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!


WWII Prisoner of War Remains Case Selected as DNA Hit of the Year (Forensic – 5/14/2024)

  • GTH DNA has announced that a case involving the identification of a WWII U.S. servicemember who perished as a Japanese prisoner of war has been selected as the DNA Hit of the Year for 2024. The case was selected from six finalist cases. The other finalist cases were from Guatemala, Louisiana USA, Alabama USA, Indonesia, and Iraq. The selected case and other finalist cases were decided by a panel of international judges with distinguished backgrounds in forensic DNA and law enforcement. The recognition was announced during the annual Human Identification Solutions (HIDS) Conference held virtually this year on May 14 and 15, 2024.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office Teams with Othram to Identify a 1972 Homicide VictimWWII Prisoner of War Remains Case Selected as DNA Hit of the Year (DNASolves – 5/17/2024)

  • In May 1972, the skeletal remains of an unidentified man were found on the south side of Winter Haven, Florida in a marshy area, just east of Tampa. Investigators were called to the scene and determined that the remains were that of a male between 40 and 50 years old. It was also estimated that the man weighed 180 pounds and stood 6 feet tall. Upon autopsy, it was determined that the man suffered two gunshot wounds to the head and his manner of death was ruled as homicide.
  • In January 1974, a Florida State prison inmate contacted investigators with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office with information about a murder. The informant was serving time at what is now the Union Correctional Facility in Raiford, Florida when a fellow inmate named Clarence Ingram shared details with him about the murder of a man. Ingram explained that he and his friend, Edgar Todd, met a white man in a Winter Haven, Florida bar in 1972.
  • Ingram, Todd, and the unnamed man left the bar in the man’s white Chevrolet car. During their drive, an argument ensued leading to the unknown man being shot in the head with a .22 caliber pistol. Ingram claimed that he and Todd drove to an overpass in the Winter Haven/Eloise area, removed the man’s body from the car, and left it in an area near a canal. They then sold tools from inside of the car to Clarence Ingram’s brother. Afterwards, Ingram and Todd drove the man’s white Chevrolet car, which had a Georgia license plate, to Michigan where it was sold for $500. At the time, investigators followed up on the story by reaching out to officials in Georgia, but the murdered man, whose remains had been found in May 1972 between Lake Lulu and Lake Ship, could not be identified. The case remained cold for decades with no clues about the identity of the victim.
  • In September 2023, in an effort to finally identify the murdered man and resolve the mystery surrounding his death, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from the forensic evidence, and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive genealogical profile for the homicide victim. Othram’s in-house forensic genetic genealogy team then used this profile to conduct genetic genealogy research, ultimately providing new investigative leads to law enforcement.
  • Using this new information, a follow-up investigation was conducted leading investigators to potential relatives of the man. Reference DNA samples were collected from the potential relatives and compared to the DNA profile of the unknown man. This investigation led to the positive identification of the murdered man, who is now known to be Mack Lavell Proctor, born November 28, 1914. Proctor was last seen by his family between 1969 and 1972 in Georgia. He was never formally reported as missing to law enforcement.


Cold Case Detectives Vow to Solve Historical Sex Crimes (BBC – 5/19/2024)

  • With so few rape cases making it to court across the UK, one police team has made it a priority to revisit 50 years of unsolved sex crimes.

    Operation Painter, run by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, started in 2016 and began by combing through 5,407 unsolved rape and sexual assault cases.

Meet the Unlikely Forensic Scienists Breaking New Ground with Their True Crime Podcast Grave Secrets (Huddersfield Hub – 5/20/2024)

  • It’s crime like you’ve never heard or seen it before … from two ‘unlikely’ forensic scientists from Huddersfield.

    Annie Robinson and Beth Kent have teamed up to provide a weekly crime podcast and video with a difference and accept they don’t look like how you’d expect scientists to look.

    Called Grave Secrets, it looks at crime and baffling disappearances from a forensic viewpoint, interviewing people who work within the industry, and they’re also keen to involve other forensic scientists and police as there is so much to the profession the public doesn’t know about.

    The free podcasts and videos are available on Apple, Spotify, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram with a new one released every Monday morning.

Remains Recovered from Westfield Home of Suspected Serial Killer Herb Baumeister in 1996 Identified as Man Missing Since 1993 (WTHR13 – 5/21/2024)

  • Hamilton County Coroner Jeff Jellison said human remains recovered in 1996 from Baumeister’s Fox Hollow Farm in Westfield have been identified as those of Jeffrey A. Jones, who was reported missing in August 1993. Jones’ last known address was in Fillmore, Indiana, which is in Putnam County.

Othram Appoints Bruce Budowle as Senior Scientific and Operational Advisor (PRWeb – 5/21/2024)

  • Othram, the leading forensic sequencing laboratory for law enforcement, is excited to announce the appointment of Bruce Budowle as Senior Scientific and Operational Advisor. With over 40 years of experience, including 26 years at the FBI Laboratory and 13 years at the Center for Human Identification, Dr. Budowle brings a wealth of experience in methods development, validation, quality assurance, courtroom testimony, and laboratory operations. Dr. Budowle was instrumental in bringing forensic DNA typing capabilities to the forefront and continues to do so with newer techniques such as forensic genetic genealogy.

    Budowle has served on various integral committees, such as the DNA Advisory Board, Scientific Group on DNA Analysis Methods, the Texas Governor’s Sexual Assault Survivor’s Working Group, and the Texas Forensic Science Commission. In his new role at Othram, he will focus on leveraging his vast expertise to further validate forensic methods, interact with the forensic and judicial communities, stakeholders, and the public, and support the judicial system.

Feds Collected DNA from 1.5 Million Migrants in Less than Four Years, Report Finds (Los Angeles Times – 5/21/2024)

  • Routine collection of immigrants’ DNA by federal authorities has ballooned since 2020, with a 50-fold spike in the number of samples held in a national database of the sensitive genetic information, according to a report released Tuesday.
    In nearly four years, the DNA database — which is shared with law enforcement agencies nationwide — added more than 1.5 million noncitizen profiles, according to the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology. That compares with about 30,000 total samples previously obtained since 2005, when Congress authorized DNA collection by federal immigration authorities, the study found.

    The center said the sharp rise raises questions about whether immigrants’ privacy rights are being violated as well as the overall constitutionality of the program.

Homicides of Four Young Canadian Women Linked to Deceased Serial Killer (Forensic – 5/21/2024)

  • Alberta RCMP have linked four historical homicides of young women from the 1970’s to a now deceased serial sexual offender. The Alberta RCMP Historical Homicide Unit (HHU) believe there may be more unsolved homicides in Western Canada related to this individual.

Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office & FBI Leverage Othram’s Forensic Sequencing Platform to Identify a 1988 Homicide & Sex Assault Suspect (DNASolves – 5/21/2024)

  • In November 1988, 60-year-old Betty Rolf left her home early on a Sunday morning to walk to her job, which was located only six blocks from her home in Appleton, Wisconsin. Appleton is just southwest of Green Bay. Rolf walked to work regularly, but on November 6, 1988 she never made it to work. The next morning, Rolf’s husband contacted police with his concern about her whereabouts. Not long after arriving at the Rolf residence, police discovered Rolf’s body under a concrete railroad bridge in the 1900 block of W. Spencer Street, approximately half a mile from where she lived. She was partially clothed with a purse strap wrapped around her neck. An autopsy later revealed that Rolf had suffered strangulation and blunt force trauma to her head, and her manner of death was ruled as homicide. The person responsible for Betty’s brutal attack and murder could not be identified.

    While forensic DNA testing had yet to be developed at the time of Rolf’s murder, investigators collected evidence that could be used in future testing. Over the years, the investigation was revisited as advancements in forensic science were made. An STR profile was eventually developed from evidence collected at the crime scene and entered into CODIS. The CODIS search did not yield a match, and Betty’s rape and murder went unsolved for decades.

    In February 2022, the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with the FBI, submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas in hopes that advanced DNA testing could help to identify the male suspect in the case. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown suspect. After successfully completing the process, the DNA profile was delivered to the FBI’s forensic genetic genealogy team and the FBI team performed the necessary work to generate new investigative leads in the case.

    Using this new information, a follow-up investigation was conducted, leading investigators to potential relatives of the man. This investigation allowed investigators to narrow their focus on a suspect, who was identified as Gene Meyer of Washington. It was learned that Meyer had lived at an address about a mile from where Rolf’s body was found in 1986 and 1987. In 2022, a DNA sample was collected and an STR profile was developed for comparison to the DNA profile developed from the original evidence collected in 1988. It was a match. Meyer was arrested in December 2022 and charged with one count of first-degree murder as well as one count of first-degree sexual assault with use of a dangerous weapon.

    Meyer’s trial began on May 13, 2023 in the Outagamie County Circuit Court. It had previously been scheduled for April but was pushed back due to Meyer’s health issues. On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, a jury found Gene Meyer, 68, guilty of first degree murder and first degree sexual Assault, the criminal charges that were in effect when Betty Rolf was murdered in 1988. Sentencing is scheduled for July 11, 2024.

A Voice for the Voiceless: UF Holds First Animal Forensic Investigations Conference (WUFT – 5/22/2024)

  • Through due diligence and unwavering observation, forensic investigators play a crucial role in finding justice for victims and holding perpetrators accountable.

    But what happens when the details of the death are murky, the victim doesn’t have the typical identifying information and isn’t even a human?

    In cases of animal abuse, the different type of victims requires a different type of specialist — veterinary forensic experts.

    The University of Florida’s Veterinary Forensic Sciences Laboratory held its first three-day Animal Forensic Investigations Conference from Monday to Wednesday. More than 140 veterinarians, attorneys, law enforcement officials and students gathered at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center Gainesville to discuss the latest investigative research and share their skills with a wider audience.