CSI at Sam Adams

Published 6:03 am Friday, March 12, 2004

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS -- Unlike the television shows like CSI, real forensic police each have specialties, a real life officer of the Michigan State Police told the top reading group in the library at Sam Adams Elementary School Monday.
Still, with drugs involved in so many crimes, she does get to help on murder cases.
Smith, the daughter of John and Eileen Smith, attended Michigan State University following high school, receiving degrees in both forensic science and chemistry.
In 1994, the year of the infamous O.J. trial, followed by the popularity of the television show CSI, many others also went into that field that seemed so exciting.
Smith said she was lucky as it was so competitive to find a job with the Michigan State Police, a job which she said, "I love."
A friend of Rachele Ward, former fourth grader teacher and now librarian at Sam Adams, has brought Smith in twice before to show her reading students the tools of Smith's trade.
First Smith sets up a "crime scene" and has the students point out possible evidence, like fingerprints or saliva on a coke can.
In her job, saliva really did lead to putting a murderer behind bars -- after 14 years. After the suspect threw away a can of Mountain Dew, he was linked to the crime. They use a DNA data base, she explained and also "latent," prints, which aren't seen until after they process or dust for them. Both techniques the students were allowed to try, leaving their own prints on a cup and finding ones left on a piece of glass.
Actually Smith said, her first crime scene while she was an intern in Minnesota was her most interesting. She found evidence in the trash.
A woman whose boy friend refused to give her more drugs, was calling his wife when he shot her. The marks on her face matched the phone found in the trash and convicted him.
They were at that scene for 28 hours, she said. Her job had been to look for bullet holes.
A 1986 case recently solved involved a flight attendant from Detroit who was murdered. Latent prints helped in that case.
Since she works on drug cases it isn't all fibers and hair like on the television shows, but often drugs or drug labs can come into play in other crimes.
The students tested for blood, as if they would on a carpet of a crime scene. It wouldn't however, Smith added, distinguish between animal or human blood at that point.
The visit was in relation to a mystery book the students are reading.