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!




Illinois State Police Reduces Backlog of Forensic Kits (WSILTV – 6/3/2022)

    • The number of pending sexual assault forensic kits older than 180 days in Illinois has reached zero. This is down from a backlog of 1,815 sexual assault forensic assignments that were pending longer than 180 days in March of 2019.

      Illinois State Police (ISP) utilized a variety of strategies to reduce turnaround time, including ramping up the use of forensic technologies and robotics, and hiring additional forensic scientists .

Investigative Team Uses Genetic Genealogy to Identify Victim in 1999 Cold Case (FOX40 – 6/3/2022)

  • A victim of a 1999 cold case homicide was identified by a law enforcement team that used genetic genealogy Thursday.

    The victim’s remains were located on the bank of slough near Clarksburg CA, found in rural Yolo County on March 4, 1999.

    This incident remained open because the state of the decomposition made it hard to identify the victim.


The Evidence We Leave Behind (Part 2) (NIJ – 6/6/2022)

  • Gregory Dutton, a physical scientist at NIJ, and science writer Jim Dawson continue their conversation on the microbiome: what it is, how it applies to forensics, and the evolution of its role in forensic science. Listen to the first half of Jim and Greg’s microbiome discussion.


Police: DNA Technology Connects Man to Florida Serial Rapes (The Washington Post – 6/7/2022)

  • Advanced DNA technology helped detectives link the cases of six women to a man accused of being the “pillowcase rapist” for a string of rapes back in the 1980s.

    Robert Koehler is currently jailed in neighboring Miami-Dade County, where he faces charges for assaulting a woman in the early ‘80s as well, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a Tuesday morning news conference.

    Authorities believe Koehler, 62, may have committed 40 to 45 rapes, terrifying victims by breaking into their homes at night, the sheriff said. The assailant used a pillowcase or other fabric to cover his face — or the face of his victims — before assaulting them, tying them up and stealing items from their homes.

    The assaults by the pillowcase rapist attracted extensive media attention in South Florida and the creation of a task force to investigate the sex crimes, sheriff’s officials said.



Man Found Guilty in 2003 Rape of Teen (Forensic – 6/8/2022)

  • In March 2003, the Gray’s Harbor Sheriff’s Office (Washington) investigated a kidnapping and rape that started on Church Road in McCleary. A 17-year-old female was abducted when she returned home to her residence in her vehicle. The suspect bound the female and loaded her into her own vehicle. The female was taken to an undisclosed location and was sexually assaulted. After sexually assaulting the female, the suspect drove her to a location near McCleary and left her in the vehicle.

    The victim was able to free herself and she returned to her residence where the kidnapping and assault were reported to 911. The victim was taken to a hospital to be examined. Investigators collected evidence at the hospital and a DNA profile was eventually obtained for the suspect in the sexual assault.

    Although an exhaustive investigation was conducted, investigators were not been able to identify a suspect. The suspect’s DNA profile was entered into the nationwide criminal database but it was not linked to a known person in the database.

    In December 2020, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office Chief Darrin Wallace obtained grant money to submit the DNA evidence to a private laboratory for testing. The genealogy testing revealed a short list of subjects that were linked to the DNA profile of the suspect.


NIJ Report: Best Practices in DNA Lab Staffing (Forensic – 6/8/2022)

  • Staffing is a problem right now in many industries, not just forensic. That being said, the nature of forensics can add an additional complexity to staffing. Dealing with violence, crime and death on a daily basis can be too much for some to handle. And while that is more evident in disciplines like forensic pathology and forensic nurses, which continue to experience unprecedented worker shortages, forensic DNA analysts are also subjected to the melancholy of the job.

    Additionally, backlogs and intense demands for precision and timeliness can put undue pressure on DNA personnel. Some forensic laboratories may even have hiring restrictions put in place by government administrations, or are subject to legislation that negatively affects their staffing efficiency.

    “Recruiting, hiring, and training forensic analysts is an arduous and complex process,” reads the NIJ’s most recent report, “[however] the outcomes will directly impact the laboratory’s functioning and efficiency.”

    Chapter 3 of the report, “National Best Practices for Improving DNA Laboratory Process Efficiency,” offers numerous recommendations for hiring, training and retention of forensic DNA experts, some of which are summarized in this article.