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!




Vermont Police Identify DNA in 2004 Disappearance of 17-Year-Old (COMPLEX – 3/19/2022)

  • Investigators have identified a DNA sample in connection with the 2004 disappearance of 17-year-old Brianna Maitland, per CBS News.

    Vermont State Police investigators say that identifying the DNA, which was found near Maitland’s abandoned car, doesn’t mean it’ll lead to a suspect. According to authorities, the teen is believed to be a victim of foul play.



Genealogy Database DNA Solves Decades Old Violent Rape Cases in Washington State (FOX News – 3/21/2022)

  • An eastern Washington man has been arrested for raping two women in Pullman two decades ago after authorities say DNA linked him to the crimes.

    Kenneth Downing, 47, is accused of breaking into two homes and raping women in the early 2000’s, the New York Post reports. For 18 years, police kept DNA evidence they collected, but they didn’t know whose it was until they entered in into a genealogy database. According to court documents, he was linked to the case after one of Downing’s relatives sent in a sample to learn more about their family tree.


Genetic Genealogy Used to Solve 1987 Homicide of Roxanne Wood (95.3 MNC – 3/21/2022)

  • A plea deal has been reached in the 1987 Rape and Homicide of Roxanne Wood. On February 18, 2022, Patrick Gilham was arrested and charged with open murder and breaking and entering an occupied dwelling. He has since pled “no contest” to those charges and will face sentencing in April.

    On February 20, 1987, Roxanne was enjoying a night out with her husband Terry at a local bowling alley in Niles, MI. Roxanne left the bowling alley around midnight, followed by her husband 45 min later. When Terry arrived home, he found Roxanne unresponsive in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. He immediately called 911, but soon realized his wife was deceased.

    Mrs. Gabriella Vargas, DNA-ID Founder & CEO, received this case in April of 2021, while consulting for Identifinders, after whole genome sequencing was used to create a genetic profile for the unknown DNA contributor.


California Appeals Court Affirms Scientific Community’s Acceptance of STRmix (Forensic – 3/21/2022)

  • The California Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court decision in the murder conviction of Alvin Larry Davis, ruling that DNA evidence produced through the use of STRmix forensic software “is generally accepted as reliable by the relevant scientific community.” (C089567; Super.Ct.No.STK-CR-FE-2016-0004780)

    STRmix—sophisticated forensic software capable of resolving mixed DNA profiles that previously were regarded as too complex or degraded to interpret—was used in the case to link Davis to a bloodstained shoelace found next to the body of the victim, 84-year-old Hazel Dingman.



Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Teams Up With Othram to Identify Moss Point John Doe (DNASolves – 3/22/2022)

  • On December 8, 1982, human remains belonging to a young African American man, were found in the Escatawpa River underneath the eastbound lane of Interstate 10 in Jackson County. The remains were located by divers, who were searching the river after a female toddler was found deceased in the area, days earlier.  Although the remains for both victims were found at the same time, investigators later determined that the deaths were not related. The young man’s remains were collected by the State Crime Lab, where his death was ruled a homicide. His identity remained a mystery for 40 years, until Jackson County investigators, once again teaming with Othram, used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® and genealogical research to identify a close relative of the young man.