We believe cutting edge science is the key to solving many difficult cases languishing in law enforcement cold case backlogs and we'd like to introduce you to a partner lab who is pioneering some amazing science to make this possible: Astrea Forensics.
Astrea is using ancient DNA techniques and applying them to relatively "easy" forensic cases. If science can get usable DNA from a mummy unearthed in an archaelogy dig in Egypt, it should be much simpler to do the same to samples from this century!
While the sky is, indeed, the limit on applications to forensic DNA cold cases, the truly amazing opportunities are in two specific evidence samples. Rootless hairs and severely degraded (usually bone) samples obtained from the crime scene.
I cannot stress to you how amazing this particular application of the scientific advance is. There is, very often, trace hair sample(s) that are obtained in the crime scene evidence. Up until now, the only useful sample were those hairs that had root material left on the hair shaft. An actively growing, "pulled" hair was the only sample that yielded enough DNA for forensic investigation. That left the vast majority of potential suspect hairs completely useless to investigators.
Kelly Harkins Kincade, the CEO at Astrea Forensics sums it up far better than I can:
"Rootless hair is one of the most underappreciated forensic sample types and with it, we know our teams can and will make real dent in difficult casework, whether decades or days old. "
Now, Astrea's pioneering technology allows these hair samples to yield usable DNA profiles for use in genetic genealogy investigations.
This is a GAME CHANGER!
Degraded bone/skeletal remains:
In my 18+ years in the Forensic DNA community, I have 10's and perhaps 100's of cases that I have seen or participated in where an unidentified body just could not be identified because of the condition of the sample retrieved from the decedent. Exposure to elements, bacterial contamination, heat, humidity etc. are DNA "killers". Revisiting these samples and applying Astrea's techniques to bring a fresh technology to the case is absolutely,100% going to solve some of these difficult cases.
This breathes new hope into obtaining some closure and peace for so many families and survivors of these cold cases where there was little measure previously.
Here's a great example of Astrea technology in use on a case local and dear to our own Salt Lake City community:
We are excited to be partners with our friends and colleagues at Astrea Forensics. They are doing amazing things and we expect you'll see a lot of success stories as our partnership grows. To Dr. Ed Green, Kelly Harkins Kincaid (pictured in the middle next to Danny (left) at the recent ISHI conference), Cristina Verdugo and everyone at Astrea, we applaud your work and are honored to be partners with you.
Let's change the world!