Forensics 2.0

Meet the researchers working to untangle the mystery of a Missouri home filled with bones by bringing cutting-edge technologies into the crime lab.

Forensic anthropologist Lindsay Trammell had only just received the human remains and she already knew that she’d need help with this case. It was the summer of 2014, and 15 skeletons had arrived at the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office as a jumble of bones inside four wooden coffins. Some of the bones looked ancient; they were “falling apart,” Trammell recalls. But others were in relatively good shape. “There were different levels of preservation throughout the remains.”

She photographed, inventoried, and measured the skeletal elements employing the standard biological techniques typically used by forensic anthropologists, who are still by and large not regular fixtures in crime labs. Those analyses indicated that some of the skulls bore characteristics of people with African ancestry while others did not. “Just by looking at them, my inclination was that they were from different ancestral groups,” Trammell says.

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