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Body Farm director says new Jack the Ripper evidence doesn't close the case

"I'd like to see more tests being done before we truly link a family who has living descendants today to such a name as Jack the Ripper."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A new study released yesterday identified the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper, as 23-year-old Polish barber Aaron Kosminski.

This latest research into the over 130-year-old cold case has sparked a lot of conversation. 

However, Dawnie Steadman, director of the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, also known as The Body Farm, warns this one study does not completely close the case.

RELATED: New study identifies serial killer Jack the Ripper as Aaron Kosminski

"From this one study alone, we have to be a little bit cautious," Steadman said in an interview with 10News.

In this new study, researchers analyzed blood and semen on a victim's shawl and compared them to the DNA of the victim's and suspect's descendants.

She said there are some potential problems with some of the testing methods.

Primarily, the shawl, which was the only physical piece of evidence in this case, was passed down through the generations from family members of the police officer who originally collected it. 

She said many people have handled it, and they know some bloody parts were cut away from it, which damages evidence. 

RELATED: Inside The Body Farm: The dead do speak

"They didn't actually test to see whether the substances that they thought was blood and semen were truly that," Steadman said. "They just took DNA from those areas."

She also said the article provokes some uncertainty in the types of light source work they did to identify the blood and semen, as many substances illuminate under those conditions.

"You have to test to make sure those substances are what you think they are before you run DNA tests on them," Steadman said. "I'm not sure if that was done in this case." 

Steadman also pointed to the type of DNA tested as a potential issue. 

RELATED: Body Farm research to help investigate pre-civil rights cold case nearly 80 years later

There are two types of DNA known right now: genetic and mitochondrial. The study looked at mitochondrial DNA, which is only passed down from mothers.

Steadman said this type of DNA works well for tracing the female victim, but the male suspect cannot pass down mitochondrial DNA. 

"It wasn't clear from the article who on his side of his family they actually got the reference DNA from," Steadman said. "I think that should, perhaps, be a little bit more transparent."

This is not to say DNA evidence should be ignored as a valuable piece of evidence in solving crimes, especially cold cases. 

"One of the things we're working on is to use DNA to get to cases like this that are longer and longer ago in the past," Steadman said. "We work with DNA facilities to try to help them do that with the donors we have at the Forensic Anthropology Center."

She said they have been able to identify a missing person by taking DNA from a skeleton found in an investigation and using family member references.

RELATED: UT Body Farm helps ID victim in Redhead Murders

Overall, Steadmam said she does not think the Jack the Ripper case will ever be solved. 

"I think one of the things we have to be careful of is the legacy that this brings to the family of the suspect that they named in this case," Steadman said. "I'd like to see more tests being done before we truly link a family who has living descendants today to such a name as Jack the Ripper."

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