West Virginia University hopes that its cozy red brick house on Oakland Street soon will be covered with blood, gun residue and muddy footprints.Future plans include an unsafe baby crib in the spare bedroom and an illegal drug lab in the basement.
Professor Michael T. Yura, director of the Forensic Identification Program, has those and many other plans for the new Crime Scene House located on the Evansdale Campus near Towers Residence Halls.
Developed to provide both forensics students and law enforcement personnel with a place to practice latent fingerprint techniques and crime scene investigations, the Crime Scene House is designed to have the appearance of an actual family dwelling, complete with furniture, toiletries and a well-stocked fridge.The house consists of a basement, attic, kitchen, two bedrooms, a dining room, living room and fireplace.
The newly remodeled, freshly painted rooms will be splattered with biological fluids and littered with cigarette butts to simulate actual crime scenes.Experts from the International Association for Identification in San Francisco will assist in developing crime scenes WVU officials will replicate.
Students in the crime scene and latent fingerprint courses will practice extracting fingerprints and other evidence from a variety of surfaces on the interior and exterior of the house.
Were going to put different types of soil under each window.One window will be predominately clay soil, one will be a sandier soil, and another will be something else,Yura explained.The clay will respond to footprints differently than a sandy soil, so the students have to make adjustments.
Yura is thankful for the communitys overwhelming support in the redesign of the house, which previously contained University offices.WVU Extension has collected household items; Housing and Residence Life contributed one of their extra televisions.One University employee donated a used washer and dryer.Clarice Stalnaker of Clarice L. Stalnaker Designs not only volunteered her expertise, but also solicited numerous donations from Morgantown businesses.
What you see is the result of the community being really impressed with the forensics program and the potential it has here,said Stalnaker, who was responsible for coordinating the donations and finishes.We tried to incorporate in that home every texture you could imagine that would be in a regular persons home, including different surfaces and blends of fabrics.
Crime scenarios wont be limited to breaking and entering and homicide cases.The basement garage area will set the stage for car-jackings and, eventually, a simulated illegal drug lab.
I also need a baby bed, preferably an unsafe crib that wouldnt pass the new safety standards for the size of the slats, because there are SIDS deaths and other kinds of things involving a child that well be investigating,Yura noted.
The Crime Scene House also is available to local and state police agencies for their own training operations.One of the neat things about this particular house is during the first and third weeks of August the FBI National Evidence Recovery Team training is going to use it,Yura said.Theyre going to have class over in Towers, and then theyll walk over here and set up the house.
Part of a $3 million grant from the National Institute for Justice will allow the Forensic Identification Program to install video cameras in each of the rooms so instructors can monitor studentsreactions and techniques.
The Forensic Identification Program at WVU , the only one of its kind, began two years ago in cooperation with the FBI Fingerprint Identification facility in Clarksburg and the laboratory division in Washington, D.C.The programs first two students will earn their bachelors degrees in May 2001.
Were actually a year ahead of schedule because we had so many people already on campus who had their first yearand in some casestheir second year requirements completed,Yura said.We kind of had to escalate so right now we have only two to four people, but the following year that will increase significantly.
Yura said the interest in the new Forensic Identification Program has been overwhelming: 140 students are in the program, most of whom are enrolled in the pre-program, and Yuras office has received about 2,000 information requests from around the world.
WVU s highly competitive program has two majorslatent fingerprint identification and biometricswith such courses as forensic photography, scientific and technical writing, effective testimony and computer imagery. WVU s program also involves an internship at a federal or private facility.
Graduates will not only be prepared to work for the FBI , but other law enforcement and security agencies.
Because of cases like the O.J. Simpson trial and Jon Benet Ramsey case, the FBI decided they wanted specialists with more credible academic credentials. WVU s program was born out of the realization that these experts needed not only practical experiences, but a good educational foundation.