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!
Scientists are now able to collect and analyze DNA pulled from thin air, and the groundbreaking new techniques used to do it could transform the way endangered animals and natural ecosystems are studied and protected.
The DNA Doe Project (DDP), collaborating with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), has identified skeletonized remains discovered by a maintenance worker in 1997 at a roadside park in Ada, Michigan, as those of Stephanie Renee Judson. DDP used investigative genetic genealogy to identify the woman who had only been known as Ada Bones Jane Doe 1997 for 25 years.
In what feels like the epitome of a “perfect match,” the City of Tulsa has awarded a grant to Intermountain Forensics to help identify bodies thought to be associated with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Intermountain Forensics is a non-profit forensic DNA laboratory that uses cutting-edge technologies to provide results as cost effectively as possible—most often completely free of charge. This is accomplished through solid partnerships with the foremost forensic companies in the world who donate their time, money, equipment, resources and more.
All of it is headed by veteran lab director Danny Hellwig, who jumped at the opportunity to be involved with the 1921 Graves Investigation.
Identifinders International, in conjunction with the Houston Institute of Forensic Sciences and audiochuck, announces the identification of 1981 Harris County murder victims as then 21 year-old Harold Dean Clouse and spouse 17 year-old Tina Gail (Linn) Clouse.
The newlywed couple, who married in June 1979, was found together in a wooded area in Houston, Texas. They had been deceased approximately two months prior to their discovery on January 12, 1981, when a dog led searchers to their remains. Mr. Clouse was found beaten, bound and gagged. Ms. Clouse had been strangled.
In August 2003, skeletal remains were found in the area of Hwy 47 and County Road 5 in Bradford Township. The remains were discovered during an excavation project by a land owner. It was believed the body was that of a Caucasian male, 20-28 years old and had been buried for 3 to 28 years. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) obtained a DNA profile and dental records which were entered into missing person databases. A facial reconstruction was also commissioned to generate clues to the unidentified person’s identity.
Over several years, investigators submitted DNA samples of several people who believed that this was possibly a relative of theirs, but no relatives were confirmed.
In most Latin American countries where there has been a high level of civil conflict over the past few decades, there are still huge numbers of missing people due to forced disappearances. In Colombia alone this number is estimated to be more than 120,000 people after five decades of bitter insurgency. Many thousands of others have been disappeared across Mexico, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Searching for human remains in South America is hugely challenging, which is often a consequence of the remote locations used, inhospitable search terrain, and the time that has elapsed since the person disappeared, which can be over 40 years.
In May 2012, a Talladega County Sheriff’s Office deputy was patrolling rural Allred Road in Lincoln, Alabama. He noticed the front door of a vacant home was wide open and decided to investigate. When he searched the backyard of the property, he discovered the human remains of an unknown woman. Her body was found less than five miles from the Talladega Superspeedway, a NASCAR racetrack that holds several major race events each year. At the time she was discovered, the Superspeedway was holding a multi-day race event with thousands in attendance. Investigators were not able to determine if the woman and her death were connected in any way to the events held that weekend.
In April 1981, the Bethlehem Police Department responded to a wooded area at the property line between the Vadney Farm and the Elm Avenue Town Park in Delmar, NY after a farmer discovered the remains of an adult man. There was no identification on the deceased individual. The Bethlehem Police Department began an investigation and followed up on all leads for several years before all leads were exhausted. In 2013, the Bethlehem Police Department re-opened the investigation into this case and undertook efforts to identify the deceased man. Through the course of this investigation police were able to locate the mandible and maxilla of the deceased at a dentist office in Saratoga County. The previous dentist at this location had been involved in working to identify the decedent back in 1981. The mandible and maxilla were examined with the assistance of a Forensic Odonatologist from the New York State Police, and found to be those of the deceased from 1981. These bones were then submitted to the New York State Police Lab, New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the University of Texas Center for Human Identification in efforts to develop a DNA profile of the deceased.
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