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!





Rutgers-Camden Spearheads Launch of New Jersey Innocence Project (Forensic – 6/25/2021)

  • New Jersey residents who have been wrongly convicted of crimes and seek exoneration have a new resource: the New Jersey Innocence Project, based at Rutgers University‒Camden, which focuses the expertise of Rutgers faculty in law, forensic science, criminal justice, and social work.



DNA Matters: How Complex DNA Evidence Exonerates the Innocent (Forensic – 6/25/2021)

  • DNA Matters, a monthly column, discusses cases that have been aided by the power of computer software in DNA analysis. It is authored by Dr. Mark Perlin, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientist, executive and founder at Cybergenetics. Twenty years ago, Perlin invented TrueAllele probabilistic genotyping for automated human identification from DNA mixtures. His company helped identify victim remains in the World Trade Center disaster, and has helped exonerate 10 innocent men. He is a Scholar in Residence at Duquesne University’s Forensic Science and Law program, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.


Investigators Collect DNA Samples to Help ID Condo Victims (NBC News – 6/25/2021)

  • The round-the-clock pace for emergency crews in South Florida to find victims pinned beneath mountains of concrete and pulverized debris from a partially collapsed condo tower may resume for days or even weeks.

    As that laborious process plays out, another challenge presents itself: identifying the bodies. Officials said Friday that DNA swabs were taken from family members of missing loved ones to help confirm identities.


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Yukon Coroner’s Service Parter with Othram to Identify Lake Laberge John Doe (DNASolves – 6/25/2021)

  • In May of 2016, an unidentified young man was found on the shore of Lake Laberge north of Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Historic Case Unit and Yukon Coroner’s Service (YCS) exhausted all forensic and investigative routes in hopes of identifying the young man, but were unsuccessful. Aerial, water, and ground searches were conducted to try and locate any sort of additional information regarding his identity, yet these efforts were unsuccessful. The autopsy was inconclusive in regards to what caused the young man’s death.

    In 2020, the RCMP Historic Case Unit and YCS teamed up with Othram with the goal of developing new investigative leads as to the identity of the young man. Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® and other advanced forensic DNA technologies to aid in the investigation.


A Student’s Rape Went Unsolved for 14 Years. Police Say the Suspect Gave His DNA to a Genealogy Database. (The Washington Post – 6/29/2021)

  • Fourteen years ago, a University of Tampa student was walking home after drinking at the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival, a parade celebrating the fictional pirate José Gaspar, when a stranger offered to walk her back to the dorms. When they arrived at her dorm room, the man raped her, police say. Then, he disappeared. Police leads went cold almost immediately. DNA evidence collected at the time did not match any known offenders, and the woman did not know the attacker. The case might have remained a mystery if Jared T. Vaughn had not voluntarily provided a sample of his DNA to a public genealogy database, according to police


Man Whose Burned Body was Found in Septic Tank on Alberta Farm Identified by DNA 44 Years Later (CBC – 6/29/2021)

  • A man whose death in Alberta has fascinated armchair detectives for years has finally been identified by the RCMP using genetic genealogy, The Fifth Estate has learned. The victim, whose name is expected to be released on Wednesday, was nicknamed Septic Tank Sam by the RCMP after he was found in a septic tank at a rural farm just outside Tofield, Alta., on April 13, 1977. The farm was owned by Mavis and Charlie McLeod, both now deceased.


Ketchikan Police Say Newly-Tested DNA Sample Led to Arrest in 1993 Dudley Field Rape Case (KRBD – 6/29/2021)

  • On a dark evening in January 1993, a 14-year-old girl noticed a man following her. Afterward, she told investigators that he pulled her behind the dugouts at Ketchikan High School’s baseball field and raped her. She told police the man threatened to kill her if she said anything about the assault.

    She called the police anyway. But Ketchikan’s acting deputy police chief, Andy Berntson, says the assailant was a stranger — making the investigation much more difficult. Now, police say they’ve cracked the case with new DNA evidence. Michael J. Williams, a 52-year-old Saxman man, is accused of raping the unnamed teenager on Dudley Field.


West Norriton Man Admits to Raping Woman in Norristown Farm Park (The Mercury – 6/30/2021)

  • A West Norriton man admitted to raping a woman at gunpoint in Norristown Farm Park and now he awaits his fate from a judge.

    Mason Alexander Hall, 21, of the 2000 block of Palmer Road, pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Court on Tuesday to charges of rape, possession of an instrument of crime, possession of a firearm by a minor, terroristic threats, unlawful restraint, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person in connection with the Aug. 1, 2017, sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman at the park in West Norriton.


QIAGEN Partners with Verogen to Bolster Forensics Field (BioSpace – 6/30/2021)

  • One week after launching a dedicated CRISPR program, QIAGEN has partnered with San Diego-based Verogen to provide next-generation sequencing human identification workflows to laboratories in order to support forensic efforts from justice departments across the globe.

    The two companies will collaborate to market Verogen’s forensically validated next generation sequencing (NGS) workflows alongside QIAGEN’s full range of forensic-grade chemistries and sample prep automation to provide a full sample to ID solutions for human identification laboratories. Under the partnership, Germany-based QIAGEN will have rights to globally distribute both current and future Verogen products.



Davis Police Turning to DNA to Solve Case of Woman with Severe Amnesia (CBS Sacramento – 6/30/2021)

  •  Detectives are turning to DNA technology to try and figure out the identity of a woman with severe amnesia who was found in Davis last month. Davis police say they are reaching out to the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office cold case unit to submit the woman’s DNA into a genealogy database.



He Was Found Dead in 1963. Now This Little Boy Finally Has a Name. (ABC News – 7/01/2021)

  • A toddler found dead in Oregon in the 1960s went decades without a name on his grave, becoming the oldest case of unidentified human remains in the state. Now, thanks to genetic genealogy, his name and story are finally known.

    The decomposed body was found by a fisherman on July 11, 1963, in the water of the Keen County Reservoir in Jackson County, the Oregon State Police said. The boy, fully dressed, was wrapped in a blanket and quilt with iron molds inside, an apparent attempt to weigh him down in the water.