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!




Mother of South Dakota Baby Left Frozen in Ditch Charged With Murder Through Genealogy (Forensic Magazine – 3/11/2019)

  • Genealogy became a prime consideration in the wake of the arrest of the reputed Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, in California last spring. Parabon NanoLabs was contacted several months ago, and they determined several family trees that came back to Sioux Falls.


Manhattan DA’s Rape Kit Grants: $38M, 9,200 CODIS Hits, 64 Convictions (Forensic Magazine – 3/12/2019)

  • Thirty-two jurisdictions in 20 states received nearly $38 million in funding from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Grant Program between 2015 and 2018.

    About a third of the 55,000 kits yielded useable DNA profiles. In turn, about half of those DNA profiles uploaded to CODIS resulted in a hit.


DNA Testing Helped Police Confirm Missing Utah Teen was Killed by Ted Bundy ( – 3/12/2019)

  • Renewed interest in notorious serial killer Ted Bundy led police to announce on Monday that DNA testing helped them confirm he also killed a Bountiful teen.




Senate Passes a Bill to Allow Jails to use New DNA Technology to Expedite Crime Solving (Tulsa World – 3/12/2019)

  • Senate Bill 184, drafted by Sen. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, allows for the use of Rapid DNA, a device about the size of a desktop copier that can deliver results in under two hours. The measure passed by a 32-10 vote.


Scottish Researchers Crowdsource Forensic Shoe Prints for Database (Forensic Magazine – 3/13/2019)

  • The LRCFS is undertaking the largest ever study into the variation in footwear marks made by the same shoes across different surfaces and activities so that the variation observed can be used to explore links between the shoe and the mark it makes.


Home DNA-Testing Firm Will Let Users Block FBI Access to Their Data (NewScientist – 3/13/2019)

  • One of the biggest home DNA-testing companies seems to have bowed to a backlash over its decision to allow the FBI access to its database, by announcing a new way for customers to stop law-enforcement agencies accessing their data.



Proposal for Global Moratorium on Editing of Inherited DNA is Met with Criticism (CNN – 3/13/2019)

  • Researchers and ethicists, including the scientist who pioneered and patented CRISPR gene-editing technology, are calling for a global moratorium on human germline editing — changes made to inherited DNA, the genetic material in sperm, eggs or embryos that can be passed on to the next generation.


Testing the DNA in Museum Artifacts can Unlock New Natural History, but is it Worth the Potential Damage? (Smithsonian – 3/13/2019)


Forensic Team Searches Ethiopian Airlines Crash Site (CNN – 3/13/2019)

  • CNN’s David McKenzie describes the recovery efforts at the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash site that killed all 157 people on board.


They’ve Helped Free Hundreds of Innocent People and Capture Dozens of Criminals (News@Northeastern – 3/13/2019)

  • Because of the Innocence Project, nearly 400 innocent people who were serving long sentences now walk free, including 20 inmates on death row. The organization, which advocates on behalf of wrongly convicted inmates, has also helped track down more than 150 criminals. And the group’s work has resulted in the exoneration of people in 37 states.


Oregon Rape Kit Results Lead to New Profiles, Convictions (The Bulletin – 3/14/2019)

  • A new report says the elimination of Oregon’s backlog of untested rape kits has led to hundreds of new DNA profiles being added to a national database and multiple cases having been prosecuted.



Man Convicted of Rape in 1976 is Cleared by DNA Retesting (The Washington Post – 3/14/2019)

  • A former Fairfax County, Va., man convicted of rape in 1976 and imprisoned for 4½ years despite conflicting physical evidence and multiple alibi witnesses has had his conviction erased by the Virginia Supreme Court.



Case Study: WWII Soldier ID’d by Bones, DNA (Forensic Magazine – 3/14/2019)

  • The Hungarian lieutenant, fighting alongside the German forces in the final act of World War II, had stepped on a landmine in Ukraine in the spring of 1944 and died. Seventy years later, the putative remains of Gyula Agner—posthumous recipient of the Hungarian officer’s gold medal for bravery—were dug up in a churchyard by the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and brought back to his native soil.

    Bone morphology and some mitochondrial DNA analysis of a surviving relative allowed positive identification of Agner, according to a paper in the International Journal of Legal Medicine.



DNA Crime-Solving is Still New, Yet it May Have Gone Too Far (WIRED – 3/14/2019)

  • In the last week alone, investigators in two separate cold cases from the 1970s and ’80s revealed how DNA helped them resolve a pair of decades-old mysteries. One brings a family closure. The other thrusts a family into the fresh tragedy of a long-concealed teenage trauma. Both hint at a new feature of a world increasingly connected by relative-finding algorithms, social networks, and the internet; that in the age of digital DNA databases, nothing stays secret forever.



DNA Reveals the Local Men were Replaced in Iberian Gene Pool Thousands of Years Ago (CNN – 3/14/2019)

  • Ancient DNA is uncovering the secrets of the unique populations of what are now Portugal and Spain. Two studies published this week include unexpected findings from the DNA of people who lived thousands of years ago on the Iberian Peninsula.