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The poisoning of Urooj Khan

The poisoning of Urooj Khan
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In 2012, Urooj Khan won a million dollars with a lottery a ticket he purchased at a 7-Eleven near his home in Chicago. But before he had a chance to collect his winnings, he died. It was presumed the 46-year-old had died of natural causes – until the medical examiner discovered that Khan had been poisoned with cyanide. But no one has ever been able to connect the poisoning and anyone with a motive. The case remains unsolved.

John Schneeberger’s bad blood

John Schneeberger’s bad blood
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For years, a female patient claimed that John Schneeberger, a physician in Saskatchewan, Canada, had drugged and raped her in 1992. But repeated DNA tests failed to match the sperm sample from her underwear. The patient hired a private eye to obtain DNA samples from Schneeberger’s car – which proved to be a match. Investigators brought Schneeberger back in for more extensive tests and were finally able to get a match and reach a conviction (he was also convicted of drugging and raping his step-daughter). At trial, Schneeberger revealed how he had been able to fool the DNA exam: He had implanted a vial of another man’s blood in his bicep and tricked the nurse into drawing blood from that vial.

The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer
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The Zodiac Killer murdered a number of people in the San Francisco Bay area in the 1960s and early 1970s and has never been caught – but not for lack of forensic evidence. Zodiac, as he called himself, left behind fingerprints and handprints at his crime scenes and on the taunting letters he sent to law enforcement. The text of the letters, themselves provided forensic evidence as well. And while several people have claimed to be the Zodiac, they don’t match the forensic evidence from the killings.

Who really murdered Kathy Mabry?

Who really murdered Kathy Mabry?
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In 1997, Kathy Mabry was found murdered in an abandoned house in Belzoni, Mississippi. Law enforcement attempted to use the bite marks found on her body in the same way they’d use fingerprints – to identify a suspect. Bite mark identification – a controversial forensic technique – led the police to James Earl Gates, whom they arrested despite the lack of any other evidence connecting him to the crime. The jury acquitted Gates, and the real murderer has never been found.

The Theatre Shooter’s motive

The Theatre Shooter’s motive
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Not all forensic science involves evidence you can see or touch. For example, forensic psychology involves figuring out a criminal’s motive and state of mind. That’s what William H. Reid, MD, tried to do when he was called in to consult on the mass murder trial of James Holmes, who killed 12 people and wounded 58 more during a showing of The Dark Night Rises on July 20, 2012. But even after interviewing Holmes for a total of 24 hours over a period of two months, Dr. Reid has concluded that Holmes’ motives are almost certainly incapable of ever being known or understood.

The “Dr. X” killings

The “Dr. X” killings
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Sometimes even seemingly airtight forensic evidence is insufficient to convince a jury. That’s how Mario Jascalevich, a surgeon who always seemed to be “around” when other doctors’ patients died inexplicably following routine surgeries, apparently got away with the murder in 1975. Although an investigation revealed the doctor’s locker held 18 empty bottles of the poison curare – which was shown to be in the bodies of the victims – the jury chose to believe the doctor’s claims that he’d used the curare to conduct experiments on dogs. The patients’ deaths remain unsolved to this day.

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The Black Dahlia

The Black Dahlia
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Elizabeth Short, an aspiring actress, was brutally murdered in Los Angeles in 1947. The LAPD conducted a lengthy, high-profile investigation, but a lack of forensic evidence (beyond the mutilated body, itself) left the detectives empty-handed. “Today, the Black Dahlia murder remains one of the oldest cold case files in L.A., as well as the city’s most famous,” according to Biography.

Santae Tribble: The “hair of the dog”

Santae Tribble: The “hair of the dog”
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In 1978, when 17-year-old Santae Tribble was in the crosshairs of law enforcement for the murder of a cab driver in Washington, DC, FBI forensics experts matched a strand of hair recovered at the scene to Tribble’s hair (this was prior to DNA testing). Based on that evidence alone, the jury came back with a guilty verdict after 40 minutes of deliberation. The only problem? The hair wasn’t Tribble’s. In fact, it wasn’t even human. In 2012, a review of the evidence revealed the hair came from a dog. Tribble was exonerated. McCormick’s murder has not been solved.

The mystery of the Somerton Man

The mystery of the Somerton Man
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On December 1, 1948, a dead man turned up on a beach in Australia. He was fully dressed, and the crime scene was rife with forensic evidence: a half-smoked cigarette, a bus ticket, two combs, a pack of gum, and a piece of paper that had been cut from a book. But since no one ever came forward to identify the body, he became known as the “Somerton Man.” No one ever filed a missing person report that fit his description and the case went cold (despite that the book from which the paper had been cut was eventually found; it yielded nothing but further questions). It’s hoped that advances in forensic science will someday point to the Somerton Man’s identity.

JonBenet Ramsey

JonBenet Ramsey
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The morning of December 26, 1996, JonBenet Ramsey’s mother, Patsy, reported that JonBenet was missing from their Boulder, CO home, and there was a ransom note demanding $118,000 in cash. A few hours later, JonBenet’s father, John, discovered the six-year old’s body in the basement. She’d been strangled. “Boulder police processed more than 1,500 pieces of evidence and interviewed more than 1,000 people in connection with the case,” reports the Los Angeles Times, but the case has never been solved. Why? Authorities blame it not on the forensic evidence, itself, but the way the crime scene and house were handled – or more to the point, improperly secured. Friends and relatives were in the house throughout the search and John, upon finding JonBenet, removed duct tape from her mouth and carried her upstairs, compromising the collection of forensic evidence.

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