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!




Will Advancements in DNA and Genealogy Help Catch California’s Infamous Zodiac Killer? (People – 1/25/2019)

  • For decades, the infamous Zodiac Killer — who killed at least five people in California in the 1960s and claimed to have killed more than 30 — has never been identified, despite his letters to local media taunting police.

    But California detectives are hoping to use those letters against the killer by lifting genetic material and utilizing advances in DNA science and genealogy databases.


The Cold Case That Began A DNA Forensics Revolution (Science Friday – 1/25/2019)

  • Last year’s arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo, better known as the Golden State Killer, drew lots of attention for the clever use of consumer genetic testing websites to identify a suspect—and for all the murky ethical questions that came with it. But this wasn’t the first time law enforcement had used the technique to solve a cold case. Detectives looking for DeAngelo took their inspiration from an earlier case in New Hampshire, known as the “Bear Brook murders.”


Idaho Hopes to Test Most Backlogged Rape Kits by End of 2019 (Forensic Magazine – 1/28/2019)

  • The 2018 sexual assault kit tracking report released by Idaho State Police Forensic Services shows that the state performed 473 rape kit exams last year, and the lab received 620 kits for testing, the Idaho Statesman reported Thursday.


Joe Biden: Every ‘Untested Rape Kit Means A Survivor Without Justice’ (HuffPost – 1/28/2019)

  • “An untested rape kit means a survivor without justice,” Biden wrote in a Saturday tweet.

    “I wrote the first rape kit backlog law because every survivor deserves closure, and because evidence shows testing kits can identify men who have committed multiple rapes ― and might again,” he continued. “Test every kit. Every single one.”



Tuam Babies: Survivors Call for Immediate DNA Tests (BBC News – 1/29/2019)

  • More than 20 survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home have called on the Irish government to take their DNA samples urgently.


JoAnn Parks Was Convicted of Killing Her Kids in a Fire. Now Journalist Edward Humes is Making the Case for Her Innocence (Los Angeles Times – 1/29/2019)

  • Sentenced to life without parole, Parks remains in prison even though scientific advances (especially about burn patterns in something called flashover) have raised doubts, and a panel of experts argues that the fire was accidental and that Parks suffered the ultimate tragedy: losing her children then her freedom.


Belgium Children Face DNA Tests Amid DR Congo Kidnap Fears (BBC News – 1/29/2019)

  • Belgian authorities have asked for DNA samples of children adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo to establish if their biological parents are still alive, reports say.


Researchers Use Tooth DNA to ID Shark Species (Forbes – 1/29/2019)


Boston University Bone Searches: Smaller Gaps, Doubling Back Recommended (Forensic Magazine – 1/30/2019)


Case Study: In Search for ‘Little Prince’ Author, Forensic Science Found Another (Forensic Magazine – 1/30/2019)


Makers of At-Home DNA Test Kits Seek to Help Customers Cope with Surprising, Life-Changing Results (ABC News – 1/30/2019)

  • Millions of people have taken home DNA test kits, some with surprising, even shocking results. What’s it like to work at a company call center explaining sensitive discoveries to stressed-out customers? “Good Morning America” went behind the scenes with the customer service team at 23andMe to find out.


National Animal Forensics Lab Employees Get Back to Work (KDRV – 1/30/2019)

  • Now that the government is back open, many federal employees are dealing with 35 days worth of backlogged work. That includes scientists at the U.S Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland. It’s the crime lab for animal law enforcement for the United States and more than 180 countries.


One of the Biggest At-Home DNA Testing Companies is Working with the FBI (BuzzFeed News – 1/31/2019)

  • The move is sure to raise privacy concerns as law enforcement gains the ability to match DNA from crime scenes to a vast library of possible relatives.


Man Evades Capture for 15 Years by Using Fingerprint Implants (BuzzFeed News – 1/31/2019)

  • A drug trafficker who managed to evade capture for 15 years by cutting and burning the skin of his fingertips and having it replaced with micro-implants has been arrested by Spanish police.


Woman Uses DNA Test, Finds Sperm Donor – And Pays “Devastating” Price (CBS News  – 1/31/2019)

  • Danielle Teuscher’s 5-year-old daughter Zoe is one of thousands of children conceived with sperm from an anonymous donor. When Teuscher wanted to know more about her daughter’s ancestry and possible health issues, she and other family members decided to get DNA tests from 23andMe and added one for Zoe.


New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos (NPR – 2/1/2019)

  • A scientist in New York is conducting experiments designed to modify DNA in human embryos as a step toward someday preventing inherited diseases, NPR has learned.

    For now, the work is confined to a laboratory. But the research, if successful, would mark another step toward turning CRISPR, a powerful form of gene editing, into a tool for medical treatment.