Lawmakers try to fix a side effect of reducing drug and theft crimes: Not enough DNA samples for cold cases

scientist-at-workCalifornia lawmakers are once again trying to expand the collection of DNA evidence in criminal cases, something they say has declined under Proposition 47, hurting cold rape and murder investigations.
The landmark ballot measure, which voters passed in 2014, reduced drug possession and some theft crimes to misdemeanors in a move to lower the jail and prison population across the state. But in doing so, law enforcement officials say, the list of felony cases from which police are required to gather DNA evidence has been narrowed, causing a drop in the state’s database of forensic samples.

Ancient DNA reveals genetic legacy of pandemics in the Americas

dna-profile-bluePrehistoric America was not a disease-free utopia. Tuberculosis, treponemal disease, Chagas disease, and many other pathogens were endemic to populations in different regions of the continent. But the “Columbian Exchange” beginning in 1492 introduced new pathogens to American populations, including smallpox, measles, influenza, and yellow fever. This introduction had devastating consequences for tribes. In some places, death from infectious disease resulted in the depopulation of entire regions, leading to the collapse of social, economic, and political institutions, and the loss of many traditional cultural practices and ways of life.

New Database Helps Families ID People Who Died Crossing the Border

south-texashe promise of life in the United States led about 170,000 people to cross the border illegally in 2015. But those crossings aren’t always successful: This year alone, at least 409 people are thought to have gone missing or died while crossing the U.S./Mexico border or evading immigration officials after entering the U.S. Those people may die in anonymity, but they are not always forgotten. As Yara Simón reports for Remezcla, a new project is helping families of the missing identify the dead using the items they leave behind.

New law expanding DNA analysis would help German investigators

helix9What can DNA tell us about what an unknown perpetrator looks like? A whole lot, but only if the law allows it. Germany has some of the strictest legislation with regard to how DNA analysis can be used. Why? DW talks to Peter Schneider, the head of Germany’s Spurenkommission, an umbrella group of the country’s leading forensic institutions.

Pushing for familial DNA testing in NY

Familial HelixFor 25 years, police in southern Los Angeles struggled to identify the perpetrator responsible for killing at least 10 black women over the course of three decades, known as “The Grim Sleeper.”
DNA samples left at the crime scenes matched nobody in any databases and detectives seemed to be out of leads.
Enter familial DNA testing, a method in which investigators take a sample and look for a match in the databases to determine if it matches that of anyone’s close male relative — the search tests the Y chromosome, passed down by the father — registered in any criminal databases.

New DNA testing planned in JonBenet Ramsey’s 20-year-old cold case murder

jonbenetA new round of DNA testing is underway to hopefully solve JonBenet Ramsey’s 20-year-old murder, according to Colorado investigators and the district attorney’s office.
The decision comes after Boulder Daily Camera and 9News analyzed lab results linked to the 6-year-old’s murder that uncovered flaws while testing DNA evidence. The investigation found that forensic evidence did not support previous District Attorney Mary Lacy’s efforts to clear JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, from suspicion in the case.

NIST Research Enables Enhanced DNA “Fingerprints”

puzzleAs the new year approaches, forensic labs across the country are gearing up for a big change in the way they generate DNA profiles, the genetic fingerprints so useful in solving crimes and identifying the remains of missing persons. Forensic experts produce DNA profiles by extracting genetic material from blood or other biological evidence and analyzing sites in the DNA called markers.

Two Greek sites in top-10 archaeological discoveries for 2016

the_antikythera_mechanismTwo archaeological findings in Greece, the Antikythera Man and the mass grave at Pheleron Delta were included in the top 10 discoveries for 2016 by “Archaeology” magazine. The publication is published by the Archaeological Institute of America and its editors announced their picks for the most compelling finds of the year expiring in two weeks. Following is the complete list:

Free Webinar: Results from a Casework Pilot Study for PowerPlex® Y23 System

jim-thomsonThe PowerPlex® Y23 System is a 23-loci, 5-color Y-STR multiplex designed for genotyping forensic casework samples, database samples and paternity samples.
In this webinar, Jim Thomson from LGC Group will describe the use of PowerPlex® Y23 System on difficult sexual offense cases, particularly those in which no sperm was identified. He will report on success rates in different categories derived from a case study carried out on samples provided by nominated participating UK police forces.

A Mummy’s DNA May Help Solve The Mystery Of The Origins Of Smallpox

17th-century-lithuanian-mummyNPR- The surprise find of smallpox DNA in a child mummy from the 17th century could help scientists start to trace the mysterious history of this notorious virus.
Smallpox currently only exists in secure freezers, after a global vaccination campaign eradicated the virus in the late 1970s. But much about this killer remains unknown, including its origins.

Ancient Roman DNA reveals modern malaria parasite

malaria(CNN)For the first time, researchers have discovered genomic evidence of malaria in 2,000-year-old human remains from the Roman Empire, according to a new study.
With DNA fragments from the teeth of 58 adults and 10 children buried in three imperial-period Italian cemeteries, researchers were able to recover the mitochondrial genome to identify the specific malaria species that infected people.

USS Oklahoma 75 Years later: DNA is not just science, it’s personal

uss-oklahoma1DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. –The USS Oklahoma was hit by multiple torpedoes and capsized during the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, resulting in the loss of 429 Navy and Marine personnel. Seventy-five years later the Department of Defense DNA Registry under the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System is still hard at work to bring those servicemen home to their families.

Armed Forces Medical College awaits DNA profile certifier

PUNE,INDIA: The Armed Forces Medical College’s (AFMC) wait for a DNA profile report certifier continues as the relevant bill is pending clearance in the navy DNAparliament.
The AFMC started collecting and preserving blood samples of nearly 10.20 lakh personnel of the Indian armed forces in a phased manner last year.

Leahy bill to improve criminal justice system to be signed into law

Justice and DNAVermont Business Magazine Legislation long championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) to help ensure that the criminal justice system functions fairly now goes to the White House for signature after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill on Thursday. The Justice for All Reauthorization Act aims to reduce the rape kit backlog by supporting grant programs that fund forensic testing.

DNA Diagnostics Center® Announces Acquisition of IDENTIGENE®, LLC

Blue and white helixFAIRFIELD, Ohio, Dec. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — DNA Diagnostics Center® (DDC® or the Company), one of the world’s largest private DNA testing companies, announces the acquisition of IDENTIGENE® LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sorenson Genomics, LLC. Details of the transaction were not disclosed.