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!




2 Indigenous Women Buried in 1970s Identified through DNA Analysis, Edmonton Police Say (RCI – 2/23/2024)

    • Louise Laderoute, 24, died in 1975; Irene Jacknife, 30, died in 1976

      Edmonton’s police chief, Indigenous leaders and an elder offered condolences Friday morning to the families of two Indigenous women who were buried anonymously in Edmonton cemeteries nearly half a century ago.

      DNA testing has identified the women as Louise Laderoute, 24, and Irene Jacknife, 30.

      Laderoute, a member of Papaschase First Nation, was reported missing from Edmonton before she died in 1975. Jacknife, reported missing from Drayton Valley, Alta., died a year later.




Man’s Remains Identified After Nearly 33 Years (FOX54 – 2/23/2024)

    • DNA forensics have led to the positive identification of remains first found more than 30 years ago. DeKalb County officials revealed Friday that a DNA sample “conclusively confirmed” that the skeletal remains belonged to 22-year-old Rainbow Canyon King, a native of Tompkinsville, Kentucky.


      The remains were first discovered by a hunter in a wooded area near the intersection of County Road 51 and Alabama Highway 227 in rural DeKalb County, Alabama, on December 21, 1991.



Improved Monitoring of South Africa’s DNA Database Reduces Analysis Backlog (Forensic – 2/23/2024)

    • The Portfolio Committee on Police has welcomed improvements within the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board (DNA Board), which have enhanced the functionality of the National Forensic DNA Database of South Africa (NFDD) and the Forensic Science Laboratories (FSLs). Since its inception, the committee conducted heightened oversight over this environment in the belief that forensic science is at the centre of successful criminal prosecutions.

      The committee was briefed on the Board’s annual performance for the 2022/23 financial year.

      The committee welcomed the information that as a result of the enhanced monitoring and oversight, the DNA analysis backlog was reduced by approximately 99%. This intervention is necessary to enhance investigations, especially in light for the call by the President to strengthen the fight against gender-based violence. Also, following the intervention of the Board, two complaints received by the Board led to positive resolutions and the DNA samples analysis was conducted.



New Effort to Collect DNA from Convicted Felons in Mass. (WCVB – 2/24/2024)

    • Police, probation and correction officers are being trained to collect DNA. So far, about 4,000 have been trained, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

      Law enforcement officers have a new tool to find the people. Since July, police have been able to see right on their cruiser laptop computers whether someone has failed to give a DNA sample — it’s included with other information such as a person’s name, date of birth and criminal record.

      The training and the additional information are all aimed at shrinking the number of felons who should have but never did give a DNA sample: 12,000, according to EOPSS.



Decades-Old Missing Person Case Solved After Relative Uploads DNA to Genealogy Site (KOSU – 2/25/2024)

    • About 54 years ago, a Boy Scout troop leader in Sauvie Island, Ore., stumbled upon a shallow grave. In the buried dirt seemed to be some forgotten clothing. In reality, it was the remains of a teenage girl.

      Her entire body, in skeletal form, was discovered underneath the grave, as well as pieces from a black curly wig, according to Oregon State Police. At the time, investigators said the body showed clear signs of foul play.

      For decades, the identity of the young woman remained a mystery — until Thursday.

      State authorities identifiedthe woman as Sandra Young, a teenager from Portland who went missing between 1968 and 1969. Her identity was discovered through advanced DNA technology, which has helped solve stubborn cold cases in recent years.

      The case’s breakthrough came last year in January, when a person uploaded their DNA to the genealogy database GEDMatch and the tool immediately determined that the DNA donor was a distant family member of Young. According to Oregon State Police, Young’s DNA was already in databases used by law enforcement to help identify missing persons.


University to Open New Human ID, Forensic Anthropology Lab (Forensic – 2/26/2024)

    • The University of Wisconsin-Parkside will debut a new Human Identification and Forensic Anthropology Lab for the Spring 2024 semester. The fully functioning forensic anthropology facility will be capable of providing a full and detailed biological profile of unknown decedents. Using the most up-to-date statistical software available, the analyses will be able to include metric and non-metric data that can be useful in current cases, “cold cases,” and even historical and archeological cases.

      In addition to traditional forensic anthropological analyses, the lab is equipped to handle DNA extractions from bone and dental tissue. It can be extremely difficult and time-consuming to get DNA from bones, especially old or damaged samples. Keith Biddle, a forensic and molecular anthropologist will serve as the lab manager.



Identified: RV’er Who Made Friends with the Wrong Felon (Forensic – 2/26/2024)

  • In March 2008, the remains of an unidentified individual were discovered in Churchill County, Nevada. A passerby discovered skeletal fragments partially covered with dirt and gravel in a remote area near US highway 95 near mile marker 55. The Churchill County Sheriff’s Office responded and conducted a death investigation. The shallow dirt grave was excavated and numerous skeletal fragments, along with an orange halter top, were discovered.

    The individual’s remains was transported to the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office where a complete autopsy was performed by a county forensic pathologist. It was determined that the remains were that of an adult female. The woman’s cause of death was determined to be multiple gunshot wounds, and the manner of death was homicide. Despite investigators attempts to identify the woman, her identity remained a mystery. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP8110.

    In 2023, the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract that was used in Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unidentified homicide victim. Othram’s in-house forensic genetic genealogy team used the profile in a genetic genealogy search to develop investigative leads that were returned to the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

    Using these new leads, the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office conducted a follow-up investigation, leading to a potential relative who provided a DNA sample for direct comparison. Othram used KinSNP to compare the two DNA samples, making a positive identification. The woman is now identified as Betty Lou Japel. Japel was 70 years old at the time of her death.


A Break in the Cold: How a College Student and DNA Cracked a 1982 Murder Case (BNN – 2/26/2024)

    • Imagine holding onto a mystery for over four decades, a question mark lingering like an uninvited guest in the lives of those affected. This was the reality for the family and friends of Lee Rotatori, whose life was tragically cut short in Council Bluffs in 1982. However, the relentless march of technology coupled with the persistence of a young college student turned the tides in a case that many feared was consigned to the annals of unsolvable mysteries. This is not just a story of a crime; it’s a narrative about the intersection of determination, science, and serendipity.



Identification of Alabama Man’s Body Found in 1991 Solves One Mystery, But Others Remain ( – 2/26/2024)

  • On Friday, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office announced that forensic testing had identified a body found in 1991 in a remote area as Rainbow Canyon King, who was 22 at the time of his death. King’s partially decomposed body was found by hunters in a wooded area near the intersection of County Road 51 and Alabama 227 on Dec. 21, 1991. The body was dressed in black Levi 501 jeans, a black dress shirt, and white LA Gear athletic shoes.

    More than a year ago, in late 2022, Olivia McCarter, a genealogy analyst with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, contacted DeKalb County about using genetic genealogy to identify the remains. McCarter has been involved in several identification cases, including the Delta Dawn investigation.

    Last year, DNA samples extracted from the remains were sent to Intermountain Forensics, a non-profit laboratory in Salt Lake City, for analysis and whole-genome sequencing. The DNA data was then uploaded to GEDMatch by McCarter and her team at Moxxy Forensic Investigations.

    McCarter said King was identified using one of the smallest samples she has ever used – six human cells extracted from two wisdom teeth, which had been waiting for thirty years in a morgue.

    The sample was then submitted to a database. Within six hours, there was a match to King’s half-sister.



New Mexico’s New Cold Case Unit Focusing on Genealogy Testing (KRQE – 2/27/2024)

  • Law enforcement is using genealogy testing to solve crimes that have otherwise led investigators to dead ends years ago. This week on the New Mexico News PodcastChris McKee and Gabrielle Burkhart sit down with New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez to discuss his announcement of the state’s first-of-its-kind Cold Case Unit.

    The unit will partner with smaller departments across the state to focus on solving old cases using genealogy databases and testing to follow leads.


The Role of Generative AI in Forensics (Medium – 2/27/2024)

  • The US is the leading country in using and developing Generative AI in business and has the most startups in the world for Generative AI, giving them access to the needed tools to help solve these crimes. How will this play out in the future since AI will be changing and affecting every sector of business, including forensics?

    Forensic investigations play a crucial role in solving crimes and ensuring justice. With the advent of Generative AI, the field of forensics is poised to undergo a transformative shift. This cutting-edge technology has the potential to revolutionize the way investigations are conducted, providing investigators with powerful tools to unravel complex cases. In this post, we will explore the key statistics highlighting the benefits of Generative AI in forensics.



Rapid DNA Tests Speed Up Investigations for Connecticut Police (New England Public Media – 2/27/2024)

  • Connecticut’s rapid DNA testing program was introduced in 2021 to help reduce turnaround time for forensic tests. Guy Vallaro is director of the Division of Scientific Services, which operates the state’s forensics lab. He said traditional DNA analysis takes an average of 47 days to complete. But with rapid DNA testing, samples can be matched within just a few hours.

    The shortened timeline allows police to more quickly develop investigative leads, and to prioritize which forensic samples should undergo additional, more time-consuming tests.

    Investigators can access rapid DNA tests at police departments in Greenwich, New Haven, Waterbury and Hartford. They can also test samples at State Police Troop E in Montville, and at the state forensics lab in Meriden. Plans are in the works to make testing machines available in the future in Bridgeport, and in a mobile van that would travel to other parts of Connecticut.


Steve Lathrop of Missouri on the Role of Artificial Intelligence in DNA Genealogy: Enhancing Ancestral Discoveries (CCNJ Daily – 2/27/2024)

  • In recent years, the marriage of artificial intelligence (AI) and DNA genealogy has transformed the landscape of ancestral research, offering unprecedented insights into our genetic heritage. AI algorithms analyze vast genetic databases, uncovering hidden connections between individuals and refining family trees with unparalleled accuracy. In this article from Steve Lathrop of Missouri, he will explore the pivotal role of artificial intelligence in DNA genealogy, shedding light on how these advanced technologies are revolutionizing the way we uncover our ancestral past.



Reading the Bones: A Technique Used for Extracting Ancient DNA Useful for ID’ing Burned Bodies (BingUNews – 2/28/2024)

  • A technique originally devised to extract DNA from woolly mammoths and other ancient archaeological specimens can be used to potentially identify badly burned human remains, according to research from Binghamton University Research Assistant Professor of Anthropology Matthew Emery.

    “Targeted Enrichment of Whole-Genome SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphism) from Highly Burned Skeletal Remains” was recently published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Co-authors include Binghamton University Assistant Professor of Anthropology Laure Spake; Anne Stone, Emery’s mentor at Arizona State University, where he did a postdoctoral fellowship; Katelyn Bolhofner, Jane Buikstra, Suhail Ghafoor, Cyril Versoza, Erin Rawls, and Stevie Winingear from Arizona State; Laura Fulginiti, a forensic anthropologist with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office in Arizona; and by Odile Loreille, a forensic scientist with the FBI laboratory.

    Fire victims may be identified through dental records if the teeth are preserved and such records exist. Oftentimes, DNA testing is the only way to identify badly burned bodies. Researchers can extract usable DNA from bones subjected to conditions between 200 and 250 degrees centigrade; between 350 and 550 degrees, there is a steep drop-off in the concentration of DNA.

    “In effect, there’s an inverse correlation: the higher the burn temperature, the less DNA is preserved,” explained Emery, the lead author. “Part of the idea was to look at how DNA degrades systematically across different temperature ranges.”

    The researchers used two different techniques to extract DNA from the bones and teeth of 27 fire victims from incidents that included house fires, airplane crashes, truck fires and motor vehicle accidents.



The Emotional Impact of Working in Investigative Genetic Genealogy (Forensic – 2/28/2024)

  • The thrill of the chase is what draws so many to the field, and the satisfaction of helping bring justice to victims of violent crime is the icing on the cake. With that said, there are some enormous drawbacks to working in IGG, and it is worth examining them before making a decision to jump into this career.

    IGG practitioners are tasked with generating investigative leads in some of the most grisly violent crimes imaginable. While our “need to know” is the bare minimum, we are often subject to learning the details of the crimes we are researching, and they can be haunting. It is common for IGG practitioners to express affinity with victims and their families, and traumatic stress, and fear for their personal safety and security – all related to working violent crime cases.

    IGG is a rapidly evolving field. Keeping up with active cases playing out in court, ever-changing database and resource terms of services, and tracking newly introduced legislation could be a full-time job. The practice of IGG has been debated in the media, in blogs, and in social media since its inception. Crusaders with privacy concerns arguing passionately for tighter legislation face off against investigators and IGG practitioners advocating for the continued practice of IGG. For people working in the field, it is impossible to escape the deluge of vitriol aimed at IGG practitioners.



Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Teams with Othram to Identify a 1985 John Doe (DNASolves – 2/28/2024)

  • In May 1985, the remains of an unidentified male were discovered in a vacant lot near Gibsonton, Florida. Gibsonton is located on the Tampa Bay in Hillsborough County. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene. It was determined that the man was between the ages of 40 and 60 years at the time of his death. He was likely 5’6” to 5’10” tall. Investigators also found several articles of clothing and other personal items at the scene.

    In 2023, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office teamed with Othram to determine if advanced DNA testing could help to identify the man. Skeletal remains were sent to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from the skeletal evidence and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop a comprehensive DNA profile. Othram’s in-house forensic genetic genealogy team then used the profile in a genealogical search to generate new investigative leads.

    Using these new leads, investigators initiated a follow-up investigation which led them to possible relatives of the unknown man who had left no digital footprint for the last forty years. The individual, discovered on May 24, 1985, near Adamsville Avenue, north of Big Bend Road, has now been identified as Mr. Charles Allen Ray, born in 1936 and an honorable veteran of the United States Navy. Investigators determined that Charles Allen Ray was missing since the mid-1980s and a established a possible link to the Ray family through meticulous genealogical research in partnership with Othram.



Under-Representation in DNA Databases can be Hurdle for Cold Case Investigations (Cleveland 19 – 2/28/2024)

  • More and more John and Jane Doe cold cases are being cracked everyday thanks to detective work and investigative genetic genealogy.

    But sometimes, experts say African American Doe cases take longer to solve.

    19 Investigates looked into why this is happening and why experts are hopeful some solutions to this problem could change things soon.



Nevada State Police & FBI Team with Othram to Identify a 1980 Homicide Victim (DNASolves – 2/28/2024)

  • In October 1980, Nye County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO) Deputies located the remains of an unknown adult male approximately 60 miles south of Tonopah, Nevada near a dirt road. The man’s remains were discovered roughly one mile east of US highway 95. The NCSO requested the investigative assistance of the Nevada State Police – Investigation Division (NSP ID) and detectives responded to the scene. Evidentiary items were collected from the scene and a subsequent investigation revealed that the man suffered several gunshot wounds. The man’s manner of death was determined to be homicide.

    In March 2022, the Nevada State Police – Investigation Division submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas in hopes that advanced DNA testing could help to identify the unknown man. Othram scientists developed a suitable DNA extract from the provided skeletal remains and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile. After successfully completing the process, the DNA profile was delivered to the FBI’s forensic genetic genealogy team and the FBI team performed the necessary work to generate investigative leads.

    The FBI’s forensic genetic genealogy search yielded several new leads, which were provided to NSP ID Detectives. The follow-up investigation led to the identification of the homicide victim as Albert Matas of Commerce, California. Further investigation revealed that Albert’s family had lost all contact with him in September of 1978.



Volusia County Sheriff’s Office teams with Othram to Identify 2006 John Doe (DNASolves – 2/28/2024)

  • In January 2006, the remains of an unidentified individual were located by hunters about a quarter-mile into a wooded area in DeLand, Florida, just north of Orlando. Investigators determined that the remains were that of a white male, who was between 25 and 65 years old. It was estimated that the man’s height was 6 ‘1” at the time of his death. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as #UP118.

    In 2017, a composite sketch was created depicting how the man may have looked during his life and released to the public in hopes that it would generate new leads in the case. Despite investigator’s work to identify the decedent, the man’s identity remains a nearly two decade old mystery.

    In October 2023, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office teamed up with Othram to leverage advanced DNA testing and genetic genealogy to develop investigative leads in hopes of identifying the man.



Hearing in Idaho Student Killings Case Focuses on Genetic Genealogy. Why That may be Important ( – 2/28/2024)

  • A hearing Wednesday in the murder trial of Bryan Kohberger, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students in November 2022, is set to discuss the investigative genetic genealogy evidence in the case – an issue his attorneys have said is a key part of his defense. Though minor in scope, Wednesday’s hearing to discuss the issue reflects the defense’s interest in closely examining the investigative genetic genealogy evidence and its use in the investigation.

    The prosecution has argued investigative genetic genealogy was not mentioned or used in the warrants and will not be presented at trial, so it’s therefore not relevant to the case. However, Kohberger’s defense has argued they should be entitled to access all DNA data used in the case, including material from the FBI’s investigative genetic genealogy process, to better prepare for their defense.