Crime scene investigators poured over Room 109 at Best Western Motel on Thursday, looking for clues and evidence to solve the murder of a bullet-riddled body lying wrapped in a bloody sheet in the bathroom.
Like the popular CSI television shows set in Las Vegas, Miami and New York, this CSI: Murphy episode was fictional. It was a staged homicide to help train students from Tri-County Community College, who are enrolled in a crime scene investigation class.
Under normal circumstances, a hotel manager may not be keen on having a room made into even a mock murder scene. However, general manager Aurelia Stone allowed the class to do just that. Stone’s granddaughter, Crystal Bryant, was taking the class.
“It was really interesting,” said Stone. “It wasn’t a problem. We just used a room that had been occupied the night before and didn’t clean it.”
And, yes, the class cleaned up afterward. Stone’s only request was that the room not be damaged. That was no easy task, as there was simulated evidence everywhere – lines of cocaine, meth-making equipment and a gun found hidden in a wastebasket.
There also was the body in the bathtub, which was wrapped in a blood-soaked blanket. The corpse turned out to be the CPR mannequin used by the college – and the blood was only ketchup.
“It was a very good experience,” Stone said. She’s willing to lend use of a room to the class again.
“They were very kind to offer their services,” said Larry Van Horn, the college’s public information officer. Such scenes typically are staged on the Peachtree campus.”
“This was the first time they did this off campus,” said Van Horn. “This gives you more of a realistic feel of a crime scene.” Some of the students already are in law enforcement.
“It was interesting to hear their comments,” Van Horn said. The class also attracts those who are otherwise interested in careers in crime scene investigations. “It was pretty realistically done.”
Allen Denny, criminal justice instructor at the college, carefully set clues in placefor the students to find and analyze. “Finding the clues isn’t the most important thing here,” said Denny. “Students need to be able to put those pieces together and come up with a plausible explanation of what happened, how it happened and why.”
For the most part, Denny just observed, although occasionally he would guide his students – Bryant, Rhonda Ledford and Amy Teesateskie – in the right direction. When Bryant found a men’s wristwatch, Denny asked her what was different about that particular watch. After a few moments Bryant responded, “The strap is broken.” “Which means?” Denny continued. “There was a struggle,” answered all three students in unison. Denny was pleased.
Students dutifully recorded everything into a notebook, or took photos with their cell phones. They even interviewed an “uncooperative” witness portrayed by Denny’s wife, Jodi. Members of the Andrews Police Department and Graham County Sheriff’s Office were on hand to assist, lending an air of authenticity to the scene.
Van Horn said the exercise is a class requirement. “It’s part of their curriculum to go through this mock scene to show they were proficient in what they learned.” He added that the students passed with flying colors. “They all did extremely well.”
Martin, Joseph M. “Learning from blood, guts and ketchup.” Cherokee Scout April 23, 2014: 1A, 7A, 1B. Cherokee Scout. Web. May 5, 2014.
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