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!





Verogen Introduces a Cost-Effective NGS Workflow for Volume Casework and Announces Strategic Partnership with Eurofins Forensics Services (Galveston County The Daily News – 5/4/2021)

  • Verogen Inc. announced today that it is debuting an affordable entry point to NGS on the MiSeq FGx ® Sequencing System with the commercial launch of the ForenSeq MainstAY Workflow. The kit targets the core autosomal and Y-STR loci accepted by global databases, minimizing the need to validate additional markers. With two kit sizes and support for volume sequencing, this workflow will empower the forensic community with a cost-effective alternative to CE-based STR typing that is easy to adopt. Verogen is also pleased to announce that it is partnering with Eurofins Forensics Services, the European leader in forensics sciences, to implement NGS into routine casework.



Q&A With Ed Sisco, Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal Finalist (NIST Taking Measure – 5/5/2021)

  • Ed Sisco has been a research chemist within the Surface and Trace Chemical Analysis Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) since 2014. His research has focused on chemical identification systems for forensics, homeland security and other applications. Ed is a finalist for a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal in the Emerging Leaders category, which is awarded to federal employees under the age of 35 who have made important contributions early in their professional careers. The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals are intended to highlight excellence in the federal workforce and inspire other talented and dedicated individuals to go into public service.


Domestic Violence Offenders Should Submit DNA to Crime Database, Lawmakers Say (WRAL – 5/4/2021)

  • Anyone who violates a domestic violence protective order or is charged with assault on a female or a child would have to submit DNA to a North Carolina crime database under a bill that moved forward Tuesday at the statehouse.

    House Bill 674 expands the existing database to include common domestic violence offenses. The hope, said sponsoring Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, is to solve and prevent rapes and other crimes that tend to follow domestic violence offenses.


Arizona Man Charged in Connection with Cold Case Rape in Cedar City Thanks to Familial DNA ( – 5/4/2021)

  • The Iron County Attorney’s Office has filed charges in a nearly 17-year-old cold case rape investigation in Cedar City.

    The big break in the case came when police in Arizona used familial DNA testing to identify a possible suspect in a rape case in Flagstaff that investigators believed was committed by the same man nine months earlier.


Durham PD Partners with Othram to Identify a Young Woman Found in a Storage Unit in 2016 (DNASolves – 5/5/2021)

  • Investigators were shocked to find the remains of a young woman in storage unit that was being cleaned out in October 2016. The discovery was made at a self-storage unit on Carpenter Fletcher Road in Durham County, North Carolina. Skeletal remains were found inside of a plastic container that was stowed away inside. It was unclear at the time how long the remains may have been hidden in that location. However, prior to their discovery, the unit was rented by the same person since 2010. The death is presumed suspicious, however, there is little evidence pointing to the identity of the victim or how she ended up in the storage unit.

    Dental records were taken with the possibility of being compared. In February of 2019, composite sketches from the FBI were developed of the Jane Doe in hopes that someone may recognize her and come forward with information. The sketches depict what the victim may have looked like: a young woman with shoulder length hair, and a slight space between her front teeth. The sketches were then broadcast in the news and posted on missing persons sites in hope that someone would recognize her and reveal who she was. Unfortunately, there were no viable leads.

New Southern Utah Crime Lab Officially Opens (Forensic – 5/5/2021)

  • Representatives from Utah state government, the Department of Public Safety, Iron County law enforcement agencies and Cedar City government recently gathered to commemorate the opening of the new southern Utah branch of the state crime lab. The new lab will provide employment opportunities in rural Utah. Additionally, it will expand and enhance the forensic services provided not only regionally, but throughout the statewide system.



His Ship Vanished in the Arctic 176 Years Ago. DNA Has Offered a Clue. (The New York Times – 5/5/2021)

  • The doomed expedition endured in the public imagination — inspiring fiction by Mark Twain and Jules Verne, and, more recently, the 2018 AMC series “The Terror” — driven in part by rumors that the crew resorted to cannibalism. The wreckage lay quiet until 2014, when a remotely controlled underwater vehicle picked up the silhouette of the Erebus near King William Island. Two years later, a tip from a local Inuit hunter led to the discovery of the Terror in the ice-cold water of Terror Bay.

    John Gregory’s descendants would not learn about his fate until more than 175 years after he sent the letter home from Greenland. Some sailors had been identified after being found in marked graves. But recently, Gregory’s DNA and a sample from a descendant born in 1982 were matched, making him the first explorer from the trip whose remains have been positively identified through DNA and genealogical analyses — a process similar to that used in recent years to identify murder suspects and victims in cold cases.



Ancient DNA Sequences Reveal How Modern Humans Diverged from Neanderthals (UCSF – 5/5/2021)

  • Much of the genetic difference between modern humans and our archaic ancestors – Neanderthals and Denisovans – is not in our genes themselves, which make up only 2 percent of the human genome, but in regions of DNA that regulate gene expression by turning genes on and off. A team at UC San Francisco, in collaboration with colleagues at Stanford University, has unearthed the regulatory DNA sequences of our archaic human ancestors in a discovery that sheds light on how we diverged from them 500,000 years ago.



Trial Underway for 1984 Murder, Thanks to Genealogy Site Based in Palm Beach Co. (12 News – 5/5/2021)

  • A trial is underway for 61-year-old Thomas Garner, who’s facing a murder charge in the death of a U.S. Navy recruit.

    The dental hygienist is accused of strangling and dumping the body of Pamala Cahanes in 1984 in Seminole County, and now Garner is possibly linked to the 1982 murder case of Kathy Hicks out of Honolulu.

    According to investigators, they tracked him down using a DNA service Parabon NanoLabs and a genealogy website called GEDmatch, based out of Palm Beach County.



Beaumont Police Department and the Texas Rangers Partner with Othram to Identify the 1995 Killer of Mary Catherine Edwards (DNASolves – 5/6/2021)

  • In January 1995, the parents of Mary Catherine Edwards, a “well-loved” Beaumont, Texas school teacher, went to her home to check on her. Mary lived alone, had not responded to calls and her parents were concerned. Upon arrival, they found she had been drowned in her bathroom. Beaumont detectives later determined that the Mary had been sexually assaulted before her murder. Through the years, investigators worked the case and all available leads. DNA from an unknown male was found at the crime scene and a STR profile was produced, however it returned no matches in a CODIS search. Traditional forensic DNA testing was used to exclude many people over the years and eventually all leads were exhausted and the case went cold.



San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office Leverages Othram’s Genetic Testing Platform to Help Identify Victims in a 1980 Double Homicide (DNASolves – 5/8/2021)

  • A male and female murder victim, found in the San Bernardino desert, are now identified as Pamela Dianne Duffy and William Everette Lane



The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Partners with Othram to Identify Christy Crystal Creek (DNASolves – 5/10/2021)

  • Janet Lee Lucas, formerly known as Christy Crystal Creek, was a 23-year-old woman from Spokane, Washington last seen in 1983



Former Forensics Director Goes from Solving Mysteries to Writing Them (FOX13 Tampa Bay – 5/11/2021)

  • He started his career in law enforcement back in the mid-1970s, first with Tampa police and he recently retired as the director of forensics with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Wilson is now using his experiences in crime-fighting for crime writing. He’s authored several detective novels.



UK University, Non-Profit Team to Form Cold Case Program (Forensic – 5/12/2021)

  • Glasgow Caledonian University is to set up a cold case unit to help investigate unsolved missing person cases.

    Criminology students will review case files and search for new evidence, working alongside the families of missing loved ones and specialists in investigation, forensic science and intelligence analysis, as part of the unique project.

    GCU will become the first university in Scotland to develop a cold case unit in partnership with Locate International, a community interest company that works with higher education institutions to help progress historical cases.



DNA Doe Project Could Shed Light on Nearly 50-Year-Old Maury County Cold Case (WKRN – 5/12/2021)

  • The Maury County Jane Doe had a name, a story, and a life, but her DNA produced no matches in the CODIS system used by law enforcement. However, new DNA techniques and genetic genealogy may be able to identify this Jane Doe