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!
The Bensalem Police Department in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, announced that a Jane Doe found dead behind a local diner in 1995 had been identified as Merrybeth Hodgkinson after extensive genealogical testing.
The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) today announced grant awards totaling more than $210 million to fund crime laboratories, support research, decrease DNA backlogs and help law enforcement identify missing persons. The funding is administered by the OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
“The department is committed to strengthening and expanding forensic capabilities from the crime scene to the courtroom,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “Supporting forensic science nationwide helps bring justice, closure and peace to victims and their families.”
Scientists have compiled the world’s oldest family tree from human bones interred at a 5,700-year-old tomb in the Cotswolds, UK. Analysis of DNA from the tomb’s occupants revealed the people buried there were from five continuous generations of one extended family. Most of those found in the tomb were descended from four women who all had children with the same man.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley’s office has used burgeoning DNA technology to identify three men who are accused of carrying out a combined six sexual assaults across Cleveland in the 1990s.
Two of the men, who were indicted in recent years as John Doe defendants, have pleaded not guilty to charges including rape. The third man died in 2020, prosecutors said.
A Bellflower woman whose remains were unearthed near Thousand Palms almost 30 years ago was positively identified based on a DNA match, authorities said Monday.
The body of Patricia Cavallaro, 57, was discovered partially buried on Oct. 24, 1994, in the area of Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road.
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department detectives ultimately determined that she was the victim of a homicide. However, clues about her identity were nil, despite a detailed sketch being circulated publicly at the time, and the case soon went cold.
A 26-year-old Atlanta murder and rape cold case investigation is closed now thanks to genealogy and DNA profiling that connected the suspect to an East Point sexual assault nine years later. But East Point victim Betty Brown told reporters Tuesday morning, “It’s bittersweet.” The suspect, whom police declined to name, died in August 2021 of liver and kidney failure.
Forensic researchers are calling for the research community to be more proactive about addressing systemic racism in the sciences—currently and historically—in order to address longstanding issues related to how Black people and their remains are treated by museum collections and society at large.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has called attention to systemic racism in a variety of contexts, including the way the remains of Black people have been collected, displayed and studied in museums and research collections,” says Ann Ross, co-author of a paper on the subject and a professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University. “As forensic researchers who make use of these skeletal collections, we think this is an opportunity for us to encourage difficult conversations about these collections and what a path forward may look like.”
The University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute, in collaboration with the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, is using its nationally ranked expertise to solve a mystery involving one of the nation’s most notorious outlaws.
Through a donation, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum received a purse believed to belong to Bonnie Parker of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo, who committed dozens of robberies and burglaries while running from law enforcement between 1932 and 1934.
While the purse, which is stamped with Parker’s name and features what is presumed to be a single bullet hole, is believed to belong to Parker, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum wants to make sure.
The Mississippi Forensics Laboratory has hired a new director. Mary Dukes, who has worked in the private sector and at crime labs in Louisiana, will now join Mississippi’s crime lab. Dukes is taking over for the state’s previous forensics lab director, Sam Howell, who retired last year after decades working for the state. The Mississippi Forensics Laboratory provides forensic services to law enforcement agencies throughout the state. The department has operations in Pearl, Batesville, Biloxi and Meridian.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS? SUBSCRIBE TO THE ISHI BLOG BELOW!