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!




Important Update – ISHI 31 Will Be a Virtual Event

  • If you missed our announcement, read more and get answers to your frequently asked questions. For additional questions, please email Sharon Zelanka.



Boston University Ranks First in Top 10 Forensic Biology Programs (Forensic – 5/29/2020)

  • recently ranked the top forensic biology programs in the country, with Boston University, Fayetteville State University and Ohio Northern University comprising the top three.


Family Ancestry Search Connects Longtime Firefighter to Rape Investigation (NBC Connecticut – 5/29/2020)

  • For nearly two decades, forensic scientists at the state’s crime lab have been trying to help police identify the person responsible for a series of rapes that took place between the years 2001 and 2008.

    A $1.4 million grant Sasinouski successfully applied for opened up a new avenue to crack the case using forensic genealogy.

    Evidence was sent to Bode Technologies to connect the DNA of the suspect to one uploaded to a public database by people tracking their ancestry.

New DNA Evidence in 20-Year-Old Murder (The Maui News – 5/29/2020)

    • New DNA results in a 20-year-old cold case in Kihei puts the defendant at the scene of the alleged murder, police said Thursday.



DNA Helps Solve Colorado Woman’s Cold Case Rape, Murder After 50 Years (FOX News – 5/30/2020)

  • Colorado investigators used DNA and genetic genealogy to solve the rape and murder of a 23-year-old Denver woman five decades ago. Betty Jones was murdered in 1970, and investigators said Thursday that her killer was Paul Martin, a man who died last year.



Philadelphia Escort Among Victims in Long Island Gilgo Beach Murder Case, DNA Shows (FOX News – 5/30/2020)

  • Remains found by Long Island detectives assigned to the Gilgo Beach murder case belong to a Philadelphia escort, an identification made through DNA and genetic genealogy.

    Valeria Mack, 24, disappeared months before her remains were found in Manorville, L.I., in November 2000. She previously had been arrested on prostitution charges in Philadelphia.


New Forensics Method Discovered to Better Pinpoint Time of Death (NL Times – 5/30/2020)

  • Researchers at Amsterdam UMC are now able to more accurately home in on the time of death of victims at a crime scene using a newly-developed technique, the hospital center announced on Saturday.

    Currently, time of death is recorded with a margin of error of several hours, according to the researchers. Using the new technique, which combines temperature and weight measurements, the margin of error is reduced to under an hour.



Infographic: DNA Isn’t Always Right-Handed (The Scientist – 6/1/2020)

  • The left-handed Z-DNA double helix is held together by traditional Watson-Crick base pairs, but unlike righthanded B-DNA, which has major and minor grooves between the twists of its sugar-phosphate backbones, Z-DNA’s grooves show little difference in width. In addition, every other base in a stretch of Z-DNA takes on a different orientation relative to the sugar backbone than the arrangement in B-DNA, giving this alternative form of DNA the zig-zag shape for which it was named.



Left-Handed DNA Has a Biological Role Within a Dynamic Genetic Code (The Scientist – 6/1/2020)

  • Once considered an unimportant curiosity, Z-DNA is now recognized to provide an on-the-fly mechanism to regulate how an RNA transcript is edited.



DNA Analysis from Ancient Bronze Age Individuals (Technology Networks – 6/1/2020)

  • Different “Canaanite” people from the Bronze Age Southern Levant not only culturally, but also genetically resemble each other more than other populations. A team around Ron Pinhasi from the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology found in a recent study that their DNA is a mixture of two populations: The Chalcolithic Zagros and Early Bronze Age Caucasus.



Henry Lee, World Famous Forensic Scientist, to Retire as UNH Professor (New Haven Register – 6/1/2020)

  • Henry Lee, world-renowned forensic investigator and longtime professor at the University of New Haven, is retiring, but he’s not slowing down.



NIST to Digital Forensics Experts: Show Us What You Got (NIST – 6/2/2020)

  • First large-scale “black box” study will test the accuracy of computer and mobile phone forensics.



Animal DNA is Helping Unlock Some Dead Sea Scrolls Secrets (CNN – 6/2/2020)

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls are like an ancient puzzle that researchers and scholars are trying to piece together, but multiple obstacles block the way. Now, a new study has suggested a potential aid in finding the way these puzzle pieces fit together: animal DNA from the skins used to make the scrolls.



Texas Medical Examiner Talks ‘Death Care’ Amid COVID-19 (Forensic – 6/3/2020)

  • As health care workers for the living are hailed as front line heroes during the COVID-19 crisis, experts working in pathology and forensic sciences are serving in equally critical public health roles during the pandemic. TMC News spoke with Pramod Gumpeni, M.D., assistant deputy chief medical examiner at Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences (HCIFS), to learn more about “death care” and how the institute is collaborating with hospitals and public health agencies to better understand COVID-19 disease and help curb the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.



COVID-19 Face Mask Provided DNA to Solve 2018 Child Rape Case, Police Say (KIRO7 – 6/3/2020)

  • DNA swabbed from a California man’s face mask, which he was wearing to protect himself from the coronavirus, has led to his arrest in connection with a 2018 child rape, authorities said.