This Week in Forensic Science – ISHI News

Jun 17 2022

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!




Idaho City to Pay $11.7 Million to Man Wrongfully Convicted in 1996 Killing (The New York Times – 6/10/2022)

    • The city of Idaho Falls, Idaho, has agreed to pay $11.7 million to a man who spent 20 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of murdering an 18-year-old woman in 1996.

      The man, Christopher Tapp, was cleared in 2019 of the murder of Angie Dodge of Idaho Falls after the slain teen’s mother sought to have investigators take another look at the case, in light of advances in DNA analysis and the use of genetic genealogy.

      The new evidence connected another man, Brian Leigh Dripps Sr., to the crime. Mr. Dripps ultimately confessed to the killing and pleaded guilty in February 2021 to first-degree murder and rape. He was sentenced in June 2021 to life in prison.

Truck Driver Jailed for a Texas Killing Charged with Another Death in California, Authorities Say (KAKE – 6/11/2022)

  • A recently retired truck driver who traveled across the country for decades has been charged in a California woman’s death, just weeks after he was arrested in Texas for another woman’s killing, prosecutors said. Douglas Thomas, 67, was charged Friday in the death of Sherri Herrera, a 30-year-old mother of four who was found on a highway on-ramp in March 1993, the Riverside County, California, district attorney’s office said in a news release. Herrera was last seen alive a few days before her body was found, the release said.

    The office also filed a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a rape, according to the news release. It is unclear if Thomas has legal representation. Throughout more than 40 years working as a truck driver, Thomas traveled extensively, the release added.


Finding Baby Holly Was ‘A Miracle’, Says Genealogist Who Helped Solve the 40-Year-Old Mystery (Independent – 6/11/2022)

  • Her genetic research company, based in Austin, was subcontracted last year to a California-based company called Identifinders International. There, another genealogist, Misty Gillis, became interested in a decades-old John and Jane Doe case.“We would sometimes let the genealogists go out and find a case they saw on the internet that they liked, like a John Doe or a case that was unsolved,” Ms Peacock tells The Independent. “Most of the time, we take cases that walk in the door, but we get our pet cases.

    “Somebody said, ‘Let’s do this man and wife; it might be a couple.’ So we reached out to [Texas authorities] and asked if they had DNA on hand for this couple, and they did, and then we were lucky enough to get a grant.”

    They first began looking into the case last spring; by autumn, using their DNA technology and uploading information to, a genealogy site that allows users to share data with law enforcement agencies, they’d come up with IDs.


DNA Can Now Identify Unknown Soldiers. It Also Reveals Tangles of Old Mistakes. (The New York Times – 6/11/2022)

  • Improved forensic techniques and DNA testing can now reliably identify war dead that the military once thought would remain forever anonymous. But the advance comes with a twist: The same technology that can name the nameless can also reveal mix-ups and blunders that caused service members to be buried in the wrong graves.

    After World War II, the U.S. military had to sort out the remains of nearly 300,000 war dead. Most were sent home to families or buried overseas in marked graves. But about 8,500 sets of remains could not be identified at the time. These were buried in American military cemeteries under precise rows of marble markers bearing only the word “Unknown.”

    For years, those tidy rows have concealed a messy history. The identification process was at times so haphazard and ham-handed that it left identifiable men unaccounted for, or worse, sent them to the wrong families.



Rock County Sheriff’s Office Confirms Identification of John Clinton Doe after 27 Years (DNA Doe Project – 6/14/2022)

  • Skeletal remains discovered in a remote wooded area along Turtle Creek near Clinton, Wisconsin in 1995 have been positively identified as Carl J. Isaacs, Jr. after comparison to the DNA from his deceased father. The DNA Doe Project previously announced that the case had been solved in 2019, but withheld the name at the request of authorities.

    Carl J. Isaacs, Jr. was identified after only two weeks of investigative genetic genealogy work, but confirmation of the identification would have to wait until this year when his DNA was compared to a close family member by the University of North Texas School of Biological Science Forensic Unit.

    “Usually, we are able to use the DNA of living relatives to confirm the identities of our Does, but in this case there was no one close enough to meet the standards set by the medical examiner,” said DNA Doe Project co-founded Margaret Press. “It’s a testament to the commitment of the Rock County team to definitively solve this case that they took the extraordinary step of exhuming Mr. Isaacs’ father in order to confirm the identification.”

    Jack Friess, a private investigator from Stevens Point and who had been working on identifying John Clinton Doe since 2013, referred this case to the DNA Doe Project in 2018. Mr. Friess took a co-leadership role on the casework within the DNA Doe Project, and was a dedicated advocate for the use of investigative genetic genealogy and the case of John Clinton Doe particularly. His leadership helped the genealogists to identify Carl Isaacs, who had walked away from Walworth Co jail in April 1995. “Mostly because of the remote location of the body, we always assumed JCD was a local boy, and about that we were right. We just were unable to identify him using traditional (old school) investigation tools. I’m honored to have been part of finally giving this young man back his name,” he said. Mr. Friess retired from his volunteer role as Case Information Specialist with the DNA Doe Project earlier this year.

    The DNA Doe Project wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the groups and individuals who helped solve this case: the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project; Bode Technology and Fulgent Genetics; Gregory Magoon for bioinformatics, UNT forensic laboratory; GEDmatch Pro for providing their database; our generous donors who contributed to this case; and DDP’s dedicated teams of volunteer investigative genetic genealogists who work tirelessly to bring victims home.


Instagram Launches AMBER Alerts to Help Find Missing Children (Forensic – 6/15/2022)

  • We’re bringing AMBER Alerts to Instagram for the first time. This feature was developed in partnership with organizations like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the US, the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, the National Crime Agency in the UK, the Attorney General’s Office in Mexico, the Australian Federal Police and more.We know that the chances of finding a missing child increase when more people are on the lookout, especially in the first few hours. With this update, if an AMBER Alert is activated by law enforcement and you are in the designated search area, the alert will now appear in your Instagram feed.

    The alert will include important details about the child such as a photo, description, location of the abduction and any other available information that can be provided. People can also share the alert with friends to further spread the word.

    These alerts are rare and specific to the search area. If you get one, it means there is an active search for a missing child nearby. In order to know who to show these alerts to, we use a variety of signals, including the city you list on your profile, your IP address and location services (if you have it turned on).


Police Turn to Podcast for the County’s 82 Homicide Cold Cases (Forensic – 6/15/2022)

  • The Anne Arundel County Police Department sees true crime podcasting as a new way to revive interest in cold cases where investigators are still searching for leads.

    Titled “The Crime Journal,” the true crime podcast is an attempt by the department to get new information on the county’s 82 cold homicide cases. The department believes renewed interest in certain unsolved homicides could lead to crumbs of new information that eventually crack a case open.

    “A lot of times, the public and citizens in general, they watch the news at night and kind of forget about it unless it personally touches them,” said Lt. Jacklyn Davis, who heads the department’s media relations office, which runs the podcast. Thrusting additional information on older cases into the public sphere could jog a witness’ memory, or provide leads from other sources, she said.

    “The more time that passes, the more relationships change, loyalties change, more people are willing to come forward as time goes on,” Davis said.

    In addition to renewing interest and bringing up information, the show also creates an opportunity for internet sleuths to present their own theories.


New York Bills Address Rape Kit Tracking, DNA Storage (Forensic – 6/15/2022)

  • A bill that establishes a tracking system in New York state for sexual assault kits has passed both the senate and assembly, and is expected to be signed into law by the governor shortly. With this bill, the state of New York becomes one of 33 states plus D.C. implementing tracking systems to give sexual assault survivors more control over their cases. At the same time, a bill to prevent the storage of victims’ DNA samples from rape kits in the state DNA identification index failed to advance in the last session, and is still sitting in the Internet and Technology Committee.



DNA, Genealogy Lead to Mom of Newborn Girl Left to Freeze in Maine Gravel Pit in 1985 (KIRO – 6/15/2022)

  • Armand and Lorraine Pelletier were stunned one December morning in 1985 when their Siberian Husky, Paca, dropped the frozen body of a newborn girl on the doorstep of their home in Frenchville, Maine.

    For more than 36 years, Pelletier, his wife and the entire community were haunted by the death of “Baby Jane Doe,” who authorities discovered had been born in a nearby gravel pit and left to die, cold and alone. Who was the girl’s mother? Why was the baby abandoned?

    Maine State Police officials announced Tuesday that they had answered at least one of those questions with the arrest of Lee Ann Daigle, 58, of Lowell, Massachusetts. According to cold case detectives, Daigle has been identified through DNA and genetic genealogy as the infant’s mother. Daigle, whose name at the time was Lee Ann Guerette, would have been 21 years old when she gave birth. She was arrested without incident outside her home and quickly waived extradition to be brought back to Maine to face a murder charge.



DNA Evidence Reveals Where the Black Death Began (The Washington Post – 6/16/2022)

  • Genetic material extracted from seven bodies shows that they had been infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacterium responsible for one of the largest infectious disease catastrophes in human history. This strain started a deluge of death that would devastate human populations for the next 500 years. The plague first reached the United States in 1900, where it killed 119 people during an outbreak in San Francisco.

    In a study published Wednesday in the science journal Nature, Slavin and a team of international researchers claim to offer historical proof that Central Asia is where the late medieval bubonic plague actually began.



They Hoped a DNA Test Would Clear Him. It Did the Opposite. (The New York Times – 6/16/2022)

  • A recent DNA test showed that a man who was found not guilty in the murder of a horse groomer at a Florida racetrack more than 30 years ago was, in fact, the killer, the authorities said on Wednesday.

    Lawyers for the man, Robert Earl Hayes, had asked investigators in 2020 to retest the strands of hair found in the hand of the horse groomer, Pamela Albertson, after she was raped and killed in February 1990 at the Pompano Beach racetrack in South Florida, where they both worked. The lawyers believed that the findings would help exonerate their client in the 1987 killing of another racetrack worker in Oneida County, N.Y., for which Mr. Hayes is currently in prison.

    In the New York case, Mr. Hayes pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arson and burglary in 2004. He was sentenced to 15 to 45 years in prison and is eligible for parole in 2025. But investigators also retested vaginal DNA collected from Ms. Albertson, and found that it was a match with Mr. Hayes, effectively proving that he was guilty all along, said Harold F. Pryor, the Broward County state attorney in Florida.