February 17, 2005

FORT WORTH, Texasâ??Forensic analysts at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth provided DNA evidence used by the Houston Police Department to identify skeletal remains found in Fort Bend County in August 2003 as those of missing 16-year-old Maria Solis.

Solis had been reported missing by her family after she never made it to school on March 3, 2003. Her remains were found by crews cutting trees in a heavily wooded area about 50 feet from the Brazos River in August.

A sample of the remains were sent to UNTHSC’s DNA Identity Laboratory in October 2003 where they were analyzed using both mitochondrial and STR DNA systems. The results from the analysis were loaded in November 2004 into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) Missing Person’s Database. UNTHSC was the first lab in the country to receive the FBIâ??s CODISmp software that allows comparison of DNA samples from family members of missing persons with samples from unidentified bodies. The CODISmp software was not fully operational until summer 2004.

Samples were also taken from Solis’ mother and father in and loaded into the CODISmp software, which matched the remains found in August 2003. The lab first learned of the possible DNA match in late November 2004. Further testing was required before releasing the information to police this month, said Arthur Eisenberg, PhD, director of the DNA Identity Lab.

“This is only the third time a DNA lab in the United States has matched DNA and human remains using the CODISmp software,” Eisenberg said. “We have made two of those three identifications. We are ecstatic that we are able to help bring some closure to families who are awaiting word on missing loved ones.’

The state legislature established the Texas Missing Persons DNA Database in 2001 on the UNT Health Science Center campus with funding provided by the Attorney General’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund. The database began accepting samples from Texas law enforcement agencies in March 2003. Texas was the first state in the country with a Missing Persons DNA Database capable of analyzing both Mitochondrial and STR systems. The database provides a very powerful tool for investigators trying to locate missing persons or identify remains. The DNA analysis provided by the Texas Missing Persons DNA Database is at no charge to law enforcement agencies or the families.

The health science center’s DNA Identity Lab has provided scientific and technical support for Texas law enforcement agencies and crime labs for more than 10 years, including paternity testing, forensic genetic screening and DNA testing. The lab is one of only a handful of facilities that are able to conduct mitochondrial forensic DNA analysis and is currently one of two state laboratories that can submit mitochondrial DNA profiles directly to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.###

Contact: Becky Purvis 817-735-5152, pager 817-216-0345, e-mail bpurvis@hsc.unt.edu.

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