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!




New Approach to Skeletal Age-Estimation can Help Identify Juvenile Remains (Forensic – 10/08/2021)

  • New research by SFU archaeologists could help forensic teams in their work to estimate the age of the remains of children discovered during archaeological work or in criminal investigative cases. Their study is published in the journal Forensic Science International.

    While age is typically determined by dental records or other methods, such as measuring the long bones in the upper or lower limbs, those methods may not always be possible, especially in the case of young children. The researchers turned their attention to another approach—measuring the crania and mandibular bones, located in the skull.



DNA, Genealogy ID Woman Whose Foot Washed Up on S.C. Beach (Forensic – 10/08/2021)

  • In October 2020, a right foot bearing a shoe was found washed up on a beach near Fort Sumter, SC. The remains for this unknown person were taken in to custody by Deputy Coroner Anita Hasert and the Charleston County Coronor’s office forensic team, along with forensic anthropologist Dr. Suzanne Able evaluated the remains in order to try to develop leads that might help identify the individual. Unfortunately, no other items were recovered with the foot and there were few clues to who this person might be. In June 2021, investigators sent evidence to Othram in hopes that advanced DNA testing and genetic genealogy might produce leads to the unknown person’s identity.


Missing White Women: Why Racial Bias Dominates Coverage of Missing Persons Cases (Forensic – 10/08/2021)

  • In 2019-2020, over 150,000 people were reported missing to police in England and Wales. Of those whose ethnicity was known, about 80% were white, and 14% were black. The rate of black people reported missing was far higher than their percentage in the total UK population (3%). During the same period, white people accounted for 61% of missing person publicity appeals while 22% were for missing black people, according to the charity Missing People.

    A study found a similar pattern. White children represented 54% of missing children cases examined in the study but made-up 88% percent of media references. African American children made up 35% of the cases but received only 7% of media references.


California’s Pure Gold Forensics Will Begin Using STRmix to Interpret Mixed DNA Profiles (WFMZ69 – 10/08/2021)

  • Pure Gold Forensics, Southern California’s only accredited, private forensic DNA laboratory, will begin using STRmix™ forensic software to resolve mixed DNA profiles in criminal investigations.

    Pure Gold Forensics’ decision to use STRmix™ is based on the software’s strong track record in producing usable, interpretable, and legally admissible DNA evidence in a wide range of violent crime and sexual assault cases, as well as cold cases in which it was used to re-examine evidence originally dismissed as inconclusive.


Authorities use DNA to Solve 1971 Murder of 17-Year-Old in Cedar Rapids (Des Moines Register – 10/08/2021)

  • Authorities say they have solved the 50-year-old killing of an Iowa teen, but not before the suspect died of old age.

    Relatives of Maureen Brubaker Farley, whose body was found by two teenage boys in 1971 in a wooded ravine in what is now Tait Cummins Park, long suspected that George Smith was the killer, the Gazette reports. Recently, though, DNA technology that wasn’t available at the time of the killing allowed police to confirm that Smith was Farley’s killer. But the case was closed with no prosecution because Smith died in 2013 at age 94, police said this week.


How DNA and a Genealogy Website Solved a Decades-Old Mystery (The Washington Post – 10/09/2021)

  • Shannon McAdoo, a former bookkeeper in Erie, Pa., spends her evenings hunting for ancestors on genealogy websites. This year, in an effort to widen her search, McAdoo swabbed her cheek with a long Q-tip and sent her DNA to a genealogy website that specializes in making genetic family matches. McAdoo, 53, had no idea she would apparently help solve a family mystery: what happened to her cousin, Margaret Fetterolf, a habitual runaway who went missing from her Alexandria, Va., home in 1975 at age 16. 


Cook County Board Approves Rapid DNA System for Medical Examiner’s Office (The Southland Journal – 10/10/2021)

  • The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved funding [Thursday] for a rapid DNA system for the County’s Medical Examiner’s Office. While it currently takes the Office eight months to more than a year to identify a decedent via DNA, the new system will produce DNA identification results in under two hours. The ANDE Rapid DNA system will be housed at the Medical Examiner’s Office and allows staff to process a DNA swab in as little as 90 minutes. These results will be used internally and in the future could be uploaded to national databases including the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). ANDE’s Rapid DNA system has received National DNA Index System approval from the FBI.


NSWPF and AFP Consider DNA Tool Used to Catch America’s ‘Golden State Killer’ for Australian Investigations (NSW Government – 10/11/2021)

  • The DNA technology used by United States law enforcement to catch the ‘Golden State Killer’ is being considered by NSW Police Force and the Australian Federal Police for Australian case work.

    A group of specialists from both agencies, along with collaborators from other Australian jurisdictions, are assessing Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG) as an investigative tool after recently completing a world-first graduate certificate in FGG in the United States.