The Crime Scene House just off of campus was open to the whole of ONU on Friday, Sept. 24, in celebration of National Forensic Science Week. The walk-through was put together by The Association of Future Forensic Professionals (AFFP), an organization on campus that learns about and practices various forensic science techniques. The Crime Scene House provides an inside view into what AFFP does, the techniques utilized by forensic professionals, as well as an opportunity to practice those techniques.

AFFP Vice President Ashley Heidbreder relates the significance of the Crime Scene House to the world of forensic science. She explains the importance of forensic science in incarcerating the correct individuals as well as the importance of understanding the methods used to do so.
Junior chemistry major Jasmine Wolfgram (left) listens to Junior forensic biology major Mackenzie Smith explains one of the rooms with a staged crime that she processed in the Crime Scene Investigation course offered last spring. (photo provided by Dennis De Luca)

As students walked into the Crime Scene House, they were sent to the second floor of the building where they found two fake crime scenes set up in two different rooms. Only six people were allowed in each room to account for COVID-19 measures. These rooms were still set up from the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) course on campus, where students in the course would encounter a variety of fake crime scenes in the house and collect evidence to determine what happened in each case. 

Although the crime scenes created during the CSI course can be rather unique, ranging from cult sacrifice imitations to false disembodied limbs, this year’s house displayed common murder crimes. As the scenes were leftover from the CSI course, they were set up to imitate what the crime site would look like after forensic professionals had collected evidence. AFFP Members explained how they collected the evidence and their hypothesis of what happened in each case as students entered each room to view the scene. 

AFFP set up a table displaying different types of bones during the walk-through. These bones had been blanched, burned, and left to decompose. (photo taken by Dennis De Luca)

Students were led back downstairs after viewing the two crime scenes where there were a variety of lab stations to look at throughout the floor. These stations were led by AFFP members who had experience in these labs previous to the walk-through. In one room, students could learn about how forensic professionals collect fingerprints through a multitude of methods. In the same room, students could learn about fingerprint patterns and use an ink pad to determine what sorts of patterns are in their own fingerprints. A third lab in the house allowed students to look at bones and bone shards that distinguish various blunt force trauma. The fourth lab informed students of different ways to test whether semen is present in a crime scene. Once students had completed the labs, they were led out of the house. 

This is the first year that AFFP members can remember the Crime Scene House being open for the ONU community to walk through. Participants were handed stickers as they entered the Crime Scene House which helped AFFP keep track of attendance. “We know it’s above 70 and we believe it was around the one hundred range,” Heidbreder said about attendance numbers at the Crime Scene House. The house was a big hit with the ONU campus as well as with Ada community members. 

Amber Wetherbee (left) and Lauren Bishop (right) look at a set of fingerprints. A fingerprinting station was one of several stations visitors could interact with at the Crime Scene House. (photo taken by Dennis De Luca)

For those who couldn’t attend this event, AFFP plans to continue celebrating National Forensic Science Week by making the Crime Scene House an annual tradition. With each coming year, students will be able to view various crime scenes that forensic scientists encounter and how the professionals handle each scene. AFFP will also be partnering with SPC to create a haunted house in the Crime Scene House later in October. The upcoming haunted house will not showcase the same scenes as displayed in the Crime Scene House to allow students who may have attended the walk-through to have a different, yet equally thrilling, experience.

Forensic science, although gruesome at times, is an important method to solve the mystery behind real-life crime scenes. Learning and understanding the techniques used by forensic scientists to correctly identify, convict, and incarcerate a criminal will create a deep appreciation for the work done by these professionals. 

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