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LSU doctoral student helps crack Baby Doe case

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BATON ROUGE - An LSU doctoral candidate helped investigators crack a case that got a mom and her husband thrown in jail for murder.

Geology and geophysics doctoral student Shannon Ferguson says pollen helped police identify where the body of a two-year-old child came from.

Baby Doe was the name given to a child that was found dead in a plastic bag in Boston Harbor this past June. Investigators recreated an image of her face that was viewed by millions. Ferguson used her expertise on pollen to help zero-in on the area where the girl was killed while interning with the Department of Homeland Security under head palynologist Andrew Laurence. Her first forensics case was Baby Doe.

"Whenever you walk around in it, it attaches to you," said Ferguson about pollen.

Ferguson says it was the pollen left on the blankets and leggings the girl was wrapped in and a clipping of her hair that was key to determining where the baby came from.

"You have it in your hair and you have it in your clothes," she explained. "You can wash your hair and clothes and get rid of some of it, but it doesn't always come out."

Ferguson says Laurence used a vacuum to suck out the pollen from the hair and fabrics, separating the different elements. Within four days of research, the team examined slides of pollen from plants found in New England.

"A spruce grain really helped us narrow it down," said Ferguson.

It was pollen specific to the northern part of Boston. The findings turned out to be correct and Baby Doe was later identified as Bella Bond. It's a tool that Ferguson says hasn't quite caught on, but she hopes it will be used more to track cases like this one.

"With this, you got to help somebody and give her identity back," she said. "It's just huge and it was really cool to be apart of."

Ferguson says she's not sure what's next for her after she finishes her doctorate at LSU, but it will be something to do will pollen.



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