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!




Six Incredible Things We Learned about Bones from Forensic Anthropologist Prof Sue Black (Science Focus – 9/25/2020)

  • In a recent episode of our podcast with Prof Sue Black, we discussed what it’s like to dissect a human body, how a single bone can tell a whole story, and what makes the skeleton so important.



DNA Leads to Arrest of Man in Stepdaughter’s Miami Cold Case Murder (FOX News – 9/25/2020)

  • Miami-Dade police said that testing on DNA from Dilicia Mejia’s body led to a positive match identifying her stepdad Raul Mata, 46, as the primary suspect in her death. That testing wasn’t available at the time of the murder.



Nancy Grace Looks at Wisconsin Cold Case Solved with Genetic Genealogy in New Series (CrimeOnline – 9/26/2020)

  • A new syndicated series from CrimeOnline’s Nancy Grace debuts next month, focusing on how new technologies — DNA profiling, genetic genealogy, and familial searches — are helping bring closure to cold cases.



From Prison to America’s Got Talent: Archie Williams Fulfills Dream After 36 Years Wrongfully Imprisoned (Forensic – 9/28/2020)

  • Occasionally, television can surprise you, move you in a way you don’t experience on an everyday basis. Such was the case last week when Archie Williams reached the finale of America’s Got Talent. Williams spent 36 years wrongfully imprisoned for a rape and stabbing he didn’t commit. As one of their oldest cases, the Innocence Project worked for more than 20 years to prove Williams’ innocence. In 2019, they succeeded and barely a year later, Williams received a standing ovation on the stage of a television show he used to watch in prison.



Vermont State Police and Othram Partner to Investigate Brianna Maitland’s Disappearance (DNASolves – 9/29/2020)

  • Although initially believed that Brianna might have run away, it was later determined she could have been a victim of foul play. Investigators have pursued multiple leads throughout the years, but none have led to Brianna. The Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit has partnered with Othram in the hopes of generating a lead using DNA evidence recovered during the investigation.



Investigators Still Waiting on DNA Results in Local Case Connected to Nation’s Most Prolific Serial Killer (WRCBtv – 9/29/2020)

  • Tuesday marks nearly four decades since a woman’s remains were discovered in Dade County, Georgia. Last year, a man deemed the nation’s most prolific serial killer confessed to the crime but investigators still don’t know who the woman is.



‘Behind that Rape Kit is a Human’ | Illinois State Police Launches Online Tracking System for Rape Kits (KSDK NBC5 – 9/29/2020)

  • Illinois State Police has launched a new tracking system for rape kits that will help sexual assault survivors.



Common Tracking System Allows Rape Survivors to Keep Tabs on Their Case (NBC Connecticut – 9/30/2020)

  • Sasinouski said the tracking system is also helping meet state mandates.  Police departments are now required to turn evidence in sexual assault cases over to the state lab within 10 days. She added that the lab typically processes them in 37 days, under the state mandate of 50 days.



Should Medical Biobanks be Used in Criminal Investigations? (Forensic – 9/30/2020)

  • Last week, the largest-ever international survey on genomics found that less than half of those surveyed would share their DNA for research and medical purposes, citing trust as a major factor in their decision. But what if that decision wasn’t left up to the individual? What if they visited their doctor for a medical issue, only to have law enforcement seize their biological sample years later for an investigation?



New Study of Neanderthal and Denisovian DNA Reveals Surprising Link to Men Today (Science Alert – 9/30/2020)

  • Decades of teasing apart Neanderthal DNA has produced an archive of ancient genes that spell out a history of love affairs between estranged branches of humanity’s family tree.



More Unknown Homicide Victims Being Exhumed in Effort to Identify them with DNA (MLive Michigan – 9/30/2020)

  • The Detroit Police Department and its law enforcement partners throughout southeast Michigan are continuing efforts to identify the remains of unknown homicide victims using DNA and new technology that were unavailable when the victims were buried.



For the First Time, Scientists Successfully Extract DNA from Insects Embedded in Tree Resin (Forbes – 9/30/2020)



NIST Launches an Updated Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (NIST – 10/01/2020)

  • The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science has updated its structure and improved several processes. These changes will enable OSAC, which is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to more quickly make high-quality, science-based standards available to forensic laboratories.



DNA Clears Detroit Man of Slaying After 26 Years in Prison (The Detroit News – 10/01/2020)

  • A piece of DNA the size of a grain of salt is giving a Detroit man his freedom back after prosecutors say he was wrongly convicted of murder decades ago.