Top 10 Cold Cases Solved Thanks to Forensic Science

September 7, 2023

New scientific discoveries are made every single day. And in the world of true crime, forensic science is one of the strongest investigative tools at law enforcement’s disposal. Few things are as satisfying as solving a haunting cold case with new technology, finally bringing closure to victims’ loved ones.

Join us as we look at the top 10 cold cases that were once shrouded in mystery but have since been solved, thanks to the relentless pursuit of truth and the power of cutting-edge forensic techniques.

1.     The Tragic Abduction of Jacob Wetterling

The journey begins with the heartbreaking abduction of 11-year-old, Minnesota kid, Jacob Wetterling in 1989. This case remained unsolved for 27 agonising years until advances in DNA analysis led to the apprehension of the culprit, Danny Heinrich. The breakthrough came when suspected child molester Heinrich's DNA was linked to the crime scene, providing long-awaited answers for the Wetterling family.  

2.     The Murder of Hae Min Lee: Adnan Syed's Conviction Overturned

The gripping case of Hae Min Lee's murder and Adnan Syed's conviction became a sensation through the podcast "Serial." After years of legal battles, advances in genetic profiling helped overturn Adnan Syed's conviction. Tests were performed on Hae Min Lee's clothes, including a pair of her shoes, contained a DNA sample – excluding Adnan Syed. However, in March 2023 his conviction was reinstated and the possibility of him returning to prison has sparked serious debate.

3.     The Claremont Serial Killer

The Claremont Serial Killer case in Western Australia involved the murders of three young women in the 1990s. It remained unsolved for over two decades. In 2020, Bradley Robert Edwards was convicted of the murders due to advancements in forensic DNA analysis, which allowed authorities to match his DNA to samples found at the crime scenes.  

4.     The Golden State Killer

The Golden State Killer terrorized California for over a decade, committing a string of burglaries, rapes, and murders. The case went cold for years until the perpetrator, Joseph DeAngelo, was apprehended in 2018. Forensic genealogy and DNA analysis played a pivotal role in identifying and capturing him, providing closure to the victims' families and the communities he haunted.

5.     The Identity of “Little Miss Nobody”

For nearly six decades, the identity of “Little Miss Nobody,” a young girl found murdered in Arizona in 1960, remained a mystery. In 202, forensic genealogy and DNA analysis enabled authorities to identify her as Sharon Lee Gallegos, opening up new avenues for solving this decades-old cold case. Sharon was four years old when she was abducted outside her New Mexico home, and her kidnapper has not been caught.

6.     The Yorkshire Ripper

The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, terrorized northern England from 1975 to 1980. Despite an extensive manhunt, he evaded capture until 1981, when he was arrested for a minor offense. Advanced forensic techniques, particularly fibre analysis and blood typing, helped link him to the murders, resulting in his conviction for the brutal slayings of 13 women.

7.     The Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack

The Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack in 1995 was a shocking act of terrorism orchestrated by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. The attack killed 13 people and more than 5,500 people sustained injuries. Forensic science played a crucial role in identifying the nerve gas used to linking it to the cult members. This led to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for the attack.

8.     The Boy in the Box: America's Unknown Child

The heartbreaking case of America's Unknown Child, found deceased in a cardboard box in 1957, has baffled investigators for over six decades. In recent years, renewed forensic efforts and genetic genealogy have made it possible to finally identify the boy as 4-year-old Joseph Augustus Zarelli. Joseph came from a prominent Delware County, Pennsylvania family, yet his body showed signs of malnutrition, bruising and scarring. The investigation into his death continues.

9.     The Alcasser Girls Case

The disappearance and murder of three teenage girls in Alcasser, Spain, in 1992, was a case that deeply shocked the nation. After years of uncertainty, advancements in forensic science, including DNA analysis led police to the door of Antonio Anglés in 2019. Anglés had been one of the prime suspects in the investigation and investigators were elated when his guilt was proven.

10.  The Disappearance of Bobby Dunbar

In 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar disappeared during a family vacation in Lousiana. After an extensive search, a boy believed to be Bobby was found and reunited with his family. However, Julia Anderson claimed the boy was her son, Bruce. In 2004, almost a century later, DNA testing revealed that the boy was indeed not Bobby, leading to reopening the case.

Further Reading

Jacob Wetterling

Timeline: The Adnan Syed Case

Little Miss Nobody identified

Who is the Claremont Serial Killer?

Tokyo Subway Attack

Suspect in 1972 Cold Case died by suicide before he was convicted

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