Author Archives: ForensicConnect

Scientists just discovered a strange new DNA shape lurking in human cells

The discovery of DNA as a double helix is a hallowed story of scientific triumph—the work of four researchers merging together to solve one of science’s biggest mysteries, giving birth to what we know as the field of modern genetics. But decades later, we’re still learning that DNA is a more furiously complicated piece of biological machinery than we ever knew.

For the first time ever, scientists have just discovered a new shape of DNA lurking inside human cells. In a study published Monday in Nature Chemistry, a team of researchers from the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney describe finding DNA as a four-stranded knot-like structure—called an i-motif—in human cells, upending much of what we previously thought could and could not exist in living humans, and eliciting a slew of questions about what the role of this structure might be, if it even has one.

The Midwest Innocence Project looks to the next generation

The statistics are staggering: between two and seven percent of all prisoners in the U.S. are innocent. That means at least 40,000 people — and as many as 155,000 people — are rotting behind bars for no reason. Ryan Ferguson (pictured above) was once among these ranks. He spent nearly ten years in prison for a murder committed in Columbia, Missouri, in 2001. He was 17 at the time.

Framed for Murder By His Own DNA

When the DNA results came back, even Lukis Anderson thought he might have committed the murder.
“I drink a lot,” he remembers telling public defender Kelley Kulick as they sat in a plain interview room at the Santa Clara County, California, jail. Sometimes he blacked out, so it was possible he did something he didn’t remember. “Maybe I did do it.”
Kulick shushed him. If she was going to keep her new client off death row, he couldn’t go around saying things like that. But she agreed. It looked bad.

Washington State Deploys STACS DNA’s Track-Kit Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System

“We are thrilled to be rolling-out Track-Kit in the state of Washington, which is leading the way in tracking SAKs,” said Jocelyn Tremblay, President and COO, STACS DNA. “For the past four years, we’ve been working with state agencies and sexual assault task forces across the United States so that we would be prepared with a complete, off-the-shelf, turnkey system that will be deployed quickly and be easy for everyone to use.”

Italy and its Mediterranean neighbors launch plan to identify migrants lost at sea

Four European Mediterranean countries are launching an initiative in June to identify thousands of missing migrants who died or went missing during the perilous sea crossing to the continent.
Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus – hardest hit by waves of migrants from Syria and Libya or people elsewhere in Africa – will gather on June 11th in Rome to discuss the plan, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) said on Wednesday.

Two men exonerated by DNA evidence in gang rape sue Hammond, Indiana State Police

The day police arrested Roosevelt Glenn in 1990, he thought the meeting called at the Luria Brothers sheet steel plant was about the man he’d pulled from a conveyer earlier that day.
When men in suits walked in the room, he said Wednesday, Glenn figured they must have been company representatives. He wondered if the man was OK, or if he was going to get a safety award for his actions. Instead, they were Hammond police officers arresting him for allegedly participating in a gang rape.
“Then they began to name names and they called my name, ‘Glenn,’” he said. “I was so excited that I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s me, I’m Glenn.’ They said, ‘Get on the ground.’ That’s like a nightmare to me. I still see that.”

Update to Several Open NIJ Solicitations – NIJ Funding Update

NIJ has updated several solicitations (listed below) with instructions for submitting environmental documentation, commonly known as the “NEPA checklist,” with your grant application, if the checklist is required.
NIJ is making this checklist and associated instructions available to you in an effort to streamline the application process and to avoid post-award withholding conditions, related to NEPA, where possible.
Please carefully review the instructions and submit the completed and signed checklist, if appropriate, with your grant application.

MT Innocence Project reacts to decision in 1994 murder convictions

MISSOULA – It took seven years from the time the Montana Innocence Project first took a look at the case of Paul Jenkins and Freddie Lawrence, who were convicted of the 1994 murder of Donna Meagher and the robbery of the Jackson Creek Saloon.
Lewis and Clark Co. District Judge Kathy Seeley ordered the convictions in a decades-old murder case vacated Friday and ordered a new trial. It was an exciting day for the lawyers who didn’t give up.

This week in science history: The dark lady of DNA dies

The Nobel Committee does not make posthumous prize nominations, but if it did, British chemist and researcher Rosalind Franklin, who died on April 16, 1958, is widely regarded as a deserving recipient.

Judge overturns convictions of two men sentenced for 1994 Jefferson County murder

Freddie Joe Lawrence and Paul Kenneth Jenkins, two men serving life sentences for the killing of a Jefferson County woman in 1994, had those convictions overturned Friday morning following five years of work by the Montana Innocence Project.
Donna Meagher was working at the Jackson Creek Saloon near Montana City on Jan. 11, 1994, when she disappeared after working a night shift. More than $2,000 had been stolen from the casino and Meagher’s pickup was missing. Her body was found the next day off of Colorado Gulch Road west of Helena.

The Rape Kit Backlog Shows Exactly How We Regard Women In This Country

You don’t matter.
That’s the message every survivor hears loud and clear when a rape kit goes untested. Behind every kit is a person ― usually a woman ― who has been brutalized in the most intimate of ways. And yet there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits currently sitting in police storage across the country.
So, how did we get here?
That’s the question actress and activist Mariska Hargitay answers in her new HBO documentary “I Am Evidence,” set to air April 16.

Arizona Police Find Murder Suspect Using Familial DNA

Scottsdale, AZ, police arrested 42-year-old Ian L. Mitcham for the February 2015 murder of Scottsdale resident Allison Feldman. His arrest in Phoenix Tuesday morning marked the culmination of an intense three-year investigation into Feldman’s death. A familial DNA search ultimately led to the arrest, according to a Scottsdale, AZ, press release.
On Feb. 18, 2015, a woman soon identified as 31-year-old Allison Feldman was found dead, and her death was quickly determined to be a homicide. A DNA profile was developed from evidence at the scene, but unfortunately no match was found in the current databases.

How they did it: Groundbreaking technology reveals ID in 37-year-old cold case

Few people thought anyone would ever know the true identity of the Jane Doe whose body was dumped in Miami County 37 years ago.
New technology and the persistence of scientists, however, proved doubters wrong on Wednesday when Sheriff Dave Duchak announced the woman found in April 1981 was Marcia L. King, 21, of Arkansas. She died of blunt force trauma and strangulation.

Latin America’s lost histories revealed in modern DNA

AUSTIN—If you walked the cobblestone streets and bustling markets of 16th and 17th century Mexico City, you would see people born all over the world: Spanish settlers on their way to mass at the cathedral built atop Aztec ruins. Indigenous people from around the Americas, including soldiers who had joined the Spanish cause. Africans, both enslaved and free, some of whom had been among the first conquistadors. Asians, who traveled to Mexico on Spanish galleons, some by choice and some in bondage. All these populations met and mingled for the first time in colonial Latin America.

DNA ties ‘killer clown’ to getaway car in 27-year-old cold case, prosecutors say

Florida investigators on Thursday released DNA evidence that they say helped lead to the arrest of a woman suspected of dressing up as a clown and fatally shooting her future husband’s then-wife 27 years ago.
Palm Beach County prosecutors said that recent forensic tests conducted by the FBI concluded that hair fibers found in a suspected getaway car could have come from Sheila Keen Warren.