New technology can 'warm up' cold cases

Oct. 10, 2012 at 5:34 PM   |   0 comments

LIVERMORE, Calif., Oct. 10 (UPI) -- New technology and a multidisciplinary approach can help revive cold cases by identifying human remains even after the passage of decades, U.S. researchers say.

A scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, part of a team of international collaborators, said radiocarbon analysis technology developed at Lawrence Livermore, combined with recently developed anthropological analysis and forensic DNA techniques, identified the remains of a missing child 41 years after the discovery of the body.

In 1968, a child's cranium was discovered in northern Canada, with the technology available at the time suggesting came from the body of a 7-9-year-old child, but no identity could be determined.

The case went cold and was reopened later, and the cranium was re-analyzed at the Center for Forensic Research at Simon Fraser University in Canada, which produced an age-at-death estimate of 4-1/2 years.

At Lawrence Livermore, researchers conducted radiocarbon analysis of enamel from two teeth that produced an even a more precise birth date.

The multiple-disciplinary effort eventually led to a DNA match with a living maternal relative of the presumed missing child resulting in a legal identification 41 years after the discovery of the remains, a Lawrence Livermore release reported Wednesday.

The finding highlights the enormous potential of combining radiocarbon analysis with anthropological and mitochondrial DNA analyses in producing confident personal identifications in forensic cold cases dating to within the last 60 years, researchers said.

"There are thousands of John Doe and Jane Doe cold cases in the United States," said Livermore scientist Bruce Buchholz, who conducted the radiocarbon analysis in the case. "I believe we could provide birth dates and death dates for many of these cases."

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