Thursday, October 29, 2009

ert day

Two guests at the Homewood Suites thought there might have been a hazmat spill when they saw the members of the FBI Citizens Academy walk past their hotel room. We were all wearing white Tyvek coveralls for an exercise in evidence recovery. In my best Batman voice, I said "remain calm, citizens" and explained that we were in a class.

Our FBI instructors divided us into four groups and gave us a scenario. They directed each group to a different hotel room where they had placed various pieces of evidence for us to identify and collect. Hana Kim was in my group. Her Tyvek suit highlighted her choice of non-sensible shoes.

Before heading to our fake crime scenes, a special agent from the Evidence Response Team gave us some background on the unit. He showed us a few crime scene photos from a local kidnapping case that I remembered seeing on the news five years ago.

The evening that ended with a practical exercise began with a graphic slide show. Dr. Murray Marks, a forensic anthropology professor from the University of Tennessee, spoke to us about his field of expertise. He mentioned that many bodies are found this time of year by hunters and hikers taking advantage of the cooler weather.

Dr. Marks discussed the links between pathology, anthropology and dentistry. The three fields work together in an effort to determine a victim's identity, perimortem trauma and the time since death. We saw quite a few pictures of teeth on bodies in various states of decay. The teeth will long outlast the flesh and bone of a body.

Dr. Marks doesn't like the term "Body Farm." He prefers to call it "the Facility." The slides he showed us of donated corpses focused mainly on forensic entomology and the life cycle of flies and maggots. I recognized one of the actual crime scene photos from an exhibit that was at the Frank H. McClung Museum in early 2008.

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