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Chemical elemental distribution and soil DNA fingerprints provide the critical evidence in murder case investigation.

Concheri G, Bertoldi D, Polone E, Otto S, Larcher R, Squartini A - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: The first soil was collected on the crime scene, along a corn field, while the second was found in trace amounts on the carpet of a car impounded from the main suspect in a distant location.The matching similarity of the two soils was proven by crossing the results of two independent techniques: a) elemental analysis via inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) approaches, and b) amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis by gel electrophoresis (ARDRA).Besides introducing the novel application of these methods to forensic disciplines, the highly accurate level of resolution observed, opens new possibilities also in the fields of soil typing and tracking, historical analyses, geochemical surveys and global land mapping.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Dipartimento di Biotecnologie Agrarie, Università di Padova, Legnaro (Padova) Italy.

ABSTRACT

Background: The scientific contribution to the solution of crime cases, or throughout the consequent forensic trials, is a crucial aspect of the justice system. The possibility to extract meaningful information from trace amounts of samples, and to match and validate evidences with robust and unambiguous statistical tests, are the key points of such process. The present report is the authorized disclosure of an investigation, carried out by Attorney General appointment, on a murder case in northern Italy, which yielded the critical supporting evidence for the judicial trial.

Methodology/principal findings: The proportional distribution of 54 chemical elements and the bacterial community DNA fingerprints were used as signature markers to prove the similarity of two soil samples. The first soil was collected on the crime scene, along a corn field, while the second was found in trace amounts on the carpet of a car impounded from the main suspect in a distant location. The matching similarity of the two soils was proven by crossing the results of two independent techniques: a) elemental analysis via inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) approaches, and b) amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis by gel electrophoresis (ARDRA).

Conclusions: Besides introducing the novel application of these methods to forensic disciplines, the highly accurate level of resolution observed, opens new possibilities also in the fields of soil typing and tracking, historical analyses, geochemical surveys and global land mapping.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Air view maps of the crime scene and surroundings depicting the sites from which samples were taken, starting from the murder spot, and at increasing distances.The inset map of Italy shows the area location as well as the sites of two soils taken at far distance as outgroup references. X: spot where the corpse was found (margin of a corn field), CF (inside corn field), Le (ridge of the levee bordering the corn field). 1.7 Km, 3 Km, 18 Km, 19 Km: sites located at 1.7, 3, 18, 19 kilometers from the murder site and sharing the same crop (corn); 1.8 KmF: (fallow), site located at 1.8 km but not cropped for over 50 years and featuring natural vegetation and secondary growth. Sar: soil from an uncultivated area in Sardinia (Castelsardo); Alp: soil from an uncultivated area in the Alps (Soranzen). All samples, except the two outgroup references, were chosen in equivalent soil conditions as regards parent material, depositional basin river and soil type (Hypercalcaric-Fluvic Cambisols, WRB 1998, or Oxyaquic Eutrudept fine-silty, carbonatic, mesic, USDA 1998) to minimize the variability that would occur across different soil types. For details and exact coordinates, see Tab.1. Scale bars equal: 500 km (a); 5 km (b); 500 m (c); 50 m (d).
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pone-0020222-g001: Air view maps of the crime scene and surroundings depicting the sites from which samples were taken, starting from the murder spot, and at increasing distances.The inset map of Italy shows the area location as well as the sites of two soils taken at far distance as outgroup references. X: spot where the corpse was found (margin of a corn field), CF (inside corn field), Le (ridge of the levee bordering the corn field). 1.7 Km, 3 Km, 18 Km, 19 Km: sites located at 1.7, 3, 18, 19 kilometers from the murder site and sharing the same crop (corn); 1.8 KmF: (fallow), site located at 1.8 km but not cropped for over 50 years and featuring natural vegetation and secondary growth. Sar: soil from an uncultivated area in Sardinia (Castelsardo); Alp: soil from an uncultivated area in the Alps (Soranzen). All samples, except the two outgroup references, were chosen in equivalent soil conditions as regards parent material, depositional basin river and soil type (Hypercalcaric-Fluvic Cambisols, WRB 1998, or Oxyaquic Eutrudept fine-silty, carbonatic, mesic, USDA 1998) to minimize the variability that would occur across different soil types. For details and exact coordinates, see Tab.1. Scale bars equal: 500 km (a); 5 km (b); 500 m (c); 50 m (d).

Mentions: In order to verify the reliability of such comparison, we gathered a series of control soils at increasing distances from the crime scene (Fig. 1). In the near-range, samples were collected from two areas within 30 meters (inside the corn field and along a levee of an adjacent river). Exploring farther locations we sampled from corn field sites at 1.7, 3, 18 and 19 kilometers and a soil with natural vegetation at 1.8 km. Two soils taken at far distances were included as outgroup references: one from the Alps and one from a ruderal coastal area of the Sardinia island. Soil sample collection coordinates are shown in Table 1.


Chemical elemental distribution and soil DNA fingerprints provide the critical evidence in murder case investigation.

Concheri G, Bertoldi D, Polone E, Otto S, Larcher R, Squartini A - PLoS ONE (2011)

Air view maps of the crime scene and surroundings depicting the sites from which samples were taken, starting from the murder spot, and at increasing distances.The inset map of Italy shows the area location as well as the sites of two soils taken at far distance as outgroup references. X: spot where the corpse was found (margin of a corn field), CF (inside corn field), Le (ridge of the levee bordering the corn field). 1.7 Km, 3 Km, 18 Km, 19 Km: sites located at 1.7, 3, 18, 19 kilometers from the murder site and sharing the same crop (corn); 1.8 KmF: (fallow), site located at 1.8 km but not cropped for over 50 years and featuring natural vegetation and secondary growth. Sar: soil from an uncultivated area in Sardinia (Castelsardo); Alp: soil from an uncultivated area in the Alps (Soranzen). All samples, except the two outgroup references, were chosen in equivalent soil conditions as regards parent material, depositional basin river and soil type (Hypercalcaric-Fluvic Cambisols, WRB 1998, or Oxyaquic Eutrudept fine-silty, carbonatic, mesic, USDA 1998) to minimize the variability that would occur across different soil types. For details and exact coordinates, see Tab.1. Scale bars equal: 500 km (a); 5 km (b); 500 m (c); 50 m (d).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3108598&req=5

pone-0020222-g001: Air view maps of the crime scene and surroundings depicting the sites from which samples were taken, starting from the murder spot, and at increasing distances.The inset map of Italy shows the area location as well as the sites of two soils taken at far distance as outgroup references. X: spot where the corpse was found (margin of a corn field), CF (inside corn field), Le (ridge of the levee bordering the corn field). 1.7 Km, 3 Km, 18 Km, 19 Km: sites located at 1.7, 3, 18, 19 kilometers from the murder site and sharing the same crop (corn); 1.8 KmF: (fallow), site located at 1.8 km but not cropped for over 50 years and featuring natural vegetation and secondary growth. Sar: soil from an uncultivated area in Sardinia (Castelsardo); Alp: soil from an uncultivated area in the Alps (Soranzen). All samples, except the two outgroup references, were chosen in equivalent soil conditions as regards parent material, depositional basin river and soil type (Hypercalcaric-Fluvic Cambisols, WRB 1998, or Oxyaquic Eutrudept fine-silty, carbonatic, mesic, USDA 1998) to minimize the variability that would occur across different soil types. For details and exact coordinates, see Tab.1. Scale bars equal: 500 km (a); 5 km (b); 500 m (c); 50 m (d).
Mentions: In order to verify the reliability of such comparison, we gathered a series of control soils at increasing distances from the crime scene (Fig. 1). In the near-range, samples were collected from two areas within 30 meters (inside the corn field and along a levee of an adjacent river). Exploring farther locations we sampled from corn field sites at 1.7, 3, 18 and 19 kilometers and a soil with natural vegetation at 1.8 km. Two soils taken at far distances were included as outgroup references: one from the Alps and one from a ruderal coastal area of the Sardinia island. Soil sample collection coordinates are shown in Table 1.

Bottom Line: The first soil was collected on the crime scene, along a corn field, while the second was found in trace amounts on the carpet of a car impounded from the main suspect in a distant location.The matching similarity of the two soils was proven by crossing the results of two independent techniques: a) elemental analysis via inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) approaches, and b) amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis by gel electrophoresis (ARDRA).Besides introducing the novel application of these methods to forensic disciplines, the highly accurate level of resolution observed, opens new possibilities also in the fields of soil typing and tracking, historical analyses, geochemical surveys and global land mapping.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Dipartimento di Biotecnologie Agrarie, Università di Padova, Legnaro (Padova) Italy.

ABSTRACT

Background: The scientific contribution to the solution of crime cases, or throughout the consequent forensic trials, is a crucial aspect of the justice system. The possibility to extract meaningful information from trace amounts of samples, and to match and validate evidences with robust and unambiguous statistical tests, are the key points of such process. The present report is the authorized disclosure of an investigation, carried out by Attorney General appointment, on a murder case in northern Italy, which yielded the critical supporting evidence for the judicial trial.

Methodology/principal findings: The proportional distribution of 54 chemical elements and the bacterial community DNA fingerprints were used as signature markers to prove the similarity of two soil samples. The first soil was collected on the crime scene, along a corn field, while the second was found in trace amounts on the carpet of a car impounded from the main suspect in a distant location. The matching similarity of the two soils was proven by crossing the results of two independent techniques: a) elemental analysis via inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) approaches, and b) amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis by gel electrophoresis (ARDRA).

Conclusions: Besides introducing the novel application of these methods to forensic disciplines, the highly accurate level of resolution observed, opens new possibilities also in the fields of soil typing and tracking, historical analyses, geochemical surveys and global land mapping.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus