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!




Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Mesa County Coroner’s Office Partner with Othram to Identify a 1992 John Doe (DNASolves – 3/09/2023)

    • On November 28, 1992, unidentified human remains were discovered near the Walker Wildlife area, off River Road. These remains were missing the skull and were decomposed. The remains showed evidence that the unidentified male had been the victim of a homicide by stabbing.

      For the nearly thirty years since the discovery of the man’s remains, investigators diligently pursued various leads, in hopes of uncovering his identity. In January 2011, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). The case is logged as UP8361. However in spite the investigative effort, all leads were exhausted and the case went cold.

      In 2022, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office collaborated with Othram to determine if advanced forensic DNA testing could help establish an identity for the man or a close relative. A further investigation by Mesa County Sheriff’s Office Investigators found a potential sibling to the unknown man. The male homicide victim has positively been identified as Etus Thomas “ET” Romero.



Decades Later, DNA Tests Unravel Mystery of Slain Anne Arundel County Teen (The Baltimore Banner – 3/02/2023)

  • Anne Arundel County Police and federal officials announced Friday that they identified a suspect in the death of 16-year-old Pamela Lynn Conyers through extensive DNA tests and investigative genetic genealogy, solving the 52-year-old cold case. Police identified Forrest Clyde William III as the suspect in Conyers’ 1970 killing, and said her death was caused by asphyxiation due to strangulation.


New Colorado Law Makes It Easier for Wrongly Convicted People to Prove Innocence Using DNA Evidence (Innocence Project – 3/10/2023)

  • Governor Jared Polis signed into law legislation that fixes Colorado’s post-conviction DNA testing statute to help ensure that wrongly convicted Coloradans can access DNA testing that can prove their innocence. The legislation was passed overwhelmingly in Colorado’s House and Senate last month.

    The law, which will go into effect on Oct. 23, 2023, will improve Colorado’s post-conviction statute by making these updates to the current law:

    • Changes the standard for obtaining testing, allowing people with reasonable claims of innocence to access evidence in the state’s control.
    • Allows formerly incarcerated people to access DNA testing to prove their innocence and clear their names.
    • Allows for subsequent petitions for DNA testing, particularly in cases where advances in DNA technology make it possible to obtain clearer results.
    • Ensures that all parties have a voice in determining the means and methods of testing, and allows for the testing to be conducted at private laboratories upon agreement of all parties.
    • Enables courts to vacate convictions upon receiving DNA evidence that proves a person’s innocence.
    • Ensures that victims’ rights are respected and the Victims Rights Act is followed.



Human Rights Commission Urges National Forensic Policy in Mexico (Mexico News Daily – 3/10/2023)

  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called for Mexico to develop a comprehensive national forensic policy to help confront the crisis of disappearances in the country. Arosemena acknowledged the government had made efforts to tackle the disappearance crisis, but said more effective coordination between institutions was needed to address the estimated 52,000 unidentified bodies in the country.


Denver Office of the Medical Examiner and Othram team to Identify a 1987 John Doe (DNASolves – 3/10/2023)

    • In June 1987, police officers were dispatched to an apartment at 1350 Columbine Street in Denver, Colorado for a welfare check. Upon arrival, officers discovered the body of an unresponsive Black man. The unidentified man, possibly known as “Kinky,” was estimated to be 6’0″ in height and 183 pounds in weight. While his exact age is unknown, it is estimated that he was between 24 and 40 years old at the time of death. The man was found wearing a red, yellow, green, and black beaded necklace. Aside from a tattoo including the word “GEMINI” and a wine glass on the lower right leg, no other identifiable characteristics were noted. Investigators believe the unidentified man could have originally come from Miami, Florida or perhaps Jamaica.

      In May 2010, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as #UP7166. Despite the efforts of law enforcement, the man’s identity remains a mystery and with few leads for investigators to pursue, the case has gone cold.

      In 2023, the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner partnered with Othram to leverage advanced forensic DNA testing to help establish the man’s identity. Anyone with information that could aid in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner and reference agency case 1987-95629 or NamUs ID #UP7166.


Mississippi Bureau of Investigation & Picayune Police Department Teams with Othram to Identify a 1992 Murdered Infant (DNASolves – 3/10/2023)

    • In April 1992, a white female infant was discovered inside a garbage bag in Picayune, Pearl River County, Mississippi. The Mississippi State Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was perinatal asphyxia due to smothering, and the case was classified as a homicide. The case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP83672.

      In August 2021, the Picayune Police Department and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations Detectives reopened the investigation. The forensic DNA evidence from the case was sent to Othram for advanced DNA testing. Utilizing Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing®, Othram scientists were able to create a comprehensive genealogical profile for the infant. This genealogical profile was then used by Othram’s in-house genealogical team to produce investigative leads. Othram returned the leads to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations.

      With the help of those leads, along with fingerprints obtained from preserved evidence and ongoing investigative efforts, detectives were ultimately able to identify the infant’s parents as 50-year-old Andrew Carriere and 50-year-old Inga Johansen Carriere, who were living in Louisiana at the time of the infant’s death.

      In January 2022, the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations – New Orleans Field Office received a request for assistance from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations regarding a cold case homicide investigation. The Picayune Police Department led the homicide investigation and collected various pieces of evidence, some of which were linked to associations in Gretna, Louisiana. The evidence was preserved by the Picayune Police Department.

      As a result of the investigation, Louisiana State Police detectives obtained an arrest warrant through the 24th Judicial District Court for both Inga Johansen Carriere and Andrew Carriere for First Degree Murder. In February 2023, Inga Johansen Carriere was arrested at her residence in Avondale, Louisiana. In March 2023, Andrew Carriere was arrested in Galliano, Louisiana and ultimately booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center.



With Fingerprints, DNA and Photos, Turkey Seeks Families of the Missing (The New York Times – 3/12/2023)

    • Five weeks after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake and a powerful aftershock struck southern Turkey, killing 47,000 people, many others remain unaccounted for, adding ambiguity to the temblor’s complete toll and leaving families in an agonizing limbo. More than 6,000 people were also killed across the border in northern Syria. In the weeks since, the Turkish authorities have begun using fingerprints, DNA tests and photographs to try to link unidentified bodies with their next of kin.



Man Who Died in Golden Gate Park Identified as Kurt Jerome Aken by the DNA Doe Project (DDP – 3/13/2023)

    • The DNA Doe Project and the San Francisco Police Department have identified a man who died in 2021 in Golden Gate Park as Kurt Jerome Aken.

      On June 21, 2021 a landscaper clearing ground cover discovered a man’s body close to a trail on the southeast side of Metson Lake in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The John Doe was lying on a blanket and sleeping bag, having died weeks before being found. There was no evidence of trauma on the body.

      When detectives were unable to identify this John Doe, they reached out to the DNA Doe Project for help.

      Right away, the team had an important clue – a match in the range of a first cousin that was on his maternal side. From this, the team was able to identify the specific branch of John Doe’s family tree, and determined he was one of six children. Only two of the siblings were male, and a proof of life study ruled out Kurt Aken’s brother.



Racine Police Department and the FBI Leverage Othram’s Genetic Testing Platform to Identify the Suspect in the 2000 Murder of Linda Fields (DNASolves – 3/13/2023)

    • In February 2000, a 37-year-old female was found murdered in the front yard at 1132 Lake Avenue underneath a low-hanging pine tree. The female homicide victim was later identified as Linda Fields. The Milwaukee Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy results reported that Ms. Fields was strangled.

      Multiple DNA samples were collected and the lab report authored by Sharon Polakowski, in May 2001 indicated that all of the samples were identical and that the DNA that was extracted came from a single unknown male contributor. The DNA profile was entered into the case work index of the Wisconsin DNA databank, the Wisconsin convicted felons’ databank and the national DNA databank with no match at the time. Now retired Inv. Steve Mich was the lead investigator at the time. He interviewed countless witnesses but was never able to make an arrest. The case was reassigned in 2005 and then again in 2012. The DNA of five suspects was compared with the unknown male DNA and all five were eventually eliminated as suspects.

      By March 2005, in an additional effort to gain any new leads, collected but previously un-submitted samples were submitted for testing. Male DNA was identified on one of the items that was submitted for testing. This sample was found to have the same DNA profile as the other DNA that was found.In April 2021, Inv. Blackmore consulted with DCI Special Agent McGrath, FBI Agent Sarah Deamron and DNA Analyst Natalie Fischer of the State of Wisconsin Crime Lab. Fischer determined that there was enough DNA extract to move forward with an Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) analysis. The person of interest, Lucas Alonso, was detained at his place of employment in Racine. He was brought in for questioning and eventually arrested on 1st Degree Homicide.



Dutch Forensic Institute Launching Knives Database to Help with Stabbing Investigations (NL Times – 3/14/2023)

    • The Netherlands Forensic Insitute (NFI) has launched a knife database to better investigate stabbings. Similar to the already existing firearms database, this one should be able to help identify what type of knife was used in a stabbing. The reason for the database is the increased number of stabbings involving young people.

      The police do not have exact figures but say that the number of stabbings involving teenagers has increased significantly in recent years. As did the number of arrests. In 2019, the police arrested 33 teenagers with a knife. Last year, there were 355.

      The NFI, therefore, started photographing all knives seized by the police in Oost-Nederland last year and examining some of them in more detail. The forensic specialists examine the composition of the metal and the coating. “When someone is stabbed, very small metal particles and pieces of paint often remain in the body,” said Zoon. “Each type of knife leaves its own traces, which we can now compare with the knives in our database.”

      So far, the database consists of about 900 knives. They range from kitchen knives like small pairing knives and large chef’s knives to folding knives and “Rambo” knives – large serrated weapons that are popular among rival youth gangs, according to the police. The NFI is examing whether it is necessary to add knives seized in other parts of the Netherlands.



Gwinnet County Medical Examiner’s Office & Othram Partner to Identify Remains of 1998 Teen  (DNASolves – 3/14/2023)

    • In February 1998, skeletal remains of two children were found inside of a cardboard box in Norcross, Georgia at the intersection of Buford Highway and Weaver Way. The box was marked “Attention Police, My bones were legally exhumed from South Georgia, please return them to their proper repose.” Additionally, casket hardware was found with the remains; research suggests that this hardware originates from the early 1900s to 1940s which is consistent with the suspected age of the remains. The skeletal remains of the individual were identified by forensic anthropologists and include a cranium, partial mandible, five right ribs, and five left ribs. These remains are believed to belong to a pre-teen or teen-aged individual. The child’s estimated year of death, race, ethnicity, and sex could not be determined. Unfortunately, even with the unusual circumstances surrounding the discovery of this individual’s remains, little more is known about this individual.

      In April 2022, the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office entered the case into NamUs as #UP90199. Despite efforts to identify the unknown child and its companion, investigators have been unable to do so.

      In 2023, the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office partnered with Othram, Inc. to leverage advanced forensic DNA testing and genetic genealogy to help establish the child’s identity. Anyone with information that could aid in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Gwinnett County Office Medical Examiner’s Office at  678-442-3160 and reference agency case 98G-0135 or NamUs ID #UP90199.



New NJ Directive Requires Longer Retention of DNA, Rape Evidence (Forensic – 3/15/2023)

    • Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive 2023-1 requires longer retention of evidence, including DNA evidence, from sexual assault medical examinations not processed by a lab at the survivor’s request, extending the current required retention period from five years to 20 years. The Directive also establishes statewide procedures and guidelines for tracking, storing, and determining how and when such evidence is submitted for testing, and limits circumstances in which law enforcement can decline to submit evidence for testing in cases where a survivor has consented to it. The Directive specifically prohibits law enforcement officers and prosecutors from declining to submit evidence for testing strictly because they believe the sexual act was consensual, they have no suspects, or the survivor filed a complaint against a current or former spouse or partner.



DNA from ‘Unproveable’ 1994 Rape Hits to CODIS, 1979 Cold Case Murder (Forensic – 3/15/2023)

    • A murder suspect in a 1979 cold case in California has been arrested after investigators found a DNA match to a rape committed 15 years later in Washington.

      On Sept. 28, 1979, Patricia Carnahan was beaten, strangled and left for dead at a South Lake Tahoe campground. Investigators gathered evidence from the crime scene, including a sexual assault kit and DNA sample. But at the time, Carnahan’s identity was unknown, and no suspects arrested.

      In 1994, the same man who allegedly murdered Carnahan raped a different woman in Washington state. Investigators collected a sexual assault kit, but the rape was deemed “unproveable.” The untested sexual assault kit was then placed on a storage shelf.

      After authorities failed to identify her, Carnahan was buried in a nondescript grave marked “Unidentified Female” in 1994.

      In 2015, investigators with the El Dorado County Cold Case Homicide Unit revived the case. First, a forensic anthropologist from California State University, Chico exhumed Carnahan’s body. Then, detectives placed photos of her jewelry in a newspaper. Family members soon identified a pendant worn by Carnahan. After comparing and confirming family DNA to the victim, the body was released to them for proper burial.

      But, Carnahan’s killer remained a mystery—until the 1994 rape kit of a Washington woman was tested this year.



Advances in DNA Lead to Suspect in 1997 Bank Robbery, Murder (Forensic – 3/15/2023)

    • On the morning of April 28, 1997, two male subjects entered the Western Financial Bank and committed a robbery.

      Four bank employees were working inside the bank at the time of the robbery. Three of the employees, including Leech, were forced into the vault room. They were then forced to unlock the vault and open the bank safe.

      At some point during the robbery, Leech and another employee were handcuffed by one of the suspects. Then, one of the bank robbers shot Leech in the back of the head, killing her. After the gunshot was fired, both bank robbers exited the bank and fled the area in an SUV the bank robbers left the bank with just over $11,000 in cash.

      In March 2021, investigators from the Sheriff’s Cold Case unit reopened the case and conducted further investigation. The FBI also offered a $30,000 reward for anyone with information that may assist in the investigation.

      During the renewed investigation, detectives obtained further evidence due to advances in DNA testing that made it possible to reevaluate. Subsequent laboratory re-analysis then linked Kevin James to Leech’s murder.



Colorado Bureau of Investigation Recognized for High-Quality Standards and Practices (KRDO – 3/16/2023)


Bodies Found in 1970 and 1992 Identified Using DNA, Genealogy (CBS Colorado – 3/18/2023)

    • Last week, Lake County and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation announced the discovery of one such John Doe’s identity. The man’s remains were found on Independence Pass in June 1970. No identification was made through fingerprints, DNA analysis, or facial reconstruction, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

      Investigators submitted previously extracted DNA to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case team last year. The forensic genetic genealogy testing produced a lead for investigators.



2-Year Study Sheds Light on Decomposition of Child Remains (Forensic – 3/20/2023)

    • A new study sheds light on how the bones of infants and juveniles decay. The findings will help forensic scientists determine how long a young person’s remains were at a particular location, as well as which bones are best suited for collecting DNA and other tissue samples that can help identify the deceased.

      “Crimes against children are truly awful, and all too common,” says Ann Ross, co-author of the study and a professor of biological sciences at North Carolina State University. “It is important to be able to identify their remains and, when possible, understand what happened to them. However, there is not much research on how the bones of infants and children break down over time. Our work here is a significant contribution that will help the medical legal community bring some closure to these young people and, hopefully, a measure of justice.”



DNA ID’s Remains Found Among Demolished Building Rubble, COD Unknown (Forensic – 3/20/2023)

    • On May 13, 1997, an archeologist from the University of Illinois was working a construction landfill in Rockdale, Illinois when he located a human bone. Further investigation by the Will County Sheriff CSI resulted in numerous human skeletal remains, most of which had been broken and were at various layers of the fill, but all within the construction debris. The debris was mainly brick, stone and wood. The debris came from a building in Joliet, IL known as the Rust Craft building, a square block long and wide, three stories tall with a full basement. The building housed various companies since it opened in 1907, including a card making company with large printing presses. From 1986 to 1992 the building was abandoned.

      The abandoned factory suffered a fire in 1992 which burned for two days, and ultimately resulted in its demolition. Prior to its demolition, the building was known to be frequented by the local homeless population and was known to be a high crime area. Following the demolition, excess debris was removed from the site, while the rest was used to fill the building’s basement.

      In 1995, the building’s remnants were excavated and relocated to a second location in Rockdale. It was there that the bones would later be discovered, intermingled with brick, stone, and other building material. Following the discovery of the bones, pathologists determined that they had been disturbed twice postmortem prior to their discovery, indicating that they were present at the original factory location.

      In 2009 the Will County Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil formed a cold case unit which began to work to identify this case and several others. Over the years forensic anthropology studies were completed, DNA was developed and entered into the national missing and unidentified persons databases (NamUs) as UP5206 and the profile was searched in CODIS. Facial reconstruction was completed by a specialized FBI unit. As a result, numerus leads were developed but ultimately eliminated.

      In 2022, the Will County Coroner’s Office partnered with Othram with the goal of using advanced forensic DNA testing to identify the woman or a close relative. Will County Coroner’s office contributed some of the funding to support advanced DNA testing and a DNASolves crowdfund was setup to fund the rest. The case was particularly challenging in that advanced DNA testing had failed in previous attempts with the remains.



Scientists Head to Paraguay to Excavate Mass Grave Containing Victims of Operation Condor (Forensic – 3/20/2023)

    • For decades, hundreds of families across South America have lived in the shadow of Operation Condor, a 1970s-era campaign of political repression that led to the disappearance and murder of an estimated 60,000 individuals in South America. As of 2019, 37 bodies out of around 400 of the murdered individuals were recovered in Paraguay. Only four of those found have been identified so far.

      This summer, two forensic science faculty members from Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences will travel to Paraguay to aid in the excavation of a mass grave containing victims of Operation Condor in Lambaré, Paraguay.



University of Georgia PD Partners with Othram to Identify a 1996 Murdered Infant (DNASolves – 3/22/2023)

    • In January of 1996, officers responded to the Oglethorpe House Residence Hall located at the University of Georgia. They found a deceased infant in a trashcan at the basement level women’s restroom. The infant described as male and Caucasian, and weighed about 7-8 pounds. The medical examiner later determined that the infant’s death was a homicide that resulted from stab wounds to the chest area. In 2021, the University of Georgia Police partnered with Othram to see if advanced DNA testing could help generate new leads in the case.


      The returned leads, the follow up investigation by law enforcement, and confirmation DNA testing resulted in the confirmed identification of the mother and father of the infant. The mother of the infant was identified as, Kathryn Anne Grant, who was enrolled at the University of Georgia and she was living at Oglethorpe House at the time of the infant’s murder. She later withdrew from UGA in the spring of 1996 and transferred later to South Carolina. The case is considered exceptionally cleared, at this point, as the mother took her own life in 2004, at the age of 29.


Richmond County District Attorney’s Office and FBI Team with Othram to Identify 1991 Staten Island Jane Doe (DNASolves – 3/22/2023)

    • In September 1991, an unidentified woman with a scorpion tattoo was found bludgeoned to death and set on fire in a wooded area in Ocean Breeze.

      The unidentified woman’s fingerprints were entered into state & local databases for identification purposes. Sketches of the victim, her tattoo and jewelry were disseminated to the public. The case was entered into ViCAP & also into the National Missing and Unidentified System (NamUs) as UP2689. The NYPD Staten Island Persons Squad investigated any and all leads that surfaced, but despite their hard work, the woman’s identity remained unknown and her homicide unsolved.

      In 2008, the District Attorneys office revisited the case and submitted her DNA into CODIS and her dental records were submitted to the FBI. Unfortunately, no new leads had surfaced as a result of these inquiries.

      In 2019, DA Michael McMahon made a decision to start the path of forensic genetic genealogy research. In collaboration with the FBI, investigators reached out to Othram to see if advanced DNA testing could produce new leads in the case. Follow up testing, along with confirmation DNA testing, revealed that the woman was Christine Belusko.