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!




The Government’s Plan to Collect Migrant DNA Could Send Us Down a Slippery Slope for Surveillance (Popular Science – 10/11/2019)

  • Experts say the policy sets a dramatic new precedent for when and why the government stockpiles personal information. “This is quite a significant expansion in scope and reach of [DNA collection],” says Natalie Ram, a professor of law at the University of Maryland and authority on bioethics. “It’s placing a substantial population under genetic surveillance.”



Colorado Researchers Study Donated Human Remains Left Out in the Elements (CBS4 Denver – 10/11/2019)

  • Colorado is home to two unique research centers where donated human remains are left out in the elements so scientists can learn from the remains, and the work being done there helps investigators solve real-life crimes.


Golden State Killer Investigator Paul Holes Says ‘It is Absolutely Possible New Show Can Solve Cold Cases (FOX News – 10/12/2019)

  • Retired cold case investigator Paul Holes isn’t done solving crimes.

    Holes, the former chief of forensics for the Contra Costa County, Calif., District Attorney’s office, is the host of a new true-crime series on Oxygen titled, “The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes.” Each hour-long episode focuses on an unsolved murder somewhere in America. Holes investigates each case and lends his expertise to local law enforcement actively searching for answers.


Editorial: Trump’s Plan to Collect DNA from Migrants is a Civil Liberties Nightmare (Los Angeles Times – 10/12/2019)

  • But in an egregious expansion of government overreach, the Trump administration reportedly is crafting policies under which it will gather and keep DNA samples from tens of thousands of migrants held in detention centers who have not been charged with or convicted of crimes. That’s an outrageous constitutional violation that undermines our nation’s foundational commitment to personal liberty.

DNA Evidence Links Santa Rosa Man to Rape 17 Years After He Disappeared, Sheriff Says (San Francisco Chronicle – 10/14/2019)

  • Investigators identified Lopes as a suspect at the time, but he allegedly fled to Mexico. Police issued a warrant for his arrest, but he wasn’t apprehended until last month, when Lopes was arrested by the Madera County Sheriff’s Office for public intoxication.


Ethics of Ancient DNA (Technology Networks – 10/14/2019)

  • The National Science Foundation has awarded a $350,882 collaborative grant to the University of Connecticut, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and partners across the United States, Canada, and Europe to analyze the current ethical landscape of ancient DNA research. The team will also develop resources to enable more equitable and informed decision making for researchers and Indigenous communities in North America.



Executed Man’s Daughter Demands DNA Testing After New Evidence that Could Exonerate Him Discovered (Newsweek – 10/14/2019)

  • April Alley filed her request in response to information from the Saint Louis Police Department, which told Alley that there may be a new suspect in the case, according to her lawyer, Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck.



Bone Fragments Sent for DNA Testing to Determine Possible Link to Amelia Earhart (FOX News – 10/15/2019)

  • A researcher at the University of South Florida is working to determine if newly discovered bones from a museum on an island in the Pacific belong to Amelia Earhart, the famed aviator who vanished after her plane crashed in 1937.



New Genetic Genealogy Program Helps Track Down Suspects in Cold Cases (Spectrum News 13 – 10/15/2019)

  • Lori Napolitano, chief of forensic services with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is proud of the strides her genetic genealogy program has made in its first year. They have identified suspects in four cold cases.



Private DNA Database Leads to Arrest in Decades-Old Delaware Rape (WHYY – 10/15/2019)

  • A DNA database used for genealogy purposes has helped Newark Police identify a suspect in a 26-year-old rape case. Police Lt. Andrew Rubin said it is the first such use of an ancestry-type website by the department.


Helen’s Law ‘May Come Too Late’, Says Victim’s Mother (BBC News – 10/16/2019)

  • Marie McCourt, whose daughter Helen was killed in 1988, has successfully fought for a new law to prevent killers being freed if they do not reveal the location of their victims’ bodies.

    But her daughter’s killer may be released before the law goes through.



APNewsBreak: Skeleton Unearthed Beneath California Peak (The Washington Post – 10/16/2019)

  • The climbers were closing in on the top of California’s second-highest peak when they came upon the grisly discovery of what looked like a bone buried in a boulder field.

    Closer inspection revealed a fractured human skull. Tyler Hofer and his climbing partner moved rocks aside and discovered an entire skeleton. It appeared to have been there long enough that all that remained were bones, a pair of leather shoes and a belt.



Man Pleads Guilty to 2016 Alexandria Rape Solved Using Forensic Genealogy (The Washington Post – 10/17/2019)

  • An Alexandria nurse pleaded guilty Thursday to a 2016 rape solved using a genealogical database.

    Jesse Bjerke, 38, followed a ­24-year-old lifeguard to the local pool where she worked one day that September, pointed a gun at her head and assaulted her. He confessed Thursday in Alexandria Circuit Court to rape, abduction and gun crimes.



A Fourth Amendment Framework for Voiceprint Database Searches (Just Security – 10/17/2019)

  • To address these privacy concerns, voiceprint technology should be subject to a new Fourth Amendment framework that treats each query of a voice database to verify an individual’s identity – a voiceprint verification – as a unique “search.”



Kansas Authorities Announce Elimination of 2,200 Rape Kit Backlog (Newsweek – 10/17/2019)

  • According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), 2,000 of the kits have already been tested, with the remaining 235 to be tested by the end of the month. Some kits date back decades, authorities announced Tuesday.