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Journal: Journal of forensic sciences


A set of historic murders, known as the “Jack the Ripper murders,” started in London in August 1888. The killer’s identity has remained a mystery to date. Here, we describe the investigation of, to our knowledge, the only remaining physical evidence linked to these murders, recovered from one of the victims at the scene of the crime. We applied novel, minimally destructive techniques for sample recovery from forensically relevant stains on the evidence and separated single cells linked to the suspect, followed by phenotypic analysis. The mtDNA profiles of both the victim and the suspect matched the corresponding reference samples, fortifying the link of the evidence to the crime scene. Genomic DNA from single cells recovered from the evidence was amplified, and the phenotypic information acquired matched the only witness statement regarded as reliable. To our knowledge, this is the most advanced study to date regarding this case.


Dipterous fly larvae (maggots) are frequently collected from a corpse during a criminal investigation. Previous studies showed that DNA analysis of the gastrointestinal contents of maggots might be used to reveal the identity of a victim. However, this approach has not been used to date in legal investigations, and thus its practical usefulness is unknown. A badly burned body was discovered with its face and neck colonized by fly larvae. Given the condition of the body, identification was not possible. Short tandem repeat (STR) typing was performed using the gastrointestinal contents of maggots collected from the victim and was compared to STR profiles obtained from the alleged father. The probability of paternity was 99.685%. Thus, this comparative DNA test enabled the conclusive identification of the remains. This is the first reported case of analysis of human DNA isolated from the gastrointestinal tract of maggots used to identify a victim in a criminal case.

Concepts: DNA, Full genome sequencing, Identification, Short tandem repeat, Fly, DNA profiling, National DNA database, Combined DNA Index System


This article analyzes the sociodemographic network characteristics and antecedent behaviors of 119 lone-actor terrorists. This marks a departure from existing analyses by largely focusing upon behavioral aspects of each offender. This article also examines whether lone-actor terrorists differ based on their ideologies or network connectivity. The analysis leads to seven conclusions. There was no uniform profile identified. In the time leading up to most lone-actor terrorist events, other people generally knew about the offender’s grievance, extremist ideology, views, and/or intent to engage in violence. A wide range of activities and experiences preceded lone actors' plots or events. Many but not all lone-actor terrorists were socially isolated. Lone-actor terrorists regularly engaged in a detectable and observable range of activities with a wider pressure group, social movement, or terrorist organization. Lone-actor terrorist events were rarely sudden and impulsive. There were distinguishable behavioral differences between subgroups. The implications for policy conclude this article.

Concepts: Sociology, Violence, Behavior, Motivation, Terrorism, Engagement, Rebellion, Ideology


Recently, medical examiners reported two cases of a 21-year-old male and 24-year-old male with high amounts of morphine in their blood at autopsy. It was suspected that the decedents ingested lethal amounts of morphine from home-brewed poppy seed tea. No studies to date have investigated opium alkaloid content extracted from poppy seeds by home-brewing methods. Various poppy seed products were purchased from online sources and extracted with four home-brewing methods representative of recipes found on drug user forums. Morphine, codeine, and thebaine were quantified in the tea extracts by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry using a validated analytical method. Morphine, codeine, and thebaine concentrations from seeds were <1-2788 mg/kg, <1-247.6 mg/kg, and <1-124 mg/kg, respectively. Alkaloid yield varied between extractions, but regardless of extraction conditions, lethal amounts of morphine can be rinsed from poppy seed coats by home-brewing methods.

Concepts: Opioid, Morphine, Alkaloid, Opium, Opium poppy, Poppy seed, Poppy straw, Poppy tea


Correct species identification is critical when dipteran larvae are used for inference of the postmortem interval. To facilitate DNA-based identification of forensically important flies of the genus Lucilia in the continental United States, we develop a vouchered reference collection and DNA sequence database. A total of 122 specimens were collected for nine of the 10 species of Lucilia reported to occur in the continental United States. Using the polymerase chain reaction and DNA sequencing, data were obtained for an 1100-bp region of the mitochondrial gene encoding cytochrome oxidase I (COI). We consider a species suitable for DNA-based identification if it is exclusively monophyletic in >95% of bootstrap pseudoreplicate phylogenetic analyses. Seven of the nine species meet that criterion. Two species (Lucilia coeruleiviridis and Lucilia mexicana) share COI sequence and cannot be distinguished using our reference database. We conclude that DNA-based identification is likely to be successful for the other seven species.

Concepts: DNA, Polymerase chain reaction, Molecular biology, Biology, DNA sequencing, DNA polymerase, Flies, Calliphoridae


Jet-propelled personal watercraft (PWC) or jet-skis have become increasingly popular. The means of propulsion of PWC, which is a jet of water forced out of small nozzle at the rear of the craft, combined with a high risk of falling off of the seat and into close proximity with the water jet stream, raise the potential for a unique type of injury mechanism. The most serious injuries associated with PWC falls are those that occur when the perineum passes in close proximity to the jet nozzle and the high-pressure water stream enters the vaginal or rectal orifice. We describe the forensic investigation into a case of an anovaginal “blowout” injury in a passenger who was ejected from the rear seat position of a PWC and subsequently suffered life-threatening injuries to the pelvic organs. The investigation included a biomechanical analysis of the injury mechanism, a summary of prior published reports of internal pelvic injuries resulting from PWC falls as well as other water sports and activities, and a comparison of the severity of the injuries resulting from differing mechanisms using the New Injury Severity Score (NISS). The mean (±standard deviation [SD]) NISS values for reported PWC injuries [not including the NISS of 38 in this case study] were 11.2 (±9.5), while the mean value for reported water-skiing falls was half that of the PWC group at 5.6 (±5.2). It was concluded that the analyzed injuries were unique to a PWC ejection versus other previously described non-PWC-associated water sport injuries. It is recommended that PWC manufacturers help consumers understand the potential risks to passengers with highly visible warnings and reduce injury risk with revised seat design, and/or passenger seat “deadman” switches.

Concepts: Water, Injury, Arithmetic mean, Mean, Standard deviation, Injury Severity Score, Water jet cutter, Personal water craft


Situs inversus totalis is very rare and usually diagnosed coincidentally as it does not affect the patient’s life. Being unaware of the patient’s condition can lead to undesirable results from the surgeon and patient’s point of view when an emergency and forensic surgical intervention is required. We present a case who was operated on urgently for a firearm injury after receiving a preoperative diagnosis of situs inversus totalis. In conclusion, situs inversus totalis can cause difficulties for surgeons in case of emergency surgery and is usually diagnosed coincidentally. There are a few cases of situs inversus with lung cancer in the literature but this is the first time a case with a firearm injury has been reported.

Concepts: Hospital, Surgery, Physician, Surgeon, American College of Surgeons, Situs inversus


This study documents the prevalence of cut mark characteristics in fresh and burned domestic pig ribs. Stab wounds from single edge serrated and smooth-edged knives were inflicted in the vertebral and sternal regions of each fresh rib. Each rack of ribs was then divided into vertebral and sternal units. Vertebral units were defleshed and their associated cut marks were examined using a stereomicroscope. Sternal units were burned in an outdoor fire pit and examined with the addition of a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Linear cuts, V-shaped cross-sections, mounding, hinge fractures, and wastage were all observed on burned ribs. There was an overall decrease in the prevalence of all features (up to a 40% decrease), regardless of knife type, in burned ribs. Striations within cut marks were not observed in either fresh or burned ribs. Oblique faulting and bone lifts could only be observed using the SEM. Mounding and wastage were obliterated during the burning process. Therefore, cut marks in burned bone should ideally be examined for their characteristics utilizing an SEM.

Concepts: Electron, Electron microscope, Bone, Sternum, Scanning electron microscope, Rib


A simple method for quantification of contrast in a fingerprint is proposed. Contrast is defined as the average difference in intensity of pixels between valleys and ridges in a fingerprint. It is quantified from a scanner-acquired image of the fingerprint using a histogram function of Adobe Photoshop. The method was validated with black inked prints and marks developed with aluminum powder. Moreover, we tested resistance of the method to rater-dependent errors and dependence of the measurements on the resolution of an image and the model of the scanner. For both groups of fingerprints, the method gave coherent and easily interpretable quantitative values for contrast. There were no significant differences between measurements performed by different raters and by the same rater in a test-retest procedure. However, the method was found to be instrument dependent, as measurements were significantly affected by image resolution and the model of the scanner.

Concepts: Function, Difference, First-order logic, Display resolution, Object-oriented programming, Method, RGB color model, Adobe Photoshop


Gunshot residue (GSR) has been sought and demonstrated on many types of material and with many techniques. Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) could be a useful method on difficult substrates, but a systematic study on burnt material has never been performed. Hence, this study aims at evaluating the usefulness and reliability of this method on burnt samples. Sixteen adult bovine ribs (eight with soft tissues, eight totally skeletonized) were shot using two kinds of projectile (both 9 mm full metal-jacketed or unjacketed). Then, every sample was led to complete calcination in an electric oven. The area of the gunshot entrance wound was swabbed and analyzed by ICP-OES; the results were also correlated with a previously published parallel study by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) equipped with an SEM-energy dispersive X-ray analyzer. ICP-OES proved to be very sensitive and reliable even on degraded material and can be an appropriate nondestructive method for detecting residues on difficult and delicate substrates such as burnt bone.

Concepts: Electron, Spectroscopy, Electron microscope, Photon, Light, Electromagnetic radiation, Scanning electron microscope, Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy