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The Evidence for Very Small Particles

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2017
2 pages
Based on interviews with forensic researchers David and Paul Stoney at their Stoney Forensic facility in Chantilly, VA, this article reviews some of their case studies and research findings on the nature and capabilities of the forensic analysis of very small particles (VSPs), which broadens the ability of forensic analysis to show that particular items and materials in hand were present at a specific crime scene.
In a 2012 study, one of several of the Stoneys’ VSP projects supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) noted “very small particles are ubiquitous in our environment and are virtually ignored by forensic science. These particles range in size from an order of magnitude smaller than conventional trace evidence, down to the molecular level.” The Stoneys further conclude that “We move about in a soup that is a combination of VSPs that provide an extraordinary, largely untapped resource for forensic associations and source attribution.” This article reports on how the Stoneys have developed a detailed database that allows them to match a population of particles to a specific location. VSP characteristics in the database encompass a mix of mineral, botanical, zoological, microbial, and anthropogenic particles. This database enables them to examine VSPs from items at hand and match them to VSPs analyzed from a crime scene or determine the location where a crime was committed based on VSPs analyzed on items known to have been present at the crime. Potential uses of VSP analysis are discussed, and case studies are presented to show how VSP analysis has been used in crime analysis. Related readings are listed.

Date Published: June 1, 2017