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!




Researchers Propose Indigenous Sovereignty Framework for Genomic Data (Forensic – 7/22/2022)

    • While existing tools facilitate the sharing of genomic information with researchers, some in the community have raised concerns about database misuse. For example, researchers at the University of Freiburg published a paper last year detailing how Europe’s Roma people are vulnerable to poor practice in genetics. The main issues, as identified by lead author Veronika Lipphardt and her team, center on poor ethical standards, unclear consent processes and a stigmatizing portrayal of the group.

      In an article published Thursday in Cell, researchers from the University of California San Diego, expressed similar concerns about Indigenous nations as marginalized communities.

      “Genomic data from Indigenous peoples, in particular, have been the target of researchers interested in advancing our understanding of various human diseases and genetic disorders and conditions, often used without free, prior, and informed consent,” the scientists write.

      To that end, the have proposed a three-tier blockchain model where researchers are only allowed to access genomic data after Indigenous entities have approved the research project.


DNA Helps Florida Investigators ID Victim 41 Years Later (ABC News – 7/22/2022)

  • Investigators have confirmed that remains unearthed in a Florida junk yard 41 years ago match a missing teenager, the victim of a serial killer now imprisoned for life in California, sheriff’s officials said.

    Hernando County Sheriff’s investigators, with an assist from the University of North Texas and Virginia-based DNA technology company Parabon NanoLabs, identified Theresa Caroline Fillingim as the third of four bodies uncovered in April 1981 from what neighbors referred to as a “house of horrors.”

    Sheriff’s officials made the announcement on Wednesday.

    It took weeks for excavators and deputies to find the four bodies in a sprawling junkyard on the property of Billy Mansfield Jr. in Spring Hill, sheriff’s officials said. Only two of the female victims were quickly identified.

    Fillingim had been reported missing by her sister in Tampa nearly a year before that, on May 16, 1980. She was a week from her 17th birthday.


Extensive Genealogy Work ID’s Remains of Woman Found in 2002 (Forensic – 7/22/2022)

  • Twenty years after her partial skeletal remains were located by construction workers off Highway 135m the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office (Texas) and the DNA Doe Project have determined that her name was Pamela Darlene Young.Pamela Young of Arlington, Texas, died approximately two years before her partial skeleton was found, and the Tarrant County Medical Examiner determined she had an unrepaired cleft palate. Despite this clue to her identity, investigators soon ran out of leads to follow and the case went cold.

    Early in 2020, Lieutenant Eddie Hope reached out to the DNA Doe Project to begin the process to use investigative genetic genealogy to identify Young, who was known as Gregg County Jane Doe 2002. A DNA profile was developed from a molar and was uploaded to GEDmatch Pro, a database that allows law enforcement to compare DNA profiles of Jane and John Doe unidentified remains to those of people who have uploaded their profiles to the public side of the database at

    The genealogy in this case was extremely complex, and it took almost two years for the experienced volunteers from the DNA Doe Project to narrow down the family tree to identify Young. A DNA sample from her daughter confirmed the identification.


Researchers Chart Advances in Ancient DNA Technology (Forensic – 7/22/2022)

  • Over the past 10 years, researchers led by FU Qiaomei from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have used ancient DNA (aDNA) technology to unearth the history of ancient human populations, especially those in East Asia.

    As part of their effort, the researchers reconstructed the whole genome of two extinct groups of archaic humans—Neanderthals and Denisovans; mapped the history of global population migrations and interactions; uncovered the genetic structure of the oldest East Asians; revealed adaptive genetic changes in East Asian Ice Age populations; and traced the formation of population patterns in northern and southern China as well as the origin of the Austronesian population in southern China.

    Recently, FU’s team reviewed the history of aDNA technological development, discussed current technical bottlenecks and solutions, and assessed the future of the technology.


How to Extract DNA from a 500 Year-Old Human Tooth (Science Friday – 7/22/2022)

    • Genetic anthropologist Jennifer Raff walks through the delicate and precise art of obtaining DNA samples from centuries-old human remains.


Advanced DNA Technology Narrows Down Unsolved Las Vegas Homicides (FOX5 – 7/22/2022)

    • The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department works with a lab in Texas that provides advanced DNA testing.

      Othram Labs has helped LVMPD detectives solve multiple decades-old cold cases over the last year.

      The lab is working with the department on a number of cold cases. The collaboration so far has identified a suspect in unsolved murders, but in a recent case, Othram used forensic evidence to help eliminate a possible person of interest.

      In March of 1999, a robbery at a bar in the west valley turned into a murder. 33-year-old Steven Covell was shot to death as he attempted to flee the bar. The killer got away. Investigators recovered blood evidence on the sidewalk outside the door of the bar.

Advanced DNA Offers Hope to Solve Cold Cases, Some Canadian Cops Slow to Adopt It (Yahoo! News – 7/22/2022)

    • Advances in DNA technology are being credited with solving a growing pile of cold case murders in the United States, but some Canadian police forces are lagging behind their U.S. counterparts in adopting the new methods.

      Experts say a research technique called genetic genealogy — which involves comparing DNA from a crime scene to the vast amount of public data that has been uploaded to private platforms such as and 23andme — represents the best chance of solving decades-old murders.

      Some Canadian police, however, are slower to embrace it, in part because of privacy concerns and because it has yet to be tested in the Canadian court system.

      Diane Séguin, head of biology and DNA for Quebec’s forensics lab, said the province is beginning to apply genetic genealogy in a few “very high-profile cases” in partnership with police and prosecutors, who would be responsible for defending it in an eventual trial.


DNA Obtained Through a Traffic Stop Linked a 76-Year-Old Man to Two Decades-Old Killings in California (NBCNews – 7/22/2022)

    • A 76-year-old California man accused of two decades-old murders was arrested after his DNA was collected from a breathalyzer during an unrelated traffic stop, a law enforcement official said Friday.

      James Gary, of Fairfield, was charged with murder earlier this week in the 1996 killing of Winifred Douglas, 46, whose body was found on the side of an interstate in Vallejo, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office and Union City Police Department said in a joint statement.

      Douglas had been strangled and suffered blunt force trauma, the statement said.

      Additional charges are expected in the 1980 killing of Latrelle Lindsay, 46. She was found dead in her Union City home, a victim of sexual assault, asphyxiation and blunt force trauma, the statement said.


Advocates Bring Closure to Families of Migrants Who Died Crossing Border (FOX4 – 7/25/2022)

    • As migrants continue to die along the U.S.-Mexico border, members of an Arizona nonprofit are working to bring closure to their families.

      The International Office of Migration (OIM) reported 728 migrant deaths along the Southwest border. It was the deadliest year on record since 2014.

      The Pima County Board of Supervisors this month earmarked $24 million in next year’s budget for a bigger, more modern ME’s Office. That will help with space issues. But when it comes to finding out whose body or bones were brought to the facility, county officials will continue to rely on partners like foreign consulates and nonprofits like the Colibri Center for Human Rights.


Untested DNA Leads to Arrest in 2003 Rape and Attempted Murder (Forensic – 7/25/2022)

    • Frederick Fitzgerald Gandy, 55, was arrested last week and charged with attempted murder, rape, burglary, and attempted armed robbery.

      The case stems from January 2003. The victim had urged the West Point Police Department (Mississippi) to reopen the case. After COVID-19 further delayed the investigation, she asked again on April 5,2022. Detective Ramirez Ivy took on the case.

      Ivy discovered untested DNA evidence. It was sent to the state crime lab in Pearl. Police said testing methods not available in 2003 delivered results that implicated Gandy.

      “The pretrial rules do not allow us to say much about the evidence,” Scott Colom, 16th Circuit District Attorney, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal newspaper, and reiterated during a press conference. “I will say this is very solid evidence. I am confident we will be able to get a conviction.”

      Colom specified the testing was not genetic genealogy. The DNA testing developed a profile that could be entered into CODIS, where Gandy was first identified as a suspect.



Remains Found on Roof of Abandoned Building in 2019 Now Identified (Forensic – 7/25/2022)

      • In September 2019, human remains were found on the roof of a building in downtown Biloxi, Mississippi, near the 800 block of Barthes Street. The building was abandoned and had been unoccupied for at least 15 years. There were no clues to the unknown person’s identity and investigators could not find a missing person record that matched what they knew about the remains. In March 2021, the case was entered into NamUs as #UP78458.

        In August 2021, the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office, Biloxi Police Department, and Harrison County Coroner’s Office teamed with Othram to use Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to help generate new leads that might identify the unknown man or his next of kin. Othram built a genealogical profile from the skeletal remains sent by the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office. Carla Davis, Mississippi native and genealogist, performed the genealogical research.

        Investigative leads were passed back to law enforcement and an additional investigation by Biloxi investigators confirmed that the identity of the unknown man, found on the roof, was Gary Lee White, from Jackson, Mississippi. He was born August 29th, 1952. At the time of his discovery in 2019, he would have been 67 years old.



Somerton Man Mystery ‘Solved’ as DNA Points to Man’s Identity, Professor Claims (CNN – 7/26/2022)

    • A professor who has dedicated decades to solving one of Australia’s most enduring mysteries claims he has discovered the identity of the Somerton man.

      Derek Abbott, from the University of Adelaide, says the body of a man found on one of the city’s beaches in 1948 belonged to Carl “Charles” Webb, an electrical engineer and instrument maker born in Melbourne in 1905.
      South Australia Police and Forensic Science South Australia have not verified the findings of Abbott, who worked with renowned American genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick to identify Webb as the Somerton man.
      Using DNA sequencing, Abbott says he and Fitzpatrick were able to locate the final piece of a puzzle that has captivated historians, amateur sleuths, and conspiracy theorists for more than 70 years.



Study: Nanotech Method Can Extract More DNA from Rape Kit Swabs (Forensic – 7/27/2022)

    • Researchers have developed a new method that is up to six times more efficient at extracting male sperm fraction DNA profiles from sexual assault kits—particularly when analyzing low level sperm samples.

      The new SpermX method is based on a novel nanotechnology-derived polymer membrane that effectively traps sperm cells during the extraction and digestion process.

      The InnoGenomics Technologies team first published their validation study in Forensic Science International: Geneticsearlier this year. Tuesday, at the Green Mountain DNA Conference in Vermont, they debuted supporting results from an interlaboratory study with University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE).



New Memory Law to Establish DNA Bank for Those Missing During the Spanish Civil War (Forensic – 7/27/2022)

    • Spain’s lower house of parliament has approved a new historical memory law that declares illegal the regime of former dictator Gen. Francisco Franco and makes the central government responsible for the recovery of the bodies of tens of thousands of people missing from the Spanish Civil War and the dictatorship.

      Outlawing the nearly 40-year Franco regime that emerged after the end of the civil war in 1939, the new law nullifies the legality of the dictatorship’s courts and their rulings.

      It also bans the Francisco Franco Foundation, a private institution dedicated to preserving the autocrat’s legacy, and all glorification of the former dictator.

      The government is to draw up maps of where the bodies of an estimated 100,000 people still missing may be located. It will also set up a DNA bank to help with the identification processes.

      The missing are those who opposed or were considered to oppose Franco and were subsequently killed and buried in unmarked graves.


CMPD Solves Decades-Old Unidentified Remains Case Using Forensic Genetic Genealogy (WNCT9 – 7/27/2022)

    • A decade-old mystery is solved! A family has closure because of new, cutting-edge technology matching DNA with unidentified remains of people who died.

      CMPD has 11 sets of unidentified human remains currently in Mecklenburg County. They’re working to find out who the people were and to bring their remains home to their families.

      “They say he just never came back home, and they always wondered what happened,” CMPD Detective Matt Hefner.