Forensic Science

10 Crimes Finally Solved Using Forensic Science

Some murder victims and their families have had to wait years, even decades, to get the justice they deserve. Thanks to developments in forensic science and DNA profiling cold cases no longer have to remain unsolved.

There was forensic evidence at the scene, the perpetrator’s semen and blood, and police believed they would solve the case fairly quickly.

iTHINK brings you ten crimes that were finally solved due to advances in forensic technology.

The 50-Year-Old Murder of Mary Agnes Klinsky

Forensic Science

In 1965 the body of teenager Mary Agnes Klinsky was found, having been sexually assaulted and beaten to death. At the time, police could not identify any solid leads.

However, they ensured that they set aside the evidence in appropriate storage to ensure that it was preserved, in the hope that there would be advances in forensic technology and they could catch her killer.

Since the year 2007, New Jersey State Police have utilised the AmpFLSTR Identifiler PCR Amplification Kit. As Radu Alexander explains ‘Basically, the kit uses a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify a DNA selection many times over so that a usable sample can be retrieved, even from the smallest sources.’

In 2016 this technique was employed to identify Mary Klinsky’s killer, subsequently putting to rest one of New Jersey’s longest unsolved cases.

Investigators discovered that her life was taken by the New Jersey serial killer Robert Zarinsky. However Zarinsky died in 2008 in jail, whilst serving time for two other murders, meaning, sadly, he was never brought to justice for her murder.

Police suspected Zarinsky of up to ten homicides, and speculate that Mary Klinsky was his first victim.

The Murder of Karen Klaas

In 1976 Karen Klaas, the ex-wife of Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley, was attacked in her Hermosa Beach house, subsequently dying of her injuries a few days later.

She was thirty-two years old at the time of her death.

At the time, police were able to identify many possible suspects, and Medley hired private investigators to conduct their own investigations into the matter. Despite this, however, the case would go cold for over forty years.

Similarly to the previous case, police successfully preserved the forensic evidence, and in this instance a towel that was found next to Karen Klaas’s body held the evidence they required.

As forensic technology evolved, investigators were able to successfully acquire a DNA sample from this towel.

Now that they were in possession of a DNA profile they could search for a match in their database. They conducted the first search in 1999 and a second in 2011, however they found no match. Eventually, their third search in 2016 found a match in familial DNA.

The DNA of a family member of the killer was in the system due to a crime they committed in 2011. This was a huge breakthrough in the case, and enabled the police to identify Karen Klaas’s killer to be a man called Kenneth Eugene Troyer. However, he was shot to death by police during a prison break in 1982.

The Murder of Krystal Beslanowitch

In 1995 Krystal Beslanowitch was just seventeen-years-old when she was found bludgeoned to death by the side of the Provo River in Utah.

The murder weapon was a bloodstained rock that the police found lying next to her body. Forensic technology was not yet sufficiently advanced to obtain a DNA sample from it.

However in 2013 investigators tried again, using a forensic tool called the M-Vac. As Radu Alexander explains

‘It is a wet-vacuum collection system used to collect the smallest traces of DNA.

It was used on the side of the stone opposite the bloodstain – most likely the part gripped by the killer. Even after 18 years, the M-Vac collected 21 nanograms of genetic material which was more than enough for a DNA profile.’

This DNA profile identified a man called Joseph Michael Simpson. He had previously served jail time for another murder, thus his DNA was already in their database.

Simpson was officially convicted of Krystal Beslanowitch’s murder in 2016, and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Murder of Jane Britton

Twenty-three year old Jane Britton failed to show up for an exam on January 7, 1969. This raised alarm bells for her boyfriend and he went to go and check on her at her apartment; unfortunately, he found her lying dead as a result of blunt force trauma.

He, and other acquaintances of Jane Britton, were ruled out as suspects. A breakthrough in the case would not occur until 2018.

Investigators had preserved the forensic evidence from the crime scene, and they had found a DNA match to Michael Sumpter, a man who had already been convicted for murder and sexual assaults. He had passed away in 2001.

Middlesex County district attorney, Marian T. Ryan, announced the results of the investigation: ‘Michael Sumpter … has been identified as the person responsible for the 1969 murder of Jane Britton.’ However, he cannot be tried on account of his death.

He continued ‘I am confident that the mystery of who killed Jane Britton has finally been solved and this case is officially closed.’

The 36-year-old Nova Welsh Case

Forensic Science

In 1981 Nova Welsh was found strangled to death in Birmingham, England. She was twenty four years old at the time of her death. Her body was found three weeks after her death inside a cupboard, in which the doors had been sealed shut with a piece of chewing gum.

At the time police were not able to use this piece of chewing gum to help identify her killer,
and her murder would go unsolved for nearly thirty-six years.

However, when DNA was finally extracted from the chewing gum a match was found with Nova Welsh’s former partner, Osmond Bell.

Although he denied using the chewing gum for a sinister purpose, forensic investigators also found a match on ‘an envelope containing an anonymous letter pointing the finger at someone else for the murder (which is, itself, a known forensic counter-measure).’

After the guilty verdict Nova Welsh’s mother has stated that her daughter could now ‘rest in peace,’ and ‘The family can now have closure knowing the person who took Nova’s life has been brought to justice.’

The Murder of Leanne Tiernan

On Monday 20 August 2001 the body of sixteen-year-old Leanne Tiernan was found buried in a shallow grave in West Yorkshire.

The post mortem examination revealed, however, that the level of decomposition of her body was inconsistent with the length of time that she had been buried.

As Crime and Investigation states ‘Investigators were therefore hopeful that enough forensic evidence would be present to lead them to the killer.

Police officers, forensic and scientific experts conducted a fingertip search of the dense woodland where Tiernan’s body had been buried and expanded this to cover an area of 20,000 square metres.’

This case may have never been solved if it were not for the strands of dog hair found on Leanne Tiernan’s body. The DNA in the dog hair matched that of a dog owned by a man called John Taylor who was known to hunt in the woods nearby the crime scene. In 2002, he was sentenced to a minimum of twenty years in prison.

The Murder of Lidia Macchi

Lidia Macchi was murdered in 1987, and it would take thirty years for her killer to be identified. At the time, a confessional poem that described the murder scene had been sent to her parents on the day of her funeral.

In 2016 there was a breakthrough in the case thanks to a handwriting analyst who matched an ex-classmate, Stefano Binda, to the poem.

The Murder of Marianne Vaatstra

Sixteen-year-old Marianne Vaatstra was found murdered in 1999. Her murder became an extremely high profile case in the Netherlands.

There was forensic evidence at the scene, the perpetrator’s semen and blood, and police believed they would solve the case fairly quickly.

However this was not to be, and despite plenty of suspects, the DNA did not match anyone in the system. 2012 spelled the breakthrough in the case when police asked all men that lived within five miles of the crime scene to submit their DNA.

The killer willingly submitted himself for DNA profiling, and he was identified as local farmer Jasper Steringa. He admitted to his crimes and was sentenced to eighteen years in prison.

The 30-year-old Case of Sharon Schollmeyer

Forensic Science

Sixteen-year-old Sharon Schollmeyer’s body was found by her mother in December 1977.

She had been strangled to death and left in six inches of bathwater in her home.

Unfortunately, at the time, police had no viable suspects and the forensic evidence they did possess was water-logged. In 2013 there was a huge breakthrough in the case thanks to the evolution of forensic technology.

The introduction of the ‘M-Vac,’ a method that can help pull DNA from water-logged

identified Sharon Schollmeyer’s killer as Patrick McCabe, the very man who had let Sharon Schollmeyer’s mother into the apartment building over thirty years earlier.

The 34-year-old case of Yiannoulla Yianni

The body of seventeen-year-old Yiannoulla Yianni was found in her bed, by her parents in August 1982. She had been spending the morning with her family, however, only an hour and a half after she left them she would be found dead.

Crime and Investigation states that ‘Witnesses had seen her talking to a man outside her home but despite a reward being offered for information and thousands of eyewitness statements, her killer was never found.’

However, there was a breakthrough in the case in 2016, when a DNA match was found on the national database. The man that was identified was James Warnock, and he was subsequently arrested and found guilty for her murder.

These are just some of the ways the intervention of forensic science has helped bring justice.


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