Monthly Archives: August 2018

Cassano case: Cigarette butt sealed deal

URBANA — A commercial genetic genealogy company that relies on science and public records, combined with old-fashioned detective work, led to the arrest Tuesday of a Mahomet man for one of the most horrendous Champaign County murders in modern history.

Under the Microscope – Greg Hampikian

Since 2016, the authors have been funded by a DOJ Bloodsworth Grant to use probabilistic genotyping (TrueAllele) and other DNA analysis methods to help free the wrongfully convicted. They have helped overturn 3 convictions (a 4th expected soon). Working with the Montana Innocence Project, the authors helped exonerate two men in 2018 who were convicted of murder and had each served more than two decades in prison. In that case, new DNA analysis has led police to investigate a man who is already serving time for a similar crime.

In his presentation at ISHI, Greg Hampikian (Executive Director of The Idaho Innocence Project) will highlight past and current forensic practices that can lead to wrongful convictions, and show how reanalysis can overturn these wrongful convictions. He will also discuss the importance of separating evidence and reference samples, of photographing all serology and microscopy results, and avoiding potentially misleading jargon such as “sperm fraction,” and “very weak positive” without clear documentary evidence.

We sat down with Greg and asked him how cases are chosen by the Idaho Innocence Project and the steps involved in re-opening a case.

She Helped Crack the Golden State Killer Case. Here’s What She’s Going to Do Next.

Ms. Rae-Venter is the newest character to emerge in the Golden State Killer investigation, which has since inspired others skilled at solving family history puzzles to offer their services to law enforcement. While this has resulted in at least eight arrests over the past four months, not everyone in the genealogical community is so comfortable with the alliance.

Nestle Wants Your DNA

The company that brought you milk chocolate, Maggi instant noodles and Rocky Road ice cream is worried about your health.

How a DNA test 30 years later silenced murder convict Timothy Vail’s bid for freedom

Thirty years after the rape and murder of a Binghamton woman, the defense for her convicted killer Timothy Vail asked for key evidence to be tested for DNA, which hadn’t been done when the case went to trial. This report is based off recently released court papers, interviews, and trial records.

Meet the scientists behind the headlines at ISHI 29

Don’t miss ISHI 29 the world’s biggest forensic science symposium. It’s happening this September in Phoenix, Arizona.

Inside the groundbreaking science used to identify 9/11 remains

The north tower was already billowing smoke when Mark Desire, then a 33-year-old criminalist with the city Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, made it to Ground Zero to assess the dead.
Instead, he nearly joined them.

New Investigative Approach Helps Solve Minnesota Cold Cases Through DNA ‘Family Tree’

The Minnesota BCA, in unsolved cold cases, is using a relatively new DNA technology to help them track down elusive criminals in the state’s felony DNA database.
BCA Superintendent, Drew Evans, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the so-called “Familial DNA” technology has only been used in four cases so far in Minnesota because it is used as a last resort in unsolved cases.

NIST Publication of STR Sequence Frequency Data Paves Way for NGS in Forensics

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SAN FRANCISCO (GenomeWeb) – In an effort to spur the adoption of next-generation sequencing in forensics, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has published US population sequence data for 27 autosomal short tandem repeats, including the 20 core loci used in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database.

The NIST researchers published the STR sequences for 1,036 individuals in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics last month.

Under the Microscope – Julie Valentine

A collaborative database was created in Utah to link data on sexual assault kits (SAKs) from evidence collection through submission to the state crime laboratory and DNA analysis. To date, approximately 250 variables per sexual assault kit have been coded on 4,038 cases from 2010 to 2016 throughout Utah. Due to the large amount of data, multiple research studies are being conducted utilizing the database.
In their presentation at ISHI, Julie Valentine (Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University and Forensic Nurse at SANE-A Wasatch Forensic Nurses) and Suzanne Miles (Forensic Scientist Manager in the Serology Section at the Utah Dept. of Public Safety) will share information on the DNA analysis findings from the 4,038 SAKs that were submitted for testing from 2010 to 2016 to inform practice for both forensic nursing/medical providers and forensic scientists.
We sat down with Julie and asked her how the database was created, if any surprises arose when analyzing the data, and what her tips are for those getting started in forensics.

Thousands submitted DNA to police to help solve a 1998 Dutch boy’s killing. One man was conspicuously missing.

Police only thought Jos Brech was curious when he rode his bicycle past an active crime scene in a forest in the Netherlands in August 1998.
The officers had just recovered the body of 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen, who, on a summer camp trip, had disappeared from his tent the night before. The boy had been raped and killed, police said, in a case that would haunt the nation in the decades to come.
But, that night, Brech said he didn’t know anything. Police took his name and let him go.
They kept his name for a long time — until finally, this year, it came up again.

Uganda: Gulu Forensic Lab Commissioned

Gulu — A Shs500 million regional Forensic Laboratory has been commissioned in Gulu District, more than a decade since its construction started in 2007.
The project was funded by the government under the Internal Affairs Ministry with support from the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS).

Washington’s solution to backlog of rape kits could be in Ohio

There are 10,000 untested rape kits in Washington waiting for a lab to process them. The state has struggled to clear the backlog for years, with little success. Now a lawmaker thinks the solution to the mounting problem can be found in Ohio.

WSSU, Wake Forest University and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center get $510,000 grant for large study of collegiate sports-related concussions

The researchers are collecting saliva samples from the athletes for DNA analysis to determine if there are any differences between the DNA of those who have suffered concussion and those who have not.

DNA shows girl had one Neanderthal, one Denisovan parent

One can be forgiven for thinking that the first modern humans who ventured out of Africa stumbled into a vibrant bar scene. DNA from just a single cave in Siberia revealed that it had been occupied by two archaic human groups that had interbred with the newly arrived modern humans. This included both the Neanderthals, whom we knew about previously, and the Denisovans, who we didn’t even know existed and still know little about other than their DNA sequences. The DNA also revealed that one of the Denisovans had a Neanderthal ancestor a few hundred generations back in his past.