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!





Finding ‘Grace’: Murder, DNA and Ancestry (BBC News – 7/15/2021)

  • A brother and sister were looking for their long-lost sibling. A police department was trying to identify a murder victim. It took 30 years – but a revolution in forensics using DNA and ancestry websites finally connected the dots.


A Tip on Tips: Small is the Next Big Thing in Automated Forensic Separations (Forensic – 7/16/2021)

  • Shrinking budgets. Competing priorities. If you’ve ever thought about becoming a detective, try this test of your sleuthing skills: find ways to cut costs from a forensic lab budget without compromising quality and efficiency.

    It’s just as difficult as it sounds.

    With budgets already stretched thin, every bit of savings adds up. However, here are two tips to save money that can actually strengthen quality and efficiency at the same time.


Just 7 Percent of our DNA is Unique to Modern Humans, Study Shows (NBC News – 7/16/2021)

  • What makes humans unique? Scientists have taken another step toward solving an enduring mystery with a new tool that may allow for more precise comparisons between the DNA of modern humans and that of our extinct ancestors.

    Just 7 percent of our genome is uniquely shared with other humans, and not shared by other early ancestors, according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances.


States Work to Pass Laws that Restrict DNA Testing in Criminal Investigations (California News Times – 7/16/2021)

  • Recently, Montana investigators solved what is believed to be the oldest known cold case in the United States after the murder of two teens in 1956.

    However, as more states seek to pass laws prohibiting certain genealogical tests from law enforcement agencies, the DNA testing detectives used are currently limited.


Investigators Extract DNA Tied to 2 Cases as Part of a Re-Investigation of the Decades-old Atlanta Child Murders (CNN– 7/17/2021)

  • Investigators in Atlanta were able to extract DNA from two child murder cases for additional analysis as part of the city’s probe into the dozens of decades-old unsolved killings, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Friday.

    Authorities in March 2019 reopened the investigation into a series of child murders that took place between the 1970s and 80s to re-examine the evidence in the hopes that technological breakthroughs might point to a definite killer in the cases, most of which were never solved.


The Body Farm: How 3 Obscure Acres Became a World-Class Research Center for the Science of Death (WBIR10 – 7/19/2021)

  • Dr. Bill Bass started it in 1981. The first of its kind, it’s now a nationally recognized resource in forensic anthropology.


Forensic Science Organization to Draft Standards for Sexual Assault Examinations (NIST– 7/20/2021)

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC), which is administered by NIST, will launch a new subcommittee that will draft standards for collecting physical evidence from victims of sexual assault. The goal of the new standards will be to improve the quality of care for victims and help ensure that evidence is properly collected and preserved until a crime lab can analyze it. OSAC is seeking experts to serve on the new forensic nursing subcommittee, named for the professional caregivers who conduct many sexual assault examinations.


Recovering DNA from Challenging Forensic Evidence in Forensic Genomics (EurekAlert! – 7/20/2021)

  • Duct tape and items retrieved from the water are common pieces of evidence in forensic cases. A new study evaluates the recovery of DNA from folded duct tape that has been submerged in ocean water for up to 2 weeks. The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal Forensic Genomics.


He Spent Two Decades in Prison for Church Murders. New DNA Evidence Shows Someone Else Did It. (CNN – 7/20/2021)

  • A man who spent two decades in prison for a 1985 double homicide during church bible study has been exonerated, with all charges against him dropped.

    Newly discovered DNA evidence from a hair sample shows Dennis A. Perry, 59, “may have been acquitted if that evidence had been available” during his 2003 trial for the murders of Harold and Thelma Swain in Georgia, according to a news release from Glynn County District Attorney Keith Higgins.


Cold Case Arrest Leads to Change in Evidence Storage (Forensic – 7/21/2021)

  • The arrest of a man tied to at least two sexual assaults in the Orlando area 19 years ago has led the Orlando Police Department to change the policy on how long it storages evidence from sexual assault kits.

    The unsolved sexual batteries occurred in 2002 and 2003 in Orlando and nearby Orange County. The offender, now identified as Dwight Harris, would wait for women to return to their apartments, alone, after a night out. In both cases, Harris allegedly attacked the victims from behind, threatened them with a knife, and then physically ragged them to a nearby wooded area just past the tree line where he raped them. For this reason, the police referred to him as the “Woodline Rapist.”



Through DNA Testing, Las Vegas Police Solve 32-Year-Old Cold Case Murder of 14-Year-Old Girl (FOX10 – 7/21/2021)

  • With less than 15 human DNA cells left to sample, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police submitted a 32-year-old cold case to a Texas laboratory for testing in January. Six months later, police positively identified the suspect involved.

    LVMPD Lt. Ray Spencer identified Darren R. Marchand, a Las Vegas resident, as the man involved in the death of a 14-year-old Stephanie Anne Issacson in 1989. A monetary donation toward solving cold cases led to the identification.

Genetic Genealogy Shows Promise in Matching Unknown DNA, like that Found in Johnny Clarke-Lisa Straub Murders (WTOL11 – 7/21/2021)

  • Experts discuss the future of genetic genealogy and its role in solving dormant crimes.