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Elimination of Unidentified DNA Backlog and Creation of Post-Doctoral Anthropology Training Position at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $250,000)

The PCOME has records for 1402 unidentified individuals dating back to 1965. Over 200 of these unidentified individuals have no DNA profiles. Without the addition of a temporary anthropologist and funding for DNA, these individuals will likely remain unidentified. There is a substantial backlog of DNA analyses from the samples of these unidentified individuals. All possible avenues of identification have been attempted if possible and the only remaining mode of identification is through DNA analyses.

Additionally, it is imperative that these samples are sent to Bode Cellmark for three reasons. The first reason is that the PCOME has relied on the ability of Bode Cellmark to extract full profiles from severely weathered remains since 2008. Secondly, Bode maintains a large database of partial remains cases from the PCOME that may produce inter-skeletal matches with previous cases. Without the ability to send samples to Bode one individual may be mistakenly counted as two separate individuals. The final reason why DNA samples need to be processed at Bode is the foreign national family reference databases of missing migrants which are ineligible for CODIS submission that are housed by Bode.

The PCOME would like to offer a yearlong post-doctoral position to an anthropologist trained in forensic anthropology to facilitate the sending the backlog of DNA samples, interpretation of DNA analyses, assist with skeletal case backlog, and resect DNA samples on cases as needed.

This award would not only reduce the backlog of DNA analyses and anthropology cases needed at the PCOME, but also would employ and train a recent PhD graduate providing them an immersive yearlong fellowship with a board certified forensic anthropologist working in a medical examiner’s office that has a large volume of skeletal remains.

This award will also aid in the potential identification of 245 individuals. The majority of these unidentified individuals were examined in 2016 – 2018 and other avenues of identification (ex. fingerprint matches and dental analyses) were either not possible or did not result in an identification. In addition to the reduction of DNA backlog and progression of cases that have remained unidentified, this funding will afford a recent PhD graduate the opportunity to train within a medical examiner’s office which has a strong emphasis on identification.


Date Created: September 21, 2018