Most of the members and guests of the FBI Knoxville Citizens Academy Alumni Association didn’t realize that they were doing one of the same exercises as the middle school kids who enroll in the “Fun with Forensics: Adventures in Chemistry” summer camp run by Dr. Al Hazari. At the conclusion of our tour of the National Forensic Academy, we used mini-marshmallows, Twizzlers and toothpicks to make models of DNA molecules. I know this because my son volunteered as a lab assistant at the chemistry camp last summer. He and I also toured the NFA last summer. We got to see some different stuff last night.
Earlier in the evening, one of the instructors said that Knoxville was the center of the forensic universe, thanks to the Body Farm, Oak Ridge National Lab and the National Forensic Academy. Over the past ten years, police officers from 47 states have trained at the NFA. Only Hawaii, Vermont and Rhode Island have failed to send anyone to take the ten-week course. From a couple of the anecdotes that Evidence Technician Tim Schade told us, it sounds like the Knoxville Police Department has some advanced equipment that you might not expect to find in a city its size. Tim also showed us how to dust for fingerprints on porous and non-porous surfaces.
In a pitch-black room, Oak Ridge Police Detective David Stephens showed us alternative light sources that illuminated various stains such as bleach, milk and spit. He then demonstrated BLUESTAR® FORENSIC latent bloodstains reagent, which lights up when sprayed on bloodstains that are invisible to the naked eye.
In a third room, we collected evidence at a staged crime scene and learned how to properly seal an evidence bag. The NFA’s Robert Geiger showed us bullet holes in a car windshield and let us figure out whether they were fired from the inside or outside. Then he put a laser in a bullet hole and then lined up a gun with the light to determine the bullet’s trajectory.
Since we would be gathering in Oak Ridge around dinner time, I asked Dave Neusel of Big Ed’s Pizza to provide a few pizzas for the group to enjoy. He is a big supporter of Dr. Bill Bass and the Bone Zones team. I correctly guessed that he would generously help out our group too. We were able to raise some money for the Junior Special Agent program and a few other good deeds to come in the months ahead.