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!




Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Partners with Parabon Nanolabs to Identify Skeletal Remains from 1988 (Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office – 5/18/2023)

    • We are happy to report another cold case homicide victim has been identified, and in turn another family has been given some closure, with the help of new techniques and technology.
      On Saturday, February 13, 1988, the skeletal remains of an adult male subject were found down an embankment off Bonny Doon Road. The identity of the decedent was not known at the time, and an autopsy revealed the manner of death to be homicide. No persons have been arrested in this investigation, and the decedent has been designated as “John Doe” since the initial discovery.
      In 2020, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office, including the Sheriff’s Office Forensics Services Division, began utilizing forensic genetic genealogy techniques to finally identify the decedent and make notification to next of kin. With the partnership of the California Department of Justice Jan Bashinski DNA Lab, Parabon Nanolabs, and the Menominee County Sheriff’s Office, the decedent has now been positively identified as Marty Robin Rupar, who was born in 1966. Detectives have learned that Marty Rupar was last known to reside in Mississippi. According to his family, Marty went missing in 1983. The timeline of his arrival in California is not clear.
      Marty Rupar’s siblings have been notified of his identification and are thankful to the Sheriff’s Office for the opportunity to lay him to rest.
      The Sheriff’s Office is actively investigating the circumstances of Marty Rupar’s death. Anyone with any information regarding Marty is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office Investigations Division at (831) 454-7630.

Genealogy, Fingerprints Confirm Man’s Identity 46 Years After Body Found in Missouri River (Forensic – 5/19/2023)

    • The body was found floating in the Missouri River eight miles east of Farm Island near Pierre. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, and there was no identification on the person. Partial fingerprints were obtained, but without a potential subject to compare them with, no match could be made at the time.

      Ultimately, all efforts to identify the individual that were available to law enforcement at the time failed, and he was buried at the Riverside Cemetery in Pierre as “Unknown Man.”  Throughout the years, the gravesite was tended to by Gertrude Stone of Pierre and then later by her daughter, Cheryl Stone.

      In 2020, the now cold case was reopened by Pierre Police Department Detective Trevor Swanson and a permit was obtained from a judge to exhume the remains of the unidentified individual. The remains were disinterred on Oct. 8, 2021, and samples were collected in order to obtain a DNA profile.

      In 2022, Swanson started work as a Special Agent with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, but he remained assigned to the case. With assistance from the South Dakota Forensic Laboratory, the unidentified individual’s DNA profile was compared with results found in genetic genealogy databases, resulting in a potential match for 39-year-old Stephen Earl Boice, whose last known address was Seattle.

      Investigators obtained a fingerprint card that had been collected from Stephen on Feb.15, 1962. The South Dakota Forensic Laboratory compared Stephen’s fingerprint card with the fingerprints collected from the unidentified individual and determined that they were a match.

      Investigators contacted Boice’s closest living relatives, informed them of efforts to identify the body, and delivered the death notification. At their request, Boice’s remains were reinterred last fall at Riverside Cemetery. The internment ceremony was attended by members of the Attorney General’s Office, law enforcement, and the Pierre Police Department Chaplin.




Genealogy Helps HCSO Identify 32-Year-Old Skeletal Remains Found in Northwestern Hernando County (Hernando County Sheriff’s Office – 5/19/2023)

    • Over 30 years ago, an employee with Withlacoochee River Electric discovered the skeletal remains of an unidentified male in the area of Centralia Road and Commercial Way. These remains were not the result of a homicide, nor were they those of a reported missing person from any jurisdiction. Information was provided to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a national clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases throughout the United States.

      The remains, which were discovered on 11-06-1990, were sent to several labs in an effort to obtain a Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) profile necessary for identification. With the
      assistance and cooperation of the District 5 Medical Examiner’s Office, the remains were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Florida Department of Law Enforcement
      (FDLE) and University of North Texas’s (UNT) respective laboratories.

      On 04-04-2019, a report from UNT indicated that short tandem repeat (STR) and mitochondrial (MT) DNA profiles were developed from the skeletal remains. The DNA profiles were entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), unfortunately, there were no associations found. The remains were sent for further genetic DNA testing through Genealogy with Parabon NanoLabs with further hopes of identifying the remains. On 01-24-2022, the evidence in this case was shipped Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, an associated company with Parabon NanoLabs.

      On 07-25-2022, CeCe Moore, Chief Genealogist at Parabon NanoLabs, provided the following information: The unidentified remains were positively identified as Robert McReynolds, born on 01-06- 1927. Parabon also provided the name of a possible family member of McReynolds.



Norberto Peets Exonerated After 26 Years Amid Discredited Eyewitness Testimony (Forensic – 5/19/2023)

  • Norberto Peets was exonerated last week after the court dismissed all charges against him related to a 1996 shooting. Peets has steadfastly maintained his innocence for 26 years. On Sept. 30, 2022, the Bronx County Supreme Court vacated Peets’ convictions, and he was released after 26 years of wrongful incarceration. Separate reinvestigations by the Innocence Project and the Bronx County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit found that Peets’ trial attorney had not adequately investigated his case, and as a result, had overlooked key evidence that both pointed to an alternate suspect and discredited the eyewitness testimony that had wrongfully convicted Peets. These investigations also uncovered further evidence of his innocence. Today, all charges were finally dismissed.


Hernando County Sheriff’s Office Team with Othram to Identify a 1991 John Doe (DNASolves – 5/19/2023)

  • Over three decades ago, a local hunter discovered the skeletal remains of an unidentified male in the area of Osowaw Boulevard, between Shoal Line Boulevard and Commercial Way. These remains were neither the result of a homicide, nor were they those of a reported missing person from any jurisdiction.

    Information was provided to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a national clearinghouse and resource center for missing, unidentified, and unclaimed person cases throughout the United States. The NamUs record was UP6042.

    The remains, which were discovered in November 1991, were sent to several labs in an effort to obtain a DNA profile necessary for identification. With the assistance and cooperation of the District 5 Medical Examiner’s Office, and The University of South Florida Forensic Anthropology Department; the remains were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), DNA Labs International, and University of North Texas’s (UNT) respective laboratories. In spite of the efforts, no identification was made.

    In February 2022, skeletal remains were sent for further genetic DNA testing to Othram. Othram scientists developed a DNA extract and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop a comprehensive DNA profile. Othram’s in-house genetic genealogy team used the profile to develop investigative leads that were returned investigators.

    With these leads, investigators were able to confirm that the unidentified remains belonged to Richard Paul Sargent, born July 12, 1946. Detective G. Loydgren proceeded to locate Sargent’s family members in Massachusetts. In July 2022, Detective Loydgren made contact with Richard Paul Sargent’s family with the help of the Massachusetts State Police and the Yarmouth Police Department in Massachusetts.



Linn County Sheriff’s Office Identifies Deceased Victim from 2006 (Linn County Sheriff’s Office – 5/19/2023)

    • Linn County Sheriff Michelle Duncan reports a deceased victim found in the woods in 2006 was identified as Jesus Ruiz of Aumsville, Oregon.

      The investigation began on October 23, 2006, at approximately 6:17 p.m. when the Linn County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of human remains found in the area of the Big Springs Snow Park on Highway 22, east of Sweet Home.  Evidence at the scene indicated the remains had been there approximately one year.

      Detectives continued to work with the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office and DNA was extracted from the remains.  Although the victim’s DNA profile did not exist in any database, samples were sent to Parabon Nanolabs, a private company, for additional analysis to determine the identity of the person.

      Parabon Nanolabs was able to find a possible identity by tracing the DNA through ancestry type databases and following possible relatives’ family tree lines.  They were able to give detectives a possible identity of Jesus Ruiz.  To confirm the identification, detectives contacted Ruiz’s family who provided DNA comparisons which confirmed the remains found in 2006 were Jesus Ruiz.  Ruiz’s family said they had not seen or heard from Ruiz since 2005 and thought he had been in Mexico.  They never reported him missing.

      This investigation into the death of Jesus Ruiz is ongoing.


West Virginia Navy Veteran Identified Through DNA Testing Laid to Rest Eighty Years After Attack on Pearl Harbor (WSAZ3 – 5/20/2023)

  • Loved ones of Navy Veteran Donald Robert McCloud spent Saturday’s Armed Forces Day finally laying their loved one to rest.

    McCloud, a Fire Controlman Second Class stationed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor perished in the attack on December 7, 1941.

    According to his obituary, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began a project in 2015 to try to identify the victims of the U.S.S. Oklahoma using DNA testing.

    Relatives said the process started by getting samples of each victim’s oldest living relative.


Forensic Science Discovery Suggests Bacteria Could Help Convict Sex Offenders without DNA ( – 5/20/2023)

    • Ms Dixon, with support from Murdoch University senior lecturer Brendan Chapman, examined the bacteria that grows naturally in human sexual organs before and after intercourse.

      Their results suggested there was an exchange of bacteria between men and women during sex.

      If further research confirmed the bacteria was unique to the individual, it could be used to identify perpetrators in cases where there was no DNA. Mr Chapman said new forensic tools were needed because male DNA could be difficult to extract from swabs that did not contain enough male cells.




Genealogy IDs Birth Mother of Now-Healthy 4-Year-Old Abandoned in the Woods (Forensic – 5/22/2023)

    • On the night of June 6, 2019, two teenage girls went outside to empty out their car before a significant thunderstorm was expected to hit the area, even though they had previously decided to do it the next morning. Once outside, they heard the unexpected—what sounded like a baby crying.

      Living in an isolated house in the woods, their father assured them it was a wild animal but the girls couldn’t let it go. They convinced their father to go into the woods in the middle of the night to investigate the sound. The family soon found an hours-old baby tied up in a plastic bag thrown on top of a pile of leaves and sticks. Investigators arrived to the scene, performed first aid on the infant and rushed her to the hospital for care.

      A happy, healthy “Baby India”—as she came to be called—will turn 4-years-old in two weeks. And now, with the help of advanced DNA testing, genetic genealogy and Othram, investigators at Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office (Georgia) have arrested Baby India’s birth mother for criminal attempt to murder, cruelty to children in the first degree, aggravated assault and reckless abandonment.



DNA Hit of the Year Finalists: Thieves, Terrorists and Serial Killers (Forensic – 5/22/2023)

    • On Tuesday, at the 2023 Human Identification Solutions (HIDS) conference, GTH-DNA will unveil the “DNA Hit of the Year.”

      The DNA Hit of the Year program, now in its seventh year, is a global program established to demonstrate the power of forensic DNA databases to solve crime and identify missing persons. Every year, GTH-DNA partners with a group of international judges to determine which submitted case will be recognized.

      Crime labs and police departments from all over the world submitted their impactful DNA database hit cases earlier this year. To be eligible for submission, cases had to be “cold hit,” where the criminal suspect was identified due to a match in the database where DNA from an unsolved crime scene was matched to a previously unidentified suspect in the database. Missing persons cases where a missing person was identified using a DNA database match were also accepted. The cold hit must have occurred between January 1, 2017, and September 2, 2022.

      This year, there are six finalists for DNA Hit of the Year.



University’s Forensic Science Program Receives Accreditation for All Graduate Degrees (Forensic – 5/22/2023)

    • The University of Central Oklahoma’s W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute (FSI) received full, five-year accreditation through the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the forensic science accrediting body for the U.S. and Canada.

      The degrees include the Master of Science in molecular biology, chemistry and digital forensics. UCO’s FSI program is only one of two institutions in Oklahoma with graduate-level FEPAC accreditation of any kind.

      The institute has overseen the undergraduate and graduate forensic science programs at Central since 2009. Under the direction of Dwight Adams, Ph.D., former director of the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, UCO FSI has seen significant growth from its inception—from fewer than 100 students in 2009, to nearly 1,000 forensic science majors. It is the largest forensic science education program in the country.



Quebec Police Identify Killer in 1975 Cold Case Murder of Teen (Forensic – 5/24/2023)

    • Canadian police said Tuesday they have solved one of the highest-profile cold cases in Quebec history, linking the 1975 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl to a West Virginia man who died more than 40 years ago.

      Police in Longueuil, Quebec, said that DNA evidence allows them to be 100% certain that Franklin Maywood Romine murdered teenager Sharron Prior in the Montreal suburb.

      The body of Romine, who was born in 1946 in West Virginia’s second largest city of Huntington and died in 1982 at the age of 36 in Verdun, Montreal under mysterious circumstances, was exhumed from a West Virginia cemetery in early May for DNA testing intended to confirm his link to the crime.

      Longueuil police say the DNA of Romine — who had a long criminal history — matches a sample found at the murder scene. He also matched a witness’ physical description of the suspect.

      The rape and killing of Prior had gone unsolved since she disappeared on March 29, 1975, after setting out to meet friends at a pizza parlor near her home in Montreal’s Pointe-St-Charles neighborhood.

      Her body was found three days later in a wooded area in Longueuil, on Montreal’s South Shore.

      Law enforcement investigated more than 100 suspects over the years, but never made any arrests. Yvonne Prior, the teenager’s mother, is now in her 80s, still lives in Canada, and has spent her life searching for her daughter’s killer.



Genetic Genealogy Identifies 1986 Jane Doe (Forensic – 5/24/2023)

    • The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Unit used DNA testing and investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) to identify the remains of a woman found in Warner Springs on Feb. 16, 1986.

      Her name is Claudette Jean Zebolsky Powers.

      Powers’ body was discovered near campsites on Los Coyotes Indian Reservation in Warner Springs. A second murder victim was found around the same time and area. The man’s body has not been identified. There is a possibility these two cases are connected.

      Over the years, detectives kept working the case. They reviewed missing person reports and sought the public’s assistance to help identify the victims, but the remains were not identified.

      In February 2022, the Sheriff’s Cold Case Team comprised of detectives, analysts and the Sheriff’s Regional Crime Lab turned to investigative genetic genealogy to find leads in the case. The Sheriff’s Homicide Unit only utilizes investigative genetic genealogy when all other methods have been exhausted.

      In this case, DNA profile obtained from a sample of Powers’ hair was compared to available profiles on commercial websites. Extensive research was also done on census records, obituaries and other publicly accessible information to meticulously build family trees. Once family relationships emerged, detectives were able to track down an individual believed to be a relative of Powers.



New Hampshire Lab to Feature World-Class DNA Technology for Solving Crimes (WMUR9 – 5/24/2023)

    • The exposure of a backlog of nearly 600 untested rape kits led New Hampshire to become the first state in the nation to acquire the most powerful DNA technology in the world.

      “We were one of the first eight labs in the world to get this instrumentation in our lab. So, it even goes beyond the nation. We are going to be a world-class laboratory,” Melissa Staples, director of the state forensic laboratory, said.

      The tool performs capillary electrophoresis, the process separates molecules and ions using voltage inside a tiny tube.

      The technology is capable of getting results from degraded DNA samples – a game-changer for crimefighters.

      “Might be a cold case, missing persons, any sample that has been left exposed to the elements where the DNA could degrade over time, those are some of the most challenging samples that a forensic laboratory can encounter,” Lisa Misner, development manager of Promega, said. “We’ll be the first in the nation to use this kit.”



‘This is Justice’: DNA Evidence, Determination Exonerates Dallas Man (DFWNBC5 – 5/24/2023)

    • A Dallas man is exonerated after spending decades in prison and fighting to clear his name.

      Family and friends packed a Dallas County courtroom Wednesday to hear a judge declare Tyrone Day innocent, wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit 33 years ago.

      “There’s a weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Day. “This is justice.”

      In 1990, Day was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman near Fair Park.

      Unable to afford an attorney, Day pleaded guilty to the crime despite maintaining his innocence. He feared a trial might lead to a longer sentence in prison.

      “A lot of people say they would never do that, but I come from a single-family home,” Day said. “I was given a choice. Either take this 40 years and whatever evidence we have against you or you can go to trial and take 99 to life.”

      He spent 25 years locked up.



Marshall County Sheriff’s Office Partners with Parabon Nanolabs to Identify 1997 Victim (Marshall County Sheriff’s Office – 5/24/2023)

    • n April 15, 1997, a body was located in a wooded area along Little Cotaco Creek just off of Eagle Rock Road in Union Grove. The body was identified as that of a white male; however, due to the removal of the head, hands, and feet, it was impossible to give an accurate age or description. There was also some other mutilation of the body, which appeared to be consistent with a forensic countermeasure. The autopsy results found that the manner of death was a homicide, and that the removal of the body parts was done intentionally; most likely to make identification impossible.
      Investigators from the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation worked tirelessly to identify the individual and followed up on numerous leads; but were still unsuccessful in making a positive identification. The case was entered into the FBI’s VICAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program); however, there were no credible leads generated there either. Throughout the years leads stopped coming in, and eventually the case went cold.
      After 26 years, the deceased individual has now been identified as Jefferey Douglas Kimzy, 20, of Santa Barbara, California.
      Then along came improvements in DNA and Genealogical research. In November of 2019; Sheriff Sims and then Chief Investigator Keith Wilson made contact with Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA Technology company. Through a process called DNA Phenotyping, Parabon could give us some possible physical characteristics for what our subject may have looked like.
      Today, we want to announce we do have persons of interest involved in this case and are actively pursuing those leads. Also, we will be working with Parabon on DNA that we have recently become aware related to items found at the scene. If anyone has any information about this case from that time period, please call the sheriff’s office at 256-582-2034.


DNA ID’s 2 Bodies, Including Victim of 30-Year-Old Shooting (Qfm96 – 5/25/2023)

    • Franklin County authorities now have names to go with two unidentified bodies found in during the past three decades.

      The state attorney general’s office says the lab at the Bureau of Criminal Identification used DNA to trace family members of a man who was found shot in the head on Lockbourne Road in 1992 and also used DNA to identify a man whose body was found in the Scioto River in 2006, according to attorney general Dave Yost.

      The men were positively identified as Chow Chan and Randy Raines, according to a joint press release from Yost and Franklin County Coroner Nathaniel Overmire.