The Justice Files: The science in solving an Ogden cold case

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Persistence paid off for a state crime lab forensic scientist.

Her work helped solve a 1985 mystery.

In August, ABC4 first reported that Ogden police was able to identify the person whose missing legs were found in the Ogden River. They re-opened the case of Savannah Hoskins and sent a toenail to the state crime lab. Last month, Ogden police confirmed the DNA belonged to Hoskins.

Back in 1985, two legs were found in the Ogden River. This after Hoskins’ family reported her missing. But DNA was not available and police could not solve who the legs belonged to.

That changed in August.

“We were able to identify the toenails belonging to the legs discovered in 1985 in the Ogden River as being the legs of Savannah Hoskins,” Lt. Brian Enyon told ABC4 in August.

In February, the Ogden detective called the state crime lab’s forensic services to help solve the mystery of the missing legs. On the Department of Public Safety’s Facebook page, the scientist described her involvement.

“So then I requested our case file in our case file I found some footprints that were preserved in a sheet of plastic and hoping to pick up DNA material from the footprint,” said Amanda Mayfield, the forensic scientist.

She said they used a technique to make a copy of the footprint and tested for DNA.

“We tried to get DNA, unfortunately, we couldn’t get much,” Mayfield said. “It was pretty old and degraded.”

But the forensic scientist didn’t give up and called the police to see if they had any other evidence. She was given a piece of a toenail.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been excited about a toenail in my life,” Mayfield said.

It was a technique called organic extraction that gave them what they were looking for.

“I was almost able to get a full DNA from this toenail,” Mayfield said.

And after 34 years, Savanna Hoskins was finally identified thanks to a partnership between law enforcement and police.

The next question: who murdered Hoskins.

Ogden police in August said they have only one suspect, her husband. Joe Hoskins has since passed away. But Lt. Enyon said they will present their case to the Weber County attorney for possible posthumous murder charges.

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