Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Barcoding CSI: The Hammer

I admit this is a very lurid title but indeed DNA Barcoding already founds its way into criminal forensics. Here the evidence:

(1) Fictional TV shows start using it to track down the bad guys. Yesterday in NCIS they used DNA Barcoding to convict somebody of albacore (Thunnus alalunga) smuggling. Ok, that's probably too far fetched but I have a better one.
Photo of the suspected weapon
(2) Earlier this year our lab helped with an investigation aimed to provide species identification on subsamples taken from a hammer for the OntarioSociety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) and Toronto Police Service. Somebody was suspected to have killed a dog with a hammer. Hair and blood samples could perhaps confirm that the hammer owned by the suspect was the weapon.

Close-up showing a hair that was used to retrieve DNA
The lab was able to retrieve several short length sequences still long enough to be reliably matched to reference sequences of the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris. They were also able to retrieve some human DNA from the handle (not surprisingly) which could have been used for a STR profile.

However, that wasn't even necessary as the suspect confessed when confronted with the initial evidence provided by DNA Barcoding. 

Case closed. 

h/t Bradley Zlotnick and Chris Weland 

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