Acrime scene any CSI fan would envy including blood splatters, crime kits and a high profile “victim” was on display in the Bell Library on April 11. Organized by the Criminal Justice, Theater, Biomedical Sciences departments and the Bell Libray, the crime scene demonstration was held to show students how to work a crime scene from start to finish.
Students were able to see some of the tools that professional lab experts use in forensics, and even got to examine a homicide scene with an actual body. The victim in this case was President Quintanilla, where her body was found slumped over a desk with her throat slit viciously. Some blood was sprayed onto the wall while there were signs of a struggle by the look of the mess and a bit of damage under her fingernails. It was up to the participants to use the clues given in the simulated scene and use their deductions to find out who “killed” Dr. Quintanilla.
“This is reality that TV always seems to miss,” professor of Criminal Justice, Wendi Pollock said. “A crime scene is really part science, and part human. So, when you’re at a crime scene, you’re going to have people behaving in many different ways because death can be shocking, and the way people react to shock totally different types of styles, so you never know what’s going to happen.”
In this demo, students were able to carefully examine the crime scene without ruining any substantial “evidence” that would normally be used later in court. They were also able to speak with eight “suspects,” four of them faculty members and four improv 2 students, taught by Theatre Professor Meredith Melville. They also had to come up with their reasoning for their deductions, and come to a conclusion on who the murderer was.
For professionals who work the scene, Pollock said it was extremely important to consider everything as something students could possibly contaminate, leaving them incapable of using that piece of evidence in court.
“There is a very systematic way that we teach people to work the scene,” Pollock
told the “detectives” before they examined the scene, “but largely, it starts with the ground and works up so we have to mark everything, we have to photograph everything, dust it, print it, lift it, and send it to the lab for results.”
The students were then able to examine the body and the scene. Participants were told that “there was now a murderer on the loose and they must be stopped before another murder happens.”
After the students interviewed the suspects, they all came together to lay out the evidence that stood out in the scene and evaluate the ways some of the suspects were acting when asked certain questions. They also examined some of the little details that could give something away like Dr. Quintanilla’s blood on the wall being to the left of her, indicating that whoever slit her throat was left handed, or an Android phone case was found on the ground near the body while Dr. Quintanilla owns an iPhone and it was still next to her hand.
Sometimes investigators may miss evidence in a crime scene, revealing questions that should have been considered. In this case the office phone on her desk was off the hook, so the question to ask would be if she was on the phone when she died and if so, who was she talking to? For a detective, Pollock said you must be extremely observant and consider everything that could be used as evidence, even if it’s a gum wrapper you just so happen to find. It may seem like ordinary trash, but who knows if the killer accidently left it there? Mark Skurka, a long time prosecutor for the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office, gave some in sight on what happens in the courtroom after the sweep of the crime scene.
“There’s a very famous theory by a French criminologist named Edmond Locard,” Skurka told the students. “When you enter a crime scene, you either bring something or you take something away from it. By just going onto a crime scene, either a criminal, you, anybody leaves something or can take something with them. It’s incredibly important to preserve the crime scene exactly as it was found to be shown in the courtroom again. Everybody has to know a little bit about the law, a little bit about collection and preservation techniques or else the chain of custody is thrown off, which is the worst thing that could happen in a case.”