Category: Highlights

Dark grey-filled circle with a woman holding a sword and a justice scale inside
Highlights

Florida Man Indicted in NY’s First Use of Investigative Genetic Genealogy to Solve Cold Case Rapes

Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and New York City Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban announced that a Florida man has been charged in separate indictments for raping a woman in the Bronx and a woman in Manhattan two decades ago, after new DNA technology linked him to the brutal attacks. These are the first sexual assault cases in the state solved with Investigative Genetic Genealogy. A three-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to solve cold cases was used to fund Investigative Genetic Genealogy. This entails taking crime scene evidence and sending it to a private laboratory to develop a profile which is used to search for consumer DNA databases for genetic relatives who consented to assist law enforcement. Using the suspect’s DNA found at the scenes, a family tree was developed by NYPD’s Forensic Laboratory, and those results helped identify the defendant as Jancys Santiago, 48.
Dark grey-filled circle with a woman holding a sword and a justice scale inside
Highlights

San Diego County District Attorney’s Office’s COLD funding leads to conviction of suspect in a 34-year-old cold case homicide

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, alongside the San Diego Police Department, convicted the killer of Larry Breen whose murder occurred on May 24, 1990. Mr. Breen was a petty officer and cook in the U.S. Navy stationed aboard the USS Fox CG-33. At the time of his death, he had been selected as the President’s chef at Camp David. Mr. Breen’s body was found at his home, slumped against a fence in the backyard. He had been stabbed several times. His car was missing and was later found abandoned over a mile from the crime scene. Despite a thorough investigation by both the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the San Diego Police Department, the murder went unsolved. This 34-year-old cold case homicide was reviewed with funding provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA (COLD) Program and investigated using Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG) and the expertise of the San Diego District Attorney’s Cold Homicide and Research Genealogy Effort (CHARGE) team. A beer bottle with the suspect’s DNA was left at the crime scene. Using FGG, the CHARGE team generated an investigative lead regarding the suspect’s identity. The suspect also cut himself during the attack. Further STR DNA testing of both the bottle and blood confirmed the identity of the suspect, Brian Koehl, leading to his arrest and prosecution. Brian Koehl was sentenced to 16 years to life for the murder of Mr. Breen on November 17, 2023.
Grey-filled circle with a justice scale icon inside
Highlights

Attorney General Nessel Announces Vacated Wrongful Convictions in Calhoun County

The convictions of Louis Wright, 65, have been vacated pursuant to a collaborative review by the Michigan Department of Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit, the Calhoun County Prosecutor’s Office, the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division, and the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Innocence Project. This review concluded that Mr. Wright was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and breaking and entering in 1988 for which Mr. Wright was sentenced to 25-50 years in prison. DNA testing of the sexual assault kit in 2023 excluded Mr. Wright as the perpetrator and his sentence was subsequently vacated.
Pink-filled circle with a microscope icon inside
Highlights

The City of Charlotte’s Coverdell funds help support evidence documentation that led to a U.S. Postal Worker being indicted for stealing business checks worth over $1.9 million

In 2023, the DCS5 Fingerprint Enhancement System, which was funded by the City of Charlotte’s Coverdell award, was used to document processed evidence in a case involving financial crimes and fraud. The case involved 1.9 million USD in checks that were stolen and fraudulently deposited. A single fingerprint impression developed from the evidence led to the arrest of a United States Postal Service employee.
Dark eggplant-filled circle with a medical icon inside
Highlights

Broward County, Florida Fellow hired as a staff Forensic Pathologist following successful completion of Fellowship Program

The fellow started promptly on July 1, 2018, and successfully completed all phases of the program. She completed over 200 autopsies, attended training from NAME and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), and presented a well-received poster concerning a very rare cause of sudden death. In the spring, she attended courses on forensic anthropology, forensic botany, and forensic entomology. Over the course of the year, she consulted with and learned forensic toxicology from an in-house laboratory and board-certified PhD toxicologist. With the opioid epidemic, this was a lot to undertake and master, and she became well versed in the properties, analysis, and interpretation of hundreds of prescription and nonprescription drugs. She received more than 30 hours of training from the staff pathologist, as well as hands-on training while doing cases. She was eventually hired as a staff forensic pathologist.
Dark eggplant-filled circle with a medical icon inside
Highlights

Montgomery County, Texas uses grant funding to make facility improvements and support medicolegal death investigation training and certification

Thanks to the grant funds, the county was able to make the necessary improvements to a facility, increase storage capabilities with the purchase of a high-density mobile shelving unit, and send two death investigators to medicolegal death investigation training who subsequently achieved certification. The marked increase in caseload, internal staffing challenges, and continued changes in the death investigation process affected the county’s ability to complete all the goals within the timeframe; however, it is still on task to complete them.
Dark eggplant-filled circle with a medical icon inside
Highlights

Fellow at Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, Ohio leads to decreased full-time forensic pathologist overall caseload average

The performance of autopsies by a fellow reduced the overall caseload average for the full-time forensic pathologists, helping to keep them below 325 annual autopsies and preserving critical criteria that must be met for National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) accreditation. The fellowship was an affordable and cost-effective approach to solving concerns regarding record autopsy numbers, as well as bolstering forensic pathology in the future, by providing two well-trained forensic pathologists to an understaffed field.
Dark eggplant-filled circle with a medical icon inside
Highlights

Hiring of Fellow at Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, Wisconsin leads to increase of forensic autopsy services and support

With the hiring of a fellow, the office was able to increase the number of autopsies performed by 6 percent when compared with the 12 months prior, which allowed the office to offer support to surrounding jurisdictions in need of forensic autopsy services. During this timeframe, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office was able to provide autopsy support to 14 other jurisdictions, which is an increase of more than 100 percent from years prior.
Dark eggplant-filled circle with a medical icon inside
Highlights

Kittitas County Coroner’s Office purchases portable X-ray machine that enables enhanced investigations and saves county thousands of dollars from autopsy and X-ray fees

The portable X-ray machine has truly been an asset to the Kittitas County Coroner’s Office (KCCO) and to KCCO’s investigations. In the past, those cases requiring X-rays had to be transported to a local hospital for imaging, at considerable expense to KCCO. As a result, KCCO was very selective when it came to scheduling cases for imaging. Since KCCO has received their portable X-ray machine, they have enhanced their investigation to support their forensic pathologists by providing X-rays on any case in which it appeared they would be advantageous to have. In several cases, the KCCO pathologist has been able to certify cause and manner of death by reviewing scene photos and X-rays, thereby avoiding a costly autopsy which would have been required in the absence of the images. In a recent gunshot death, KCCO was able to locate projectiles in an area they did not expect them to be found based upon their initial review of the wounds. This saved a considerable amount of time at autopsy. Overall, having access to their own dedicated X-ray machine has enabled KCCO to perform better investigations with more accurate results, while, at the same time, saving their county thousands of dollars in autopsy fees and hospital X-ray fees. The convenience of being able to obtain images at KCCO’s facility without having to transport back and forth to the hospital is a great advantage as well.