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!




Early DNA Lineages Shed Light on the Diverse Origins of the Contemporary Population (ScienceDaily – 11/15/2019)

  • A new genetic study demonstrates that, at the end of the Iron Age, Finland was inhabited by separate and differing populations, all of them influencing the gene pool of modern Finns. The study is so far the most extensive investigation of the ancient DNA of people inhabiting the region of Finland.



L.A. Prosecutors Use Genealogy Search to Make Arrest in 1980s Killings of Two Women (Los Angeles Times – 11/15/2019)

  • “Thanks to advances in technology and forensics, we are now able to virtually reach back in time and find those responsible for these vicious crimes,” Lacey said.


Suspected Potomac River Rapist, Who ‘Terrorized’ Women in ’90s, Caught with Genetic Genealogy (ABC News – 11/15/2019)

  • The suspect behind a string of sexual assaults and one slaying that “terrorized” Washington, D.C., women in the 1990s is now in custody after he was nabbed through the novel investigative tool of genetic genealogy, authorities said.


Colombia Adoptees Find Family Decades After Volcano Tragedy (The Washington Post – 11/15/2019)

  • Seven years ago, González approached Emilio Yunis, a Colombian pioneer in genetic studies, to see if he could help find relatives. That work is now continued by his son, Juan Yunis, whose genetic institute has collected profiles from 275 people linked to the Armero tragedy, including 48 men and women adopted as children.


Environmental DNA Test Can Detect Presence of Endangered Bird Species: Study (India Today – 11/17/2019)

  • As per the new study, environmental DNA (eDNA) can be used to detect the presence of an endangered bird species.


Rare Native Plants and Mosses to Yield DNA Fingerprints (The Scotsman – 11/17/2019)

  • The genetic make-up of the iconic Scottish primrose, mosses from the country’s Celtic rainforests and rare plants from some of our highest mountains is to be laid bare in a ground-breaking new project that will act as a launchpad for global plans to sequence the genomes of all life on earth.



Do You Actually Own Your DNA? (Inverse – 11/17/2019)

  • Property rights get messy when DNA is involved.



DNA on Plastic Spoon Leads to Livermore Man’s Arrest for 1997 Rapes (KPIX 5 – 11/18/2019)

  • A Livermore man had been arrested after DNA obtained from a discarded plastic spoon linked him to two 1997 cold case rapes including the sexual assault of a woman as she was walking to a BART station, prosecutors announced Monday.



How Massively Parallel Sequencing Platforms are Revolutionizing Forensic Analysis (SelectScience – 11/18/2019)

  • In this expert interview, we hear from Prof. Bobby LaRue about improved depth of coverage and high-power discrimination in mixed DNA analysis



Colombia Church Massacre Victims ID’d with DNA Put to Rest (The Washington Post – 11/18/2019)

  • Relatives of those killed in a Colombia massacre put their loved ones to rest Monday nearly two decades after the attack – while also warning that the government hasn’t done enough to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.



What it Means to Be a Forgotten Murder Victim (The Atlantic – 11/18/2019)

  • Thirteen years ago, a young woman was found dead in small-town Texas. She was nicknamed “Lavender Doe” for the purple shirt she was wearing. Her real identity would remain a mystery until amateur genealogists took up her case.



Forensic Medical Training Could Help Evidence Collection in Rural Alaska (KTUU 2 – 11/19/2019)

  • Angelia Trujillo, lead designer of the Alaska Comprehensive Forensic Training Academy, teaches forensic medical skills to nurses, doctors and one attorney acting as an advocate. Students are taught to photograph injuries and correctly collect evidence to be potentially used in a courtroom.



The Truth About the NYPD and DNA: Keep Open Vital Database Invaluable in Solving Crimes (Daily News – 11/19/2019)

  • In the past six years, the NYPD has made New York a safer and fairer city in numerous ways, scaling back on arrests by 45% and targeting our investigative resources with far greater precision than in the past.

    Restricting or prohibiting the use of DNA and photo-recognition technologies would force investigators to fall back on less reliable and accurate means of identification, including eyewitnesses, who are less successful than technology at identifying people accurately.



DNA Holds Promise in Finding Fugitive Lester Eubanks but FBI Rules, Privacy Questions Loom (ABC News – 11/20/2019)

  • The U.S. Marshals believe DNA collected from escaped child killer Lester Eubanks’ biological son could be the key to unearthing new clues to the fugitive’s identity or location.

    Eubanks, who was convicted of the 1965 murder of 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener, has been on the run since 1973 after he escaped police custody. At one point, he sat on death row at the Ohio State Penitentiary and remains one of the U.S. Marshals’ most wanted fugitives to this day.



DNA Labs International Employs a Team Approach to Solving Crime with Genealogy (CISION – 11/21/2019)

  • DNA Labs International blends their vast forensic experience with the expertise of genealogists, DNA analysts, case managers and law enforcement working together to uncover new leads to solve more crime.



Ultrasensitive Protein Method Lets Scientists ID Someone from a Single Strand of Hair (Science – 11/21/2019)

  • A new forensic technique could have criminals—and some prosecutors—tearing their hair out: Researchers have developed a method they say can identify a person from as little as 1 centimeter of a single strand of hair—and that is eight times more sensitive than similar protein analysis techniques. If the new method ever makes it into the courtroom, it could greatly expand the ability to identify the people at the scene of a crime.



Dutch Police Podcast Unearths Clues to Decades-Old Murder (BBC News – 11/22/2019)

  • Wrapped in an electric blanket metres from a busy highway in the Netherlands lay the body of a man in such a state of decomposition he was impossible to identify.

    But the truth could now finally be in sight after Dutch police launched their first-ever podcast aimed at solving a crime.