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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • forensic anthropology;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • ancient DNA;
  • short tandem repeat;
  • cold case;
  • bomb-pulse;
  • dental enamel;
  • accelerator mass spectrometry;
  • interdisciplinary

Abstract

In 1968, a child's cranium was recovered from the banks of a northern Canadian river and held in a trust until the “cold case” was reopened in 2005. The cranium underwent reanalysis at the Centre for Forensic Research, Simon Fraser University, using recently developed anthropological analysis, “bomb-pulse” radiocarbon analysis, and forensic DNA techniques. Craniometrics, skeletal ossification, and dental formation indicated an age-at-death of 4.4 ± 1 year. Radiocarbon analysis of enamel from two teeth indicated a year of birth between 1958 and 1962. Forensic DNA analysis indicated the child was a male, and the obtained mitochondrial profile matched a living maternal relative to the presumed missing child. These multidisciplinary analyses resulted in a legal identification 41 years after the discovery of the remains, highlighting the enormous potential of combining radiocarbon analysis with anthropological and mtDNA analyses in producing confident personal identifications for forensic cold cases dating to within the last 60 years.