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!





Texas: Arrestee DNA Collection Solved Over 250 Cases in One Year (Forensic – 11/20/2020)

  • What do a 17-year-old cold case strangulation, a 25-year-old murder and a 4-day crime spree have in common? These cases, in addition to about 250 others, were all solved by Texas investigators this year thanks to the enactment of the Krystal Jean Baker Act in September 2019.



Forensics Experts Used Social Media to Reconstruct Exact Cause of the Tragic Beirut Explosion (GIZMODO – 11/21/2020)

  • Minutes after the August 4 explosion occurred, those who were recording the initial warehouse fire and captured the subsequent explosion on their smartphones started to share their videos on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. It didn’t take long for people all over the world to witness what had happened, and those videos eventually became a crucial tool for experts at a University of London research group, Forensic Architecture, to reconstruct what caused the tremendous blast that had the same yield as almost 1.5 kilotons of TNT.



DNA Cracks 1995 Cold Case Murder of California Nurse (Forensic – 11/23/2020)

  • In late 2019, Major Crimes Detective Rusty Bishop began reviewing the entire Munro cold case, including looking at physical evidence that could be analyzed with modern DNA technology. In January 2020, Bishop re-submitted fingernail scrapings of Christine Munro to the Department of Justice for DNA analysis. This past June, Bishop received notification of a possible match through the Department of Justice Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The evidence matched the DNA profile of James Watkins, 42 years, of Texas. Watkins was serving a 14-year sentence for robbery in a Texas state prison.



New Forensic Intelligence Tool Will Help Combat Terrorism ( – 11/22/2020)

  • In a new study from Flinders University, forensic scientists have developed a new tool that can check for environmental DNA in the dust on baggage, shoes, clothes, or even a passport. Led by postdoctoral research associate Dr. Jennifer Young, the goal of the project is to produce an innovative technique to combat terrorism.



DNA, Witnesses Help Exonerate Jaythan Kendrick After 25 Years in Prison (Forensic – 11/25/2020)

  • Kendrick was arrested for the murder of a 70-year old woman who was stabbed during a robbery while walking through the Ravenswood Houses in Queens in November 1994. At trial, the prosecution’s primary evidence was testimony from two witnesses — a 10-year-old boy who saw the crime from his third-floor apartment over 100 feet away, and a man who initially claimed he had not seen the suspect but later changed his statement to corroborate law enforcement’s theory that Kendrick was the assailant. No physical evidence linked Kendrick to the crime.



George Mason to Unveil its New Forensic Science Research and Training Laboratory (Forensic – 11/25/2020)

  • The opening of George Mason University’s new Forensic Science Research and Training Laboratory in the Spring 2021 semester establishes Mason as a leader in forensic anthropology and investigations and a valuable community partner with law enforcement.With the addition of the new five-acre facility on its Science and Technology Campus in Manassas, Virginia, Mason becomes just the eighth location in the world capable of performing transformative outdoor research in forensic science using human donors.



Method to Estimate Body Mass of Human Remains Yields More Accurate Profile (Forensic – 11/30/2020)

  • Wescott and Cunningham will use high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scanning to examine joint size, trabecular bone structure, bone shaft cross-sectional properties and whole bone shape to see if there are any visible differences that can be attributed to obesity and its effect on weight-bearing bones of the skeleton.



The Pros and Cons of Advancing Forensic Technology to Solve Cold Cases in Northern Ontario (CBC – 11/30/2020)

  • Police have been laying charges in historic homicides in Ontario recently, and investigators have hinted that advances in forensic technology may have played a key role.A flurry of charges have been laid in northern Ontario relating to the Sudbury murder of Renee Sweeney and last week, Ontario Provincial Police laid a first degree charge in the 40-year-old cold case of Micheline St. Amour in East Ferris, near North Bay.



Indifferent Justice Part 1: The Perfect Victim (The Washington Post – 11/30/2020)

  • How Samuel Little, America’s deadliest killer, got away with murder



K9 Chemistry: A Safer Way to Train Detection Dogs (NIST – 12/2/2020)


  • Canine trainers may no longer need to handle or expose dogs to real explosives and narcotics.



Commission Calls for Overhaul of Law Regulating DNA Use by Police in New Zealand (Forensic – 12/2/2020)

  • Detailing significant “gaps” in current law, including lack of human rights values, the New Zealand Law Commission has released a 572-page report that recommends a completely new framework for police use of DNA in criminal investigations.



Florida Cold Case Team Uses DNA to Solve 1990 Murder (Forensic – 12/2/2020)

  • The Cold Case Team has followed numerous leads in this case over the last few years and conducted numerous interviews. For the past year they have devoted more time and focused on this case extensively. The Cold Case Team recently received confirmation from the biology section of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory in Tampa that evidence submitted by the team produced viable DNA connecting Roland (Rollie) Thomas Davis to the murder. Davis was born November 14, 1952 in Newark, Ohio.



Tennessee Police, Othram Team to ID 1978 Murder Victim (Forensic – 12/2/2020)

  • Over the last several decades, many leads were exhausted. Fingerprints, from one hand that was not burned, were collected but generated no matches to an identity. His DNA profile has not produced a match in CODIS. In 2018, a facial reconstruction and sketch of the victim were generated but, to date, have failed to produce leads. Now, over forty years later, investigators are still looking for leads that might point to the identity of the victim or those that might be responsible for his death.



In Quebec Forest, Canada’s First Forensic ‘Decomposition Lab’ Finally has Human Donors (CTV News – 12/2/2020)

  • A few altruistic Quebecers—and some crime TV superfans—are on their way to helping fix a serious problem for police in northern latitudes around the world.
  • Their bodies have been placed since August, at their request, in a secluded wooded area near Trois-Rivières so that scientists can study their decomposition.


Indifferent Justice Part 2: Through the Cracks (The Washington Post – 12/2/2020)

  • How America’s deadliest serial killer was caught, charged, and tried – but never stopped


Illinois State Police Say Improvements Have Cut DNA Test Backlog Nearly in Half Since Last Year (CBS2 Chicago – 12/2/2020)

  • Illinois State Police announced Wednesday that they have cut their backlog of DNA tests nearly in half since March of last year.The State Police Division of Forensic Services reduced their backlog of DNA samples from 9,289 in March 2019 to 4,857 as of Monday, Nov. 30.



Using Forensic Genealogy, Arlington Police Arrest Man in 1991 Sexual Assaults (The Washington Post – 12/2/2020)

  • Police in Arlington, Va., say they have identified a suspect in four sexual assaults that occurred 30 years ago, the latest use of forensic genealogy to solve long-dormant cases.