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!


This Week in Forensic Science


DNA Hit of the Year: A Familial Hit Solves Infamous British Rape-Murder (Forensic Magazine – 5/4/2018)

  • The second yearly award is run by Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs, and the entry was chosen from 61 cases from 14 countries.

    The Road murder case led to a guilty plea from Christopher Hampton, who was caught in 2015 after a third and successful attempt at familial matching, according to news accounts.


Push for Forensic DNA Phenotyping, Ancestry Testing in Germany Raises Discrimination Concerns (Genome Web – 5/4/2018)

  • A bill currently under consideration in the German state of Bavaria is stirring up controversy regarding the promise of expanded forensic DNA testing to fight crime and the danger of discriminating against minorities along the way.


The Very First Animal Appeared Amid an Explosion of DNA (The New York Times – 5/4/2018)

  • The animal kingdom is one of life’s great success stories — a collection of millions of species that swim, burrow, run and fly across the planet. All that diversity, from ladybugs to killer whales, evolved from a common ancestor that likely lived over 650 million years ago.

    No one has found a fossil of the ur-animal, so we can’t say for sure what it looked like. But two scientists in Britain have done the next best thing. They’ve reconstructed its genome.


False Starts in Search for Golden State Killer Reveal the Pitfalls of DNA Testing (Los Angeles Times – 5/4/2018)

  • The rise of big data, whether it’s publicly searchable DNA databases or records from cellphone towers, has inverted traditional investigative tactics. Previously, law enforcement relied on evidence to build a case around an individual, then sought a warrant from a judge to confirm those suspicions. Modern tactics, enabled by technology, allow law enforcement to trawl a wider — and more indiscriminate — pool before narrowing in on a specific individual.



Boston Police Explore Using Commercial DNA Databases (Boston Herald – 5/6/2018)

  • Boston police are exploring how to use public genealogy databases to identify suspects in crimes where they collected DNA but cannot find a match after the high profile arrest of the suspected “Golden State Killer.”


26 Years Later, Justice for Men Imprisoned for a Bogus Rape (The New York Times – 5/7/2018)

  • Last month, the woman, who has not been identified, told investigators from the district attorney’s office and the Innocence Project the rape “never happened.” Her admission came after DNA testing connected the semen found on her body to another man through an F.B.I. database.


Husband-Wife Serial Killers May Be Link Between Two 40-Year-Old Mysteries, Police Say (The Washington Post – 5/7/2018)

  • Although only 120 or so miles separated the two investigations, it would take more than 40 years for the right links to fall into place, likely looping together the bones in Alabama and the vanished New Orleans housewife Mary Ann Perez.


Connecticut Bill to Improve Processing of Rape Evidence Kits Passes 36-0 (Forensic Magazine – 5/8/2018)

  • State Senate lawmakers unanimously approved legislation that would try to improve the processing of sexual-assault evidence collection kits at the state’s forensic laboratory.


Parabon, Known for Phenotyping, Announces Genealogy Service (Forensic Magazine – 5/8/2018)

  • Now Parabon, a company known for its composite facial images drawn from DNA profiles, is offering a new forensic genealogy service to those detectives with those nagging unfinished investigations.Already the company has screened samples from 100 agencies around the country, according to Steven Armentrout, the Parabon CEO.


DNA Doe Project IDs 2001 Motel Suicide, Using Genealogy (Forensic Magazine – 5/9/2018)

  • The DNA Doe Project, one of the first groups to apply forensic genealogy to criminal investigations nationwide, identified the victim of one of the most notorious 1980s cold cases last month. Now they have identified a motel suicide from 2001, using only the DNA to track down the surviving family members.


Hun Migrations ‘Linked to Deadly Justinian Plague’ (BBC News – 5/10/2018)

  • The Justinian Plague, which struck in 541 AD, may have killed as many as 25 million.Now, scientists say the outbreak probably originated in Asia, not Egypt as contemporary and more recent chroniclers had thought.

    The finding comes from analysis of DNA found in 137 human skeletons unearthed on the Eurasian steppe.


Texas Forensic Science Commission Report Prompts ‘Course Correction’ at Private Lab (Forensic Magazine – 5/10/2018)

  • Now the Texas Forensic Science Commission has cited the laboratory’s failings in an extensive report on the case, touching off a series of reviews and changes at the private lab.The report has prompted a lab-wide review of about 1,500 DNA analyses handled by National Medical Services (NMS), Inc., a Pennsylvania-based forensic and medical facility, to see if “overblown data” may have affected other cases across the country. The NMS lab has agreed to a major “course correction” requested by the Texas forensic watchdog agency.