Student Speak

Chillin’ with Cornelius and Scary Mary at UOIT’s Crime Scene House!

Posted by Dimitri Tsalavoutas on March 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM

The story starts on January 13, where a suspected homicide had occurred at UOIT’s Crime Scene House. For over a month, the Durham Regional Police Service had been looking into the matter. But that’s not all that happened. At 1900 hours on March 2, the DRPS discovered the lifeless body of their bloodstain pattern expert, Dr. D. Morgan, who was investigating the January 13 homicide. She was lying flat on the bed in the master bedroom. The initial examination of the scene concluded no signs of struggle, forced entry or foul play.  What happened here? It’s up to the forensic science students at UOIT to figure it out!


First, let’s jump back for a second to what the Forensic Science program is about, and what the laboratory has to offer students. The Forensic Science program is a field of study within UOIT’s Faculty of Science.  The forensic lab is found in the Business and IT building (UB). It is a 100-square-metre space with state-of-the-art instrumentation. There are 24 individual working spaces where students study microscopy techniques, forensic biology and forensic chemistry instrumentation, and miscellaneous forensic equipment.

UOIT’s Crime Scene House is on Windfields Farm, just up the road from UOIT’s north location. This is where mock crime scenes are staged. The major crime scenes for the students are: “bloodstain patterns simulating attacks, impression evidence indicating forced entries, bullet damage revealing trajectory patterns and number of shooters, and shattered windshields demonstrating hit-and-run accidents”. More information can be found at UOIT's Crime Scene House page.  


Kimberly Nugent, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Science, invited me to this crime scene investigation at the Crime Scene House. In a UOIT news article, she explained the cutting-edge technology with which students can learn: “Students using the Crime Scene House are exposed to a full spectrum of scenarios and the latest available technological tools used in the industry. These opportunities are complemented with the integration of tablet computers, specialized software, learning objects and digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras.” Check out the video in that link above as well, it is very informative.

So now you know the background info, let’s go back to the crime scene! Detective

When I first arrived, Kimberly Nugent, Laboratory Technician Stacey Sainte-Marie, Retired Detective Constable and Adjunct Professor David Robertson, and internship student Kaitlyn Boudreau were all staging the scene with evidence for the students. 


Above, Stacey is placing her hand print on pieces of glass. This is so the entire table upstairs in the crime scene does not have to be fully dusted in that room, as it can be messy! The small pieces of glass will later be taken to the basement where they are analyzed using the fingerprint workstations. 


Pills were also put into bottles, cups were given lip prints, and dirt samples were placed in the rooms with footprints on them. 


When the students arrived, they made their way downstairs where they started putting on their fancy CSI clothing and obtained a kit with all of the equipment they needed. I was creeping on them from the office!


Next, they headed to the kitchen on the main floor for their briefing with Mr. Robertson. 


The nine students in the morning session were put into teams of three. Each team was given a room to start at, and after approximately two hours of investigating they rotated rooms. If you think that’s a long time, real investigations take days, sometimes weeks! Time goes by fast, and there's a lot to do in each room.

Prior to the teams entering their assigned rooms, they observed the scene, making notes and taking pictures from the hallway upstairs. 


In the first room I checked out, it appeared that someone had written a letter with a pen on the top page of a notepad, then ripped if off. To find out what the person had written, students would later take the rest of the notepad and process the indented writing using an Electrostatic Dusting Apparatus (ESDA). For the purpose of identifying different types of soil samples, there was a footprint on some soil near the chair. 


Below, the students successfully identify the three pieces of evidence.


The next room was pretty bare. At a first glance, there was another footprint in some dirt on the floor… and not much else. But after a bit of searching, students noticed a dirty handprint on the door, and a noose inside the closet!


The students in this room acknowledged the footprint and took photos in a way that the flash from the camera enhances the depth in the footprint. Later they carefully removed the noose for further inspection. 


Here, a student documents the information about the different camera options set for each of the photos taken. 


The master bedroom was where Dr. D. Morgan’s body lay on the bed. The washroom within that room was where the lip-printed cup and bottle with pills were placed.  


Below, Mr. Robertson checks in on the team as they examine the master bedroom and ensuite.


In the photo below, a student shows me her sketch of the area on her tablet, using OneNote.


Here we are chillin’ with Dr. D. Morgan!  :P


Following the crime scene investigation, the students take their photos and evidence back to the laboratory for analysis, after which they will be subpoenaed to testify in a mock court scenario in April.  They are in teams now, but in court, they must know everything that the group as a whole did during the investigation. This is because in the courthouse, students must each be able to defend what they claim about the suspicious death of Dr. D. Morgan individually.

So the title mentions Cornelius and Scary Mary. Well you see, the male dummy is Cornelius, and the female is Scary Mary.  They each play different roles in different crime scene investigations. This time Scary Mary was Dr. D Morgan, and Cornelius… well, he was sitting in the back of the kitchen downstairs listening to Mr. Robertson’s briefing with me!


Photo Credits: The outside of the Crime Scene House is a screenshot from a UOIT Forensic Science video, and the detective silhouette can be found at ClipArts.


See inside the Crime Scene House!

Topics: Innovation, Faculty of Science