May 05 2022

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!




Woman Cracks 35-Year-Old Michigan Cold Case Killing in Just 4 Days (WTHR13 – 4/29/2022)

  • On February 20, 1987, 30-year-old Roxanne Wood was found stabbed to death in her Niles home. But due to a lack of evidence, the case went cold and sat for decades. It was deemed unsolvable.

    Vargas was only eight years old at the time of Wood’s murder. She had never even been to Michigan. But Vargas was determined to get answers and began testing what little DNA was left. It took her only four days to develop a profile and a possible match. Her DNA profile came down to three brothers. One of them, 67-year-old Patrick Gilham, seemed most likely. In February, Gilham was arrested and charged. On Monday, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison after pleading no contest to second degree murder.



New Spectroscopy Method Shows Promise for Identifying Individuals in Mass Graves (Forensic – 4/29/2022)

  • New research out of the University of Central Florida has the potential to give war crime investigators a new tool and the victims’ families closure.The National Institute of Justice has awarded UCF Associate Professor Matthieu Baudelet at the National Center for Forensic Science a grant to advance a technique that may help identify individual human remains found in mass graves.

    Baudelet’s method generates unique chemical profiles through laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). This approach will allow his team to pinpoint the exact number of individuals in a comingled mass grave and sort them out individually based on bone metabolism. Positively identifying someone by name requires further testing using DNA, which is outside the scope of this project. But Baudelet notes that identifying the number of individuals present among the remains reduces the number of DNA tests necessary to reach that point.  In other words, the UCF technique could help investigators determine just how many people are found in a mass grave, which can help accelerate identifying individuals.


Southeast Missouri State University Helps Identify 2006 John Doe (Forensic – 4/29/2022)

  • In March 2006, human skeletal remains were found by a survey crew, near a wood pile in the Cuivre River State Park in Troy, Missouri. According to NamUs, recovered with the skeletal remains was a red “Eveready” small flashlight, small silver folding knife, cylinder style teal “Igloo” cooler with a white lid and maroon handle, a teal thermos with a black lid.

    It was also reported in NamUs that the remains belong to a Caucasian male, likely 54-56 years of age at the time of his death. He was estimated to be 5’8″ tall with an estimated weight of 260lb. Further analysis suggested that the man was right-handed, with a heavy, muscular build based on bone structure. A forensic facial reconstruction was commissioned but he was not recognized. With few leads to pursue, the case went cold and the man remained unidentified.

    In 2021, the Cold Case Unit of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Lincoln County Coroners’ Office teamed with the Anthropology Program of Southeast Missouri State University to identify human remains through DNA analysis. Jennifer Bengtson led SEMO students in anthropological investigation while coordinating with Othram for advanced DNA testing.

Shifting Attention to the Nation’s Sexual Assault Epidemic (Forensic – 4/29/2022)

  • In recognition of the end of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, let’s take a look at some recent sexual assault news and investigations.



How the Everyday Person Can Help Law Enforcement Crack Unsolved Cases In Their Area (Oxygen – 4/29/2022)

  • Crowdfunding by groups like the Vegas Justice League has been instrumental for Las Vegas Metro PD Lt. Ray Spencer to crack the most unsolvable cases in his jurisdiction.



DNA Leads Police to Suspect in 2002 Sexual Assault of 15-Year Old Girl (NEWS4SA – 4/29/2022)

  • A San Antonio man was arrested after a recently tested rape kit matched him to a 2002 rape of girl who was 15 at the time, according to affidavit records.Tremontae L. Singleton, 47, was arrested for allegedly raping a teenage girl back in Dec. 9, 2002.

    According to records, the victim was visiting with Tanya when Singleton showed up to the residence uninvited.



William ‘Wild Bill’ Huff Victim’s Daughter Pleads For Cold Case Funding (Oxygen – 4/30/2022)

  • In an emotional panel at CrimeCon 2022, Melissa “Mo” Silva joined former cold case investigator Paul Holes to discuss the moment in 2015 that she learned that “Wild Bill” Huff had killed her mother in 1987.



Famed Forensic Scientist Dr. Henry Lee Teaches the Importance of Logic in Crime Scene Investigation (Oxygen – 4/30/2022)

  • Dr. Henry Lee invited audience members at Crime Con 2022 to observe real-life photos of crime scenes to demonstrate the importance of inductive, deductive, and abductive logic.



Aberdeen Forensic Science Conference Explores Role of Animals, Plants, and Soil in Criminal Inquiries (Grampian Online – 5/1/2022)

  • Forensic scientists from across Europe gathered in Aberdeen for the ninth meeting of the Animal, Plant and Soil Traces (APST) Working Group of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI).

    Around 50 experts attended the three-day event which was held at the James Hutton Institute’s Craigiebuckler site between April 27-29.

    The ninth ENFSI-APST meeting showcased the crucial role that soil and biological traces of non-human origin can play in criminal investigations.

    Delegates focussed on real case examples of where the understanding of how animal, plant and soil traces can contribute to forensic investigations and will feature case studies, workshops and perspectives from across the globe.


Dutch ID Resistance Man 77 Years After Death Using Relative’s DNA (Daily Times – 5/1/2022)

  • The remains of a man found after World War II in a mass grave outside one of the Netherlands’ most notorious Nazi prisons have been identified through a DNA match with a living relative, investigators said on Saturday.

    Dutch military and civil examiners named the man as Cornelis Pieter “Kees” Kreukniet, aged around 50, after an investigation located his great-nephew using DNA. “The victim could finally be identified as Kees Kreukniet, who was shot by a firing squad outside the Scheveningen prison” in late 1944, said Ronald Klomp, chairman of a Hague-based foundation dedicated to tracing missing war victims.



Ohio Governor Launches Crime Lab Efficiency Program (Forensic – 5/2/2022)

  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced a new plan to eliminate evidence-processing backlogs and increase the speed at which criminal evidence is analyzed in crime laboratories across the state.

    As part of DeWine’s new Ohio Crime Lab Efficiency Program, Ohio’s 14 certified crime laboratories will receive a combined total of $10 million to reduce and eliminate backlogs, increase overall lab efficiency, and decrease evidence processing time.

    The crime laboratory grants are part of DeWine’s overall strategy to support Ohio’s criminal justice community in their work to solve crimes, hold criminals responsible, secure justice for victims, and keep residents safe.



Sorenson Forensics Invests $3.4M in Its Dedication to Solve More Crime (Newswires – 5/2/2022)

  • Sorenson Forensics, situated in Utah, has made a significant investment in buildings, instrumentation, sophisticated software, and employees to demonstrate its dedication to high-quality forensics and DNA testing.

    Construction of a brand new, customized facility located in Draper, Utah was completed in early 2021 with the company completing the move by February of that year. The new ultra-secure laboratory occupies the entire 2nd floor of the building. The new laboratory provides superior efficiency with advanced space management and tailored workflows.



Justice Department Announces New Training Resource for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations (Forensic – 5/4/2022)

  • Today, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Principal Deputy Director Allison Randall announced the launch of an updated and expanded resource aimed at health care professionals. Originally developed in 2008 with OVW funding by the Dartmouth Medical School’s Interactive Media Laboratory, the Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examination: A Virtual Practicum (SAMFE VP) teaches every step of a victim-centered sexual assault medical forensic examination and serves as a training tool for law enforcement, prosecutors and other professionals. The revised and improved SAMFE VP is designed to enhance care for patients from diverse communities, including transgender patients, young people, elders and incarcerated patients. The SAMFE VP provides interactive training on various topics including evidence collection, physical examinations, medical and forensic documentation, crime laboratory analysis and courtroom testimony. Earlier this year, President Biden signed into law the historic reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expands access to justice, safety and services for survivors and enhances training for sexual assault forensic examiners.



Sheriff’s Office, Othram Identify a 2003 Homicide Victim (Forensic – 5/4/2022)

  • On May 25, 2003, a hiker near The Shady Rest campground in Mammoth Lakes National Forest in California, discovered a shallow grave with skeletal remains scattered around the area. Investigators estimate the victim had been dead for 6 to 9 months. Forensic examination of these remains revealed two penetrations that were concluded to be consistent with knife wounds. The death was therefore classified as a homicide. A limited amount of information could be gleamed from the remains, namely that the remains belonged to a woman that was likely 30 to 40 years old and that the woman likely had indigenous ancestry from southern Mexico. The victim’s information was entered into NCIC and the ViCAP national database. Unfortunately, there were few leads to work from and the case eventually went cold.

    In 2020, the Mono County Sheriff’s Office teamed with Othram to use Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to build a comprehensive genealogical profile to generate new leads that might lead to the identity of the homicide victim or one of her family members. Investigators sent skeletal remains to Othram and Othram scientists produced a profile and an updated assessment of biogeographical ancestry for the victim. In the course of the investigation, a candidate family member was identified and Othram used KinSNP™ familial testing to confirm the familial relationship.



Body in Barrel Exposed as Level of Nevada’s Lake Mead Drops (Forensic – 5/4/2022)

  • A body inside a barrel was found over the weekend on the the newly exposed bottom of Nevada’s Lake Mead as drought depletes one of the largest U.S. reservoirs — and officials predicted the discovery could be just the first of more grim finds.

    “I would say there is a very good chance as the water level drops that we are going to find additional human remains,” Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Spencer told KLAS-TV on Monday.

    The lake’s level has dropped so much that the uppermost water intake at drought-stricken Lake Mead became visible last week. The reservoir on the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam has become so depleted that Las Vegas is now pumping water from deeper within Lake Mead, which also stretches into Arizona.

    Personal items found inside the barrel indicated the person died more than 40 years ago in the 1980s, Spencer said. He initially declined to discuss a cause of death and declined to describe the items found, saying the investigation is ongoing.



Innovative Forensic Investigations Selects Othram as Forensic DNA Testing Partner (PR Web – 5/4/2022)

  • Innovative Forensic Investigations, an investigative genetic genealogy firm providing services to law enforcement nationwide, today announced it has selected Othram as its partner for Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing®. This partnership will allow Innovative Forensic Investigations to provide a streamlined service to law enforcement agencies who are looking for a full-service investigative genetic genealogy company to collaboratively work with to solve a challenging case.