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!




Michigan Woman Missing for 33 Years Identified with Genealogy Technology (Georgia Bureau of Investigation – 3/24/2022)

  • A Michigan woman who had been missing for 33 years has been identified as Stacey Lyn Chahorski of Norton Shores, Michigan.  On Friday, December 16, 1988, at around 2:00 p.m., the Dade County Sheriff’s Office and the GBI responded to the scene of a body located about 5 miles from the Alabama Stateline on I-59 northbound lane in Dade County, GA.  The body was of an unidentified woman that had been killed.

    For years, GBI agents and Dade County investigators worked diligently to identify the victim. The GBI contacted the FBI about the possibility of using a new type of genealogy investigation that had been credited with assisting in solving other cold cases, particularly homicide investigations.  With this technology, Stacey Lyn Chahorski was identified.  She was reported missing in January 1989 and would be 52 today.



The True Crime-Obsessed Philanthropists Paying to Catch Killers (The New York Times – 3/27/2022)

  • When the police can’t afford to solve cold cases using DNA databases, deep-pocketed donors can.


‘Advancement in Forensic Technology’ Solves Murder Once Featured on America’s Most Wanted (Forensic – 3/28/2022)

  • A 61-year-old woman was arrested in Oklahoma in the 1993 killing of a Northern California shop owner who was shot during a “robbery gone wrong,” authorities said Thursday.

    Rayna Elizabeth Hoffman-Ramos was arrested in Dewey last week in a case that was cold for nearly 30 years. She is in Washington County Jail awaiting extradition to California to face charges in the April 26, 1993, fatal shooting of Shu Ming Tang, said San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jacob Trickett at a Thursday news conference.


Investigators have ID’ed 120 of 132 Plane Crash Victims Through DNA (Forensic – 3/28/2022)

  • Chinese authorities officially confirmed Saturday that there were no survivors in the crash of a China Eastern 737-800 earlier this week with 132 people on board. The announcement by an official of the Civil Aviation Administration of China at a late-night news conference was followed by a brief moment of silence. Investigators have identified 120 of the victims through DNA analysis, state media reported.



She Waited 42 Years to Learn Who Killed Her Sister. The Answer Didn’t Ease Her Pain. (NBC News – 3/29/2022)

  • In January 2019, Wilkowitz contacted the most famous of the genetic genealogists, CeCe Moore, and asked for her help. Moore told Wilkowitz that she couldn’t get involved because New York didn’t yet allow the technique. The state Department of Health required private labs to obtain a permit to do such work, a rigorous process that can take months or years, and had not granted permission to any lab. (The Department of Health has since granted permits to two companies to perform genetic genealogy for police in New York.)

    Wilkowitz pleaded with Suffolk County Police Lt. Kevin Beyrer, a homicide investigator who oversaw Eve’s case, to find a way. He, too, was frustrated that he could not try genetic genealogy. But in December 2019, Suffolk County authorities came up with a workaround: They asked the New York Department of Health to let them send DNA from semen found on Eve’s body to the FBI. The FBI had helped with the original 1980 investigation and was not restricted by New York laws.



ICYMI: Brand New Deterministic Software Can Deconvolute a DNA Mixture in Seconds (Forensic – 3/29/2022)

  • In groundbreaking work that has the potential to completely upend forensic DNA analysis, a particle physicist has developed technology that can deconvolute a DNA mixture of up to 8 people in less than one minute—in a deterministic manner.

    That part is critical as the only currently available deconvolution solutions are probabilistic, not deterministic. Probabilistic genotyping software outputs a likelihood ratio (LR) to express the weight of evidence. It evaluates the evidence relative to alternative pairs of hypotheses, for example, the probability that the DNA is from the suspect versus the probability that the DNA is from an unknown, unrelated individual. Probabilistic genotyping software also requires that a suspect’s DNA be available to compare the result.



Illinois State Police Makes Strides in Forensic Science, Reduces Case Backlogs (The Southern Illinoisan – 3/29/2022)

  • ISP announced that they are building a new combined crime laboratory and administrative facility in Joliet and another lab in Decatur to continue to deliver complete and accurate crime scene evidence to more than 200 law enforcement agencies.

    The buildings are possible through Rebuild Illinois, which is supplying $76.6 million to the project.



Skin Cells Leave their Mark for Crime Scene Investigators (Forensic – 3/30/2022)

  • Depositing skin cells and their DNA varies between individuals, but new data from Flinders University shows that some people have higher intra-variability in their cell deposits.

    Flinders University forensic science researchers are building a suite of new insights into crime scene investigation—including the difference between high, intermediate and low skin shedders that will help understanding of trace, or touch, DNA.

    The latest research, published in Forensic Science International: Genetics, further studies inter-variation of DNA shedding obtained from experiments on samples gathered from 10 different people and 30 of their thumbprints.



St. Louis PD and DNA Doe Project Identify Remains Found in 1992 (DNA Doe Project – 3/31/2022)

  • Human skeletal remains found in a vacant business in 1992 have been identified as Tymon Joseph Emily. Workers removing a gas service line found human skeletal remains inside a vacant business in March, 1992. Authorities at the time were unable to identify the man, who they believe died of stab wounds 1-3 years before he was found.

    Over the years, detectives received many leads from the public. None matched dental records and other known details. In 2004, a DNA profile was developed which was later uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) used by law enforcement, but it did not generate any matches.

    In 2012, the case was entered into the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database (NCMEC), and Detective Heather Sabin began a 10-year campaign to solve it. DNA analysis and profiling had been done by several labs. In 2021, Detective Sabin brought the case to the DNA Doe Project. After a fresh DNA sample was sent for processing, a profile was uploaded to the public DNA databases GEDmatch and FTDNA. Investigative genetic genealogists began their work early this year and were able to identify Tymon Joseph Emily as the likely candidate within a week.