About the Campaign
The Anthropology Club is seeking to raise $3500 to pay for forensic-grade genomic sequencing and genealogy services to identify a set of human remains recovered Cape Girardeau County in 1980. Forensic genealogy is a new approach to human identification using GEDmatch, a repository of DNA profiles voluntarily submitted by the public in an effort to connect with biological relatives. Most DNA profiles from unidentified decedents are entered into a database called CODIS, which analyzes only a small segment of DNA. CODIS matching is useful if the decedent or a close relative was required by the criminal justice system to submit a DNA sample, or if close relatives of a missing person voluntarily submit a family reference sample. The benefit of forensic genealogy utilizing GEDmatch is that a much larger portion of the genetic sequence is used, allowing for the identification of more distant relatives. When relatives are identified, their family trees are reconstructed using traditional genealogical research methods in an attempt to identify a missing person in the family who can then be compared to the unidentified decedent. We have recently solved our first case using a combination of anthropology, genomics, and genealogy, and we look forward to solving this one, too! (https://news.semo.edu/southeast-faculty-students-help-solve-missouri-cold-case/)
Based on an anthropological analysis conducted by Dr. Bengtson and her students, the remains in question are those of an older biological male, likely of European ancestry. Based on limited available records from the original investigation, the remains were recovered in 1980. Their condition clearly indicates that they are of forensic (rather than archaeological) concern. Unfortunately, due to the age of the case, only limited information on the circumstances of recovery are known. Dr. Bengtson and her students created a biological profile for the decedent and entered his information into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS.gov case #14558), and submitted a sample for CODIS DNA testing to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. DNA extraction was successful, but unfortunately, there were no hits in the CODIS database. This prompted us to submit a sample of the remains for full genome sequencing in order to attempt identification using genealogical methods. All of this work has been done in coordination with the Cape Girardeau County Coroner’s Office.
Othram (https://www.othram.com/), a Texas-based forensic genomics company, will conduct the genetic sequencing. As with the last case we worked on, we will create a secure and private online forum and repository for information/findings and act as a primary communication forum as the specialists and students work together on this case. Students will be able to observe the process and interactions among the specialists and will be able to ask questions and get answers directly from the experts. This project will thereby serve not only to potentially solve a cold case and bring closure to a family but will also provide an invaluable opportunity for students to learn about cutting edge approaches to human identification.
For a look at our lab and the hard work our students are doing, visit our video at https://fb.watch/1gvE3ObaPK/