Club investigates fake murders on campus

If you’ve ever seen a murdered mannequin on campus, chances are it belongs to the criminal science investigation (CSI) club.

Formerly known as the forensics club, it is a group that was created to get students more interested in science by allowing them to be involved in mock crime processing on campus. It is headed by advisor Warren McLeod, a forensics professor at SPSCC and the Lewis County Coroner.

“We do actual crime scene processing,” said McLeod. “So we do a lot of hands-on [activities] with fingerprinting, alternate light source, luminol, [and] footwear impressions.”

McLeod sets up the crime scenes for their bi-monthly meetings and hands-on activities. He has even placed fake human bones on campus to recreate a forensic dig.

Among their tools are fingerprinting equipment, metal detectors, an alternate light source, and blood luminol.

Although CSI club’s activities on campus are regular, many students are unaware of what’s happening when a crime scene is put up.

“Well, I always let security know [about the crime scene] ahead of time, and yet there’s always at least one person who runs in and says, ‘I think there’s a murder out there!’ said McLeod.

Many members of the club attend the Annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences Convention as well, which is held in a different U.S. location every February. The last convention was held in Chicago, and the upcoming one is in Atlanta. Club money is used to fund this trip, which is a very valuable opportunity for students.

It has between 800 and 1,000 forensic experts from around the world giving 15 minute presentations on their subject, with thousands of others from both the U.S. and abroad coming to see this information.

“So you have the opportunity over the course of four days…to sit in maybe 50 [or] 60 different lectures [on] different aspects of forensics,” said McLeod. “There are people talking about mass murders in Italy, and homicides in Brazil…it’s extremely interesting.”

The CSI club puts on events close to home as well. They have had fundraisers in the past, featuring a crime scene where you could have your picture taken. This fall they are planning a mystery dinner, where all of the diners participate in solving a case. An end of quarter open house was held June 2, including free food, a crime scene to have your picture taken at, and the club equipment on display.

One of the major activities that CSI club has recently participated in is the unearthing of a cow on campus by anthropology classes. McLeod heard a rumor that an old anthropology professor had buried a cow to later be discovered by students, but he believed it to be an urban legend. Nonetheless, he and anthropology Professor Dale Croes investigated this rumor and have confirmed that cow bones were buried on campus 18 years ago.

The excavation began May 18, involving some members of the criminal investigations class and Croes. Croes’ anthropology class will be completing the majority of the excavation. The students are learning “how to dig, how to dig the sides of the hole…[they] talk about search warrants, the expectation of privacy, and how you handle the evidence once it’s recovered.” said McLeod.

They have dug down three or four feet, and the bones of the cow indicate that it may have been butchered.

“We haven’t come across the skull yet,” said McLeod, “that would be the big thing.”

Pieces of flint have also been found at the site. It is believed that the people who buried the bones included other artifacts as well. Because the excavation is still incomplete, they may find still more items buried by the past professor. McLeod said that it is likely the cow bones will be put on display after they have been fully recovered.

Although CSI club is very active on campus, it consists of a small number of students. To join, students simply have to “go to a meeting. That’s it. We don’t have any major requirements,” said McLeod.

Meetings are held the first and third Thursday of every month, from noon to 1 p.m. In reference to the club, McLeod said “the students love it. There’s nothing like hands-on experience.”

To find out where CSI club will be meeting during fall quarter, contact McLeod at wmcleod@spscc.ctc.edu