Thursday, February 28, 2013

Results of Forensic Testing on Reputed Sasquatch (Sierra Kills) Tissue Samples Recovered by Justin Smeja - by Tyler Huggin

On October 8, 2010, Justin Smeja and a friend claim to have encountered three animals with characteristics that match typical eyewitness descriptions of Bigfoots or Sasquatch. Smeja claims to have shot two of the three subjects. Numerous lines of reasoning and corroborating evidence have caused me to believe him ( Smeja claims to have left the site with neither a body nor physical evidence of what he had shot, but a few weeks later he was compelled to return to the site in an effort to retrieve evidence of his claims. The landscape of the site had changed appreciably due to abundant snowfall and change of season, but at the location where they felt one of the animals had expired, Smeja and friend recovered a substantial amount of tissue with hair attached. They were very confident that characteristics of the recovered hide scrap matched the animal that Smeja shot. Smeja then submitted some of this tissue to Dr. Melba Ketchum through Derek Randles, and in a separate undertaking, provided samples to me (Tyler Huggins) and then to Bart Cutino.

In April of 2012, I contracted one of Canada’s most respected forensic DNA labs at Trent University to determine the samples’ species of origin. Director Dr. Bradley White (Canada Research Chair in Genetics), who has authored papers related to both human and non-human mammalian genomes, became personally involved in the efforts to genetically identify the tissue, and was very indulgent of my questions and challenges to his lab’s work. My hope was for the results to indicate that the tissue came from an uncatalogued primate (including potential hominids). In November 2012, after a prolonged effort and after withstanding my many challenges to their conclusions (as well as challenges from many other concerned parties, including Justin Smeja), Trent University provided me with their final report which concluded that the sample was bear tissue contaminated by Justin Smeja’s DNA. During that period, Bart Cutino’s Oklahoma lab was working completely independently and completely unaware of Trent University’s results. Bart supplied the lab with two pieces of tissue – a salt-cured piece that Justin had brought to the site of the encounter, and a frozen piece that Justin had preserved. Dr. Brandt Cassidy has now corroborated Trent University’s results, and we are ready to make a statement regarding the data.

The OK lab report is quite brief and to the point. As had the Trent University lab, Dr. Cassidy’s lab independently identified only two contributors (the presence of DNA from only two animals). They identified Ursus americanus (Black Bear) and Homo sapiens (Human). The lab report includes pictures of the tissue and hair, but because their expertise is not in hair analysis, those pictures are provided for reference only. Dr. Meldrum has volunteered to supply a hair morphology analysis.


When results indicate the presence of ‘human-looking’ DNA, the first thing to do is to test the “chain of custody” – in other words, compare the human DNA of the sample against the DNA of all humans who have handled the sample. As the submitter, Justin Smeja would logically be first on that list. We subsequently obtained and compared Smeja’s own DNA against that of the human DNA found in the sample.
*The only human DNA present in the sample was found to be a match for Justin Smeja’s own DNA.

It should be noted that Trent University was able to obtain only mitochondrial DNA from the human contribution in the sample. As such, the lab was able to compare only the mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) of the tissue sample to that of Justin Smeja. Smeja’s mDNA showed no divergence from any of the 423bp that were compared against the mDNA present in the sample. While the mDNA of the technician working on the sample was also tested and did show divergence from the mDNA of the sample, this test is not precise enough to conclusively rule out every other human as a potential source for the contaminant human DNA that was present in the sample. Fortunately, Dr. Brandt in Oklahoma was able to obtain and match human nuclear DNA from the sample to that of Justin Smeja. Nuclear DNA is generally regarded as more informative than mtDNA, when looking for an identifying ‘match.’ As such, this now gives us added confidence that the only human DNA present in the tissue sample is in fact that of Justin Smeja.

As disappointing as this is, we must keep a few points in mind:
• There are many compelling reasons to believe Smeja’s account other than just the expectations surrounding this tissue (including a passed polygraph that, while not infallible, did conclude that there was an absence of any deceit). (

• We knew from the start that this tissue may not have originated from the subjects he claims to have shot. No claims were ever made about this tissue other than that it seemed to be good circumstantial evidence, since it was found in the same general area, and looked similar in color. Justin had additional confidence that the tissue originated from one of the subjects, after Melba Ketchum assured him that the tissue provided clear genetic evidence of an unidentified hominid.

• Bart Cutino is in possession of boots from Justin Smeja, which Smeja claims one of the animals bled onto after he shot it. This boot evidence then, is direct and not circumstantial. We are pursuing testing of these boots. However, these boots have been exposed to contamination from other animals and Justin himself. Additionally, the boots were exposed to the elements for many months, so degradation is sure to add complexity to any efforts at DNA retrieval. We will be initiating testing of these boots very shortly.

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