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!




Family Finds Closure After Forensics Identifies Remains of Peru Man Found in 1983 (WTHR 13 – 12/03/2021)

  • A moment of closure came for one Indiana family at the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department Thursday night. It was one the family had waited for 40 years to have, finally learning what really happened to their brother and uncle, who disappeared in 1982, now finding out he was the victim of a serial killer known as “The Interstate Killer.”



DNA Doe Project ID’s Remains from 1852 (Forensic – 12/03/2021)

  • On Nov. 15, 2021 the DNA Doe Project (DDP), in conjunction with the Hudson (Ohio) Police Department, announced the identification of remains that had been discovered in 2019 during construction of a new home in Hudson, Ohio as Richard Bunts/Bunce. These are the oldest remains DDP volunteer genealogists have identified to date using investigative genetic genealogy.


Baltimore County Detectives, Bode Solve 1981 Killing of Teen Girl (Forensic – 12/03/2021)

  • On Sept. 23 1981, 13-year-old Heather Porter went missing from her Halethorpe neighborhood. A day later, a man walking his dog discovered the teen’s body in a wooded area near Ridgewood Road and Goucher Boulevard in Towson. Based on the condition of the victim’s body, investigators believed the person responsible dragged the girl’s body into the woods. An autopsy later determined the teen had been strangled and sexually assaulted.

    While detectives had a DNA sample of the suspect, it has taken decades and advancements in DNA technology to identify a suspect.

    Last year, Baltimore County detectives with the BCoPD Homicide Cold Case Squad, reviewed the Porter case and requested the suspect’s DNA profile be submitted for forensic genealogy. Bode Technology analyzed the sample and forwarded their results to the FBI for further analysis.


DNA Inside Conch Shell Leads to Suspect in 2001 Homicide (ABC News – 12/03/2021)

  • Prosecutors say DNA recovered from the interior of a conch shell thought to have been used as a weapon in the 2001 killing of a Massachusetts woman has led to the indictment on a murder charge of the victim’s half-brother


New Website is a Good Source for Information on All Things DNA (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – 12/03/2021)

  • Richard Hill, an adoptee known for using DNA testing to find his birth family, has launched a new website — DNA Favorites.

    Hill has been writing and speaking about DNA testing for more than a decade. His site,, has all the DNA information you might want, labeled using easy-to-understand tabs. The section “Testing Companies” includes a comparison chart of the five major companies; “DNA Education” has links to conferences and webinars; “DNA Books” lists his own work, along with books on how to use DNA testing and those with personal stories of genealogy discoveries made through DNA testing.


Meet Rosalind Franklin, a Sidelined Figure in the History of DNA Science (PBS – 12/03/2021)


LSU Lab Helps Law Enforcement Solve Missing Persons Cases (Louisana Illuminator – 12/03/2021)

  • Since the 1980s, law enforcement officials from across Louisiana have called LSU for help in identifying human remains and finding missing people. This earned Mary Manhein the reputation as “the bone lady.”Given that interest, Manhein formed the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services Lab at LSU in 1990 to help law enforcement and coroner’s offices identify missing persons and human remains.

    With cases ranging from mummies to murder victims, the FACES Lab provides invaluable services across the state using bones, DNA and other forensic methods to identify missing persons.


DNA Leads Police to Identity of Teen in 1980 Nevada Cold Case (NBC News – 12/04/2021)

  • The body of a teenager found dead outside Las Vegas has gone unidentified for 41 years until last month when DNA helped uncover her name.

    The victim, who had been known only as “Jane Arroyo Grande Doe,” was recently identified as Tammy Terrell through investigative genetic genealogy, which uses DNA testing to trace relationships between people to determine potential relatives of an unidentified person, Henderson police said.



How DNA Solved One of the Final Mysteries of Pearl Harbor (Politico – 12/04/2021)

  • Nearly half the crew of the USS Oklahoma was buried in unknown graves — until the military found a pioneering way to decipher a forensic puzzle.



DNA Evidence Leads to Arrest of Homeless Man in Florida Murder (KCRA3 – 12/04/2021)

  • A homeless man from Miami was charged with the murder of 14-year-old Ryan Rogers, who was found stabbed to death in Palm Beach Gardens.

    Semmie Lee Williams Jr., 39, was taken into custody in Miami on Wednesday, according to police.



New DNA Tech Can Predict Unknown Suspects (Northern Beaches Review – 12/05/2021)

  • Genetic material found at crime scenes could help narrow a search for suspects even when there’s no match to DNA records, using new technology to be used for the first time by Australian law enforcement. The Australian Federal Police says its new “massively parallel sequencing” DNA analysis technology can help investigators predict the gender, ancestry, eye, and soon hair colour of potential offenders from unmatched genetic evidence found at crime scenes.



The Latest Addition to the Lab: A Review of the Spectrum Compact CE System (Promega Connections – 12/06/2021)

  • When it comes to acquiring new equipment, choosing the right instrument for your lab can be daunting―you want to make a worthwhile investment that will go the distance, both in longevity and overall capacity. In a perfect world, the instruments available to you would have been thoroughly tested and reviewed, especially as they compare to one another, making your job that much easier.

    In the case of benchtop capillary electrophoresis (CE) instruments, researchers Nastasja Burgardt and Melanie Weissenberger have done just that. Their article, titled “First experiences with the Spectrum Compact CE System”, appeared in the International Journal of Legal Medicine and offered a comprehensive review of the performance of the recently released Spectrum Compact CE System in a forensic genetics laboratory setting.



North Carolina Police ID Suspect in 15 Sex Assault Cases from 1990s (The Virginian-Pilot – 12/06/2021)

  • A suspect in at least 15 sexual assault cases in a North Carolina city in the 1990s has been identified through DNA testing, police said Monday. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit said in a news release that the suspect, David Edward Doran, died in 2008.



Seattle Man’s Conviction for 1987 Murders of B.C.’s Tanya van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook Overturned (CBC News – 12/06/2021)

  • The double murder conviction of a Seattle-area man found guilty in the cold-case homicide of a young B.C. couple has been overturned due to juror bias.

    William Earl Talbott was arrested in 2018 on the strength of DNA genetic genealogy tracing, 31 years after the bodies of Tanya van Cuylenborg, 18, and Jay Cook, 20, both of Saanich, B.C., were found in northern Washington state. Genetic genealogy involves identifying suspects by entering crime-scene DNA profiles into public databases that people have used for years to fill out their family trees.

    In 2019, Talbott was found guilty by a jury of two counts of aggravated murder in the first degree and given two life sentences, which he appealed on the grounds that his right to an impartial jury was violated because a biased juror deliberated his case.

    In a decision handed down Monday, the Division 1 Court of Appeals in Washington state said a woman identified as Juror 40 exhibited “actual bias” during her comments in voir dire. A voir dire is a legal procedure in which the admissibility of evidence and jurors is discussed.



OSAC Standards Bulletin (NIST – 12/07/2021)

  • New standards added to the OSAC Registry: 1
  • Standards under consideration for the Registry and open for comment: 8
  • New SDO published standards: 2
  • Standards open for comment at SDOs: 16


How Australian Police will use DNA Sequencing to Predict what Suspects Look Like (The Guardian – 12/07/2021)

  • Australian federal police have announced they are using next-generation DNA sequencing technology to predict the physical appearance of potential suspects.

    Based on DNA left at a crime scene, the technology – also known as massively parallel sequencing – can predict externally visible characteristics of a person even in the absence of matching profiles in police databases.

    MPS can “predict gender, biogeographical ancestry, eye colour and, in coming months, hair colour”, according to the AFP.

    Experts say the technology is a “gamechanger” for forensic science but also raises issues around racial profiling, heightened surveillance and genetic privacy.



DNA Links Newly ID’ed Suspect in 1979 Homicide to a Second Murder (Forensic – 12/08/2021)

  • Just over a week ago, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) announced they identified the suspect in the cold case sexual assault and murder of 16-year-old Kim Bryant, who was abducted in January 1979. Now, LVMPD has tied that same suspect to yet another cold case sexual assault and murder, this one four years later in 1983.