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!




Ancient DNA Suggests Vikings may Have Been Plagued by Smallpox (ScienceNews – 7/24/2020)

  • Viral genetic material in human remains pushes infections back to the 600s



A Half-Century Later, Police Identify a Homicide Suspect and His Victim (The New York Times – 7/23/2020)

  • Using DNA evidence, the district attorney’s office in Orange County, Calif., said it had identified a 1968 homicide victim as Anita Louise Piteau and the suspect as Johnny Chrisco.


Vermont Police Hope DNA Can Solve 1982 Infant Killing ( – 7/25/2020)

  • Vermont State Police detectives are hoping a new DNA technique can help them learn more about the 1982 killing of an infant in Northfield.

New Forensic Tool Could Help Solve Hiker Case in Florida (Tampa Bay Times – 7/25/2020)

    • The Collier County Sheriff’s Office wants to identify a man found dead in 2018 using a private DNA laboratory in Texas.



Bill Questions Proprietary Algorithms Used in Probabilistic Genotyping Software (Forensic – 7/27/2020)

  • A new bill brought forward by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., is making the legality of using proprietary forensic software to unravel complex DNA mixtures just that—complex.

    To either pass or fail the bill, there are essentially two questions the court needs to answer: 1) Are the source codes that power proprietary probabilistic genotyping software considered trade secrets? and 2) Does the public have a right to this source code to ensure equal and fair treatment?



NIST Launches Investigation of Face Masks’ Effect on Face Recognition Software (NIST – 7/27/2020)

  • Algorithms created before the pandemic generally perform less accurately with digitally masked faces.


A New Probabilistic Genotyping Standard from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Standards Board (ASB) (Yahoo! Finance – 7/27/2020)

  • This standard was produced through ASB’s DNA Consensus Body and sets requirements to be used by laboratories for the validation of probabilistic genotyping systems related to interpreting autosomal STR results. It was developed through a consensus process accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which considers input from all stakeholders including forensic scientists, the legal community, academia, and manufacturers. The standard is based on earlier work by the Biology/DNA Interpretation and Reporting Subcommittee of the Subcommittee of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science.



Local Podcast Investigates DNA Evidence in Haysom Murders, Jens Soering Case (CBS19 – 7/28/2020)

  • A local podcast, started by three former CBS19 News journalists, examines the 1985 murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom in their Bedford County home.



Washington Authorities Make Arrest in 27-Year-Old Cold Case with Help of Genealogy Kit (FOX News – 7/28/2020)

  • Alan Edward Dean, 62, was taken into custody Tuesday without incident and is expected to be charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Melissa Lee, a 15 year old who was abducted, strangled and thrown off a bridge 27 years ago.

    Investigators said they used DNA evidence from a genealogy kit to connect Dean to Lee’s death.



DNA, Public Genealogy Databases Lead to Arrest in 1986 Chisholm Cold Case (FOX 21 – 7/29/2020)

  • Three decades since the rape and murder of Nancy Daugherty in the close-knit city of Chisholm, a 52-year-old man, Michael Carbo Jr., living in that very community was arrested for the crime Wednesday on probable cause of second-degree murder.