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!




Team Reveals Analysis of Remains Upended during Superstorm Sandy (Forensic – 10/29/2021)

  • Nine years ago today, Superstorm Sandy ripped through the East Coast of the United States, ultimately causing $65 billion in damage. In the town of New Haven, Connecticut—which incurred about $360 million of damages—residents were surprised to witness the felling of “Lincoln Oak,” a 103-year-old oak tree in the New Haven Green planted on the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

    What residents saw the next day while assessing the damage surprised them even more—skeletal remains were apparent in the roots of the now-upended tree.



Ohio Police Department Expands Cold Case Unit, Launches Podcast (Forensic – 10/29/2021)

  • The Dayton Police Department is expanding the Cold Case Unit. The unit will now have three full time detectives—instead of one—and their work will expand to include both unsolved homicide and sexual assaults. They will continue to utilize advancements in technology such as DNA, forensic genealogy, computer forensics, etc., to help solve these homicide and sexual assault cases.


ID of 1961 John Doe is Oldest NCMEC Case Ever Solved by Genetic Genealogy (Forensic – 11/01/2021)

  • The Identifinders team has identified Bibb County, Alabama’s beloved 1961 John Doe as Daniel Paul ‘Danny’ Armantrout, born December 28, 1945 in Miami, Florida.

    His identity was announced live Saturday, October 30 at 7PM Central on Gray Hughes Investigates. Gray and his YouTube audience of “Freaks” generously funded the expensive and time consuming investigation that required almost a year of work to gain viable DNA for a SNP profile.

    Danny Armantrout’s identification represents the oldest case of a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children subject ever solved by genetic genealogy.


Using Neutrons to Analyze Human Remains (Forensic – 11/01/2021)

  • A UK neutron facility has been used to develop a technique to help better understand human skeletal remains that have been subject to heating.

    Just as we do today, our ancient ancestors practiced cremation in their funeral rites, which means that skeletal remains are often found in a burned state. However, determining whether the bone’s heating is the result of cremation practices or even ritualistic cannibalism is difficult to determine.

    Researchers have used the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source to develop a new technique for archeological or forensic investigators to tackle this problem. The team, led by the University of Coimbra, Portugal, used the ISIS facility to bounce neutrons off samples of human bone subjected to varying degrees of heating.


North Dakota Crime Lab Facing Challenging Staffing Issues (Forensic – 11/01/2021)

  • A declining number of employees at the State Crime Lab in Bismarck has limited what evidence can be processed for law enforcement agencies, according to the attorney general.

    Eight of 23 lab employees have left in the last two years, including five in 2021, because they’ve been offered higher salaries elsewhere, according to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.


Florida Imposes Criminal Penalties for Improper Processing of DNA (The National Law Review – 11/01/2021)

  • Florida recently passed a law governing DNA samples. The Act places several restrictions on the use, retention, and sharing of DNA samples. Those that violate the Act may face criminal liability. Requirements under the Act are tied to “DNA samples” which include any human biological specific from which DNA can be extracted or the extracted DNA. To process a person’s DNA, entities must first obtain express consent. The Act defines “express consent” as an “authorization…evidenced by an affirmative action demonstrating an intentional decision.” With consent, there must also be a clear and prominent disclosure describing the manner of collection, use, retention, maintenance, or disclosure of a DNA sample. The notice must also describe the purpose of processing or the use of the DNA.


Florida Teen Hitchhiker Killed in 1961 Car Wreck Finally Identified Using DNA (Orlando Sentinel – 11/02/2021)

  • A young hitchhiker who died in a car crash in 1961 in Alabama and was buried in a grave marked “UNKNOWN” has finally been identified through DNA testing, officials said.


Identifying the Missing: How Forensic Anthropologists Use New Tech to Solve Cold Cases (WFTS Tampa Bay – 11/03/2021)

  • The disappearance of Gabby Petito shined a spotlight on missing persons cases. But forensic anthropologists at the University of South Florida have fought to get funding and solve these types of cases for more than a decade.

    The goal, moving forward, is that cases that are decades old will get a new life and one day closure for families.



DNA on Beer Cans Leads to Arrest in 1996 Cold Case Murder of Florida Man Stabbed 73 Times (NBC News – 11/04/2021)

  • Florida officials announced on Thursday a breakthrough arrest in the 1996 cold case murder of a man who was brutally stabbed 73 times — thanks to DNA found on several beer cans.

    Terence Paquette, 31, was found murdered on Feb. 3, 1996, in the bathroom of the Lil’ Champ convenience store on Clarcona Ocoee Road in Orlando, where he worked. His throat was slit and cash was missing from the store, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

    The case remained unsolved for 25 years until advances in genetic genealogy helped investigators hone in on the suspect, 54-year-old Kenneth Robert Stough, Jr.



Sacramento Detectives use DNA to find ‘Cloverleaf Rapist’ (ABC News – 11/05/2021)

  • A man suspected of raping women near Sacramento freeway interchanges several years ago has been arrested after investigators used DNA technology and genealogy websites to zero in on him.

    JD Wallace Simien, 40, was taken into custody Thursday and booked for investigation of felony kidnapping, rape, oral copulation and robbery charges, according to jail and court records.



Finding Closure: How a Texas Lab is Helping Identify Mississippi Crime Victims, Missing Persons (Clarion Ledger – 11/07/2021)

  • The lab uses DNA sequencing with hundreds of thousands of markers. As a result, the lab is able to recover and analyze DNA in low quantities, and from contaminated or degraded samples. Othram gives people an opportunity to help solve cases through DNASolves, a DNA database its lab uses, and a website to share information about cases it is working on.



Walker County Sheriff’s Office and Othram Team to Identify Walker County Jane Doe (DNASolves – 11/09/2021)

  • 14-year old Sherri Ann Jarvis was found hours after being sexually assaulted and murdered in 1980, but it took decades to restore her identity



Timber Poachers Set a Forest on Fire. Tree DNA Sent One to Prison. (The New York Times – 11/10/2021)

  • Loggers seeking a prized hardwood started the fire in the Olympic National Forest, prosecutors said. The use of timber DNA evidence was a first in a federal criminal trial.



Forensic Science Advances Mean US War Fighters are No Longer Likely to be Buried as ‘Unknown’ (American Legion – 11/10/2021)

  • Blood-sample cards sit on a desk at the Armed Forces Repository of Specimen Samples for the Identification of Remains at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Jan. 30, 2019. (Dedan Dials/U.S. Air Force) Almost a quarter-century later, DNA technology has only gotten better, and no American service member killed in action over the past 30 years has been buried as unknown.