RUFSI contributes expertise to local forensic dig into puzzling cold case
Under trying January conditions, several law enforcement agencies engaged the Radford University Forensic Science Institute (RUFSI) in a forensic homicide investigation of a 40-year-old "cold case."
Cliff and Donna Boyd from the RUFSI were part of a 30-person team, led by the Federal Bureau Investigation, that was following up on a lead into the 1975 disappearance of two Maryland girls. In a field near Thaxton in Bedford County, the Boyds lent archeological and anthropological expertise to solving what law enforcement calls "The Lyon Sisters' Case."
For four days in bitter winter weather, Cliff Boyd helped the team, which included Maryland and Virginia state police and the Bedford County Sheriff's department, comb a piece of ground about the size of half a football field for disturbances in the soil that might indicate possible burial sites. As such sites were excavated, Donna Boyd supervised the water screening of sites' contents for items of interest in the case.
While the case is typical of the way RUFSI fulfills its public service mission, its poignancy is compelling.
"I cannot imagine the pain that the family has gone through as it waits for closure, especially in a case as old as this," said Donna Boyd.
The team's collaborative effort was impressive as well.
"They were intent on advancing the case. The team was a well-oiled machine and the logistical support was flawless," she said.
As the team continues to gather evidence, the Boyds, as forensic specialists, will assist in its identification and verify its credibility in case of trial. RUFSI and the Boyds have combed the South Pacific beaches for the remains of American Marines and the debris of earthquakes in Haiti for victims. Both Donna and Cliff consult for the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Western District, as well.
RUFSI is an interdisciplinary institute within the College of Science and Technology that promotes and supports forensic science education, research and public service. For law enforcement, RUFSI provides professional consulting in medico-legal aspects of forensic science, including forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology, as well as prehistoric and historic archaeological cultural resource management projects. For students, the RUFSI provides applied interdisciplinary training in the forensic sciences. For example, RU students assist Donna Boyd in the Virginia Medical Examiner's office and in the field as the RUFSI is consulted. Donna Boyd will present a public lecture about FSI activities entitled: "Inside the RUFSI: 15 Years of Forensic Science Casework, Research, and Education" as part of the RU Museum of Earth Sciences Lecture Series on March 3.