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!




Garage Repairman Linked to 1990s Cold Case Rapes Through Genealogy DNA (NBC 4 Los Angeles – 1/11/2019)

  • The break in the case against Kevin Konther of Highland, California, came when investigators used DNA evidence and matched it to twin brothers via a genealogy website.


DNA Tests Prompt a Family Reunion 52 Years in the Making (ABC News – 1/12/2019)

  • In September, 2017, an Ohio woman named Erin Chatterton who never knew her biological parents received a birthday gift from her daughter and husband — an AncestryDNA kit – and took the test.Last spring, halfway across the country, a San Diego woman named Lisa Raessner took one as well, and the startling results of those two tests led to a remarkable reunion this week that was 52 years in the making.


Bad Forensic Science is Putting Innocent People in Prison (Los Angeles Times – 1/13/2019)

  • The rigorously researched and peer-reviewed newcomer to forensics, DNA matching, has thrown into sharp relief the lack of scientific rigor in many other forensic disciplines.


James Watson: The Most Controversial Statements Made by the Father of DNA (The Independent – 1/13/2019)

  • The Nobel Prize laureate is widely recognised as a great scientist, but his reputation has been tarnished by remarks he has made about race, women and gay people



Congressman, Sheriff Who Led Hunt for Green River Killer Tackles New Mission (Forensic Magazine – 1/14/2019)

  • The sheriff who led the hunt for one of America’s most prolific serial killers parlayed that experience into a congressional career—and now plans to use both experiences in pushing for a potentially huge international partnership in forensic DNA.


Mitochondrial DNA Can Be Inherited from Fathers, Not Just Mothers (Nature – 1/14/2019)

  • A tenet of elementary biology is that mitochondria — the cell’s powerhouses — and their DNA are inherited exclusively from mothers. A provocative study suggests that fathers also occasionally contribute.


DNA Tool Allows You to Trace Your Ancient Ancestry(Science Daily – 1/14/2019)

  • Scientists at the University of Sheffield studying ancient DNA have created a tool allowing them to more accurately identify ancient Eurasian populations, which can be used to test an individual’s similarity to ancient people who once roamed the earth.


California Man Arrested in Two 1990s Cold-Case Rapes After Police Use Familial DNA Testing (FOX News – 1/14/2019)


Research Finds Serious Problems with Forensic Software (Forensic Magazine – 1/15/2019)

  • New research from North Carolina State University and the University of South Florida finds significant flaws in recently released forensic software designed to assess the age of individuals based on their skeletal remains. The researchers report that, on average, the software’s age estimates are off by more than 14 years.


AGs, Crime Lab Directors Assist Puerto Rico Forensic Science Lab After Hurricane Damage (Forensic Magazine – 1/15/2019)

  • Now, two major agencies are providing on-the-ground assistance to bring forensic science under control in Puerto Rico, and get law-and-order back on track.

    The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety, it was announced at a press conference at the governor’s mansion yesterday morning.


Time to Step Inside Your DNA (Phys Org – 1/15/2019)

  • Researchers at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (MRC WIMM) have developed technology that allows scientists to explore the complex 3-D structure of DNA in Virtual Reality. In a newly published pre-print, the team describes their tool, which is now freely available to all.


Secondary Transfer of Organic Gunshot Residue After Handshakes, Arrests (Forensic Magazine – 1/16/2019)


AI Predicts Humans Have an Ancestor We Don’t Even Know About Yet (Popular Mechanics – 1/17/2019)

  • Neanderthals and their Denisovan cousins likely formed a new species, an A.I. says. That muddies human evolution even further.


Jane Doe Murder Victim Identified 3 Decades Later Thanks to Forensic Technology: Sheriff (ABC News – 1/17/2019)

  • A Jane Doe found dead from a brutal attack in 1987 has finally been identified three decades later thanks to forensic technology, southern California authorities said.

    Then, in August 2018, the sheriff’s office partnered with DNA Doe Project, a non-profit that uses forensic genealogy to make identifications. The group has made six identifications since it began in 2017, according to the sheriff’s office.