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!





100 Years After the Tulsa Race Massacre, Meet the Forensic Anthropologist Searching for Victims’ Remains (TIME- 5/27/2021)

  • A century after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, during which a white mob torched Black homes and businesses in the Oklahoma city’s Greenwood area, which was also known as Black Wall Street, some basic questions about the event remain unanswered. Some estimates that say up to people 300 died, but information on the victims’ identities and exact numbers is missing.

    Then, last fall, a clue was discovered: after years of researchers searching for evidence, 11 coffins were found in the city’s Oaklawn Cemetery, and scholars believe they may contain victims’ remains. On Tuesday, the anniversary of the tragedy, in hopes of finding some resolution, a full excavation of the site will begin and is expected to last well into the summer.



DNA Helps Crack 37-Year-Old Avon Cold Case (FOX61 – 5/27/2021)

  • A 37-year-old cold case from Avon was solved after DNA found at the scene all those years ago recently matched that of a man already in jail on a different case.


Local Scientists Hope to Use DNA to Reunite Families Separated at the Border (WGN9 – 5/27/2021)

  • Science and medicine are now being used to combat a political and humanitarian crisis. It’s all about DNA.

    Doctors at Lurie Children’s have made a proposal to reunite migrant families separated at the border. Much like consumers use DNA kits to find lost family members, this program seeks to reunite mothers and fathers with their lost children.


Nevada Detectives Restart Nearly 3-Decade Search for Killer (AP – 5/27/2021)

  • For nearly three decades, he was known only as Sand Canyon Joe Doe, the apparent victim of a homicide found in northern Nevada’s high desert.

    Now, because of clues developed with DNA technology, genetic genealogy tracing and old-fashioned detective work, the native Californian who also lived in western Nevada has a real name, and state and county investigators are trying to jump-start their search for his killer.


DNA Matters: How to Use the Likelihood Ratio (Forensic – 5/28/2021)

  • 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. Twenty years ago, Perlin invented TrueAllele probabilistic genotyping for automated human identification from DNA mixtures. His company helped identify victim remains in the World Trade Center disaster, and has helped exonerate 10 innocent men. He is a Scholar in Residence at Duquesne University’s Forensic Science and Law program, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. 



Solving a Double Murder Arouses International Interest (EurekAlert! – 5/28/2021)

  • The technology using DNA-based genealogy that solved a double murder in Linköping opens completely new possibilities in investigating serious crime. LiU researchers are now involved in spreading new knowledge about the technology, which brings hope to police forces and has aroused major international interest.



DNA Analysis Reveals Missouri Cold Case has Texas Twist (FOX7 – 5/27/2021)

  • At a small cemetery in Waynesville, Missouri is a tombstone with the name Jane Doe on it.

    500 miles away in Fort Worth, work at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification was instrumental in helping detectives make a true identification. Renno told FOX 7 the mystery woman found at a low water crossing near Dixon, Missouri in 1981 is Karen Kay Knippers. The identification started when her remains were sent to the center in Fort Worth for DNA and forensic testing.



Forensics Experts Will Help Identify Remains of 215 Children Found in B.C. (iHeartRadio – 5/30/2021)

  • One residential school survivor has had flashbacks about his time at as chool in Kamloops since the remains of 215 children were confirmed to be buried on the grounds.

    Upper Nicola Band Chief Harvey McLeod attended the school from 1966 to 1968.

    He recalls speaking with his friends about children who were just gone one day.

    Plans are underway to bring in forensics experts to identify and repatriate the children’s remains.

US Dept of Defense Joins NFSU in Search of 400 Personnel Missing Since WWII (The New Indian Express – 5/30/2021)

  • The Department of Defense of the USA has intensified efforts to find and recover the remains of its over 400 personnel who had gone missing in India during World War II by joining hands with Gandhinagar- based National Forensic Sciences University (NFSU).

    Scientific experts at the NFSU will help the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency (DPAA), a part of the Department of Defense (DoD) of the USA, to recover and identify these missing personnel to bring closure to their families.



Two New Laws Restrict Police Use of DNA Search Method (The New York Times – 5/31/2021)

  • New laws in Maryland and Montana are the first in the nation to restrict law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy, the DNA matching technique that in 2018 identified the Golden State Killer, in an effort to ensure the genetic privacy of the accused and their relatives.

    Beginning on Oct. 1, investigators working on Maryland cases will need a judge’s signoff before using the method, in which a “profile” of thousands of DNA markers from a crime scene is uploaded to genealogy websites to find relatives of the culprit. The new law, sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, also dictates that the technique be used only for serious crimes, such as murder and sexual assault. And it states that investigators may only use websites with strict policies around user consent.

    Montana’s new law, sponsored by a Republican, is narrower, requiring that government investigators obtain a search warrant before using a consumer DNA database, unless the consumer has waived the right to privacy.