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!




Nonprofit Helping Identify Human Remains (FOX7 Austin – 7/07/2023)

    • There are numerous John and Jane Does across the country and the non-profit DNA Doe Project is dedicated to identifying them.

      Based in California, DNA Doe Project has volunteers all over the world, including some right here in Austin.

      “It’s so amazing to be able to do this work. There are grieving families out there that don’t know what happened to their loved one. They just know that they’re gone, and we want to bring them closure. We want to be able to bring those does home for proper burials,” says Rhonda Kevorkian who is an investigative genetic genealogist with the DNA Doe Project.

      Kevorkian says law enforcement will often contact the organization if they have a case they’ve been working on for a long time. Many agencies can’t afford the technology that the organization uses and the organization gets funding through donations.

An Idaho Cold Case of a Woman Killed in 1987 has Been Solved, Boise Police Say ( – 7/08/2023)

    • Police in Boise, Idaho, have used DNA evidence to help solve a cold case dating back to 1987.

      The victim, Boise resident Joyce Casper, was found dead in her vehicle on Oct. 13, 1987, at age 65, police said. At the time of her murder, she owned Casper’s Vista Hallmark Shop, located in the Vista Village Shopping Center in Boise’s Depot Bench neighborhood, where she was known to work late at night.

      Detectives on the case in 1987 found evidence that pointed to Casper being abducted outside of her shop in the early morning, sexually assaulted, and then killed. DNA evidence recently matched a man named Frank A Rodriguez, who died in 2007, the Boise Police Department said in a press release Friday.



Othram, Toronto Police Identify 4-Year-Old Found Near Dumpster (Forensic – 7/10/2023)

    • In May 2022, the remains of an unidentified little girl were discovered near a dumpster located in the Rosedale neighborhood of Toronto. The Toronto Police Service responded to the scene, located a short walk from the Castle Frank subway station. A post-mortem examination was completed allowing investigators to confirm that the unknown girl was likely between the ages of 4 and 7 and that she had been deceased since at least the summer or fall of 2021.

      The girl was described as Black and of African or mixed-African ancestry. She was approximately 3’6” tall with a thin build. Her hair had been sectioned into ponytails, braided, and tied back with elastic bands. The young girl’s cause of death could not be determined.

      During the course of their investigation, law enforcement officials were able to determine that the girl’s remains were left in the area only a few days prior to their discovery. A composite sketch was created by a forensic artist with the Ontario Provincial Police and released to the public in hopes that the girl could be identified. Toronto Police Services provided additional information to the public regarding a vehicle of interest as well as articles of clothing in hopes that these would lead to the girl’s identification; however, the girl’s identity could not be determined and eventually all leads in the case were exhausted.

      In July 2022, the Toronto Police Service teamed with Othram to determine if advanced DNA testing could help to identify the girl. Toronto Police Services previously teamed with Othram to solve the 1983 murders of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour, as well as the abduction and murder of Christine Jessop. Forensic evidence was sent to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to build a comprehensive DNA profile.

      The profile was delivered to the Toronto Police Service investigators, who then used forensic genetic genealogy to generate investigative leads. In June 2023, Toronto Police Services identified the unknown girl as four-year-old Neveah Tucker. Tucker was born on May 18, 2017, possibly in Toronto. Police say the girl’s mother, who lives in Toronto, was told about the identification.



Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office Teams with Othram to Identify 2019 John Doe (DNASolves – 7/10/2023)

  • In November 2019, the skeletal remains of an unknown person were discovered by hunters in Custer Gallatin National Forest located in south-central Montana’s Stillwater County. Investigators with the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene, recovering the remains from a remote area near West Rosebud Lake. The remains were transferred to forensic anthropologists for examination. Investigators estimated that the unknown individual was male and between fifty and seventy years old at his time of death. It was estimated that the man was approximately 5.5’ to 6’ in height. No other identifying information for the remains was available.

    In 2020, details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP65069. Despite their efforts, investigators were unable to identify the man, and the case eventually went cold.

    In March 2022, the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office teamed with Othram to identify the unknown man. Skeletal remains were sent to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists developed a DNA extract from the remains and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown man. This DNA profile was used by Othram’s in-house genetic genealogy team to generate investigative leads that were returned to law enforcement.

    After a thorough investigation and assistance from the State of Montana Medical Examiner’s Office, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and Othram Inc., the remains were identified as Michael Moler.


Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Teams with Othram to Identify 2022 Homicide Victim (DNASolves – 7/12/2023)

  • In December 2022, a man discovered human remains while riding his side-by-side utility vehicle in the deserts of Mohave County, Arizona. Mohave County Sherriff’s Office Detectives responded to the scene located near Alamo and Boriana Mine Roads in the small desert town of Yucca. Upon their arrival, Detectives located the remains of an adult male wrapped inside of a tarp among a large pile of debris. The man’s manner of death was declared as homicide and his remains were transferred to the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office for the completion of an autopsy.

    In February 2023, the Mohave County Sherriff’s Office Special Investigations Unit (SIU) teamed with Othram to determine if advanced DNA testing could assist in the identification of the unidentified homicide victim. Forensic evidence was submitted to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Using Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing®, Othram scientists developed a comprehensive DNA profile for the male victim. In the course of the investigation, a candidate family member was identified and contributed a reference DNA sample. The confirmation DNA testing combined with a follow up investigation, the agency led to the determination that the identity of the male victim as 50-year-old Brandon Ray Parlanti of Kingman, Arizona.



Forensic Y-Screening for Ending the Rape Kit Backlog (Forensic – 7/14/2023)

  • The backlog of sexual assault evidence kits (SAEKs) in crime laboratories gained national attention when a group of journalists uncovered the issue in a search of crime lab records in 2015. Reasons for the massive kit backlog include funding, time and decision not to prosecute the case. As a result, survivors are left without answers for years.

    Serological and autosomal single-tandem repeat (STR) testing is the conventional process for testing sexual assault samples in forensic science. However, both methods are time-consuming, laborious and offer limited sensitivity. Y-Screening, in contrast, is a process that is faster, cheaper and more sensitive than autosomal screening. This method can help labs process their SAEK backlog more efficiently and solve more cases.