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!




DNA Doe, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office ID Woman in 40-Year-Old Cold Case (Forensic – 2/14/2020)

  •  The identification of one of the agency’s most publicized “Jane Doe” homicides finally has been accomplished with the assistance of the DNA Doe Project’s volunteer genealogists and the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office.



DNA Links 1996 Cold Case to Man Named in ‘Serial’ Podcast (The Hill – 2/14/2020)

  • A late man from Baltimore County, Md., named in the popular podcast “Serial” has been accused of a decades-old South Carolina cold case murder.


DNA, Genetic Genealogy Identifying Bodies in Decades-Old John and Jane Doe Cold Cases (FOX News – 2/14/2020)

  • The nonprofit DNA Doe Project is focused solely on these types of cases and in the past 22 months their genealogist volunteers have named about two dozen John and Jane Doe victims. Recently, the list has grown with each passing week.


Woodlands-Based Biotech Company is Helping Solve America’s Cold Cases (Woodlands Online – 2/14/2020)

  • Othram uses advanced DNA sequencing and proprietary software to enable human identification applications from degraded and often scare forensic DNA evidence. The company has built the first and only private laboratory to apply the power of modern genome sequencing in a forensic environment.


FBI Could Hold Key to a Notorious Texas Cold Case. But the Info Isn’t Being Released. (USA Today – 2/16/2020)

  • At issue is a single strand of DNA collected from a victim in the brutal 1991 slaying of four teenage girls at an Austin yogurt shop. Not a complete sample, the DNA can’t identify a single suspect but could point to that person’s male lineage.


Utahns, Lawmakers Disagree on Police Use of DNA Databases (The Salt Lake Tribune – 2/17/2020)

  • If Rep. Craig Hall’s bill passes, Utah would be the first state in the country to put limits on how police can access databases made up of commonly used mail-in DNA tests from companies such as 23andMe or Ancestry.



ISP Unveils Dashboard to Track Forensic Lab Rates, Includes Backlog Cases (KFVS12 – 2/18/2020)

  • The Illinois State Police (ISP) Forensic Services Command (FSC) has unveiled a forensics dashboard which shows the number of case assignments and average completion times.


    ISP said the creation of the dashboard is to provide accountability and transparency to victims, law enforcement, prosecutors and the general public.



‘CSI’ in 1920? ‘American Sherlock’ Tracks a Pioneer in Forensics (The Christian Science Monitor – 2/19/2020)

  • Kate Winkler Dawson follows the career of Edward Oscar Heinrich, who nudged criminal investigations beyond hunches toward a more scientific approach.



Bish Cold Case an Inspiration for Bill to Expand DNA Use (Daily Hampshire Gazette – 2/19/2020)

  • A state senator from central Massachusetts hopes a bill she recently filed will give police a new tool to investigate long-unsolved violent crimes.

    State Sen. Anne Gobi’s bill would task the director of the state crime laboratory with developing regulations to allow familial DNA searching – seeking out a partial match to DNA found at a crime scene, with the goal of narrowing the hunt for a suspect by identifying a relative – in certain unsolved cases involving homicides, burglary, and violent felonies.



DNA Databases Testing the Limits of Privacy (CBS DFW 11/21 – 2/19/2020)

  • Home DNA testing combined with genetic genealogy means virtually anyone can be identified. The new technology is turning cold cases red hot, solving dozens of cases across the nation including one in Fort Worth.



National Shortage of Forensic Nurses Frustrates Rape Victims (ABC News – 2/19/2020)

  • A nationwide shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners means that rape victims are often forced to drive from hospital to hospital to find someone trained to examine them



More Than 1,000 DNA Profiles Added to National Database from Backlogged Tested Sexual Assault Kits (WSAW7 – 2/20/2020)

  • More than a thousand tested sexual assault kits have produced DNA that’s been added to a national database of DNA profiles, Wisconsin’s attorney general Josh Kaul announced Thursday. The announcement follows the completion of 4,472 tested sexual assault kits completed in November, after a statewide project to address a backlog of kits dating back to the 1980s began in 2016.