West Virginia Universitys new research initiative in forensic science is attracting national attention. Twice in May a video crew representing Court TV filmed and interviewed WVU forensic science researchers.
On May 7, a three-person crew from New York and Pittsburgh spent several hours with Clifton P. Bishop, associate professor of biology, who is developing a method to determine the amount of time that has past after a blood stain has been left at a crime scene.
“This method could be important in cases where the time of the crime is disputed or unknown, like in the O.J. Simpson case,”Bishop said.”Being able to tell whether a blood stain is the same age as when the crime occurred would be of great benefit to law enforcement agencies.”
On May 21, a second crew from Pittsburgh and south Florida interviewed Max M. Houck, projects director for the Forensic Science Initiative, about a case he worked while a Supervisory Physical Scientist with the FBI Trace Evidence Unit in Washington, D.C.
Houck examined human and animal hairs and textile fibers in the case of a young girl who was abducted from her apartment complex near Orlando, Fla., and later murdered. Houck worked with Scott Ryland, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Laboratory, and together they described the case in a book Houck authored and edited in 2001 titled Mute Witnesses. Houck is co-authoring a second book in the series to be published by Academic Press sometime early next year.
The Forensic Science Initiative is a new multi-million dollar research effort that operates out of the WVU Office of Research and Economic Development. It is part of the Universitys Forensic Identification Program. The initiative sponsors research and education efforts in forensic science at WVU to benefit local, state and federal forensic science laboratories.
“The research we are beginning to develop here in forensic science will be very useful in the future for crime enforcement and investigation efforts and could make WVU a global leader in this growing area of importance,”Houck said.
Houck is a forensic anthropologist who worked on more than 800 cases for the FBI . Prior to joining WVU this past February, he was assigned to Dover Air Force Base to assist in the examination and identification of victims of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
He also worked for two years in the medical examiners office in Fort Worth, Texas, and was the coordinating anthropologist in the investigation of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
He earned M.A and B.S degrees in anthropology at Michigan State University.
In addition to his book, Houck has published 17 articles in edited books and professional journals in forensic science. He has given more than 35 presentations nationwide on the recovery, examination and investigative and prosecutorial use of trace evidence. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Science.
Bishop is the curriculum coordinator of the unique bachelors degree program in forensic and investigative science, offered by the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. His research is funded by the National Institute of Justice, and his interview is part of a project under development by Court TV on forensic science. The project has the working title of Digging for Clues, and will air on the network later this year. Houcks interview will air later this year on the networks most popular series, Forensic Files.