When investigating a crime scene, even the smallest details could hold the key in unfolding a series of dark events and, hopefully, identifying a suspect.
Thirty-two students from West Liberty University got a chance to inspect a fake crime scene Tuesday in a special class project held in the woods off 12th Street near Varlas Trailer Court. Coordinated by WLU adjunct professor and former Moundsville police officer Jeff Murray, students used several forensic techniques police teams use to determine what happened in an actual crime scene.
Murray said the scene was designed to look like a drug deal gone wrong, with four people killed and one person who took off with money and drugs. With materials and land provided by property owner Carl Boso, Murray set up a car with several bullet holes, spatters of fake blood to mimic someone being shot through the head and chest and finger and palm prints on the car's windows.
West Liberty University student Bruce Knisley plants red flags next to evidence at a fake crime scene on 12th Street in Moundsville as part of a class project.
Photos by Sarah Harmon
West Liberty University students Hannah Walters, right, Rachel Cornell and Stacy Sumner take fingerprints off a car at a fake crime scene on 12th Street in Moundsville as part of a class project.
Murray showed students how to look for clues such as bullet casings around the car, checking the car's compartments for drugs, taking fingerprints and measuring the angles of the bullets made through windows with rods. Wherever students found pieces of evidence, red flags would be put up and suspicious items would be collected and labeled for analysis.
Students also took samples of flies from several deceased fetal pigs Murray placed in the area in order to determine how long the bodies had been dead. Others took castings of footprints left around the scene.
Afterward, the class took the evidence back to campus for analysis and a small mock trial to determine if they had enough evidence to convict a suspect of a crime.
"This is everything they learn in class," Murray said. "By the end of it, they're covered in sweat and grime." With Murray's help, students collected the evidence in three hours, but Murray said a real crime scene could take several days for police to scan.