Research Article| Volume 16, P17-25, May 2015

Complex DNA mixture analysis in a forensic context: Evaluating the probative value using a likelihood ratio model

Published:November 24, 2014DOI:


      • A large data set of NGM DNA mixtures of three, four, and five donors is analyzed.
      • The performance of the basic likelihood ratio model is evaluated on controlled NGM mixtures.
      • The effect of using a biased estimate for the drop-out probability is evaluated.
      • The effect of underestimating the true number of donors on the LRs is evaluated.


      The interpretation of mixed DNA profiles obtained from low template DNA samples has proven to be a particularly difficult task in forensic casework. Newly developed likelihood ratio (LR) models that account for PCR-related stochastic effects, such as allelic drop-out, drop-in and stutters, have enabled the analysis of complex cases that would otherwise have been reported as inconclusive. In such samples, there are uncertainties about the number of contributors, and the correct sets of propositions to consider. Using experimental samples, where the genotypes of the donors are known, we evaluated the feasibility and the relevance of the interpretation of high order mixtures, of three, four and five donors.
      The relative risks of analyzing high order mixtures of three, four, and five donors, were established by comparison of a ‘gold standard’ LR, to the LR that would be obtained in casework. The ‘gold standard’ LR is the ideal LR: since the genotypes and number of contributors are known, it follows that the parameters needed to compute the LR can be determined per contributor. The ‘casework LR’ was calculated as used in standard practice, where unknown donors are assumed; the parameters were estimated from the available data. Both LRs were calculated using the basic standard model, also termed the drop-out/drop-in model, implemented in the LRmix module of the R package Forensim.
      We show how our results furthered the understanding of the relevance of analyzing high order mixtures in a forensic context. Limitations are highlighted, and it is illustrated how our study serves as a guide to implement likelihood ratio interpretation of complex DNA profiles in forensic casework.


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