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DNA Diagnostics' Forensic Testing Applications:
Standard STR testing when there is enough DNA evidence for STRs
Y STR testing
Mitochondrial DNA sequencing where there is shed hair, skeletal remains,
degraded samples or minute quantities of DNA.
Mixed testing where mtDNA and STRs are utilized simultaneously.
SNP and mutation testing (VeriSNP™) identity and trait testing.
Non-human species determination testing.
- Mixed testing for both human and non-human simultaneously.
Expert Witness and Consultation
DNA Diagnostics offers expert witness and consultation for all types of cases involving DNA testing including criminal and civil cases. Services include review of reports, evaluation of testing procedures, on-site evaluation and review of discovery documents.
Animal/ Human Forensics
Crime and Animal Genetics
An Emerging Science
DNA testing has long been established as the foremost method for establishing relatedness and identity. More recently though, law enforcement has discovered that utilizing DNA testing procedures has revolutionized their ability to solve crimes, both to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. At first, the DNA tests considered for forensic use were strictly for detecting human DNA, however more recently, law enforcement has discovered that animal DNA testing procedures can also be used to solve crimes when evidence is found at the crime scene that is clearly not of human origin.
DNA Diagnostics was established in 1985 as an animal genetics laboratory. Since that time, we have worked to maintain the highest quality of genetic testing services. For many years now, we have operated a full service animal and human forensics laboratory with multi-species capabilities and platforms to perform both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analysis. Some of the species such cases have involved are dogs, cats, horses, cattle, and deer.
Our laboratory utilized canine STRs in 1996 in a case which to our knowledge was the first criminal case using canine DNA in New Braunfels, Texas. Though the case never had to go to trial, the DNA STR evidence was admitted and the plea was established based on our laboratory report. Other cases have followed. Though several cases using animal STR testing have been tried in court, the latest technique to be admitted in criminal and civil cases is mitochondrial DNA testing in animals. When evidentiary samples are of poor quality or the evidence from the crime scene is shed hair without cellular material, mitochondrial DNA testing is now being utilized. In 1999, Shelterwood Laboratories, now DNA Diagnostics, analyzed evidentiary samples for one such case in Pampa, Texas. An admissibility hearing was held and the canine mitochondrial DNA analysis was admitted as evidence. To our knowledge, this was the first time this type of evidence was admitted. This case involved the attempted capital murder of a store clerk during a burglary. Though this case never went to trial due to a change in the prosecuting attorney, the admissibility hearing for the canine mitochondrial DNA evidence had already been held and the findings were allowed.
Our staff has authored numerous scientific publications in the field of animal forensics. Additionally, they have been called as expert witnesses in court cases, both criminal and civil. Some of our clients include police departments and sheriff's offices as well as private attorneys, wildlife agencies and insurance companies. Our specialized capabilities led the Federal Bureau of Investigation to contract our services during a MI homicide investigation in 2000 which involved a single shed canine hair that was found on the victim's body in a lake. This was a very challenging case since the hair was badly decomposed. Sequencing revealed an exclusion to the suspect's dog, however, the evidence was admitted and we were subpoenaed by the defense. The defense chose at the last minute not to call our expert, but nevertheless, the canine mitochondrial DNA evidence was admitted into court once again.
Additionally, we have handled numerous cases for various racing commissions. Cases have included mixed cases of human and equine urine. One case involved proving identity of a horse to which drugs were administered via syringe and then swabbing the syringe to obtain the profile of the person administering the drugs to the animal.
Oftentimes, both human and animal DNA are involved in the same set of evidentiary samples. DNA Diagnostics has the unique capability to obtain both animal and human profiles in the same laboratory. Another Frye hearing was held in FL in 2001 where yet again canine DNA was admitted and our expertise once again established. This case was one where both human and animal DNA analysis was performed on the same evidentiary items yielding both human and animal results
Besides multi-species STR and mitochondrial DNA analysis, our experts also participated in the mitochondrial analysis of human remains from the 9/11 attacks. We were very proud to serve our country and help even in a small way with this endeavor.
Shelterwood Laboratories participates in proficiency testing as well as requires continuing education for our analysts. We are members of forensic as well as scientific organizations to maintain cutting edge technical capabilities.
Animal STRs in Forensics
Most common species in relation to human forensics is the dog. Dog attacks yield saliva and adequate DNA for STRs. STRs in other species less commonly used in human forensics cases but are common in animal only cases like cattle rustling cases, Wildlife and Fisheries cases, animal to animal attacks, animal theft and fraud cases, and drug related cases in show and racing animals.
With multi-species DNA STR analysis capabilities, more crimes will be solved in the future. If a suspect owns an animal or works around animals, chances are that animal hair will be present on his person. Even with gloves or other protective measures that a suspect might take to prevent transfer of his or her own DNA, animal hair has been left behind at crime scenes time after time. Increased utilization of available animal DNA analysis methods will insure that more cases will not remain unsolved.
Mitochondrial DNA Analysis in Animal Forensics
Animal hair and other tissues of animal origin left at the scene of a crime can now be analyzed using cycle sequencing to obtain mitochondrial DNA sequences. These sequences are currently being utilized as evidence in criminal cases just as human mitochondrial DNA have already become an established tool in the forensic community. As with human mitochondrial DNA, canine mitochondrial DNA is of great value when evidentiary samples are devoid of nuclear DNA. Whether samples are shed hair or decomposed or ancient remains, they can be extracted and still yield excellent mitochondrial DNA for sequencing. This is of great value when attempts at STR analysis are unsuccessful.