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!




Class of 2022: Kendall Gehring is Driven to Solve Cold Cases with Forensic Anthropology (VCU News – 4/22/2022)

  • She is not only an outstanding student — she has a 4.0 GPA and is in the Honors College — but has also been a leader among forensic science students, serving as president of the Forensic Science Student Club at VCU, helping to organize visits to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, and connecting her fellow classmates with professional contacts and alumni.

    What is it about forensic science that Gehring finds so compelling? It’s because each case is like a puzzle waiting to be solved.



Remains of Michigan Man Missing for 22 Years Identified (FOX News – 4/22/2022)

  • The body of Ronald Wayne Jager, of Fruitland Township, was identified in April, the Michigan State Police said. His remains were discovered in 2014 at a beach.

    Researchers at Western Michigan University’s Pathology Department attempted to identify the remains using DNA testing but failed to find a match. The case was later given to the state police Special Investigations Section, which partnered with the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that specializes in identifying remains.

    Samples of the remains were sent to the University of North Texas, which was able to get a DNA sample from one of Jager’s children.


USF Anthropologist Unearths the Past, One Identity at a Time (Tampa Bay Times – 4/23/2022)

  • Erin Kimmerle is an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a nationally-known forensic anthropologist. She is also the director of the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science, working to solve cold cases and identify unidentified remains.

    In 2014 she found unmarked graves of juvenile inmates who died at Dozier School for Boys, a notorious former reform school in Marianna where boys were brutally beaten. She recently released the results of a 2-year study verifying the existence of unmarked cemeteries in Hillsborough County.

    In 2017 she led the effort to establish an outdoor human decomposition lab — also known as a body farm — in Pasco County. But instead of building a state-of-the-art facility with USF, the County Commission voted in 2019 to end the partnership, which will happen this year.

Richmond Police Crack 1999 Murder with Familial DNA Search (Forensic – 4/25/2022)

  • Investigators solved the 1999 murder of a 28-year-old woman through use of California’s familial DNA search program, authorities announced Thursday at a news conference punctuated by pushback from the woman’s family.

    Richmond police said Jerry Lee Henderson killed Meekiah Wadley at her home in January 1999, but could not bring him to trial because he died of a suspected drug overdose 11 days after her death.

    DNA collected at the crime never yielded a direct hit in DNA criminal databases. But in October 2020, investigators asked the state to conduct a familial search.



Genealogist, Philanthropist Carla Davis Teams With Othram to ID Two Bodies (Forensic – 4/25/2022)

  • Working with philanthropist and genealogist Carla Davis, Othram has identified two sets of unrelated human remains found in 2018 and 2020.



Supreme Court to Hear DNA Appeal in Rodney Reed Murder Case (The New York Times – 4/25/2022)

  • Mr. Reed was convicted of capital murder in the 1996 killing of a 19-year-old woman. He has challenged the constitutionality of a Texas DNA testing statute in an effort to prove his innocence.



Meet the Team of Women Taking on New York City’s Cold Cases (NBC News – 4/25/2022)

  • In the past two years, the team has solved 20 cold cases. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jason Graham said much of his office’s expertise in forensic identification can be attributed to its experience with mass fatality incidents, including the 9/11 attacks and the pandemic.

    When all other leads have been exhausted and all the investigators have is a skull, they will reconstruct an individual’s face through a 3D printer and work with forensic artists to build a clay mold.



What’s Next for Probabilistic Genotyping Software? (Forensic – 4/27/2022)

  • As more forensic labs use PG software and the software itself continues to be refined, it undoubtedly will have an even greater impact on criminal and civil investigations, providing well-founded data from a broader range of DNA evidence. To make certain that progress continues, it will be incumbent on developers to fine-tune their work while addressing issues which arise and have merit. For their part, forensic labs need to ensure that their scientists receive extensive, ongoing training and properly validate their software, while implementing effective protocols to present the strength of PG results accurately and effectively.



He Caught the Golden State Killer, but the Obsession Took a Toll (The Washington Post – 4/27/2022)

  • The first line in Chapter 1 of “Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases tells you almost everything you need to know about author Paul Holes: “My ex-wife used to say my job was my mistress, and I chose my mistress over everyone.” Since Holes took off his badge in 2018, the attention he garnered from his role in solving the GSK case has made him a true-crime darling. He’s starred in his own television series, “The DNA of Murder With Paul Holes.” He’s also half of the investigative team with Billy Jensen behind the wildly popular podcast “The Murder Squad.” “Unmasked” is reminiscent at times of John Douglas’s “Mindhunter.” I was rapt by the chapter in which Holes laid out how he interpreted evidence from the GSK case files to build a psychological profile of the killer.


Unsolved: DNA Match Reveals Major Development in Decades-Old Jane Doe Cold Case (FOX 35 – 4/27/2022)

  • The Apache Junction Police Department in Arizona says it’s closer to identifying a teen found dead nearly three decades ago after teaming up with genetic genealogists who have gathered new information in the case of “Apache Junction Jane Doe.”

    For the last four years, the Apache Junction Police Department and the DNA Doe Project (DDP) have partnered to uncover the identity of the teen. DDP is an all-volunteer organization of genetic genealogists working to reunite John and Jane Does with their families.

    In this case, investigators finally made contact with an immediate relative of Apache Junction Jane.