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!





Granite County Sheriff’s Office Partners with Othram to Identify a Man Found in the Welcome Creek Wilderness (DNASolves – 4/23/2021)

  • In August 2014 a backpacker was hours into a hike through the Welcome Creek Wilderness, above Bidwell Gulch, when he came across human skeletal remains. The Granite County Sheriff was promptly notified and began an investigation. Investigators determined the remains most likely belonged to a white male, around age 30 to 45 and 6’ 0” at the time of his death. Granite County John Doe had hiking gear surrounding him where he was found. Included amongst his belongs were Dramamine tablets, dated between 2011-2013, Rocky Snake size 10/11 boots, a SOG sheath knife, and a CVS Pharmacy medication bottle. There were few other clues available. A search of dental records did not return a match. Likewise, an STR profile built from the skeletal remains did not return a match in CODIS.

    In 2021, the Granite County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Othram, Inc. to help identify Granite County John Doe or his next of kin



2021’s Best Master’s in Forensic Science Programs (Forensic – 4/23/2021)

  • Based on an assessment of the top 171 accredited colleges and universities in the nation, has released a ranking of the top 38 master’s in forensic science degree programs for 2021.

    “We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best Master’s in Forensic Science Degree program are affordable, respected and flexible,” explains’s website.


CODIS Match Hits to 2015 Sexual Assault of Minor (Forensic – 4/23/2021)

  • On March 8, 2015 Smith County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a report of a sexual assault that occurred at Sky Ranch Camp. It was reported that an unknown white male entered into a cabin in the middle of the night and inappropriately touched a female child who was sleeping in her bed. The male was observed by one of the female chaperones at the camp before he fled the scene on foot.Investigators with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office conducted a thorough canvass of the area and spoke with several persons of interest who matched the general description provided by the victim. During this canvas, investigators made contact with Caylon Whittington, but he denied having any knowledge of an incident occurring at Sky Ranch. At the time of this incident, Whittington lived in the vicinity of Sky Ranch and his address was approximately one mile from the victim’s cabin.

    On Oct. 15, 2020, notification of a CODIS match was received from the testing of evidence collected during the SANE exam. The match returned to Whittington, now 29. The Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab requested a known reference sample from Whittington for further examination.


DNA Confirms Remains are That of 21-Year-Old Missing Since 2019 (Forensic – 4/23/2021)

  • The Peroria Police Department and Coroner’s Office have announced the identify confirmation of remains found last year.

    On Aug.  29, 2020, Peoria County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a call regarding human bones found along the banks of the Illinois River. An extensive search was conducted in the area and additional bones were recovered, including teeth. The bones were collected by PCSO Crime Scene Deputies for further examination and autopsy by the Peoria County Coroner’s Office.


Rape and Murder of 78-Year-Old Woman with Dementia is Solved, Police Say – Three Decades Later (The Washington Post – 4/24/2021)

  • Mildred Matheny hardly left the house where she lived with her sister. The 78-year-old had dementia and needed help picking out her clothes.

    But on April 27, 1985, the retired nurse wandered off. Witnesses said they saw her near a Burger King, getting into an Oldsmobile with a man who claimed he was a neighbor lending her a ride home, officials say.

    She was found naked on a dirt road, beaten bloody, her pink pajamas and dentures strewn nearby. She died in a hospital.

    For more than 35 years, her killing in coastal South Florida went unpunished. Her son said he gave up hope, even when authorities said they were working the cold case. Then on Friday, police said DNA from the victim’s sexual assault kit had matched with a 61-year-old man in Boynton Beach, Fla.


Virginia Woman’s DNA Search for Her Biological Parents Helps ID Murder Victims Found in 1980 (NBC4 Washington – 4/23/2021)

  • Pamela Dianne Duffey and William Everette Lane were slain around 1980 by Howard Neal, who was later convicted of killing his niece, police say



Chicago Man ID’d Through Genetic Genealogy Nearly 40 Years After 4 Human Remains Discovered in Shallow IN Grave (ABC7 – 4/24/2021)

  • IA Chicago man has been identified nearly forty years after the remains of four human bodies were discovered in a shallow grave in Indiana.

    John Ingram Brandenburg of Chicago was identified by the Newton County Indiana Coroner’s Office, with the help of the DNA Doe Project, through genetic genealogy.



Shirley Ann Soosay is One of the First Indigenous Peoples Does to be ID’ed by Genetic Genealogy (Forensic – 4/26/2021)

  • On April 23, 2021 the Kern County Sheriff-Coroner (KCSCO) and the DNA Doe Project (DDP) announced the identification of Kern County Jane Doe 1980 as Shirley Ann Soosay, a member of the Cree Nation. She is one of the first Indigenous Peoples Does to be identified using genetic genealogy.

    Soosay was found in an almond orchard near Bakersfield, California in 1980. She was an unidentified victim of suspected serial killer Wilson Chouest.



Forensic Genealogy: Are You Getting the Most from Your DNA Evidence? (Officer – 4/26/2021)

  • In this article, I focus on an important piece of data that you should be getting from DNA evidence – ancestry. Properly inferring the historical origins of unknown persons provides valuable clues to identity. This is true for unidentified remains but also for unknown suspects in crimes. I will focus on unidentified remains cases. How do you seek justice for unidentified persons without first knowing who they are?



Third Highway Killer Victim ID’ed After 38 Years (Forensic – 4/28/2021)

  • The Newton County (Indiana) Coroner’s Office with the assistance of Rebecca Goddard, Newton County Chief Deputy Prosecutor who worked hand-in-hand with the DNA Doe Project have positively identified the remains of a young man found some 37 ½ years ago. The young man, who was known for years as “Brad Doe” has been identified as John Ingram Brandenburg, Jr of Chicago, IL. Family has been contacted and advised of their son/brother’s fate.



After 26 Years Without Answers, Can Genalogy ID Homicide Victim? (WOODTV – 4/28/2021)

  • The 1994 case of an unidentified homicide victim could be one step closer to being solved thanks to genealogical testing.

    The woman, who investigators have called Matilda for the last 26 years, was found in November 1994. Two rabbit hunters came across her skeletal remains while scouring the woods just south of 32nd Avenue and Arthur Street near Coopersville.



FGCU Researchers Learn from the Dead at Forensics Lab (FGCU360 – 4/29/2021)

  • In 2017, FGCU partnered with Florida’s Forensics Institute for Research, Security & Tactics, or FIRST. Managed by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, FIRST is dedicated to creating safer communities by enhancing public safety through research, education and innovation. FIRST approached FGCU after hearing about Walsh-Haney’s extensive background in forensic science and significant work with law enforcement to help locate and uncover the dead.

    Walsh-Haney shared her experiences from New York and elsewhere to help FIRST create The Urban Search and Rescue Rubble Piles. They are designed to give K9 units and others – like FGCU forensic studies students – a space to train in real-world scenarios.



Maine Man to Stand Trial for 1993 Alaska Murder After Genetic Genealogy Tied Him to Crime Scene DNA (WMTW8 – 4/29/2021)

  • Living a quiet life and working as a nurse, 44-year-old Steven Downs was surprised to receive a knock on his door from police in February 2019.

    He was a suspect in a murder that occurred during the spring semester of his freshman year in college, in 1993, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which today enrolls about 7,500 students from 48 states and 50 countries.

    DNA swabs of Sergie’s body found sperm, but its DNA profile was not in the FBI’s national database, known as CODIS.

    The break in the cold case came through a technique known as genetic genealogy, which can involve identifying unknown person DNA by exploiting available DNA profiles uploaded by people trying to find their roots.



DNA Matters: Why Forensic Genotypes are Probabilistic (Forensic – 4/30/2021)

  • DNA Matters is Forensic’s newest column, which will discuss cases that have been aided by the power of computer software in DNA analysis. It is authored by Dr. Mark Perlin, M.D., Ph.D., chief scientist, executive and founder at Cybergenetics. 



Familial DNA Search Naps Alleged Serial Sex Assailant (Forensic – 4/30/2021)

  • An alleged serial sex assailant was arrested this morning as a result of a cross match DNA “hit” on a member of the suspect’s family. The assailant is suspected of multiple sexual assaults that occurred between 2014 and 2019.

    Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramey and Tehama County District Attorney Matt Rogers announced that offers from the Chico Police Department, the Red Bluff Police Department, and the California Department of Justice arrested Steven Craig Michael Haskins, 36, this morning.



41 Years After Anaheim Woman’s Killing, DNA Evidence Leads to Arrest (Los Angeles Times – 4/30/2021)

  • A man has been arrested and charged on suspicion of killing and sexually assaulting a 79-year-old Anaheim woman who was found dead in her apartment 41 years ago.

    Anaheim police said Friday that New Mexico resident Andre William Lepere, 64, has been arrested in the death of Viola Hagenkord and faces charges of first-degree murder with a special-circumstance allegation of rape by the Orange County district attorney’s office.

    Lepere is being held without bail in New Mexico’s Otero County pending extradition proceedings. It was unclear who was representing him.