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!




St. Clair County Sheriff Using DNA Technology to Investigate 2003 Homicide (Times Herald – 2/2/2022)

  • A woman found dead in a dumpster has been a Jane Doe for almost 19 years. Now, detectives from the St. Clair County Sheriff Department and Colorado are using new techniques to give her a name and find out what happened to her.

    Silver first reached out to Parabon Nanolabs, a DNA technology company. The lab used the sample to generate what could be a more accurate portrait of the woman.

    Silver then sent a sample to Michele Kennedy, an investigative genetic genealogist and owner of Solved by DNA.



Could a DNA Sample Taken 30 Years Ago Solve the Infamous Yogurt Shop Murder Case? (CBS News – 2/4/2022)

  • When four teenage girls were murdered in an Austin, Texas, yogurt shop in 1991, a heartbroken city was left searching for answers. No one imagined that 30 years later, the case would remain unsolved.

    But now, thanks to new advances in DNA technology, there is renewed hope that a piece of evidence collected from the scene on the night of the crime will be key to solving the case once and for all. “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty reports on the latest developments in “The Yogurt Shop Murders,”


NamUs Makes Sense to Close Gaps in Cold Cases (The Daily Item – 2/5/2022)

  • In many cases, it has been years since any real signs of hope. Adding NamUs into the toolbox can only help, perhaps offering families a few steps toward closure they have they have long sought. (Opinion)


DDP Traces Jane Doe’s Line Back to the 1700s (Forensic – 2/07/2022)

  • On Friday, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office (RCMEO) and the DNA Doe Project (DDP) announced the identity of the remains of a woman discovered near Lilydale, Minnesota in 1976 as that of Roberta Seyfert. Using investigative genetic genealogy, DDP was able to solve the 45-year-old cold case of the woman known only as Lilydale Jane Doe 1976 since her body was discovered.


How Centuries-Old Bones from Australia’s Historic Shipwrecks Can Help Us Solve Crimes (The Conversation – 2/7/2022)

  • Rivers, lakes and the sea frequently host scenes of death and crime. When a body is pulled from a watery grave – due to, for instance, drowning, floods, tsunamis, shipwrecks, air crashes or murder – specialist investigative techniques are used to piece together what may have happened.

    This discipline, known as aquatic forensics, brings together knowledge from underwater archaeology, anthropology, marine biology and marine science. But it is still in its infancy and there’s much left to learn.


Decades-Old Cold Cases Solved: Volunteer Group Uses Investigative Genetic Genealogy to Identify Remains (WTMJ-Milwaukee – 2/9/2022)

  • The I-Team meets members of DNA Doe Project and looks at cases they have worked as well as those that are upcoming in Wisconsin.


Remains found in Marion in 2003 Identified as Steven Edward Gooch (DNA Doe Project – 2/7/2022)

  • The DNA Doe Project and the Flathead County Sheriff’s office never gave up on the John Doe case from 2003, despite all odds. Deputy Coroner Shelley Giebeig brought the cold case to the DNA Doe Project in 2018, having only a partial skeleton to work with. After more than three years of painstaking investigative genetic genealogy into very distant DNA matches, DNA Doe Project volunteers were able to narrow down the Doe’s family to the descendants of a couple in Indiana who had migrated to the Seattle area.

    The badly decomposed and skeletonized remains of Mr. Gooch were discovered in October, 2003 in the area of Redgate Road in Marion, and it was estimated that he had died 7-8 years previously. Without any missing persons matches from the area, the case went cold and progress was not made until Deputy Coroner Giebeig decided to see if investigative genetic genealogy could be used to identify the remains.

    After obtaining a DNA sample from the bones, laboratory analysis was performed to create a full DNA sequence and bioinformatics created a DNA profile that was uploaded to GEDmatch and FTDNA, public DNA databases. While there were matches in the systems, they were to very distantly related people. DNA Doe Project volunteers struggled to locate the most recent common ancestor among the matches, eventually identifying the correct branch of the family tree. Giebeig followed up with the five closest DNA relatives and made a connection with Steven Gooch’s father.


Grant to Help Improve ID of Unknown American Indians, Hispanic, Latinx Americans (Forensic – 2/9/2022)

  • Heather Edgar, forensic anthropologist at The University of New Mexico Office of Medical Investigator (OMI) and professor of Anthropology, has been awarded a grant from the National Institute of Justice, according to a department press release. The grant, Improving identification of unknown American Indians and Hispanic/Latinx Americans, will allow Edgar to continue her work in this area.

    American Indians are disproportionately affected by the crisis of unidentified decedents; there are more than 4.5 times more missing American Indians reported than human remains that have been found and estimated to be American Indians.



How the Human Genome Project Revolutionized Understanding of Our DNA (Science News – 2/9/2022)

  • A century of ingenuity and technology advances taught us to read the stories in our genes


Nearly 58 Years Later, Police Solve Cold Case Murder of 9-Year-Old Pennsylvania Girl (CNN – 2/11/2022)

  • Nearly 58 years ago, Marise Chiverella was murdered and her body left in a hole in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. She was only 9 years old. State police worked tirelessly over the years but were unable to identify her killer until now. Thanks to DNA and genealogy tracking, authorities announced Thursday, they have solved her case.

    In 2019, with help from Parabon Nano-Labs, the DNA profile was uploaded to GED Match, a genealogical database. Through that, police were able the get their first genealogical match: a very distant relative, possibly a 6th cousin, according to Brutosky.
    In 2020, genealogist Eric Schubert contacted the state police offering to help free of charge and lend his unique skill set of tracing down family trees to find matches. Schubert, only 18 at the time, had assisted other police departments on several cold cases.