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 Links Man to 1992 Killings of Indiana Woman, Girl, 4 (Forensic – 2/19/2021)

Black Families Using DNA, Genealogy to Fill in Historical Gaps Left by Slavery (USA Today – 2/19/2021)

  • Inspired by the 400th anniversary of the 1619 African landing, more Black people are researching their roots and tracing their ancestry.



Michigan State Police Crime Lab Backlogs Shrink (The Detroit News – 2/20/2021)

  • More than 5,000 crime kits await testing by the Michigan State Police, but according to officials the backlog has shrunk dramatically.

    The MSP crime lab has drastically reduced its backlog, as well as forensic testing turnaround times.



Solving the Mystery of the Appalachian Hiker “Mostly Harmless” (CBS Sunday Morning – 2/21/2021)

  • Hikers made a terrible discovery at the Big Cypress National Preserve, in Florida’s Alligator Alley: A dead body had been found curled up in a yellow tent at a camp site. The hiker called himself Mostly Harmless. But his real name remained a mystery. Sheriff’s detectives searched databases using his face and fingerprints: nothing. The autopsy couldn’t even pinpoint a cause of death. But over the next two years the case slowly gathered attention.



DNA from 360,000-Year-Old Bone Reveals Oldest Non-Permafrost Genome (Phys Org – 2/22/2021)

  • Scientists have successfully sequenced the genome of an extinct cave bear using a 360,000-year-old bone—the oldest genome of any organism from a non-permafrost environment. The work, involving Nottingham Trent University and the University of Potsdam in Germany, has revealed a new evolutionary history for the giant cave bear, which became extinct about 25,000 years ago.



First DNA Learning Center Opens in Nigeria (Forensic – 2/22/2021)

  • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) welcomes Nigeria’s new DNA Learning Center (DNALC) at Godfrey Okoye University (GOU) to its network of 20 DNALC sites and franchises around the world. DNALCs educate teachers and students about DNA technologies important for understanding our shared human inheritance, monitoring biodiversity, and improving crops. GOU’s new DNALC is the first in Africa.



The Forensic Sciences’ Toxic Entanglement with the Myth of Objectivity (Forensic – 2/22/2021)

  • “Scientific objectivity.” It’s a concept as old as the Enlightenment and a mainstay of mid-20th-century approaches to science, thought to be a core tenet of forensic scientific analysis and testimony. It’s also a myth—and it’s dangerous.



Familial DNA Bill Filed in Massachusetts (Boston 25 News – 2/22/2021)

  • The bill standardizes, for all Massachusetts District Attorneys, the way familial DNA is used, once it’s gathered. If the bill becomes law, it is hoped the guidelines will ensure that familial DNA will be available to investigators across the state.



An Ancient Alaskan Dog’s DNA Hints at an Epic Shared Journey (Nature – 2/24/2021)

  • To scientists’ surprise, a 10,000-year-old bone found in an Alaskan cave belonged to a domestic dog — one of the earliest known from the Americas.



New Mexico Begins Construction of New State Crime Lab (Forensic – 2/24/2021)

  • The state Department of Public Safety announced Tuesday that construction of the new $21.9 million forensic laboratory has begun in Santa Fe and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2022.

    The new facility will support New Mexico law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and court systems by analyzing forensic evidence collected at crime scenes and provide testimony in court.



DNA Identifies Ohio Woman Missing Since March (Forensic – 2/24/2021)

  • Experts working for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have identified a woman whose body was found in the Mahoning River this past summer, and authorities are asking for the public’s help in determining what happened to her.

    BCI conducted forensic testing and, through DNA analysis, identified the woman as Bessie Ryan, 40. Ryan had last been seen in March and was reported as a missing person in Warren, Ohio.



Corey Pickett Case Puts New Jersey Courts and TrueAllele Head-to-Head (Forensic – 2/24/2021)

  • After a successful appeal by the defendant, state attorneys have filed a motion to reconsider the use and evaluation of probabilistic genotyping software TrueAllele in the case of Corey Pickett, a man charged with murder in New Jersey.

    While Cybergenetics’ TrueAllele has had over 25 admissibility cases in multiple states and federal court, New Jersey is not one of them. The Pickett case is the first time a New Jersey court has addressed the use of probabilistic genotyping software.