One of our favorite questions to ask is “what is the weirdest thing you’ve collected DNA from?” because the answers always surprise us and lead to great conversations. Read below to see what our ISHI 33 speakers share and then join the discussion on our social channels to let us know the unusual things you’ve gotten a DNA profile from.
It was a menstrual cup during a DVI mission of a fighter jet air crash in France in 2019. I didn’t know what it was at this time but i found curious the presence of this object in the snow with nothing around.
I’ve collected it and used a swab to collect inside. I found the DNA profile of pilot whose body was fully disintegrated upon impact with the ground.
Sylvain Hubac, Head of DNA Division, Forensic Science Laboratory, French Gendarmerie (IRCGN)
An old case involving a blunt force trauma had a new lead years later, resulting in a search of the woods and a river. A pickaxe was collected from the river in a big old PVC section of pipe, capped at both ends. (The handle was sawed off so both the handle and the head would fit into the pipe.) It was really, really heavy because it was full of water. Turns out, because the axe was in the water, they wanted to capture any DNA that might have been washed off. Needless to say, I didn’t collect any DNA from it.
Tim Kalafut, Associate Professor of Forensic Science, Sam Houston State University
I have been blessed to have worked on a host of interesting cases, but if I had to pick one item, it would be a fragment of contact lens that I picked out of a full vacuum cleaner bag. The assailant had tricked the victim to enter a location where he assaulted and beat her, knocking out her contact lens in the process. She eventually escaped and was too afraid to report the crime until days later. Hence, no other associative evidence was available. Once the police attended the scene, it had been extensively cleaned. In an effort to corroborate her story, investigators submitted the vacuum cleaner bag to the forensic laboratory. Working with my colleagues, we were able to obtain a full DNA profile from a contact lens fragment located within the pile of debris. The major component of the mixed DNA profile matched her, and the suspect plead guilty just prior to trial.
Ray Wickenheiser, Director for the New York State Police Crime Lab System
The first thing that comes to mind was a broken dreadlock left behind at a home invasion.