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!




Police: DNA Helps Solve 1977 Slaying of Oregon Teens (The Columbian – 9/24/2021)

  • KOIN reports that North Eugene High School students Lliana Gay Adank and Eric Shawn Goldstrand went to a picnic grounds on June 9, 1977. Their parents called the Lane County Sheriff’s Office when they didn’t come home. Police searched the area and put up roadblocks at the time but the teens’ killer wasn’t found. Fingerprints and latent DNA samples from the crime scene were collected, but there were no matches at the time. The suspect’s DNA was sent back for analysis in July of 2020 using modernized genealogical technology — and a match was made.



What Happened After Paul Fronczak Found the Real Baby Kidnapped from Michael Reese Hospital in 1964 (Chicago Sun Times – 9/24/2021)

  • It was the voice Dora Fronczak waited 55 years to hear.

    The exchange was brief, the words halting. What do you say to a son you last saw decades before, when he was still wrapped in swaddling?

    But Paul Fronczak says that call — in late 2019 — was the most gratifying part of an odyssey that began seven years earlier.

    That’s when a DNA test proved he wasn’t the biological son of Chester and Dora Fronczak, that he hadn’t been the baby who, at just two days old, was kidnapped from Michael Reese Hospital on April 27, 1964, leading to a manhunt that got massive news coverage around the world.


Man Convicted of Two Sacramento County Rapes Using DNA Evidence, District Attorney Says (The Sacramento Bee – 9/25/2021)

  • A man was convicted of two rapes, one involving an underage victim, on Thursday by a Sacramento County jury due to DNA evidence, according to prosecutors.

    In a news release, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said that Hawthorne McGee, 59, was convicted on two counts of rape and one count of oral copulation by force.



DNA Work on Cave Bears Led to Breakthrough that Identified Emil Kapaun, Other Soldiers (The Witchita Eagle – 9/30/2021)

  • Odile Loreille is something of a legend among DNA searchers looking for lost soldiers. Because of her, (and ancient giant cave bears) the family of Father Emil Kapaun – and hundreds of other families — would get a second chance at bringing home a lost loved one. Though she tried and failed to extract DNA from the unknowns but figured out how to amplify their DNA.



‘Crime Junkie’ Host Ashley Flowers Lights a Fire Under Cold Cases with new Nonprofit (Daily News – 9/26/2021)

  • A regular resident of the top of Apple Podcasts’ general and true-crime charts, “Crime Junkie” creator and host Ashley Flowers this summer was able to leverage that popularity into her crime-fighting nonprofit.


The Search for a Microbial Death Clock (Forensic – 9/27/2021)

  • Except for the dead bodies, the landscape is idyllic. There is a forest of shortleaf pines, with boxelder and white ash trees nearby. There is restored prairie land, bottomland hardwood, and an area called Palmetto Flat. The overall ecology is not only inviting but important, as the soil conditions, temperature, rainfall and heat all affect how the human bodies scattered across the land decompose.

    The cadavers are purposefully placed there to help scientists, medical examiners, and criminal investigators. The donated bodies at the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility (STAFS), near Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, answer questions about the biology after death, that time when a human body goes from being the home of a living person to, as researchers put it, a “rich nutrient source” for insects and microbes.



Families of Fallen Australian Soldiers to Establish DNA Biobank (Forensic – 9/27/2021)

  • Families of targeted missing Australian service members will be invited to help establish a DNA Biobank to aid in identifying recovered remains, funded by a new $2.2 million Department of Defence Innovation Hub contract undertaken by QUT in collaboration with Defence.

    Lead investigator Lyn Griffiths, from QUT’s Centre for Genomics and Personalised Health, said the project would use next generation sequencing (NGS) technology to generate DNA profiles of recovered remains and compare these to DNA profiles of samples from the Biobank of fallen soldiers’ living relatives.



12 More Tribes to Participate in National Crime Information Program (Forensic – 9/27/2021)

  • The Department of Justice has selected an additional 12 federally recognized Tribes to participate in the expansion of the Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information (TAP), a program that provides tribal governments with means to access, enter and exchange data with national crime information systems, including those maintained by the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division and the states.



3 Egyptian Mummy Faces Revealed in Stunning Reconstruction (LiveScience – 9/28/2021)

  • The faces of three men who lived in ancient Egypt more than 2,000 years ago have been brought back to life. Digital reconstructions depict the men at age 25, based on DNA data extracted from their mummified remains.



DNA Markers Reveal if You Shared a Womb with Twin that Didn’t Survive (NewScientist – 9/28/2021)

  • About one in eight people had a twin embryo that didn’t survive to term, and in future there may be a simple cheek swab test that can reveal if you are in this group.

    Jenny van Dongen at VU Amsterdam in the Netherlands and her colleagues have found that identical twins carry a characteristic pattern of alterations to their DNA, known as epigenetic changes, that isn’t seen in people who didn’t have twin embryos. These variations happen in early pregnancy and last into adulthood.



DNA, Genealogy Link Two Cases, Confirm Name of Doe Found Near Reservoir (Forensic – 9/29/2021)

  • In September 2002, a local resident found a skull at the Palisades Reservoir between Big Elk and Blowout Canyon and contacted the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies began a search of the area finding several more bones, including a human sacrum. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office had the bones analyzed by an anthropologist at Idaho State University (ISU), who helped determine which bones were human and which were non-human. The findings from ISU indicated the human bones to be from a male, approximately 25 to 45 years old and of undetermined racial affinity. Over time, the bones were analyzed by additional anthropologists and Deputies continued to look for a match but all leads were exhausted and the case went cold.

    In March 2021, Othram reached out to the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and offered to assist with the identification of the victim, who had been affectionately nicknamed “Palisades Pete” by NamUs employee Janet Franson in 2014. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office was able to commit $1000.00 toward this case. Othram partnered with long-time collaborators at SEMO Anthropology as well. Southeast Missouri State University anthropology students, led by Jennifer Bengtson, provided an updated anthropological analysis of the remains. They were also able to help fund the DNA testing through grant writing and fundraising efforts. The remainder of the funding came from the DNASolves Crowdfunding platform. Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and Othram are grateful for the support of everyone that contributed toward the crowdfunding campaign.