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NIJ Grants USF Anthropology Nearly $400,000 for Cold Cases

Grant will provide agencies with access to new scientific tools for the first time.

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2015) -- The FL Institute for Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science (IFAAS) at the University of South Florida has been awarded a $386,537 grant from the National Institute of Justice to review 50 unsolved, unidentified persons cases in 2016 and perform critical scientific testing in each case.

This grant will act as seed money for a statewide pilot program that will allow agencies across Florida to perform testing on long term unsolved cases. The funding will provide agencies with access to additional tools including: DNA testing and familial DNA searches; anthropological assessments for age, ancestry, and 3D trauma analysis; chemical isotope testing; facial reconstructions; and forensic imaging.

IFAAS will work in conjunction with medical examiners and law enforcement agencies around the state, as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Florida Sheriff’s Association and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to review these cases and perform the necessary testing.

Within the NIJ grant, $132,000 will be used specifically for familial DNA searches by the FDLE. Familial DNA searching is a process designed to potentially identify close biological relatives, such as siblings or parents. The search of Florida’s DNA Database with a DNA profile from unidentified remains will yield many matches to the Offender DNA Index. These matches will be ranked in the order of the likelihood of a possible familial connection with the offender profile. The highest ranked matches will be further tested with Y markers. If a positive match is identified a kinship investigation can occur based on the lead. With this grant, the FDLE will be able to perform up to 33 familial searches in order to identify family members of male, juvenile remains. This is the first time this type of testing is being used in this capacity in Florida and is only made possible through NIJ funding.

The majority of the cases will be from Florida, however one case will be performed at the request of the Pennsylvania State Police and up to five cases will come from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. USF’s Forensic Anthropology Laboratory routinely takes cases from other states that do not have the necessary resources for these types of cold case reviews, and have worked with the Pennsylvania State Police in the past.

In Florida, there are more than 850 unidentified person’s cases and more than 200 active missing person’s cases in which the individual is presumed dead. Nearly 50 of these cases involve unidentified, juvenile individuals. The purpose of this program is find justice for victims and their families through the use of the most up-to-date scientific tools and technologies.

The USF Forensic Anthropology Laboratory has provided technical assistance to the medico-legal community in Florida since 2007. The group has helped produce many successful outcomes while operating the Tampa Bay Cold Case Project since 2010. In 2013, they received a grant from NIJ to conduct fieldwork in Marianna, Fla. to excavate the now-defunct Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. The grant allowed USF anthropologists, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, to find the remains of 51 individuals, and they were able to identify the remains of five missing boys. Kimmerle is the Director of the Lab and IFAAS. For more information about services offered or to submit a case, please visit www.forensics.usf.edu or call 813-974-5139.

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