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!




Sexing Ancient Cremated Human Remains Is Possible Through Skeletal Measurements (Forensic Magazine – 2/1/2019)

  • Ancient cremated human remains, despite being deformed, still retain sexually diagnostic physical features, according to a study released January 30, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Claudio Cavazzuti of Durham University, UK and colleagues. The authors provide a statistical approach for identifying traits that distinguish male and female remains within a population.


Executed Killer ‘Animal’, Who Had Satanic Tattoo, Linked by DNA to Oregon Woman’s 40-Year-Old Cold Case Murder (FOX News – 2/1/2019)

  • Detectives said they tied Jerry McFadden to Hlavaka’s murder after submitting DNA from the crime scene to the public GedMatch website for genealogical analysis.


Russia Reopens Investigation Into 60-Year-Old Dyatlov Pass Mystery (CNN – 2/4/2019)

  • Russian prosecutors have launched a new investigation into the mysterious case of nine students who died in bizarre circumstances after disappearing on a skiing trip 60 years ago.


Billboard Boy of North Carolina Identified by Genealogy (Forensic Magazine – 2/5/2019)

  • The Boy under the Billboard was at first identified as a fair Caucasian, and just last year in a cold-case review as a darker-skinned Hispanic child.

    But it took genealogy to determine the boy’s real mixed ancestry—and also to determine his real identity, and that of his murdered mother found a whole state away, off the same highway.



Harper Angel Files Bill Giving Victims of Rape Online Access to Track Sexual Assault Kits (The Lake News – 2/5/2019)

  • The 2019 Legislative Session opened with Senator Denise Harper Angel continuing her work for victims of sexual assault — specifically on the testing of sexual assault forensic kits. After successfully passing two related bills, the senator has turned her focus to the online tracking of rape kits.


Forensic DNA ‘Hit of the Year’ Expected to Have Stiff Competition (Forensic Magazine – 2/6/2019)

  • These baddest of the bad were caught in droves like never before in 2018. Some of the most depraved crimes that remained “cold cases” for decades in America and beyond were finally cracked—in one case the DNA “hit” being made in just a matter of hours in front of a computer.

    Indeed, competition could be stiff for the third annual “DNA Hit of the Year” distinction, run by the firm Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs.


How ‘Optical Tweezers’ Could Address One of Crime Labs’ Biggest Challenges (Phys Org – 2/6/2019)

  • Dawson Cruz, along with Sarah Seashols-Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor of forensic science, and Joseph Reiner, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Physics, have found that an “optical tweezer”— a compact, strongly focused laser beam that uses an immersion objective lens on an inverted microscope to create an optical trap—is effective at separating mixed , such as sperm and vaginal cells, within a solution.


DNA Leads to Arrest in Warwick, R.I., Murder Case from 2013 (Boston Globe – 2/6/2019)


Boston University Bone Searches: Smaller Gaps, Doubling Back Recommended (Forensic Magazine – 1/30/2019)


Case Study: In Search for ‘Little Prince’ Author, Forensic Science Found Another (Forensic Magazine – 1/30/2019)


Makers of At-Home DNA Test Kits Seek to Help Customers Cope with Surprising, Life-Changing Results (ABC News – 1/30/2019)

  • Millions of people have taken home DNA test kits, some with surprising, even shocking results. What’s it like to work at a company call center explaining sensitive discoveries to stressed-out customers? “Good Morning America” went behind the scenes with the customer service team at 23andMe to find out.


National Animal Forensics Lab Employees Get Back to Work (KDRV – 1/30/2019)

  • Now that the government is back open, many federal employees are dealing with 35 days worth of backlogged work. That includes scientists at the U.S Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland. It’s the crime lab for animal law enforcement for the United States and more than 180 countries.


One of the Biggest At-Home DNA Testing Companies is Working with the FBI (BuzzFeed News – 1/31/2019)

  • The move is sure to raise privacy concerns as law enforcement gains the ability to match DNA from crime scenes to a vast library of possible relatives.


Man Evades Capture for 15 Years by Using Fingerprint Implants (BuzzFeed News – 1/31/2019)

  • A drug trafficker who managed to evade capture for 15 years by cutting and burning the skin of his fingertips and having it replaced with micro-implants has been arrested by Spanish police.


Woman Uses DNA Test, Finds Sperm Donor – And Pays “Devastating” Price (CBS News  – 1/31/2019)

  • Danielle Teuscher’s 5-year-old daughter Zoe is one of thousands of children conceived with sperm from an anonymous donor. When Teuscher wanted to know more about her daughter’s ancestry and possible health issues, she and other family members decided to get DNA tests from 23andMe and added one for Zoe.


New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos (NPR – 2/1/2019)

  • A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned.

    For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment.