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!




DNA Profiles Recovered from Former Indiana Home of Suspected Serial Killer ( – 7/20/2023)

    • Investigators have found two DNA profiles from searches of the former Hamilton County home of accused serial killer Herb Baumeister.

      Hamilton County Coroner Jeff Zellison confirmed to News 8 that Indiana State Police recovered the two profiles from “a recent batch of remains sent to them for processing.”

      “We are attempting to determine if these remains are those of previously identified individuals, or match comparison samples that we have received from family members, or are 2 new individuals that we had no knowledge of,” Zellison said.

      Police used nearly a dozen cadaver dogs in December to search the Westfield home where Baumeister once lived.

      Baumeister was the suspect in a series of killings when he took his own life in 1996. Authorities believe he lured young men to his Westfield home in the 1980s and 1990s and murdered them there.

      Investigators recovered the fragmented bones of eleven men on the property in 1996 but were only able to identify eight of the victims.

      However, authorities now believe new DNA technology may reveal that the victim count is more than double what was thought.

Forensic Technology Grad is an Award-Winning Investigator (University of New Haven – 7/21/2023)

    • For Marissa DelConte ’19 M.S., her passion for forensic science led her to the University of New Haven and, after graduating, to Florida to begin her career. Her work is already making an important impact, and she has been recognized for her excellence and dedication to her field.



Discarded DNA: The Controversial Clue in the Trash that’s Bringing Serial Killers to Justice (USA Today – 7/21/2023)

    • The Long Island Gilgo Beach murder case is one of many in recent years when a long-unsolved homicide got a break from an unlikely source: discarded DNA.

      The case illuminates a tactic that is a growingly important weapon in the arsenal of police detectives across the nation: grabbing publicly available, private DNA – off abandoned food, soda cans, car doors, even cigarette butts – that belongs to suspected killers.

      The process is called “surreptitious DNA collection.”

      USA TODAY talked to forensic science experts about the DNA strategy authorities are using and its efficacy and practice. They said the process is common and a helpful tool that can help authorities pin down those who they are already suspicious of to connect them to a dangerous crime.



Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Teams with Othram to Identify 1985 Homicide Victim (DNASolves – 7/21/2023)

  • In March 1985, skeletal remains were discovered near a creek bank by a motorist who was having vehicle trouble along Interstate 24 West between mile markers 29 and 30 in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) agents began investigating the woman’s death alongside the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office. Forensic anthropologists at the University of Tennessee determined that the skeletal remains were those of a white female. According to the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department, the woman was estimated to have been deceased for two to five months prior to the discovery of her remains. After exhausting all leads, investigators could not determine the victim’s identity, and she became known as “Cheatham County Jane Doe.”

    In April 2018, the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center submitted a sample of the woman’s remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI). A DNA profile was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) in hopes that the woman would eventually be identified. Despite these efforts, the woman’s identity remained a mystery. The case was entered into NamUs as UP1578.

    In December 2022, as part of the TBI Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative, TBI submitted highly degraded skeletal remains to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas in hopes of identifying the woman. Othram developed a suitable DNA extract and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown woman. Once a profile was built, Othram’s in-house genetic genealogy team used forensic genetic genealogy to provide TBI agents with investigative leads.


National Forensic Investigators Re-Opening Cold Cases with New DNA Techniques (NL Times – 7/23/2023)

  • The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) is adopting a new DNA matching technique that it tested over the past two years, NOS reported on Friday. This technique, which automatically compares DNA profiles with a database, will now become standard in forensic investigations and could reopen cold cases.

    50 potential offenders were identified during the trial period using this technique. The identified matches are related to serious crimes, including violent crimes, drug offenses, shootings, kidnappings, and vice cases.

    The new system significantly improves the utilization of “bad” DNA profiles. These are incomplete profiles or those contaminated with DNA from other people. These were previously manually compared with the DNA database and often overlooked after one comparison. With the new method, these “bad” profiles are automatically compared with the database, increasing the chances of a match.


New DNA Tests Cast Doubt on Convictions in Decades-Old Murder (The Washington Post – 7/23/2023)

  • In 1997, 70-year-old Henrietta Nickens died after she was beaten in the one-bedroom apartment where she lived alone in the Philadelphia suburbs. There was evidence she may have been sexually assaulted.

    Authorities accused a group of teens and young men, most of whom are Black, in the killing, alleging they broke into Nickens’s home, robbed her of $30 and then brutally hit her and left her to die. One had dated Nickens’s granddaughter.

    Three of the accused have always maintained their innocence, even as they have spent more than half of their lives behind bars. Now, attorneys for the men say newly tested DNA evidence shows that the trio was wrongly accused and strongly suggests a stunning conclusion: A yet unidentified man is the true culprit.



Shively Police Department Teams with Othram to Identify 2005 Jane Doe (DNASolves – 7/23/2023)

  • In July 2005, partial skeletal remains were located as a construction company was clearing a lot in the 3600 block of Seventh Street Road in the City of Shively, a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky. Investigators determined that the remains belonged to a Caucasian female between the ages of twenty and forty years old. Investigators suspect that the death could be a homicide. The woman was estimated to be 5’2” in height and her weight was unknown. Several short hairs were recovered, leading investigators to believe the woman had straight brown hair. However, it is possible that the color represented the woman’s root color only. The woman’s nose was described as “distinctively narrow.” No clothing or other identifying items were found near the crime scene.

    In June 2007, details of the unidentified person case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as case number #UP74. To help generate leads for the woman’s identity, a forensic artist rendering was created in 2009. Since the discovery of the unknown woman’s body, more than 100 women have been ruled out as the victim. Despite continuous efforts by law enforcement to identify the woman, no leads have yielded a match to identity.

    In 2023, the Shively Police Department partnered with Othram to generate new leads in the case using advanced DNA technology and forensic genetic genealogy. Anyone with information that could aid in the investigation is encouraged to contact the Shively Police Department by calling  502-448-6181 and referencing agency case number FA-2005-41 or NamUs ID #UP74.



Bitemark Evidence Can Send Wrong Person to Prison, Death Row, UB Professors Say (University at Buffalo – 7/24/2023)

  • During a trial for murder or another violent crime in which a victim has been bitten, prosecutors may display photos of the bitemarks next to tracings of the suspect’s teeth. And the two may appear to fit perfectly. Case closed, right?

    Not necessarily, according to Mary Bush, DDS, a forensic dentist and associate professor of restorative dentistry at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. For years, Bush has maintained that human dentition is not unique with regard to bitemark analysis, and seemingly perfectly matching bitemarks could belong to a litany of suspects.

    Bitemarks aren’t only inadequate, Bush said, but they also have been misused in courtrooms. In a commentary published in the May 2023 issue of the Journal of the California Dental Association, Bush pointed out that 26 people have been wrongly convicted primarily because of a bitemark found on the victim. At least three of the suspects ended up on death row.



Investigators Doing DNA Testing on Human Remains Recovered from Titan Submersible (CBC – 7/25/2023)

  • Investigators in the United States are trying to figure out whose remains they have in their possession, as part of the massive investigation into the implosion of OceanGate Expedition’s Titan submersible.

    Searchers in the North Atlantic Ocean were able to recover large pieces of the submersible, which was believed to have imploded less than two hours into its dive to the Titanic on June 18. They also found what they believe to be human remains.

    “United States medical professionals are conducting a formal DNA analysis of presumed human remains that have been carefully recovered from within the wreckage at the site of the incident,” reads a brief statement from the U.S. Coast Guard on Monday.



2023 International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) Keynote Offers Message of Resilience for Forensics Professionals (BusinessWire – 7/25/2023)

  • The 34th International Symposium on Human Identification (ISHI) will welcome more than 900 forensic DNA experts and law enforcement professionals from around the world September 18-21 in Denver. Keynote speaker Allison Massari, an award-winning motivational speaker, will deliver a message on resilience and responding to difficult circumstances. Massari, who has spoken in more than 75 countries, draws on life lessons on confidence and well-being that she learned after she was severely burned in a fire.

    “When they leave my session, I want them to feel excited and celebrated for the work they do, and to feel a sense of hope,” Massari says.

    Feedback from past ISHI attendees indicates that burnout and fatigue are among the most pressing issues facing the forensics industry. This unique keynote presentation aims to equip listeners with new skills to embrace challenges and grow strength.



A Man Fell Into an Abandoned Elevator Shaft 40 Years Ago. He Was Just Identified. (WCNC – 7/25/2023)

  • A decades-old Charlotte mystery is now solved and a family finally has answers after their loved one disappeared 35 years ago, thanks to new technology that’s seeking solutions to unsolved cold cases.


    It became a part of Charlotte lore: An unidentified body was found at the bottom of an elevator shaft in an abandoned building that’s now one of Uptown’s nicest hotels. For decades, the mysterious victim was mentioned in ghost tours and blogs about the unsolved mysteries of Uptown Charlotte. Now, thanks to DNA evidence and forensic genealogy, police know who he is and his family has answers.