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!





Verogen Debuts Forensic Genetic Genealogy Workflow that Makes Solving Cases Easier (OA Online – 2/15/2021)

  • Verogen Inc. announced that it is expanding capabilities for the NDIS-approved MiSeq FGx® Sequencing System with the commercial launch of the ForenSeq® Kintelligence Kit, a solution optimized for low input and degraded samples. The kit targets 10,230 forensically curated SNPs, alleviating genetic privacy concerns by minimizing medically informative markers. The seamless integration of this workflow with GEDmatch® PRO, a dedicated forensics portal for investigative comparisons, will empower the criminal justice community to maintain chain of custody while generating deeper investigative insights.




Othram, Identifinders International to Help ID Baby Doe Found in University Dumpster (Forensic – 2/7/2021)

  • On May 4, 2005, the Spring semester was ending at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. As students were moving out of their residence halls, the dumpsters began to fill with discarded items. On that day, individuals were rummaging through a dumpster located at Sam Houston Village, an on-campus residence located at 1600 Sam Houston Avenue. One of the individuals made a gruesome discovery when they pulled out a trash bag and found it contained the body of a deceased black female infant with the umbilical cord and placenta still attached. The infant’s cause of death was ruled inconclusive based on autopsy results. There were no signs of physical trauma or illness.The SHSU University Police Department and the Texas Rangers have partnered with Othram Inc. and Identifinders International to generate leads that will help identify the infant. A DNASolves fund has been established to cover the costs associated with this process.



Calgary Police Solve 13-Year-Old Murder (Forensic – 2/16/2021)

  • Just after 5 a.m., on Aug. 5, 2007, the body of Tara-Anne was discovered by a passer-by in the 2000 block of Burns Ave. S.E. An autopsy identified the 37-year-old victim and determined she died as a result of stab wounds.A male DNA profile was identified from forensic evidence collected at the time of her murder. Unfortunately, the unknown male DNA profile did not create a match in the National DNA Data Bank, nor the Crime Scenes Index in 2007. A thorough investigation was completed, but investigators ran out of leads to follow.

    As part of the department’s ongoing commitment to reviewing unsolved murders, investigators took a fresh look at the case in late 2019. The investigative team worked with forensic specialists, who were able to identify a potential suspect in September 2020.



Study: Justice System Breakdowns Harm Rape Cases (Forensic – 2/16/2021)

  • In a new study, Case Western Reserve University researchers identified some of the primary gaps in the connective tissue of the criminal justice system—among them  failures to test rape kit DNA samples to unjustified doubts of victims’ statements.

    “Our research is powerful evidence showing why serial rapists target vulnerable people who are failed by known flaws and weaknesses in the system,” said Rachel Lovell, a research assistant professor with the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve. “This breakdown in the justice system reflects how we, as a society, have treated and failed raped victims.”



Million-Year-Old DNA Rewrites the Mammoth Family Tree (The New York Times – 2/17/2021)

  • When it comes to the mammoth family tree, it has long been believed that the Columbian mammoth evolved earlier than the smaller, shaggier woolly mammoth. But now, using DNA that is more than a million years old — the oldest ever recovered from a fossil — researchers have turned that assumption on its head: They found that the Columbian mammoth is in fact a hybrid of the woolly mammoth and a previously unrecognized mammoth lineage.



Researchers Detonate 26 Explosives to Evaluate Identification Using Shed Skin Cells (Forensic – 2/17/2021)

  • Following a terrorist bombing, can the bomb maker be identified by skin proteins left on the bomb components they handled?

    To address this question, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) personnel from Weapons Complex Integration (WCI) and Global Security (GS) Forensic Science and Biosecurity Centers (FSC/BSC) subjected notional bomb components handled by LLNL volunteers to contained precision explosions. A small team of biology and explosives subject matter experts combined their knowledge and experience to successfully carry out a series of 26 confined detonations over a three-day period.



NamUs May Get a New Managing Entity in April (Forensic – 2/17/2021)

  • “Generally, federal grants are meant as short-term exercises in capacity building and not to underwrite long-term projects, certainly not on the scale of NamUs,” explained Lucas Zarwell, director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences at NIJ. “Because the NIJ intends NamUs to last, later this year we will begin administering the program through a multi-year contract. A contract will allow us to continue the program indefinitely and give NamUs direct federal oversight, ensuring its transparency to the American taxpayer.”

    The new service agreement/contract is effective for 5 years, with a transition period built in as a deliverable to ensure no disruption of service. That same transition period will occur if UNTCHI hands over NamUs to another entity come April. Currently, DNA typing and forensic anthropology are suspended at UNTCHI, but the NIJ told Forensic there is a grant coming to revive those soon. Those two services will then continue during the new contract, in addition to fingerprint examinaton, forensic odontology and databasing.



45 Years in Prison for Assault Case Solved with Genealogy (U.S. News & World Report – 2/18/2021)

  • A man has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in a 2012 Butte County case that was solved using forensic genealogy.