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!




When Evidence Goes Cold: Adding Automated Freezers to Your Hands-Free Workflow (Forensic – 10/15/2021)

  • For those of us who know the stressors of evidence cold storage all too well, you may want to warm up to the idea of adding automated storage systems to your automated workflows.

    I continually advocate for a holistic rather than plug-and-play approach to automation, because the latter doesn’t account for inefficiencies or pain points associated with a given task. Using the holistic approach, each forensic lab is able to develop a specific plan to create an automated ecosystem that drives process efficiencies and reduces backlogs and turnaround times.



Team IDs Skeletal Remains Found on Texas Ranch (Forensic – 10/15/2021)

  • In September 2019, a rancher working cattle on his Texas ranch found what appeared to be a human skull. He contacted the Ector County Sheriff’s Office and investigators responded to the scene, conducting a search over several days. Investigators found a partial skeleton consisting of a skull, jaw, teeth, and pelvic and femur bone fragments. The skeletal remains were sent to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office for examination and were confirmed to be human in origin and from a male. Assessment of the skeletal remains suggested that death might have occurred 2-5 years prior to their discovery.

    After a thorough investigation, Ector County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers contracted Othram to use advanced DNA testing to attempt to generate leads to this unknown man’s identity. Through the combined efforts of the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Rangers, and Othram, investigators were able to confirm that the remains were those of Timothy Daniel Gomez.


Illinois County Approves Rapid DNA System for Medical Examiner’s Office (Forensic – 10/18/2021)

  • The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved funding today 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.


Suspect in 1971 Murder Confirmed as Killer 8 Years After His Old-age Death (Forensic – 10/18/2021)

  • 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.

    Farley’s sister, Lisa Schenzel, said her mother, Mary Brubaker, wrote to Cedar Rapids police saying that Smith was responsible six months after her 17-year-old daughter died of a skull fracture. Smith was an acquaintance of hers at the diner where she worked. He worked at a liquor store near her apartment.


Junk DNA Plays Critical Role in Mammalian Development (Technology Networks – 10/19/2021)

  • Nearly half of our DNA has been written off as junk, the discards of evolution: sidelined or broken genes, viruses that got stuck in our genome and were dismembered or silenced, none of it relevant to the human organism or human evolution.

    But research over the last decade has shown that some of this genetic “dark matter” does have a function, primarily in regulating the expression of host genes — a mere 2% of our total genome — that code for proteins. Biologists continue to debate, however, whether these regulatory sequences of DNA play essential or detrimental roles in the body or are merely incidental, an accident that the organism can live without.


Promega Launches Sanger Sequencing Chemistry Compatible with All Capillary Electrophoresis Platforms (yahoo! finance – 10/19/2021)

  • Research labs performing Sanger sequencing can now use Promega chemistry on any capillary electrophoresis (CE) platform. The ProDye™ Terminator Sequencing System, launched today by Promega Corporation, can be implemented on any CE instrument, including the benchtop Spectrum Compact CE System.


Private Lab to Analyze DNA Evidence from Atlanta Child Murders (Forensic – 10/20/2021)

  • On Monday, investigators from the Atlanta Police Department traveled to a private lab in Salt Lake City to physically hand over DNA evidence associated with a terrifying 2-year murder spree that resulted in the death of at least 28 people, most of them children.


Positive Identification Made in ‘Man in the Well’ Case (Forensic – 10/20/2021)

  • In 1984, Lester Rome, who was 58-years-old at the time, was reported missing to Jefferson Parish (Louisiana) authorities. Monday, 37 years later, his body was finally identified.



Texas Forms New Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit (inForney – 10/20/2021)

  • The Texas Attorney General’s Office has created a new Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit to support law enforcement agencies investigating unsolved crimes.

    The unit will work with local police, sheriffs and Texas Rangers to help solve homicides, missing persons, and other cases related to identifying missing persons using forensic genealogy.



Vacant Housing Turned into Crime Scenes for University Students (Forensic – 10/22/2021)

  • A vacant community housing project in Preston has been given a new lease of life after it was turned into crime scene training facilities for the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

    Fifteen of the flats have been repurposed to create more practical scenarios for forensic science and criminal investigation students.

    The majority of the properties, which comprise a galley kitchen, small bathroom, bedrooms, lounge and hallway, have been largely untouched to replicate the real-life surroundings crime scene investigators would face out in the field.