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!




Baltimore Brothers Set Free After 24 Years in Prison for Wrongful Murder Conviction (Baltimore Sun – 5/3/2019)

  • Kenneth “JR” McPherson, 45, and Eric Simmons, 48, were convicted in May 1995 and sentenced to life in prison. They were exonerated during a hearing in Baltimore Circuit Court, then stepped outside to a crowd of tearful family members.


Ellen Greytak is Using Old DNA to Make Sketches that Help Solve Cold Cases (Inverse – 5/3/2019)

  • Greytak, 36, is one of the scientists at the forefront of developing innovative forensic tools used in modern criminal investigation.


Researchers Seek 25,000 DNA Samples for Las Vegas Population Study (FOX 5 – 5/3/2019)

  • Genetic testing is one of the hottest health trends. The Healthy Nevada Project said it is looking for 25,000 people from Clark County to hand over their DNA.

    Participants get a free DNA kit and those results, the Healthy Nevada Project will use that data to find patterns in our population’s health, the group said.




The Macabre Puzzle of Piecing Together Victims at Sri Lanka Morgue (Gulf News – 5/4/2019)

  • While staff have so far returned 115 victims to their relatives, there are still some 50 bags filled with unidentified remains in the morgue’s refrigerated rooms.


Look Inside the Futuristic Forensic Centre in Coventry that’s Solving Crimes Across the UK (CoventryLive – 5/4/2019)

No News is Always Bad News for Families of the Missing at Medical Examiner’s Annual “Missing Persons Day” (NY Daily News – 5/4/2019)

  • The last option is the saddest for the roughly two dozen families who came to provide their own DNA swabs in hopes of finding lost loved ones among the unidentified John and Jane Does logged into a national database, a process that typically takes a few weeks.



Bad Evidence (The Intercept – 5/5/2019)

  • Ten Years After a Landmark Study Blew the Whistle on Junk Science, the Fight Over Forensics Rages On


DNA Reveals Long History of African-Americans Found in Downtown Charleston (ABC News 4 – 5/5/2019)


DNA, Genetic Genealogy Help Solve Indiana State University Student’s Cold Case Murder (FOX News – 5/6/2019)

  • Terre Haute Police Chief Shawn Keen, who worked the case himself for the past 11 years, told a news conference Milam’s killer had been identified as Jeffrey Hand after DNA from the crime scene was uploaded to the genealogy website GEDMatch and produced a match to a distant relative of Hand’s. Hand was 23 at the time of the murder, working as a music records salesman.


5 Years After Rape Kit Backlog Controversy, Salt Lake Police Celebrate ‘Huge Strides’ ( – 5/6/2019)

  • Nearly five years have gone by since the state of Utah and Salt Lake City made headlines for a backlog of hundreds of untested rape kits.

    Now, after laws were passed at the state and city level to address the backlog, Salt Lake police are celebrating a cultural shift in how sexual assault reports are treated — and that their work has resulted in the identification of more than 100 suspects from the backlog.


DNA Tests, Dogged Detectives Credited with Solving 1988 Case (The Washington Post – 5/6/2019)

  • In 2011, archaeologists working in Poland made a grizzly discovery. A mass grave of 15 individuals—mostly women and children—that had been executed during a massacre. Scientists have now discovered that these 5,000-year-old murder victims were part of the same, extended family—and had been buried with great care, with mothers placed next to their children, and siblings by each others side.



DNA Reveals Ancient Mass Grave of Massacred Women and Children were from Same Family (Newsweek – 5/7/2019)

  • A team at the Sûreté du Québec police force in Canada has put together a methodology involving fuming, dyes and lasers which produced a clear fingerprint on a challenging plastic bag surface from a double-homicide scene from the 1980s, as they report in the journal Forensic Science International.



Montana Man’s DNA Oldest Found on the Continent, Testing Company Says (USA Today – 5/6/2019)

  • Crawford had his DNA tested through CRI Genetics, which aims to provide customers with a “biogeographical ancestry,” a description of where their genes fit into the overall story of the species.

    For Crawford, the company traced his line back 55 generations with a 99% accuracy rate. That’s rare because the ancestry often is clouded that far back, according to the company.



Golden State Killer Investigator Talks Suspect’s Strange Behavior, Launching True Crime Podcast ‘Murder Squad’ (FOX News – 5/7/2019)

  • For retired cold case investigator-turned-podcast host Paul Holes, the arrest of the alleged Golden State Killer, who had eluded capture for decades, was a turning point in his career.



Scientists Create New ‘Half Face Recognition’ Technique (Asharq Al-Awsat – 5/7/2019)

  • Using artificial intelligence techniques, a team of researchers at the University of Bradford has achieved 100 percent recognition rates for both three-quarter and half faces, the German News Agency reported.



NAAG and ASCLD Lead an Effort to Assist Puerto Rico Forensic Science Laboratory (Forensic Magazine – 5/8/2019)

  • The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) today announced the completion of a successful two-week mission to assist the Puerto Rico Bureau of Forensic Science (BFS), also known as Negociado de Ciencias Forenses. The mission, which was conducted between April 21 and May 3, 2019, was the most recent effort by the Puerto Rico Forensic Science Project, which began in April 2018.



DNA Doe Project, Identifinders and Nevada Detectives Wrap IDs of Cold Case Victim, Killer (Forensic Magazine – 5/8/2019)

  • The “Sheep’s Flat Jane Doe” was an unidentified woman who was found raped and shot dead on a Nevada hiking trail near Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1982.

    Now, forensic genealogy and a significant amount of detective work have resulted in an identity of the woman—and that of her killer, who killed himself in a California jail after killing potentially four more people in a similar fashion.



New Montana Law Ends Statute of Limitations on Child Sex Abuse (Forensic Magazine – 5/9/2019)

  • A bill to change Montana’s child sexual abuse laws, including lifting the statute of limitations for prosecuting such crimes, was signed Tuesday by Gov. Steve Bullock.

    The bill , sponsored by Democratic Rep. Shane Morigeau, also extends from 21 to 27 the age deadline by which a victim of child sexual assault has to file a lawsuit against their abuser.



Exonerated of Murder After 16 Years in Prison, Jeffrey Deskovic Will Soon Be a Lawyer (lohud – 5/9/2019)

  • Since his release in September 2006, Deskovic has finished a bachelor’s degree, earned a master’s degree in criminal justice and started the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation For Justice, which has helped exonerate seven people and successfully advocated for justice reforms.