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!





Draft DNA Phenotyping Law Set to go Before Swiss Parliament ( – 12/4/2020)

  • Swiss lawmakers are set to vote on a new and controversial DNA screening method to help police track down criminals. The government has prepared changes to the DNA Profiling Act to allow for a technique known as phenotyping.



Video: DNA Matches South Carolina Fugitive, 47, with 1999 South Jersey Rape. Attempted Murder (Daily Voice – 12/4/2020)

  • Detectives said DNA was collected from one of the victims, but a potential match wasn’t located until October 2019 when the Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS, resulted in a hit on Adams.



Missing Person Case Solved with DNA Genetic Profiles from San Juan County (The Journal of the San Juan Islands – 12/5/2020)

  • Three men discovered along the water over the course of several years in San Juan County have been identified using DNA genetic profiles developed with the assistance of the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s office.



Missouri State Highway Patrol Expands Crime Lab, Expects More DNA Processing (KY3 – 12/5/2020)

  • Missouri Gov. Mike Parson cut the ribbon at a ceremony Wednesday to commemorate the expansion. The 8,000 square-foot expansion aims to increase DNA processing capabilities and efficiencies.



Plenty of Fish in the Sea? Scientists Can Now Count Them Using DNA (ABC News – 12/6/2020)

  • According to the most extensive comparison of its kind, the relative abundance of DNA from different species found from ocean water samples taken off the coast of New Jersey correlates well with the data gathered by the more expensive and destructive technique of bottom trawling.



A Mother’s Kindness, Technology and Persistence Give Delta Dawn her Name Back (Forensic – 12/7/2020)

  • Thirty-eight years ago, on Dec. 5, 1982, the body of a toddler was found in tall weeds near the Escatawpa River bank in Mississippi. It is believed the little girl, found wearing a pink and white dress, was thrown from the bridge into the water below. A subsequent autopsy revealed someone attempted to smother the toddler—believed to be between 18 and 24 months—before she was thrown into the river. However, her official cause of death was ruled a drowning.

    Nearly 40 years later, forensic specialists at Othram contributed forensic analysis that confirmed the identity of so-called Delta Dawn, also referred to as Baby Jane Doe, as 18-month-old Alisha Ann Heinrich.



STRmix Launches New Version of DBLR Application for DNA Evidence (Forensic – 12/7/2020)

  • Developed by the same team that created STRmix– sophisticated forensic software used to resolve mixed DNA profiles previously thought to be too complex to interpret – the new version of DBLR contains features which allow forensic analysts to determine whether there is a common donor between DNA samples and test any conceivable kinship relationship.



Police Contact by Middle School Leads to Different Outcomes for Black, White Youth (Forensic – 12/7/2020)

  • For Black youth, an encounter with police by eighth grade predicts they will be arrested by young adulthood – but the same is not true for white youth, a new University of Washington study finds.

    Black young adults are 11 times more likely to be arrested by age 20 if they had an initial encounter with law enforcement in their early teens than Black youth who don’t have that first contact.



An Extraordinary Year of Milestones in DNA Testing (Psychology Today – 12/7/2020)

  • The year 2020 has proven to be a remarkable one for DNA testing, the year when an invention originally envisioned as a niche product for genealogical hobbyists established itself as a true cultural phenomenon, touching our public and private lives in ways we never could have anticipated.



Akron Police Receive More Funding to Investigate Sexual Assault Cold Cases Using Genealogy Testing (ABC5 Cleveland – 12/8/2020)

  • The Akron Police Department’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Unit will use newly-granted funds from the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative to conduct genetic genealogy testing on sexual assault cold cases, if approved by city council.



NamUs is Back: UNT Accepts Award to Manage Program Days After Announcing its Withdrawal (Forensic – 12/9/2020)

  • After initially announcing on Friday they would cease to manage NamUs, the UNT Health Science Center’s UNT Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) has backtracked. On the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 8, UNTCHI accepted the $4.3 million award to continue to manage the missing persons program.



Researchers Use Radiomics in Forensic Examination of Charred Human Bones (Forensic – 12/9/2020)

  • Combustion is often applied to conceal corpses after murders. Therefore, establishing the timing of the combustion can provide fundamental details in forensic investigations. The research team, led by lead author Amalia Lupi, M.D., sought to assess the use of radiomics, which extracts data from clinical images, to reliably and accurately measure changes in bone structure due to fire exposure.



Within a Hair’s Breadth – Forensic Identification of Single Dyed Hair Strand Now Possible (EurekAlert! – 12/9/2020)

  •  In a recent study published in Analytical Sciences, scientists at the Tokyo University of Science, Japan, developed a strategy for identifying criminals from a single strand of hair, leveraging the fact that hair dyes are becoming increasingly common. Their approach involves finding out if two individual strands of hair belong to the same person based on the composition of hair dye products found on them.



How Neanderthal DNA Affects Human Health – Including the Risk of getting Covid-19 (CNN – 12/9/2020)

  • The scientists examined a strand of DNA that has been associated with some of the more serious cases of Covid-19 and compared it to genetic sequences known to have been passed down to living Europeans and Asians from Neanderthal ancestors. The Neanderthal DNA strand is found on chromosome 3; a team of researchers in Europe has linked certain variations in this sequence with the risk of being more severely ill when infected by Covid-19.



USF Forensic Anthropologist Hopes to Connect Unidentified Remains with Loved Ones, Solve Cold Cases (FOX13 Tampa Bay – 12/10/2020)

  • Kimmerle and her graduate students work with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the medical examiner. They exhumed three male victims in cold cases dating back to the 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, DNA and other science has jumped light-years.