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!




Horry County Police Department Teams with Othram to Identify “Baby Boy Horry” (DNASolves – 6/16/2023)

    • In December 2008, a newborn baby boy was found deserted on the side of a highway outside of Conway, South Carolina. The infant, who became known as Baby Boy Horry, was discovered by utility workers who were working in a wooded area near Highway 544. He was found in a Bath and Body Works tote bag and abandoned in the woods. It is suspected that the infant was days old at the time of his death. With only the infant and a bag to go on, there were few leads to work from and neither the infant nor his parents could be identified.

      In 2019, just over a decade after Baby Boy Horry’s death, the Horry County Police Department partnered with Othram to determine if advanced DNA testing could help provide an identity for Baby Boy Horry or a close relative. Forensic evidence was submitted to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the infant. Othram’s in-house genealogy team used the DNA profile in a genealogical search to produce investigative leads that were returned to law enforcement investigators.

      Law enforcement continued the investigation, locating the father and then the mother of the infant. The relationships of both parents to the infant were confirmed through follow up DNA testing. In March 2020, Jennifer Sahr of Pensacola, Florida was arrested and charged with homicide by child abuse. Investigators believe that Jennifer Sahr was a student at Coastal Carolina University at the time of the 2008 incident. In a September 2022 hearing, Sahr entered an Alford plea in the case and in June 2023, the case was closed with the judge reducing the charge of homicide by child abuse to voluntary manslaughter.

Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Teams with Othram to Identify 1998 Jane Doe (DNASolves – 6/18/2023)

    • In November 1998, partial skeletal remains were discovered by hunters lying under a natural-appearing layer of leaves off of Telegraph Road in Stafford County, Virginia. Detectives determined that the remains belonged to a Caucasian woman estimated to be twenty-five to forty-five years old. The woman is believed to have been between 5’8” to 5’11” in height during her life. While law enforcement was unable to make definitive determinations about the woman’s weight and eye color, they discovered that the decedent had medium light brown hair during her life. Upon autopsy, investigators determined that the woman had a healed rib fracture, indicating potential chest trauma. Detectives estimated that a period of several months to one year had elapsed between her death and the time of her remains being discovered.

      In November 2009, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as case number #UP6150. In 2012, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Central District of Virginia – Central District reviewed the case and a clay reconstruction portraying what the woman may have looked like during her life was created by forensic anthropologists and artists in collaboration with the FBI’s Forensic Anthropology Services and Forensic Imaging Unit. Despite the tireless work of law enforcement, the case has since gone cold and the woman’s identity remains a mystery.

      In 2023, the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Othram to determine if advancement in forensic DNA testing and forensic genealogy could provide detectives with a lead which will lead to the identity of Stafford County Jane Doe. Anyone with information that could aid in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office by calling  540-658-4400 and referencing agency case C1998-30588 or NamUS ID #UP6150.

      A DNASolves crowdfund has been established to cover the casework costs. Anyone can contribute here.



Three Women Launch Business Using DNA to Help Alabama Police Crack Cold Cases ( – 6/19/2023)

    • Solving cold cases is hard. Solving cases that have been colder longer than you have been alive, as a young female scientist in Alabama, is harder.

      “They don’t want to trust their cold cases to a 21-year-old,” said Olivia McCarter. “I am a kid. These cold cases are older than me. Why would they trust me?”

      McCarter is a recent University of South Alabama graduate who works as a genealogy analyst with the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department. She recently opened her own business, along with two other female scientists, called Moxxy Forensic Investigations. They work with police across the country to solve cold cases and put a name to previously unidentified remains.



Entire DNA of Pompeii Victim 2,000 Years Ago Sequenced by Scientists (Greek Reporter – 6/20/2023)

  • For the first time, researchers have managed to sequence the entire DNA belonging to the remains of a man who died in Pompeii 2,000 years ago.

    Preserved by volcanic materials from the eruption of Vesuvius and analyzed with new scientific methods, the genome reveals great genetic diversity in a sick man who tragically died in his thirties.

    A team led by Gabriele Scorrano, an assistant professor of geogenetics at the University of Copenhagen, extracted DNA from a man and a woman as part of its search for the first “Pompeian human genome,” according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.


DNA Collected from Suspect Bryan Kohberger a ‘Statistical Match’ for DNA on Sheath of Knife Used in Killings of 4 Idaho Students, Court Documents State (CNN – 6/21/2023)

  • The DNA of Bryan Kohberger, the suspect in the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students at an off-campus home in Moscow last fall, is a “statistical match” to DNA collected from the sheath of a knife found at the scene, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.

    An “STR” DNA comparison was performed on DNA collected from Kohberger and DNA taken from the knife sheath, prosecutors said in the June 16 filing. The samples showed a “statistical match,” the court documents state.

    An “STR” analysis – or short tandem repeat analysis – is a common type of DNA profiling in criminal cases and other types of forensic cases, according to the National Institute of Justice.

    “The STR profile is at least 5.37 octillion times more likely to be seen if (the) Defendant is the source than if an unrelated individual randomly selected from the general population is the source,” prosecutors said in the filing. An octillion is a number equal to a 1 followed by 27 zeros.


FBI Approves QIAGEN’s NGS-based Workflow for NDIS (Forensic – 6/13/2023)

  • QIAGEN announced Tuesday that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has approved its ForenSeq MainstAY workflow. This allows accredited forensic DNA laboratories to process DNA casework samples and search resulting profiles against the U.S. National DNA Index System (NDIS) CODIS database containing 20 million offender profiles and used by authorities across the U.S. to help solve criminal investigations nationwide.

    The ForenSeq MainstAY workflow has been developed and commercialized by Verogen, a QIAGEN company. It is composed of the high-throughput ForenSeq MainstAY kit, the MiSeq FGx Sequencing System and the ForenSeq MainstAY Analysis Module in the Universal Analysis Software. The workflow was submitted for NDIS approval by the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services Laboratory System.



Man Discovered in Nogales Hotel Room Identified as Donald Hadland, Jr. (DNA Doe Project – 6/22/2023)

    • After 21 years, the mystery surrounding the identification of a man who died in a Nogales hotel room has been resolved. Donald Hadland, Jr. was found on September 8, 2002 by the hotel manager, apparently having died hours earlier. He had registered for the room as “Edward C.” of St Petersburg, Florida, but that name led authorities to records of identity theft and fraud. A fingerprint search came back with the name Donald Hadland, Jr, but investigators questioned whether or not this was also a stolen identity.

      This year, the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office brought the case to the DNA Doe Project as part of a collaboration with Ramapo College of New Jersey’s new Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center, an undergraduate certificate program offering practical experience on real cases to its students. With funding from the Ramapo IGG Center, a blood sample taken from the body was sent for DNA analysis and development into the profile that was uploaded to GEDmatch Pro. Then, the students got to work – building a family tree of the DNA relatives of the John Doe in order to try to determine his true identity.

      Right away, they started finding the Hadland name in their research.

      “This case was unique as there was an investigative lead to the identity of Donald Hadland Jr. to begin with,” said Ramapo IGG Certificate Program Director Cairenn Binder, “Our students at Ramapo College of New Jersey  were able to compile additional supporting information using investigative genetic genealogy to demonstrate how Nogales John Doe’s genetic matches were consistent with Donald Hadland Jr.”

      After providing authorities with genealogical evidence of Mr Hadland’s identity, confirmation was obtained by a comparison with the DNA of a close family member.

      “Being part of a multidisciplinary team working to establish the identity of an individual in a 20-year-old cold case was very rewarding,” said Ramapo student Dr. Brad Combs. “The team worked efficiently and effectively together to help identify this individual and bring closure for the family.”

      The DNA Doe Project is grateful to the groups and individuals who helped resolve this case: the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, who entrusted the case to the DNA Doe Project and the Ramapo Investigative Genetic Genealogy Center; Genologue for DNA extraction from blood and sequencing; Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations for bioinformatics; GEDmatch Pro for providing their database; and students participating in Ramapo College’s IGG Certificate Program for their hard work and deployment of investigative genetic genealogy techniques.



San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and California DOJ Team with Othram to Identify 1991 Mentone John Doe (DNASolves – 6/22/2023)

  • In October 1991, a hunter was quail hunting in a rural area of Mentone and located a human skull, without teeth and mandible. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Homicide Detail was contacted and assumed the investigation. A search of the area was conducted for more human remains, but none were located. A torn plastic trash bag with decomposition odor and child’s clothing was located and kept for evidence. The remains could not be identified, and no further leads were discovered at the time.

    In November 1991, an autopsy was performed, and the coroner determined the human skull belonged to a child between 4 and 8 years old. The cause of death was undetermined. The case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP2550, but with no other leads were available, the case eventually went cold.

    In October 2022, with funding provided by Roads to Justice (RTJ), the CA DOJ sent Othram forensic evidence from the human remains was sent to the DNA sequencing and forensic genomics laboratory, Othram Inc. Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown young boy and Othram’s in-house genetic genealogy team used the profile in a genealogical search to generate investigative leads in the case.

    In February 2023, Othram revealed distant genetic relatives to the decedent located in Houston, TX. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Detail contacted the genetic relatives and received consent for their DNA for further testing.

    With the assistance of the Riverside, CA and Houston, TX FBI offices, Patricia Clark was identified as the young boy’s mother. Clark was contacted and it was discovered Clark reported her child missing to the San Bernardino Police Department in 1991. However, the child was never found. Clark’s DNA was obtained and confirmatory DNA testing then revealed a parent-child relationship between Clark and the human remains of the unknown child. This child is now known to be Derrick Burton and he was only a few years old at the time he was reported missing. The Sheriff’s Homicide continues to investigate the circumstances around Burton’s disappearance and death.