/26/2023)

    • Five years ago, the DNA analysis industry found itself poised for a revolution. Some were calling it massively parallel sequencing, others were calling it next-generation sequencing (NGS). Regardless of the name, one thing was clear—this high-throughput approach to DNA sequencing was here to stay.

      In the years since, NGS—as it came to be called—has made a huge impact in forensic laboratories, on advanced DNA casework and in both cold and new investigations. The technology has allowed the forensic community to obtain higher levels of discrimination and discover novel and forensically relevant identity-informative markers.

      However, despite the success of the technique, a new report from the NIJ’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence at RTI International says NGS is still in an early adoption phase—and adoption has been slow.

      The just-published report, titled “Landscape Study of Next Generation Sequencing Technologies for Forensic Applications,” found various barriers to widespread implementation.



Genealogy Identifies 2020 Accidental Hypothermia Victim (Forensic – 4/26/2023)

    • In November 2020 an unidentified woman was found outside of an abandoned residence located in Indianapolis, Indiana and taken to Community East Hospital via ambulance where she later died. The cause of death was determined to be hypothermia and the manner of death was determined to be Accident. No foul play was suspected.

      The Marion County Coroner’s Office uploaded the case information into the National Unidentified and Missing Persons System (NamUs) in April 2021 as UP79956. The woman could not be identified through matches to missing persons records or through traditional forensic methods.

      In 2023, the Marion County Coroner’s Office explored the option of forensic genetic genealogy as a tool for their identifications project. Forensic evidence was sent to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas and a suitable extract was developed. Othram’s scientists used Forensic Grade Genome Sequencing to build a comprehensive DNA profile, and Othram’s in-house genetic-genealogy team used the profile to generate investigative leads.

      The leads were returned to the Marion County Coroner’s Office and investigators continued their efforts of attempting to locate family. Eventually, the next of kin was identified. The Marion County Coroner’s Office confirmed positive identification of the unknown woman as Patricia Anderson, in April 2023. Patricia was originally from California and it is not clear how she ended up in Indiana. The Marion County Coroner’s Office offers their condolences to the family of Patricia Anderson, and those who knew Patricia.



Army’s Forensic Lab Cuts Down Evidence Analysis Time by 4 Months (Forensic – 4/26/2023)

    • Whether by standard mail truck or full-blown big rig, evidence from around the world continuously flows into the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory (USACIL) in Forest Park, Georgia.

      USACIL, the Department of Defense’s only full-service forensic laboratory, provides criminal investigators from every military branch with 24 forensic services ranging from DNA testing to latent print and trace evidence analysis.

      The lab, which falls under the Department of the Army, Criminal Investigation Division, constantly strives to continuously improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Before packages arrive, a pre-submission screening takes place where criminal investigators contact the lab to determine what evidence they can test. This screening process prioritizes the evidence that is tested, which allows technicians in various disciplines to focus their efforts in key areas.

      When the packages finally arrive, technicians use a parallel process to intake evidence. That allows the techs to take DNA samples, trace evidence, drug samples and latent prints before sending that evidence to each branch to work on simultaneously.

      This process contrasts with the previous sequential system that passed evidence from one branch to the next. The improvement has cut turnaround times for evidence analysis from 180 days to less than 60 days in most cases.




New York Opens Storage Facility for Rape Kits (Forensic – 4/26/2023)

    • New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced the opening of a state facility to store sexual offense evidence collection kits that have not been released to law enforcement custody.

      Secure storage gives individuals who have been sexually assaulted the ability to get medical care, consent to forensic evidence collection and time to decide if they want to file a police report. The State Office of Victim Services established the facility to comply with the state law that requires unreported kits to be stored for 20 years from the date of collection. Capital Region, Mohawk Valley and Western New York hospitals are the first to notify survivors that their kits will be transferred and how they can track them. Hospitals in the state’s remaining regions will follow that process in the coming months.

      Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin joined state agency colleagues, medical professionals, victim advocates, law enforcement and other professionals at Albany Medical Center this morning to discuss the facility’s operations and to educate survivors that hospitals must make a concerted effort to contact them before their kits are transferred. This notification allows individuals to decide whether to transfer their kit to the facility, notify law enforcement about the incident, or consent to having their kit disposed. Hospitals across the state have approximately 10,000 kits in storage.



Franklin’s Contribution to DNA Helix Discovery was More Profound than We Thought (Science Alert – 4/26/2023)

    • The structure of DNA was described in three back-to-back papers, authored by some now-familiar household names. Among them was Rosalind Franklin, a chemist who died of ovarian cancer shortly thereafter, depriving her of the chance to celebrate her contributions or see them duly recognized.

      Instead, James Watson and Francis Crick would go on to share a Nobel Prize with Franklin’s colleague Maurice Wilkins, write best-selling books, and speak at length about how they pieced together the structure of DNA using data taken from a now-iconic image known as Photograph 51.

      The picture’s scatter of fuzzy dots was formed by X-rays refracting from DNA’s molecular structure. Captured by Raymond Gosling, a student the chemist briefly inherited from Wilkins, the photograph meant little without Franklin’s expert interpretation.

      To what extent Franklin’s experienced eye informed the path of discovery has been a topic of discussion ever since. Now, two scientists writing biographies about Watson and Crick have uncovered more details about Franklin’s contribution to the revelation of DNA’s double helix in an overlooked letter and an unpublished news article from the 1950s.



What Cheetahs, Armadillos and Whales Revealed About Human DNA (The New York Times – 4/27/2023)

    • It has been 20 years since scientists put together the first rough draft of the human genome, the three billion genetic letters of DNA tightly wound inside most of our cells. Today, scientists are still struggling to decipher it.

      But a batch of studies published in Science on Thursday has cast a bright light into the dark recesses of the human genome by comparing it with those of 239 other mammals, including narwhals, cheetahs and screaming hairy armadillos.

      By tracing this genomic evolution over the past 100 million years, the so-called Zoonomia Project has revealed millions of stretches of human DNA that have changed little since our shrew-like ancestors scurried in the shadows of dinosaurs. These ancient genetic elements most likely carry out essential functions in our bodies today, the project found, and mutations within them can put us at risk of a range of diseases.