Forensics Night at the Museum

Michael Glenn and Ron Guyton
North Carolina Justice Academy; City of Whiteville Police Department
Open Minds Teen Science Cafe Whiteville


On this week’s TSC, we return to the vastly interesting topic of Crime Scenes with a new face. Along with our local detective, Ron Guyton, Michael Glenn lead our teens into a special three hour interactive CSI program, where the teens became a detective for a night, so put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and get ready to solve the case!

Before our teens were detective ready, Detective Glenn went through a brief presentation that explained only the basic science behind the job as he tied in the scientific method with the process of solving the mystery behind a crime.

Hands on Activity

The crime scene

After that, our teens were prepared to go onto the scene of the crime, where a mock murder had been set in place. As everyone walked in, they saw that the victim was in disarray on the floor wearing a bloodied white tank top with red skin-tight shorts. Countless holes theoretically made from a knife filled his chest as the blood dripped down and soiled both his clothes and the floor while his limbs were disheveled behind his body. His pupils were two different sizes, which suggested the notion that he was gifted with a concussion before death sank in and took him. The finishing touch of the scene was a knife coated in blood laying a couple meters away from the lifeless body. Our teens examined the scene carefully with theories already dancing inside their heads.

Since a crime scene is fresh inside a detective’s head, our teens didn’t have any background information on the scene; they had to go in blind without assuming a single element to be completely true. Once the scene was captured inside their heads, it was time for everyone to search for trace elements; trace elements are tangible materials that are left behind on the scene that can be used as a clue such as hairs, fibers, fabric, soil, and other things that are easily damaged and quick to perish.

Gathering evidence

With that in mind, each and every teen grabbed trace tape or tweezers to pick up any hair or trace evidence that they could find. As they slowly uncovered some clues, they placed the objects in bags and labeled them so they could be sent to the lab. Next, the teens were asked to search for laden evidence, a term used to describe evidence such as finger and foot prints. These prints are taken up using a type of casting method; as powder uncovers prints that can’t be observed by the human eye, a picture is taken then trace tape is placed over the item to capture it for further analysis. When the laden evidence was gathered up and preserved in a sterile package, it was time to progress further in the process and uncover any evidence of physical abuse on his body. Using receipt tape paired with powder and ALS light, one can uncover both busted capillaries and hand prints on the body of the abuser. Since the victim in question was a mannequin, the teens tested this process on each other to observe the importance of the process. For the final test, each teen tested the blood on the victim to see if it is real blood; when uncovering a scene, some things are not as they seem so it is critical that everything gets tested to get as close to the truth as possible. With all the possible evidence gathered and packaged, he gave the teens pointers on how to package elements. Never place DNA evidence within plastic because the moisture and humidity from the plastic could damage the DNA, so paper is much more reliable. On another note, DNA must be labeled with a ballpoint pen since sharpie and gel pens can damage the evidence also. After everything was finished and sent to the lab, Detective Glenn revealed how the victim was killed; After leaving the bar where the victim was having an affair, his wife was awaiting around the corner with a knife in her hands. Once he turned the corner, she rammed her body into his, causing him to fall hard onto the cement and hit his head, which lead to his concussion. Then, she proceeded to get on top of him before ramming her knife into his chest about 20 different times in a fit of aggressive rage.

Uncovering both busted capillaries and hand prints on the body of the abuser

The case was closed thanks to the help of all our detectives and the lab that the evidence was sent to, so our teens could retire and go on their way while the city could rest easy knowing that there were skilled detectives present to catch anyone that went against the path of justice.