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!




Oak Ridge Police to Use DNA Testing to Identify Infant Found Dead in a Lake Around 2 Years Ago (NBC 10 News – 3/2/2022)

  • The newborn was found dead in Melton Hill Lake nearly 2 years ago. Investigators are still trying to figure out what happened to him.



Registration Open for Forensic Genetic Genealogy Training (BJA – 3/3/2022)

  • From March 30 to April 1, 2022, the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Training and Technical Assistance Program will host the Forensic Genetic Genealogy Virtual Training.Open to law enforcement, attorneys, and crime analysts, this event will provide an opportunity for all applicable BJA-funded grantees and non-funded jurisdictions to discuss best practices, identify approaches to common challenges, and collaborate with partners to further the successful implementation of Forensic Genetic Genealogy into their investigative workflows.


Texas-Based Lab Helps Solve 41-Year-Old SeaTac Missing Person Case (FOX29 – 3/4/2022)

  • A Texas-based private laboratory has helped find a man who has been missing from Everett for more than four decades.

    The lab, Othram Inc., identified Ronald David Chambers, 28, as the person whose remains were found nearly two years after he went missing.

    Chambers, from Rome, Georgia, was reported missing in 1979, he had not been seen since he was at a SeaTac motel on Dec. 17, 1978. Officials say he left the motel in a rental car and never returned.


GMU Students Hope Bee Honey Will Help Find Human Remains (The Washington Post – 3/5/2022)

  • A group of George Mason University forensic science students are preparing an experiment with hopes they will demonstrate how honey can help lead authorities to missing human remains.

    Anthony Falsetti, an associate professor in GMU’s forensic science program, and others say proteins in bee honey contain troves of biochemical information that’s already widely used by scientists and government agencies to detect illegal pesticides in green products and fruit, or for measuring the amounts of heavy metal or microplastic pollutants in the air.


Fairfax County Cold Case: Texas Lab Hopes to Identify ‘Christmas Tree Lady’ 25 Years After Her Body was Found in Cemetery (WUSA9 – 3/7/2022)

  • The case dates back to 1996 when the body of an older woman was found dead with a small Christmas tree near her inside a cemetery in Annandale..



Psychology Graduate Becomes President of American Academy of Forensic Sciences (University of South Carolina – 3/8/2022)

  • In addition to more than 45 court appearances, McClary contributes some of his expertise to the AAFS. He has worn many hats at the academy, including chairing the Questioned Documents Section, which studies documents to determine their authenticity. He has served on the board of directors, as vice president and finally president starting in February 2021.In his presidency, McClary has worked to uphold the AAFS mission to provide collaborative research, quality education and recognize leadership to advance forensic science. He helped implement a strategic plan that included a rebranding initiative and website overhaul, pivoting to digital and hybrid conference models, and continuing to digitize content into an on-demand format — making it easier for those domestically and internationally to gain access.


California Legislators Propose Law to Stop Police from Using Rape Kit DNA in Other Crimes (CNN – 3/8/2022)

  • San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin is partnering with legislators on a proposal to ban victim DNA from being entered in searchable databases that could eventually identify them as criminal suspects in unrelated, future cases.

    The proposal comes with an endorsement from San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, whose agency recently referred a case to the DA’s office in which DNA from a sexual assault victim was used to solve a property crime, six years after the fact. Boudin’s refusal to file charges based on the DNA evidence brought the issue to light.


Utah’s Commercial Genetic Genealogy Database Bill Fails (Forensic – 3/9/2022)

  • A bill addressing law enforcements use of genetic genealogy DNA databases like GEDmatch and Ancestry failed to pass the Utah House of Representatives late last week amid concerns it was not specific enough to prevent police “fishing expeditions.”

    The bill would have been the third in the nation to specifically address the use of third-party genetic genealogy databases in police investigations.



Othram IDs 1980 Homicide Victim After 9 Previous Attempts (Forensic – 3/9/2022)

  • On Aug. 3, 1980, a landowner in Northern Snohomish County discovered human skeletal remains while walking on his property. Many approaches were used to attempt to generate leads to an identity. A dental exam was performed to enable a search of dental records for missing persons but there were no matches to a missing person. A clay reconstruction of the homicide victim’s face was developed and released to the public by the end of 1980, but yielded no clues as to who this unknown man was. Eventually the case went cold.


New University Crime Scene House Offers an Immersive Forensic Experience (Forensic – 3/9/2022)

  • After spending years processing mock murders in the cramped confines of a small storage room inside Filley Hall, forensic science students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln are now getting to stretch their crime scene investigation skills at the Crime Scene House on East Campus.

    It’s a game-changer for the students, said Michael Adamowicz, director of the forensic science program, and Larry Barksdale, assistant professor of practice with the program. Previously, students had to work in teams of two in the small room processing the mock crime scene for the forensic science capstone course held each spring. With the interior of a house now available, the whole crew can work together, creating an atmosphere much more akin to real life.



WV Legislature Grants Marshall’s Forensic Lab DNA Database Access (The Herald Dispatch – 3/9/2022)

  • Marshall University’s forensic lab will have a chance to do national work in missing and identified persons cases after a bill was approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. Senate Bill 593, sponsored by Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, would acknowledge by statute the State Police’s designation of Marshall University’s lab as a criminal justice agency, which will give Marshall access to national databases for missing persons, relatives of missing persons and unidentified human remains. The access would be given as part of the work the lab performs for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, the bill said.


Texas-Based Lab Helps Solve 26-Year-Old Cold Case in Washington State (CBS Austin – 3/9/2022)

  • A Texas-based private laboratory has again solved a Washington state cold case, the second announced in a week.

    However, though solved, the suspect will never face consequences in the 26-year-old case.

    The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office said Patricia Lorraine Barnes, 61, was found dead in 1995 when her body was dumped on a rural South Kitsap County road.

    Barnes, who lived in Seattle at the time, had last been seen three days before her remains were found. Officials said she had multiple gunshot wounds to her head and declared her death a homicide.



Gardena Man Charged in Woman’s 1994 Murder After Forensic Genealogy Search, Prosecutors Say (The Los Angeles Times – 3/9/2022)

  • A Gardena man has been charged with the decades-old murder of a woman in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., after investigators used forensic genealogy to identify him as a suspect.

    Sharron Eugene Gadlin, 48, was arrested Friday and subsequently charged with the murder of Cheri Huss in 1994, the Riverside County district attorney’s office said in a news release Tuesday.