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Man's Retrial Thanks to Bad Fire Science Ends in Shocker

Ed Graf's retrial for murdering 2 stepsons in shed fire based on new arson science

(Newser) - In 1988, Ed Graf was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing his stepsons Joby, 9, and Jason, 8, in 1986 by locking them in a shed, dousing it with gasoline, and setting it on fire. Everything was there to prove the case against the Texas man, per... More »

New Test Figures Out Exact Time of Death

It can determine a person's time of death up to 10 days later

(Newser) - Current forensic tests use a person's core body temperature to determine their time of death, but it only works within roughly three days of death. Now researchers at the University of Salzburg in Austria say they've devised a new method that can figure out the exact time of... More »

How Rapists Who Wear Condoms Could Be Caught

Bacterial profiles of pubic hair so unique they could identify perpetrators

(Newser) - Investigators routinely analyze pubic hairs found at crime scenes where rape is suspected, but it's rare that the hair has its root, and thus sufficient DNA to identify its former owner. Now researchers say that bacterial colonies on pubic hairs appear to be so unique to an individual that... More »

How Hair Can (and Can't) Tell Us If Someone Is Dead

Fungus-eaten locks don't mean a missing person is dead

(Newser) - If hair at a crime scene shows signs of a "fungal invasion," forensic scientists may well conclude the hair's owner is dead—but that's not the case, a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B explains. Conventional wisdom has held that the fungi... More »

Nasty Corpse Smell Can Reveal Secrets

Forensic experts measure volatile compounds in cadavers

(Newser) - Yes, corpses smell awful—but more careful scrutiny of that stench may help investigators learn just when a person died, the Royal Society of Chemistry reports. Apparently the trick is to measure volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like sulfurs, alcohols, and nitro compounds that change in combination and quantity as a... More »

Mass. Still Has 'Gargantuan' Cleanup Over Crooked Lab

Investigation looks at fallout over chemist Annie Dookhan's fraud

(Newser) - It was, a judge said, "nothing short of catastrophic" when a former Massachusetts police chemist pleaded guilty in 2012 to tampering with evidence, misleading investigators, and a host of other crimes. Annie Dookhan lied about credentials, forged colleagues' initials, and guessed at results. She had touched some 40,000... More »

'Bone Sleuth' Clyde Snow Dead at 86

The forensic anthropologist identified skeletons far and wide

(Newser) - Clyde Snow, an upbeat chainsmoker who spent his life probing skeletons for their secrets—including proof they had been brutally murdered—died Friday at the age of 86, the New York Times reports. The causes were emphysema and cancer, his wife said. Officially a forensic anthropologist, Snow traveled far and... More »

Bad News: Looks Like Suspect's Mom Did Burn Art

Paint is found in ashes of oven; works were by Picasso, Monet, others

(Newser) - It may be a case of art to ashes—and scientists are trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. A Romanian museum official said yesterday that ash from the oven of a woman whose son is charged with stealing seven multimillion-dollar paintings—including a Matisse, a Picasso and... More »

How to ID an Old Corpse? With This 'Secret' Fluid

In crime-infested Mexico, it comes in handy

(Newser) - A forensic expert in one Mexico's most violent cities has found a way to cull secrets from corpses that have gone dry, AFP reports. Alejandro Hernandez, who handles waves of dead bodies in Ciudad Juarez, lowers them into a homemade solution that makes their murder wounds and facial features... More »

Forensics From 10K Criminal Cases to Get New Review

Cases as far back as 1985 to get a second look by Justice Dept, FBI

(Newser) - The Justice Department and FBI have launched the FBI's biggest-ever post-conviction review, taking a second look at thousands of cases to determine whether defendants were wrongly convicted because of faulty forensic analysis. The review will examine all cases involving FBI Laboratory hair and fiber examiners going back to at... More »

US Heads Getting Taller, Leaner

Skulls grew faster than bodies during 20th century

(Newser) - Americans got pretty big heads in the 20th century, and we're not talking egos here. Forensic anthropologists in Knoxville have analyzed skulls from the mid-1800s to the mid-1980s and found that our heads have become taller, larger, and narrower, reports US News & World Report . The difference is particularly... More »

Skeleton in Bank Chimney Is Missing Man From 1984

He got wedged in 27 years ago

(Newser) - It's sort of a good news-bad news situation for one Louisiana family. On one hand, they finally know what happened to Joseph Schexnider, who vanished in 1984—on the other, he died inside a local bank chimney 27 years ago. Construction workers renovating a historic bank discovered skeletal remains... More »

Caylee's Killer May Have Put Heart Sticker Over Her Mouth

Forensics expert found dime-sized residue on duct tape

(Newser) - A heart-shaped sticker might have been affixed to the duct tape placed over Caylee Anthony's mouth, according to the testimony of a forensic examiner in the murder trial of mom Casey Anthony. Residue in the dime-sized shape of a heart was observed on the duct tape, reports People, and... More »

The Scary Truth About America's Morgues

Mistakes have sent innocents to jail, let guilty go free, ProPublica finds

(Newser) - Misplaced bones and bodies, overlooked bullet holes, corpses cremated before an investigation was complete: Most real morgues bear little resemblance to the shiny, high-tech world of CSI’s labs, a new investigation reveals. ProPublica , Frontline, and NPR took a yearlong look at the country’s coroner and medical examiner offices... More »

Aruba Calls Off Watery Search for Natalee's Remains

Photo is likely of coral, not skeleton: authorities

(Newser) - Aruban authorities have called off the underwater search for Natalee Holloway's body that was sparked when a Pennsylvania couple spotted what they believed to be a skeleton in photos they took while snorkeling off the island last year. A dive team spent two days scouring the waters favored by the... More »

Kitties Fight Crime With DNA

Ubiquitous cat hair a valuable forensic tool

(Newser) - Dog is man's best friend, but cats can fight crime. Thanks to their tendency to groom and shed, household cats carpet a home—and anyone who sets foot in it—with DNA evidence. Kitty forensics have already led to one murder conviction after hair from a victim's cat was found... More »

Bacteria on Skin May Be Used to ID Criminals

Study shows people can be identified by their bugs

(Newser) - Forget fingerprints: The latest crime fighting tool may be the traces of bacteria we carry on our skin. A new study shows it is possible to identify people based on their personal brand of bacteria. "Each one of us leaves a unique trail of bugs behind," a researcher... More »

Study Casts Doubt On DNA-Matching Technique

Mitochondrial DNA found to vary widely within individuals

(Newser) - A DNA-matching technique used in forensics since the mid-1990s is now in question, according to new research. DNA found in cell structures called mitochondria varies greatly between samples from different tissues from the same individual, researchers found, meaning that forensic units may be mistaken when they exclude suspects because a... More »

Feds Saw Bloody Outline of Child in Anthony's Trunk

(Newser) - FBI forensics experts found a blood stain in the shape of a child in fetal position in the trunk of Casey Anthony’s car, according to newly released documents. One intelligence analyst pointed out the silhouette in an email to another bureau employee last September. “You can make out... More »

No Blood Found in Casey Anthony's Trunk

Officials release video, documents in capital murder case

(Newser) - Prosecutors in the Casey Anthony case released a flurry of documents today, including a three-dimensional animated movie of the area where her daughter’s body was found, crime scene photos, and a 1,100-page report by investigators, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Among the revelations: No blood was found in the... More »

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