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Texas State University’s Operation Identification uses MUHR funding to assist rural jurisdictions with unidentified human remains cases

Operation Identification (OpID) within the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University started ten years ago with the aim of locating, exhuming, and working towards identification for long-term unidentified human remains (UHRs) in South Texas. These UHRs represent border crossing deaths that had no DNA samples in CODIS, and little attention given to investigation efforts. While OpID still works with long-term UHRs, OpID is also now assisting rural jurisdictions with more recent deaths thanks to the FY 2022 MUHR award. With the continual rise in migrant deaths, many counties are overwhelmed with UHRs and have little resources to process them and work towards identification. To ensure these UHR are not buried and forgotten, OpID proposed to work with local jurisdictional authorities to remotely assist with identification efforts. Recently, OpID was able to put this prosed work into action with funding from the MUHR Program. OpID was contacted by the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) on May 9, 2022, regarding the discovery of a recent UHR that was decomposed beyond recognition. Two Guatemalan identification cards were found within clothing on the remains; however, this cannot be considered an identification. The consulate was notified and contacted the family to obtain several familial reference samples (FRS). BCSO does not take DNA samples from UHRs nor do other jurisdictional authorities within the county, therefore an OpID team member traveled a few hours to Brooks County to obtain a DNA sample from the UHR in the BCSO refrigerated storage unit. Due to the strong identification hypothesis, following county protocols and chain of custody procedures, the OpID team sent the FRS and UHR DNA sample to a private laboratory for comparison at the request of the consulate. Two weeks later, OpID was notified of a positive genetic association that was then compared to all circumstantial information. The appropriate jurisdictional authority signed off on the identification and the repatriation process began. The MUHR funding allowed OpID to hire more staff allowing OpID members to travel to Brooks County for DNA collection and to provide a quick turnaround for this case. Without the capability of assisting Brooks County, previous turnaround times for DNA comparisons have been anywhere from six months to two years.
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Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (CT)

The State of Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Fellows Make large impact at agency and contribute to the expansion of the profession

Through the support of their Strengthening the Medical Examiner-Coroner System Program grant, the State of Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has graduated three Forensic Pathology Fellows over the past two years. These fellows completed over 700 autopsies, participated in and published research projects, presented at the National Association of Medical Examiners Annual Meeting, and took an active role in teaching over 150 visiting Pathology Residents and medical students with hands-on autopsies and lectures on topics in Forensic Pathology, contributing to the expansion of the profession. Over the past year, their most recent Fellow graduate completed over 225 autopsies on a wide variety of causes and manners of death, including 34 homicides; assisted in the investigation of 23 scenes; and testified in two trials.
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Idaho State Police Forensic Services uses Coverdell funding to develop a statewide Question Documents Program and maintain Breath Alcohol Section accreditation

The Idaho State Police Forensic Services is using Coverdell funding to ramp up a statewide Question Documents Program. This Program will also service laboratories throughout the country to help address the decreasing availability of Question Documents examination. The Idaho State Police Forensic Service also employed a Coverdell–funded employee to conduct the majority of their breath alcohol calibrations to assist in maintaining accreditation of their Breath Alcohol Section. After obtaining this accreditation, they are able to calibrate every instrument in Idaho on an annual basis.