Jan 19 2024

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!




2019 “Dennis Doe” Identified using Forensic Genetic Genealogy (Accesswire – 1/12/2024)

    • “Dennis Doe” was the nickname given to an unidentified male found deceased by city workers on April 23rd, 2019 in Dearborn Michigan. He was wearing an orange winter cap, Jerzees size XLthat featured a “distinct image” of a small dark-haired child near a high wheel bicycle, tan pants, and a tan Carhart-style shirt. He was also wearing a brown boot on one foot and a yellow rain boot on the other. He was known to be unhoused; his cause of death was undetermined.

      Identifinders raised money to cover the costs of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) to identify Dennis through generous donations to their Daniel Paul Armantrout Memorial Fund.

      We would like to thank DNA Labs International for donating the Kintelligence kit used to generate FGG data on the case, along with the subsequent STR confirmation. We would also like to thank the many donors for their contributions, without which Bennie would never have been identified.



Parabon Sets Industry Genetic Genealogy Record: Exceeds 300 Positive IDs (EINPresswire – 1/16/2024)

  • Parabon proudly announces the groundbreaking achievement of having helped law enforcement agencies make over 300 positive identifications in cases involving violent offenders and unidentified remains. This milestone includes historic moments – the world’s first conviction resulting from a lead generated by genetic genealogy (via a plea deal), as well as the first jury conviction from a genetic genealogy lead in both the United States and Canada.


Improving Analysis of “Trace DNA” Evidence (National Institute of Justice – 1/16/2024)

    • In 2016, the Organization of Scientific Area Committee for Forensic Science was formed to address the lack of discipline-specific forensic science standards. It called for an assessment of the standard that recommends extraction and quantification during DNA processing of all evidence types, even those with low DNA yields. Soon after, NIJ’s Forensic Science Research and Development Technology Working Group identified a need for enhanced DNA evidence collection techniques that maximize DNA recovery. This group also identified a need for comprehensive studies that provide practical data about DNA transfer and persistence, or more simply, how DNA evidence gets on items and how long it tends to remain there.

      NIJ-funded researchers, led by Jonathan Davoren of Bode Technology, sought to reassess the current FBI guidelines for processing unknown forensic samples. They also assessed the operational requirements needed to maximize DNA recovery using direct PCR, which produced practical data about trace DNA evidence collection and analysis.



Your Fingerprint is Actually 3D – Research into Holograms Could Improve Forensic Fingerprint Analysis (The Conversation – 1/16/2024)

  • When you use your fingerprint to unlock your smartphone, your phone is looking at a two-dimensional pattern to determine whether it’s the correct fingerprint before it unlocks for you. But the imprint your finger leaves on the surface of the button is actually a 3D structure called a fingermark.

    Fingermarks are made up of tiny ridges of oil from your skin. Each ridge is only a few microns tall, or a few hundredths of the thickness of human hair.

    Biometric identifiers record fingermarks only as 2D pictures, and although these carry a lot of information, there’s a lot missing. A 2D fingerprint neglects the depth of the fingermark, including pores and scars buried in the ridges of fingers that are difficult to see.

    I’m an educator and scientist who studies holography, a field of research that focuses on how to display 3D information. My lab has created a way to map and visualize fingermarks in three dimensions from any perspective on a computer – using digital holography.



Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department & the FBI Partner with Othram to Identify 1993 Homicide Victim (DNASolves – 1/16/2024)

  • In April 1993, while conducting field research in the Las Vegas, Nevada desert area of Tropicana Avenue and Durango Drive, a biologist discovered a grave covered with a handmade quilt and several large rocks. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) Homicide Section responded to the scene and led the investigation. The Clark County Coroner’s office conducted an autopsy and determined that the remains were that of a female. The woman’s death was ruled as a homicide. It was estimated that her death occurred mid to late 1991.

    Despite the investigative efforts of law enforcement, the woman could not be identified and she became known as “Jane Tropicana Doe”. The case remained unsolved and was assigned to the LVMPD Homicide Cold Case Section. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP14396.

    In February 2023, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department once again teamed with Othram to determine if advanced DNA testing could help to identify Jane Tropicana Doe. Forensic evidence was submitted to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a comprehensive DNA profile for the woman using Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing®. 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 new investigative leads in the case.

    The FBI identified several promising leads and LVMPD Cold Case Investigators began working to identify family members of the unknown woman. Using familial reference DNA samples, investigators were able to identify the murdered woman as 38-year-old Linda Sue Anderson aka Linda Sue Andrews of Henderson, Nevada. Cold Case Investigators learned that family members last spoke to Linda Sue by phone in June of 1991. She was never heard from again.



Florida International University Bridges Industry Needs with Top Researchers through Unique Cooperative Research Center (FIUNews – 1/17/2024)

  • Florida International University has secured the nation’s only forensic science Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) for the second time. The Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS) brings together top academic forensic science researchers to develop solutions to industry partners’ top needs. The CARFS Phase II is a five-year award with intended funding of $4.25 million.

    FIU is collaborating with Texas A&M University and Sam Houston State University on this effort.

    “Each university truly brings unique strengths to this partnership,” said Kenneth G. Furton, CARFS director and executive director of the Global Forensic and Justice Center at FIU. “It’s called a cooperative research center for a reason – and it’s because, in the end, we’re all working towards a common goal of strengthening justice through forensic science.”

    The first step is for the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) members to submit their top research needs. CARFS has 14 IAB members including the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Secret Service (USSS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). IAB members also provide funding to support the research efforts, which combined with The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ)‘s $750,000 IUCRC base award, with a goal of $4.25 million in research dollars.

    IAB members review proposals from CARFS universities and affiliated researchers and vote on which are funded.



Police ID ‘Slasher’ Who Left Three Indiana Girls for Dead 48 Years Ago (IndyStar – 1/18/2024)

  • Indianapolis Metropolitan Police announced a major break in a nearly 50-year-old cold case that involved three hitchhiking girls and one man who detectives at the time said was ‘hunting.’

    The elusive suspect behind the horrific attacks on the young girls in a field was revealed during a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday, providing an answer to the investigation decades after it horrified the city.

    Thomas Edward Williams — dubbed the ‘Slasher’ by police and the victims — died at age 49 in November 1983 inside a prison in Galveston, Texas. At the time of the abduction, Williams lived near the site of the kidnapping.

    On Jan. 9, 2019 the women got their DNA swabbed after Sgt. David Ellison picked the case. IndyStar accompanied the women to the City-County building where their DNA was collected to compare against evidence.

    Without sharing details, Indianapolis police said in a Wednesday news release that DNA is how they were led to the suspect after Indianapolis police partnered with Audiochuck and DNA Labs International.