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!





Parabon, Fort Myers Police Solve 1984 Cold Case Homicide (Forensic – 1/22/2021)

  • On July 22, 2020, Parabon Snapshot completed a report on the genealogy. The report indicated that the DNA profile was identified through genealogy databases to an individual identified as James Glen Drinnon of Okeechobee, Florida. Investigators began to research Drinnon and his association to Fort Myers and found that he resided in Lee County in 1984.




The Biden Administration Must Put the Science Back into Forensic Science (Forbes – 1/22/2021)

  • Opinion – The new Biden administration has stated its commitment to equality, fairness, and the use of disciplined science to inform policy decisions. The time has come to re-establish the National Commission of Forensic Science, or another independent entity committed to strengthening the methods, validity, and reliability of the forensic sciences.



Laboratory Comes up with Technique to Identify Wildlife Species from DNA (The Hindu – 1/25/2021)

  • The Molecular Biology Lab at the Government Arts College (GAC) in Udhagamandalam has designed and standardised a DNA amplification technique that will allow researchers to identify the species and sex of tigers and leopards from scat and tissue samples.  The authors of the paper note that species authentication from scat and tissue samples is essential for detecting illegal wildlife trade and for formulating conservation strategies.



DDP Helps ID Two Victims 44 Years Later (Forensic – 1/25/2021)

  • Sumter County Sheriff’s Office (South Carolina) has made progress in one of its oldest cold cases when the victims were recently identified, more than 44 years after their bodies were found.

    The bodies of the two victims—both found with multiple gunshot wounds—were discovered by a truck driver on Aug. 9, 1976. Since then, the sheriff’s office has used numerous resources in attempts to identify the victims, including working with Matt McDaniel, a Clemson resident interested in the case, who suggested reaching out to DNA Doe Project in 2019.



Genetic Genealogy Helps ID Victim of Green River Killer (ABC News – 1/25/2021)

  • Genetic genealogy helped identify the youngest known victim of one of the nation’s most prolific serial killers almost 37 years after her remains were discovered near a baseball field south of Seattle.

    Wendy Stephens was 14 and had run away from her home in Denver before Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, strangled her in 1983, the King County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.



This Scientist Helped Free the Innocent Using DNA. Now Biden Wants Him in the Cabinet. (The Marshall Project – 1/26/2021)

  • More than a half-dozen experts on forensics told The Marshall Project that Biden’s decision to create a Cabinet position for Lander—head of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy—could be an opportunity to establish more rigorous federal standards for using science in the American courtroom. Many are expressing their enthusiasm privately, not wanting law enforcement groups to challenge Lander’s confirmation by the Senate if they catch wind that he is an unsung hero of the innocence movement.



Investigators Use Advanced DNA Technology in Arrest of Winston-Salem Man on Murder Charge in 2016 Elizabeth City Death (Winston-Salem Journal – 1/27/2021)

  • Investigators used genetic genealogical methods to gather evidence that led to Tuesday’s arrest of a Winston-Salem man in connection with a 2016 murder case in Elizabeth City, authorities said Wednesday. David Lee Blair, 55, of Walburg Landing Drive is accused of killing George Washington Price Jr. on March 24, 2016, in Pasquotank County in the state’s northeastern region, according to an arrest warrant.



The Victims Left Behind by Genetic Genealogy (The Atlantic – 1/27/2021)

  • Our analysis found 104 murder victims whose alleged killers had been identified through genetic genealogy. Of the 89 murder victims whose race investigators shared with us, only four were Black. Seventy-nine were white. For context, more than half of murder victims in the U.S. were Black in 2019, the most recent year for which FBI statistics are available.



Student’s Forensic Science Research in DNA Analysis Could Help Speed Up the Process of Solving Crimes (Rutgers-Camden News Now – 1/27/2021)

  • Sheth is among an interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, applied mathematicians, and chemists working in the Rutgers‒Camden lab led by Catherine Grgicak, the Henry Rutgers Chair in chemistry, to develop a single-cell pipeline based on sound analytical and statistical principles, which will help the forensic science community tackle the interpretation and inference of complex mixture samples.



History: How a Guy’s Doctor Pioneered Forensic Toxicology – to Catch Notorious Poisoners (Southwark News – 1/27/2021)

  • We recount how Sir Thomas Stevenson, an expert in poisons, gave evidence to catch some of the Victorian era’s most notorious killers