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!





Beyond DNA: The Rest of the Story (Science Magazine – 2/5/2021)

  • The availability of a fully sequenced human genome and genome-wide analyses of genetic variation have made DNA-based ancestry tests possible. These consumer DNA tests are now widely marketed as a way to discover or confirm family history. But what do they really tell us about our past, and what do they leave out? We asked young scientists to tell us about their family traditions, stories, and culture, and how they understood their DNA test results in the context of their lived experiences.




Mystery Solved as Inmate’s DNA Links Bone Fragment to 1979 Boating Tragedy (The Sydney Morning Herald – 2/7/2021)

  • An inmate who entered the prison system last year has unwittingly solved a decade-long mystery and helped bring closure to his family after his DNA was linked to a bone fragment discovered on a beach near Tweed Heads on September 24, 2011 – exactly 32 years since his uncle Bill Moran was tragically lost at sea.



Familial DNA Testing Pilot Brings Hope to Family of Missing Bowraville Teenager Colleen Walker-Craig ( – 2/7/2021)

  • After decades of court battles and searching, the family of missing teenager Colleen Walker-Craig — murdered in Bowraville on the NSW Mid North Coast in the 1990s — hope a new genetic testing regime may one day allow them to bring her body home.



DDP Identifies Remains of Young Woman Missing Since 2016 (Forensic – 2/8/2021)

  • In May 2019, the Louisiana State Police contacted the DNA Doe Project (DDP) to request assistance. After numerous attempts to obtain usable DNA, DDP commenced genetic genealogy research in November 2020 to find the identity of Evangeline Parish Jane Doe.

    Hunt was born on July 10, 1996 in Louisiana. She was 20 years old when she vanished from Boudin-Opelousas on the evening of July 3, 2016. On July 6, 2016, Hunt’s family reported her missing to the Opelousas Police. Her partially buried skeletal remains were discovered in a field near Ville Platte, Louisiana on Dec. 30, 2018. The case is being handled as a homicide.



New Study Strengthens Claims Richard III Murdered the Princes in the Tower (Forensic – 2/8/2021)

  • King Richard III’s involvement in one of the most notorious and emotive mysteries in English history may be a step closer to being confirmed following a new study by Tim Thornton of the University of Huddersfield.

    Richard has long been held responsible of the murder of his nephews King Edward V and his brother, Richard, duke of York—dubbed The Princes in the Tower—in a dispute about succession to the throne. The pair were held in the Tower of London, but disappeared from public view in 1483 with Richard taking the blame following his death two years later.



Story of Human Evolution Gets Another Rewrite with DNA Analysis of Chinese Teeth (CNN – 2/8/2021)

  • New research published Monday has suggested perhaps we shouldn’t be so eager to rewrite the time line on human origins. DNA analysis of two human teeth found in the same cave, called Fuyan, plus teeth and other fossilized remains from four other caves in the same region, suggested that it was unlikely early modern humans were in China so early.



ANDE Launches Rapid DNA Booking Management Solution – First in Industry to Receive FBI Approval for Use in Booking Stations (PR Newswire – 2/8/2021)

  • ANDE Corporation, the global leader in Rapid DNA, today announced the availability of its Rapid DNA Booking Management product suite, which is available for immediate delivery. Effective February 1, 2021, ANDE received approval from the FBI for its technology to be deployed in booking stations to support processing of DNA samples from qualifying arrestees and the automatic upload and searching of these DNA IDs against the National DNA Index System (NDIS).



DNA Match Leads to Murder Charge in 13-Year-Old Calgary Cold Case (Global News Canada – 2/8/2021)

  • An Edmonton man, who was only 16 at the time Tara-Anne Landgraf was found dead on a Calgary street, will be tried in youth court for her murder, after being arrested and charged more than 13 years after the attack. The case was reopened in late 2019 as part of the police service’s review of unsolved murders and, working with forensic specialists, investigators identified a possible suspect in September 2020. The suspect’s DNA matched the DNA collected at the scene of the crime in 2007.



There’s a Secret Frozen Forensic Study Facility in the U.P. (WBCK 95.3 – 2/8/2021)

  • FROST’s location is kept secret out of respect for those inside the facility. Basically, because many of the people at the facility are dead and have donated their bodies to science and in this case – frozen science.

    FROST is for finding out what happens to bodies when they are frozen after death. They are also studying what happens from microbes, insects, and some animal scavenging.


Learning about Mayflower Heritage Spurs DNA Expert to Identify Missing Soldiers (Wicked Local – 2/9/2021)

  • Many years ago, when Bonnie Wade Mucia began researching her roots, she made a startling discovery about her heritage – and it changed everything for her. With her interest kindled, she started studying genealogy and eventually became a forensic genealogist, helping the U.S. Army identify the remains of soldiers missing or killed in action in World War II.



Family of Wendy Stephens Finds Closure 38 Years Later, Thanks to Improvements in Forensic Genealogy (The Denver Channel – 2/9/2021)

  • After nearly four decades, a Denver family finally has some answers about what happened to Wendy Stephens.

    Stephens was just 14 years old when she disappeared in 1983 in Denver; the teen’s parents had filed a missing person’s report, but police were unable to track the teen down.

    The teen’s body was found a year after her disappearance in Washington and was linked to the Green River killer, but investigators were unable to identify it.



Greely Police Solve 2001 Child Kidnapping and Sex Assault Case with the Help of DNA Technology (The Denver Channel – 2/9/2021)

  • The Greeley Police Department has solved a child kidnapping and sex assault case from 2001 using a specialized DNA technology. In 2019, Greeley Police requested the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company that specializes in a process that predicts physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence, called Snapshot DNA Phenotyping Service.



Fears Over DNA Privacy as 23andMe Plans to go Public in Deal with Richard Branson (The Guardian – 2/9/2021)

  • The genetic testing company 23andMe will go public through a partnership with a firm backed by the billionaire Richard Branson, in a deal that has raised fresh privacy questions about the information of millions of customers.

    Launched in 2006, 23andMe sells tests to determine consumers’ genetic ancestry and risk of developing certain illnesses, using saliva samples sent in by mail.

    Privacy advocates and researchers have long raised concerns about a for-profit company owning the genetic data of millions of people, fears that have only intensified with news of the partnership.



Doctor of Education Student Helps Solve Mysteries when He’s Not Studying (University of New England – 2/10/2021)

  • When he is not busy studying for his Doctor of Education degree in UNE’s College of Graduate and Professional Studies (CGPS) program, Anthony Redgrave helps law enforcement crack cold cases and identify unknown deceased persons, known as “John Does” or “Jane Does.”

    Redgrave operates Redgrave Research Forensic Services, a Massachusetts-based business he co-founded with his spouse.



Montgomery County Forensic Services Partners with Othram to Identify Montgomery County John Doe (DNA Solves – 2/11/2021)

  • In October 2016, the remains of a man, described as middle-aged or older and white or possibly Hispanic/Latino, were recovered from a parkside reservoir in The Woodlands, Texas. No evidence or information was found that could point investigators to his identity.

    Montgomery County Forensic Services attempted to identify the man using fingerprints and CODIS testing, but traditional approaches were unsuccessful in producing any further leads. In late 2020, Montgomery County Forensic Services partnered with Othram to develop new leads in the case. Using data collected through previous DNA testing efforts for the case, scientists at Othram performed forensic restoration of the existing data, and constructed a new genealogical profile in order to find potential genetic relatives of the unknown man.