101st SEMI-ANNUAL SEMINAR (Spring 2003)
JOINT MEETING of the CAC and
NORTHWEST ASSOCIATION OF FORENSIC SCIENTISTS
April 7-11, 2003
THE BIZARRE AND PUZZLING DEATH OF SGT. "C"
Lucien C. Haag, Criminalist/Firearms Examiner, Forensic Science Services
The solution to this baffling case involves the use of trace evidence, gunshot residue, exterior and terminal ballistics, elemental analysis and acoustics. The tragic affair arose from the firearm fatality of a SWAT team sergeant during a standoff situation in a major southwestern city. The victim sustained a perforating gunshot wound of the head while positioned with fellow SWAT team officers near a window of a suspect's house. The fatal shot also perforated the back of the sergeant's Kevlar helmet. The fatal bullet was never found but two small copper jacket fragments were recovered from the victim's brain and the large defect in the helmet. The incident was captured on videotape by a TV news organization. Potential sources of this fatal shot consisted of the suspect in the residence or one of several SWAT team officers who fired their guns at the time the sergeant sustained his wound. Initial evaluation of the wound, the damage to the Kevlar helmet and the positions of the potential shooters excluded all of these men as sources of the fatal wound unless one is prepared to set aside the laws of physics in this city. No mystery shooter on some grassy knoll was ever developed during the subsequent investigation. A methodical use of the scientific method coupled with certain aspects of exterior ballistics, terminal ballistics, class characteristics, trace evidence, gunshot residue analysis and acoustics provided the singular solution to this puzzling and tragic fatality.
A CASE OF HOMICIDAL POISONING BY DISULFOTON, AN ORGANOPHOSPHATE PESTICIDE
William H. Anderson, Ph.D. Division of Forensic Science, Washoe County Sheriff's Office, Reno, NV
This paper describes the events surrounding the death of a seven-year old child and the near death of a four-year old child by poisoning with disulfoton, an organophosphate pesticide. Multiple aspects of the case will be discussed, including the clinical investigation by medical personnel, the investigation by two separate law enforcement agencies, pathological and toxicological investigation of the death by the medical examiner, the trial, and the subsequent "battle of the experts" in the appeal hearing. The toxicological results will be presented along ‘with a comprehensive review of the literature concerning deaths due to disulfoton. A review of the mechanism of poisoning by organophosphates will also be presented. There were several unusual aspects to this case, not the least of which was that the perpetrator of the crime was the father of the decedent.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Renee Romero, Supervising Criminalist, Washoe County Sheriff's Office, Forensic Science Division; Karyl Brown, Senior Criminalist, Washoe County Sheriff's Office, Forensic Science Division
On Sunday, March 19, a worried mother reported her daughter, Krystal Steadman, missing. Krystal had been playing at an apartment complex in South Lake Tahoe where her mother was visiting a friend. Krystal was checking in with her mother every hour. She did not check in at 2:00 p.m. A friend told Mrs. Steadman that TJ (Thomas Soria Jr.) a worker at a division of the Boys and Girls Club located at the same apartment was playing with the girls. He had given them rides on the running boards of his 1987 red and tan blazer, and shared his McDonalds French fries with the girls. Mrs. Steadman went to the apartment of TJ and asked for her daughter. He told her she was not there. Mrs. Steadman came into the apartment and looked around for her daughter. She was not allowed in the back bedroom as TJ said his uncle was sleeping in there. Mrs. Steadman called the Douglas County Sheriffs Office. The presentation will take the audience from the investigation through opening arguments of the trial where the case took an interesting turn. On Sunday, January 28, 2001, Douglas County Jail personnel found Thomas Soria Sr. non-responsive in his jail cell. Initial autopsy findings indicated death was due to a probable heart condition. Subsequent toxicological examinations indicated an overdose of amitriptyline. It appears that the decedent was not taking his daily medication, but was hoarding it for a suicide attempt.
A DIMINUTIVE BUT DETERMINED DISCUSSION ON THE DIFFICULTIES OF DECIPHERING DISPUTED DOCUMENTS IN THE DEPOPULATED DESERT
Floyd Whiting, Forensic Document Examiner, Washoe County Sheriff's Crime Lab
Beyond the big city borders of Reno or Las Vegas, Nevada is an unusual state with a "wild west" mentality. It was the first state to legalize casino-style gambling and is still the only state to permit legal brothels. Even the justice system may be a bit different from that of other states, as I was soon to discover when I first moved to the state to work as a forensic document examiner. My first court appearance was scheduled to be in the tiny town of Ely (which was NOT named for Roger Ely) nestled in the sagebrush-covered hills on the eastern border of the state. Other states dispatch their criminalists by automobile or commercial airliner (except Oregon which dispatches its criminalists by failed tax initiatives). My trip to Ely was on a two-seater Cessna of dubious dependability directed by a bearded bush pilot. (A two seater in a Cessa is more comfortable than the other type of "two seater" often seen in rural parts of Nevada that lack indoor plumbing). The trip across the state and the confrontation with the justice of the peace in the rural community was an eye opening exposure to a frontier experience.
"FIREARMS IDENTIFICATION 101" AND THE NATIONAL INTEGRATED BALLISTIC INFORMATION NETWORK (NIBIN)
Robert M. Thompson, Firearms and Toolmark Examiner, ATF Forensic Science Laboratory-San Francisco
This presentation will be a basic review of the fundamentals of firearms evidence examinations and identifications. The individuality of barrels, breech faces and other firearm parts are fundamental to the classification and identification of fired bullets and cartridge casings. In addition, the firearm mechanism may leave identifiable toolmarks on fired and unfired ammunition, in the absence of a suspect firearm to compare. Ammunition manufacturing processes can also produce comparable marks that may have forensic utility. With the fundamentals of firearms evidence introduced, there will be a more complete understanding of the Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), and the utility of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).
VANISHING WITH A TRACE: RECONSTRUCTING THE EVENTS OF A CRIME USING TRACE EVIDENCE
Dean M. Gialamas, Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department
In the summer of 1997, the body of a young female was found along a hillside ravine several days after she had been reported missing. The victim's body, which was contained inside a computer box, the suspect's residence and the suspect's vehicle were examined for evidence of a crime. Though a diary was found in the suspect's residence that detailed the events of the crime he perpetrated in his apartment, a warrantless search proved this key item of evidence useless in court. It was now up to criminalistics and forensic science to put the pieces of this puzzle together to prove the crime. This presentation will discuss the crime scene searches, the evidence recovered, and its significance in establishing the connection between the suspect, the victim, the murder scene, and the scene where the body was recovered. Trace evidence proved to be the key factor in the crime scene reconstruction for this case. The suspect, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for the murder of his ex-girlfriend.
A CHALLENGING COURT CASE AND NEVADA'S DUI DRUG LAW
Bruce Nelson, Clark County District Attorney's Office, Las Vegas, NV
This talk will cover forensic aspects of State v. Williams, the notorious Las Vegas case where Jessica Williams was convicted after her vehicle left the roadway and killed six teenagers performing community service on the side of the highway. Tips for testifying in court will be discussed as well as recent cases in Forensic Science.
THE DROPPED CARD: THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT PLAYING WITH THE FULL DECK
Peter D. Barnett, D-ABC, Forensic Science Associates
When the police received a call from a woman who reported that her husband had been shot in the apartment in which they live they responded to the scene to find the husband dead in the hallway. After some conversation between the Spanish-speaking woman and the non-Spanish speaking officers, she stated alternatively that her husband had come into the bedroom after having been shot or that he approached her with a handgun and in a struggle over the gun he was shot. She said she had put the gun away in a locked gun case. A search of the crime scene revealed three firearms: a .45 auto caliber pistol, a .357 magnum caliber revolver, and a shotgun. A few bloodstains are noted in the apartment, there is no evidence of bullet strikes, and no signs of a forced entry. The scene is photographed. The wife is arrested for the murder. Samples are taken from her hands and face for gun shot residue analysis. Very quickly, the case begins to unravel a bit when the post-mortem examination of the victim reveals a bullet entry in the upper right chest of the 5' 10" victim with the path of the bullet being downward and from right to left. The bullet is recovered from the tissue of the back. The recovered bullet turns out to be .22 caliber with 16 lands and grooves with a right hand twist. The firearms examiner who examines the bullet concludes that it was probably fired from a rifle. Stereo microscopic examination of the clothing fails to detect any muzzle residue. Attempts to put the broken pieces of this puzzle together reveal that critical evidence was not collected, laboratory examinations that should have been conducted were not conducted, and conclusions reached by some of the forensic scientists involved are suspect. The ultimate inability to reconstruct this incident is a consequence of uncollected evidence and hasty conclusions based on faulty presumptions. This case illustrates how the failure in the initial scene investigation compromises the rest of the investigation.
CASES INVOLVING THE GAMING CONTROL BOARD
Dave Andrews, Gaming Control Board, Reno, NV
Law enforcement issues with the Nevada Gaming Control Board will be presented.
PRESERVING DNA FROM BIOLOGICAL SAMPLES
Theresa F. Spear*, Neda Khoshkebari, and Jenna Farsetta, CA Department of Justice - California Criminalistics Institute
This presentation will outline factors that impact how much DNA is obtained from biological samples and make recommendations for preserving extracted DNA. In addition, we will present the results of studies that we performed to evaluate what happens to extracted DNA stored frozen over time.
THE OTHER BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
Theresa F. Spear* and Neda Khoshkebari CA Department of Justice - California Criminalistics Institute
Crime laboratories are routinely being asked to type biological samples other than blood, semen and saliva. This study looked at how sweat and urine samples responded to several, different body fluid identification tests and whether or not it was possible to obtain an STR profile from these samples. In general, the color tests used to detect urea and creatinine in body fluid samples gave positive test results with most of the urine samples and some of the sweat samples. The cloth substrates (from the sweat and urine samples) were extracted for DNA using an organic procedure. Fifty percent (50%) of the samples examined in this study produced either a partial or full STR profile using the Profiler Plus™ reagent kit.
FIBERS OF QUESTIONABLE ORIGIN: A CASE STUDY
Pennie I. Laferty, Forensic Science Services, Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Department
An abundance of yellow-green fibers was observed on tape lifts from a nude victim at a body dump. The yellow-green fibers were of two types: acrylic and modacrylic. The tape roll that was used during the collection was examined and six yellow- green fibers were observed on one side of the roll, adhering to the sticky edge. These fibers were also of two types: acrylic and modacrylic. There were no significant differences between the fibers on the tape lifts from the body and the fibers from the tape roll. Because a source could not be identified, it is not known if the fibers were present on the tape roll prior to the tape lifting, or if they were transferred to the roll at the crime scene. A new protocol has been implemented to assure that all tape rolls used to collect trace evidence are clean prior to use. The rolls are visually inspected and then heat-sealed in KAPAK® bags. Further, the tape rolls are designated as single use only, i.e., they can only be used at one crime scene. After use, the tape rolls are brought back to the laboratory and used as evidence packaging tape.
WHEN YOUR BACK'S AGAINST THE WALL, BRING OUT THE LUMINOL
Jeffrey Riolo, Criminalist and Suzanne Harmon, Criminalist, Washoe County Sheriff's Office
A brutal homicide occurred in a small rural town in Nevada one day after the suspect was released from prison. Examination of the suspect's vehicle including the seat covers, his shoes and clothing, the machete used to kill the victim, and miscellaneous tools, did not provide any useful information. The investigators pleaded with the laboratory to give the suspect's boots and clothing one more try and so they were reexamined utilizing luminol. Extra effort from the primary examiner and from the DNA analyst proved to be worth all the work in this case.
CAC HISTORICAL SLIDE SHOW
Previously presented at the 50 Year CAC Anniversary Seminar by Tiffany Kuwahara Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Crime Laboratory
Relax, sit back and enjoy this 15-minute stroll down memory lane featuring various pictures past and present of the CAC members and numerous workshops and seminars set to a lively musical accompaniment.
SOLVING CRIMES USING ANIMAL GENETICS
Holly Ernest* and Beth Wictum, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, University of California
DNA identification of individual animals can be applied to animal evidence associated with a crime or civil complaint. Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Forensics Unit faculty and staff respond to requests by law enforcement and the public by providing forensic genetics testing. Applications for using animal DNA analysis to solve crimes will be illustrated by reviewing histories of forensic cases presented to our laboratory. Animal genetic analysis may assist in cases for which animals may be a witness, victim, or suspect for a crime. The animal may be a witness to a crime. Animal evidence can link a human suspect to a crime scene. In some cases of murder or assault, an animal may belong to the suspect or the victim. For example, a suspect was linked to a murder when animal blood found at the crime scene was found to match the DNA of the suspect's dog. The animal (or animal owner) is the victim. Examples include animal abuse and animal theft, including cattle rustling. The animal may be the suspect. Dogs may attack humans or other animals. Owners of such animals may be found guilty of harboring a vicious animal, now a felony offense. Collisions of animals with automobiles or other vehicles may involve liability issues resulting from injury or vehicle damage. People may seek compensation for damage caused by animals to their personal property. The basic techniques of DNA extraction and analysis are very similar to those used in human forensic genetics. However, animal forensic work requires expertise in the genetics of a number of domestic and wildlife species and the application of population specific genetic databases. Animal genetics should be considered a component of every criminalist's forensic toolbox.
THE FALLON CONNECTION
Kevin Lattyak, Criminalist/Firearms Examiner, Washoe County Sheriff's Office
Sometime in March 1997 a shooting occurred along a rural stretch of road in Nevada. Dogged persistence by local law enforcement combined with common sense legwork by lab staff solved this crime. To the surprise of investigators investigating this seemingly insignificant crime also solved another more serious and high profile case. Three different tire styles, unique ammunition headstamps and fingerprints were clues that helped investigators in Fallon develop a suspect that had shot up the vehicle traveling along the lonely stretch of Nevada highway late at night. When a search of the suspect's residence was conducted investigators were astonished at what they found. Clipped newspaper articles of that shooting and a murder in Reno were discovered. Quick thinking investigators made the connection between the two crimes and an immediate inquiry showed that it was in fact, the same suspect and his friends who had shot up the vehicle also killed the cab driver in Reno. The lessons learned in these investigations showed the importance of taking the extra step, even when a lower priority crime is investigated.
THE LISA BONHAM STORY
Dave Jenkins, Homicide Detective, Reno Police Department
A law enforcement officer's perspective on a 1977 case involving the abduction and subsequent sexual assault and murder of a six year old girl. Persistent efforts by the investigators, parole and probation officers, and DNA analysts resulted in solving this case 23 years after it occurred.
THE MONISTAT CASE: IMPACT ON THE ANALYSIS OF BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
A victim applied Monistat cream after being sexually assaulted. How would the cream affect screening tests confirmation tests and DNA results? A known semen sample was mixed with Monistat cream and analyzed using standard laboratory procedures. Monistat cream does not appear to interfere with the identification of spermatozoa/seminal fluid, DNA extraction, amplification or typing of the semen stains.
GALAXY AIRLINES FLIGHT 203
Vernon McCarty, Washoe County Coroner
Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 crashed in Reno, Nevada in January 1985. Subsequent accident scene management and investigation produced multiple "first time accomplishments." This lecture will present an historical perspective of disaster scene management and an update of current issues that are faced by agencies responsible for recovery following a mass fatality event.
REED MCLAUGHLIN AND A 1950 MURDER IN LOS ANGELES
Jon Babicka, Los Angeles Police Department - SID
In 1950, an elderly woman was shot to death in her Los Angeles home by a prowler. Crime scene investigators recovered a partial palm print on a piece of broken glass from the kitchen floor. The intruder broke the kitchen door window in order to enter the residence. LAPD Sergeant Alfred R. ‘Reed' McLaughlin was a Latent Print Specialist in 1950. He examined the partial palm print recovered at the crime scene and determined that it matched the suspect's palm print. The evidence was instrumental in leading to the conviction of the defendant. This same Reed McLaughlin, and his wife, Virginia, left an endowment to the CAC. This endowment currently funds CAC-sponsored research and training. The endowment also funds the Edward F. Rhodes Award. The crime scene investigation will be discussed and the official 1950 LAPD crime scene photos will be shown. A biography of Reed McLaughlin will be presented with mention of the endowment that Reed and Virginia McLaughlin left to the CAC.
A CASE OF THE MISSING BULLET
Susan A. Brockbank, Los Angeles Police Department, Scientific Investigation Division
An odd occurrence involving a pillow used as an improvised silencer will be presented. The crime was a triple homicide that occurred in 1996. Each victim was shot one time in the head. Victim (A) was located lying on a bed in a bedroom with a pillow nearby. The pillow had one entry and one exit hole. The victim also had one entry and one exit hole in his head. The bullet was retrieved from inside the mattress underneath him. Victims (B) and (C) were located on the floor in a second bedroom. Both had an entry hole and no exit hole. Upon autopsy a bullet was retrieved from inside the skull of victim (B), but there was no bullet found inside victim (C). A pillow was found in the dining room at the crime scene. This pillow had two entry holes and two exit holes. At this presentation you will discover where the missing bullet was found!
A CASE STUDY: THE RECENT SEIZURE OF A P2P/ METHAMPHETAMINE LABORATORY WITH AN INTERESTING ROUTE TO P2P
Keith T. Chan, Forensic Chemist, and Roger A. Ely, Senior Forensic Chemist, DEA Western Laboratory
On March 14, 2002, an operational phenyl-2-propanone (P-2-P)/ methamphetamine clandestine laboratory was seized. The defendant had receipts dating back nearly four years indicating that he was converting benzyl chloride to benzyl cyanide, then to phenyl acetic acid and then to P-2-P. Finally, the receipts also indicated that he was converting the P-2-P to dl-methamphetamine using methyl formamide via the Leuckart reaction. However, the amount of benzyl chloride that the defendant purchased, did not justify the amounts of the other precursors and chemicals. At the seizure of the laboratory, the evidence and an interview with the defendant confirmed our suspicions regarding the synthesis routes and the production of benzyl chloride using toluene and chlorine gas.
FORENSIC PATHOLOGY INTERFACING WITH THE CRIME LAB: A FEW INTERESTING CASES
Ellen G. I. Clark, M.D., Sierra Pathology Associates, Inc., Forensic Pathology Services Division
The forensic pathologist is trained to apply the art and science of medicine to issues of social concern. As a unique aspect of this venture, the pathologist often relies on the criminalist for assistance in evaluating medical findings ranging from toolmarkings on a corpse - to DNA phenotyping. This talk examines a few case examples wherein the crime lab contribution was invaluable in characterizing physical findings on crime victims, and, of course, in solving the case.
INTRODUCTION TO THE NATIONAL JUDICIAL COLLEGE
Judge William F. Dressel, President National Judicial College, Reno, NV
Since 1963, The National Judicial College has provided educational and professional development opportunities to over 58,000 judges worldwide. From limited jurisdiction judges to U.S. Supreme Court justices, attendees from all areas of the judicial system have benefited from the very best in judicial education offered at The College. Because of its national focus, The NJC presents an opportunity for judges from all states and jurisdictions to air viewpoints in a forum that fosters the free flow of ideas. A judge's personal knowledge of the caliber of judges in other jurisdictions creates respect for and trust in judicial decision-making overall. The NJC environment promotes collegial dialogue and encourages this intellectually stimulating interchange among participants.
SWGDRUG POSTS NEW DRAFTS OF PROPOSED RECOMMENDATIONS
Gary Chasteen, Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept.; Jerry Massetti, CA Criminalistics Institute
Three new drafts of proposed recommendations appear on the Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) website, www.swgdrug.org. These are Recommended Minimum Standards for Validation of Analytical Methods for Seized Drugs, Recommended Minimum Standards for Sampling Seized Drugs for Qualitative Analysis, and A Code of Professional Practice for Drug Analysts. SWGDRUG seeks public review of and comment about these documents. Written responses are particularly solicited. These responses should include suggestions for revised text, that corrects a perceived problem or otherwise addresses an issue of importance to drug analysis practitioners. The SWGDRUG Core Committee will evaluate comments received during the public comment period. Subsequent to evaluation of written comments and suggested text, revised proposal drafts will be posted for additional public input. Eventually, if two-thirds of the SWGDRUG Core Committee vote to accept the revised proposals, they will become published SWGDRUG Recommendations. Excerpts from the new proposal drafts will be presented.