On July 29, 2016, partially unidentified human remains were found in Slidell, Louisiana. The cause of death was determined to be a homicide. A CODIS eligible profile was obtained from a toenail removed from the decedent. A keyboard search was requested from Louisiana State Police and Mississippi State Police due to the remains being found close to the Louisiana/Mississippi State line. No matches were returned at the State and National CODIS levels. During the next five years, our laboratory engaged in elevated DNA testing with Parabon Nanolabs using SNP Phenotyping technology in conjunction with DNA Snapshot® prediction and age progression. Later, Investigative Genetic Genealogy was attempted with the DNA Doe Project to solve the mystery of this man’s identity. However, it wasn’t until January 2022 that a CODIS hit to partial remains uploaded by the University of North Texas would unravel the identity of this homicide victim.
What is one key learning that attendees will be able to take back to the lab and implement based on your presentation?
Don’t skip the obvious steps to move ahead to the newer technology that you think will give you better or definitive results.
Do you think anything in your presentation will surprise the audience? If so, can you give us a teaser?
After all the time and money spent by multiple agencies to identify the victim in my case, he was ultimately identified by the first step we initially tried in 2016.
Who in the audience will benefit most from your presentation? If someone was interested in learning more about your topic, do you have recommendations for resources?
Anyone working to identify human remains cases.
What inspired you to seek out a career in the forensic field?
Science: In college I started in the fields of chemistry and biology and found that the forensic science degree overlapped both degrees. But it was the internship requirement that solidified the love for the career.
Service: I wanted to help the community and state where my family lives and hope I have made a difference in my 27 years of service.
Compassion: Over the years when I hire and train new employees, I tell them you will either love this profession or you will not last long in it. It takes a unique person to have compassion for someone’s situation, to work a case tirelessly, to never give up on a case, to think about that case when they go home at night, and never know that person personally.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self as you were starting out?
Get comfortable speaking in front of people. A public speaking class was a degree requirement that I took begrudgingly. Looking back, I wish I had made more of the experience of getting comfortable in front of an audience. Being an introvert makes public speaking difficult and networking difficult at times so practicing basic public speaking skills is important.
If you had to pick one thing, what do you enjoy most about your job?
Forensic science is ever changing. Nothing is ever constant, and every case is different. This makes my job a new experience every day!
If you currently work in the lab, or have in the past, what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever collected DNA from?
A block of cheese, the suspect decided to take a bite of it during a home burglary.
If you’ve attended ISHI in the past, what do you most enjoy about coming to the conference?
I would say I enjoy networking with others in the field. It is a great opportunity to not only learn about the newest technology available by vendors, but also talk to other laboratories about how they are undertaking the daily struggles experienced by the DNA community.
What is one item on your bucket list? Have you checked if off yet?
Visit All the National Parks. I have started.
What’s one thing that others may not know about you?
Growing up I was an active member in 4-H and FFA and showed cattle.
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