Friday, August 21, 2015

Forensic Friday: Every Contact Leaves a Trace

In my early college days, I aspired to be a medical technologist. Dr. Pinkerton’s Organic Chemistry class, and the thought of spending hours on end squinting into the eye piece of a microscope sent me running across campus to the Psychology department where I happily stayed until I received my bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

Having said that, I find the forensics aspect of crime solving absolutely fascinating. So much so, that I follow forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray on Facebook and own her two Great Courses on forensics. Not to mention several forensic textbooks. After reading them I no longer look at my hair and clothes the same way.

During the investigation of a crime, hair and fiber are collected at varying points throughout the process, but most notably at the scene of the crime and at the autopsy stage. This can be for the purposes of eliminating individuals from police enquiries as well as to help narrow down the list of suspects. These samples are collected through meticulous and painstaking processes, which are carried out by Crime Scene Investigators who themselves are dressed in protective clothing so that their own clothing and hair do not contaminate any evidence which may pre-exist.

The fibers are then taken back to a lab to be analyzed. It is a time consuming job, and doesn’t happen as quickly as shown on television, but has been crucial in solving many high profile cases including the Lindbergh kidnapping in 1936. Science has come a long way since then, but sometimes it is still the simple details of a single fiber that clinches a conviction.

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