Category Archives: Forensic Science

Black Powder Processing

By Pat A. Wertheim

This article originally appeared in “Minutiae”, The Lightning Powder Co. Newsletter, No. 42, May-June 1997, p. 6.

Although old-fashioned black powder is the workhorse of fingerprint development
techniques for crime scene use and is also an important method in the laboratory,
maximizing the effectiveness of powder requires far more sophistication than
simply dipping a brush into the jar of powder and painting it onto a surface.

More control can be exercised over black powder by working out of a shallow
dish. The perfect disposable dish can be made by cutting or tearing a blank
inked fingerprint card from any edge into the center of the card. Overlap
the two edges of the cut by about an inch (two or three centimeters) and
tape the card back together to make the dish. A large laboratory weighing
dish may be used, or any other shallow dish or bowl. Place one-half to one
teaspoon of powder (approximately one millilitre) into the dish. Continue reading

Bite Mark Analysis

Written by Katherine Steck-Flynn

Ted Bundy was a killer. Not only was he a killer but he was a serial killer. He rampaged through a large part of the United States killing and brutalizing women from 1974 until his eventually capture in 1978(Ramsland, 2004). He was captured twice and managed to escape twice. Under stress from life as a fugitive he made the fatal mistake which would lead to his conviction and eventual execution.

Ted Bundy bludgeoned, raped and tortured more than 30 women. Some estimates are closer to forty. Yet he did not fit the profile of a killer. He was intelligent and some say handsome. He seemed to have a future as a lawyer. He killed most of his victims without leaving any traceable evidence. In some cases the bodies were not found until years later. In most cases he left no fingerprints or other traceable evidence. DNA was recovered but could not be matched conclusively to Ted Bundy( Ramsland, 2004). Continue reading

Bad Science

by D. H. Garrison, Jr.
Forensic Services Unit
Grand Rapids Police Department
Grand Rapids, Michigan

This Article Originally Appeared in the MAFS Newsletter, October 1991.

Forensic science is the product of an uneasy and unholy mating of Science,
the objective seeker of truth and knowledge, and Forensics, the argumentative
persuader of courtroom advocacy. It is not called Justice Science, Law Science,
or Truth Science, as many of us would like to imagine. We are a bastard child,
an orphan, but still the subject of an intense child custody battle between
our estranged parents, the truth seeker and the advocate. The tug-of-war
goes on daily for our loyalties and confidences, each side offering candy
and warm hugs. These separated parents have visitation rights. Sometimes
they take our brothers and sisters away. Sometimes they don’t come back. Continue reading

Hidden Evidence: Latent Prints on Human Skin

By Ivan Ross Futrell
Mr. Futrell is a supervisory fingerprint specialist in the Latent Fingerprint
Section of the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

This Article Originally Appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, April 1996.

(Recent research proves that identifiable prints can be obtained from the
skin of homicide victims under real field conditions, not just in the
laboratory.)

Whether to stop them from fleeing, immobilize them, or dispose of them, murderers
often grab their victims. What homicide detective has not wished for the
ability to develop identifiable fingerprints of a suspect from the skin of
a dead body? Crucial fingerprint evidence linking the perpetrator to the
victim must be right there, but, until recently, attempts to retrieve those
prints rarely met with success. Continue reading

Case Study: Conviction Through Enhanced Fingerprint Identification

This article originally appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, December 1992.

In March 1990, an unknown assailant sexually molested and fatally stabbed a young woman. At the crime scene, an investigator discovered few leads. The only evidence was a pillowcase, found adjacent to the victim’s body, that exhibited several bloodstains. One stain showed some faint fingerprint ridge detail, barely visible even to the trained eye. Continue reading

Serological Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations

By Robert R.J. Grispino, M.A.
Special Agent Serology Unit, Laboratory Division FBI Headquarters

This Article Originally Appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October 1990.

NOTE: The following article presents a purely scientific approach to sexual assault evidence collection. The scientific step-by-step procedures that are explained here should always be accompanied by supportive treatment of the victim. It should also be noted that the investigating officer will be responsible for both overseeing the execution of the medical procedures described and managing the collection of the physical evidence.

Police officers throughout the United States routinely handle and oversee sexual assault investigations. Yet, these officers rarely receive training on the proper methods to be used for sexual assault evidence collection and preservation. As a result, valuable physical evidence may either be overlooked or inadvertently allowed to deteriorate biologically. This article establishes proper evidence collection and preservation protocol in sexual assault matters and demonstrates how modern forensic serology can aid in the eventual successful prosecution of the assailant. Continue reading