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!




25 Years After Rosie Tapia’s Death, Family is Still Searching for Killer (The Salt Lake Tribune – 8/13/2020)

  • On the 25th anniversary of the girl’s death, her family and members of the Utah Cold Case Coalition came together to announce a new initiative in Tapia’s honor: the Rosie Tapia Identification Project.


    Through the project, the coalition’s forensic DNA laboratory, Intermountain Forensics, will offer free DNA testing and genetic genealogy to identify unidentified bodies found in Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.



Body Found in Lake in 1994 Has Finally Been Identified (Forensic – 8/14/2020)

  • Despite having less than a fifth of a nanogram (less than 20 cell’s worth) of badly degraded and heavily contaminated human DNA to work with – a scenario currently inaccessible by any other forensic lab – Othram’s scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing and a combination of proprietary enrichment methods and sequencing protocols to reconstruct a genealogical profile for the Lake Stickney John Doe that enabled Detective Scharf and Investigator Jorgensen to leverage Othram’s cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned detective work to identify the deceased as Rodney Peter Johnson.


Research Explains How Innocent People’s Clothing Fibers End Up at Crime Scenes (Forensic – 8/14/2020)

  • Our new research has found a new way that fibers can be transferred: “contactless airborne transfer”. This is when fibers move from one garment to another without contact. So, for example, imagine there are two people in the same room, but they don’t touch each other. It’s possible that fibers from person A’s clothing could transfer through the air, to person B’s clothing (and vice versa).From the perspective of an investigation, this means that, under certain conditions, fibers found on a person could have been passively transferred rather than through direct involvement in a crime.

DNA on Beer Can Leads to Arrest in North Palm Beach Cold-Case Murder (Palm Beach Post – 8/14/2020)

    • Leo Beauregard was found dead June 29, 1990, in his North Palm Beach apartment. More than 30 years later, village police say they know a man who may have been involved in his murder.



‘A National Disgrace’: Holes in DNA Databases Leave Crimes Unsolved for Decades (NBC News – 8/16/2020)

  • The national DNA database, known as CODIS, is arguably the most powerful crime-fighting tool in modern history. It holds more than 18 million people’s profiles and has produced more than 500,000 hits since it went fully online in 1998, according to the FBI. The database has also been used to reveal the true suspects in cases of wrongful conviction. But the system lacks thousands of profiles from convicted offenders and suspects — information that could hold answers to innumerable unsolved crimes, researchers and law enforcement officials say.



Serial Rape Cases from 1991, 1992 Solved by Identifinders (Forensic – 8/17/2020)

  • Identifinders International, in conjunction with the Chandler Police Department (CPD) is pleased to announce the arrest of Chandler resident Gary Robert Young for the 1991 and 1992 sexual assaults of two women in Maricopa County. Young was identified using investigative genetic genealogy funded through a $1.2M grant to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) by the Bureau of Justice Assistance Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) program.


Study Hopes to Encourage Use of New Technology to Reduce Errors in DNA Testing (EurekAlert – 8/17/2020)

  • In a study titled “How Many Familial Relationship Testing Results Could Be Wrong?” Dr. Ge reviewed worldwide practices to assess the potential of errors. Co-author of the study is Dr. Bruce Budowle, Director and Professor for the Center for Human Identification.



Douglas County Identifies Body Found in 1993 (Parker Chronicle – 8/17/2020)

  • The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has taken a step forward in solving a cold cases after investigators, using genetic genealogy, confirmed the identity of a woman found dead in an area between Woodland Park and Decker in 1993



Retired Investigator Paul Holes Shares How the Golden State Killer Case Impacted His Life and Career (ABC10 – 8/17/2020)

  • Former Chief Forensic Officer with the Contra Costa County DA’s office, Paul Holes, talks to ABC10 about his involvement, his theories, and his questions.



Othram, Pecos PD and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Team to Identify Pecos Jane Doe (DNASolves – 8/17/2020)

  • In 1966, a young woman drowned in Ropers Motel pool in Pecos, Texas and more than 50 years later she remains unidentified. Othram is teaming up with the Pecos Police Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to use advanced DNA testing to identify the woman, or at least identify a family member that might know of this woman’s identity.



‘Golden State Killer’ Victims Address Him in Court: ‘The Devil Can Keep You Company’ (ABC News – 8/18/2020)

  • Survivors of Joseph DeAngelo, the man now known as the “Golden State Killer,” addressed him directly in court on Tuesday in powerful and emotional victim impact statements.



Latest DDP Case Illustrates Value of Citizen Genealogists (Forensic – 8/19/2020)

  • Numerous labs were involved in an attempt to obtain usable DNA. Sequencing was scheduled to begin this past July when a sharp-eyed citizen spotted the resemblance between a NamUs “Missing Person Report” and the “Unidentified Person” entry for Kingsport John Doe on the same site.

    Patty Williams Childress, herself a genealogist, social worker and private investigator, had been researching the cases in DDP’s pipeline when she spotted the similarities in this one.



Dallas Police Make Arrest in Cold Cases from ’80s with DNA Technology (Fort Worth Business Press – 8/19/2020)

  • The Dallas Police Department have arrested a suspect linked to four aggravated sexual assaults that took place in Dallas from 1982 to 1985.  The DNA from these Dallas cases matches the DNA obtained from two aggravated sexual assaults that occurred in 1980 in Shreveport, Louisiana.



Study Finds Clues to Aging in ‘Junk’ DNA (Phys Org – 8/19/2020)

  • A new study, published on June 5 in Aging Cell, found that a portion of noncoding genetic material, called repetitive element transcripts, might be an important biomarker of the aging process.


Greensburg Man Charged in Series of Violent Home Invasions in the 80s Spent Most of the 90s in Prison for Similar Crime (WTHR 13 – 8/30/2020)

  • A Greensburg man accused in seven home invasion sexual assaults in the 1980s spent most of the 1990s in an Indiana prison for a similar crime.


    The Shelby County prosecutor credits advanced DNA and genetic genealogy testing for identifying Hessler, 57, as the suspect in the serial cold case.