At the end of the first trimester, FA students in Dan Nightingale's forensic science elective were tasked to use their skills to plan and investigate a crime scene. Each of the two sections created a criminal scenario for the other to sleuth and solve, incorporating evidence and connecting to a plausible back story linking victims and suspects to the crime.
The class studied crime scene documentation such as mapping, photography, and measurement. They also learned techniques for evidence enhancement and collection such as casting shoe impressions and tool marks, and druggist folds and gel lifts. “I thought it was really cool because it was so authentic,” said Daisy Kinsley Hancock ’23. “It was like a real crime scene where we got to dust for fingerprints and measure the room to make an accurate drawing of the crime scene.”
Once several crime scene scenarios were proposed, the class chose one to stage for their peers in the other section. For several days, 003 was abuzz with students creating a narrative, collecting and manufacturing evidence, and strategizing where each piece should be placed at the crime scene. Students could be heard speculating together as to how the crime scene investigators might think. Might they follow the red herring leading them to the wrong suspect? Will they uncover a mysterious scrap of paper that they are certain contains the latent fingerprints of the criminal? Might they notice the yogurt container discarded in the trash that the victim and the perpetrator shared?
Donning Tyvek suits and gloves, the students embodied their new roles as forensic scientists and were briefed that a crime had taken place. Their team was engaged to investigate and, hopefully, solve a crime.
As they approached the door of the kitchenette, which has been cordoned off with yellow police tape emblazoned with the words, “CRIME SCENE, DO NOT ENTER,” the investigators reviewed their assigned roles one last time in order to be as efficient and careful with potential evidence as possible. A pair was assigned to map the scene while others took photographs and notes, dusted for prints, and triangulated evidence. Lastly, they enhanced and packaged up any evidence and regrouped in the classroom to debrief and build their case.
One section had to investigate a mysterious and somewhat scandalous murder while the other examined an illicit underground methamphetamine laboratory tied to an alleged drug ring. ”Our meth-lab scene was loosely based on the television show, Breaking Bad” explained Sophia Legutko ’23. She said that although it was a serious subject matter, the pop-culture reference made it fun, too.
Teams created inventive evidence including crystalized sugar cooked to look like crystal meth, procured fake burner phones, fingerprints left on a discarded water bottle, handwritten notes, and blood splatters on the floor. There was even a video link that revealed the criminal mastermind.
According to Legutko, the teams will process and analyze the evidence such as comparing fingerprints, and then together suss out what happened. Each team will then give a report on their findings.