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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, April 30, 2005

Chaminade students do a 'CSI'

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The body was found in a field, abandoned and bloodied, near an entrance to the Chaminade University campus.

Tenth-graders from Kaimuki High, standing behind the yellow tape, watch Chaminade University forensic science students gather evidence of a mock murder. Ursula Toole photographs the "corpse" as Stephanie Ah Sam, center, and Alison Myrabo collect trace evidence.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Tommy Terrible, a medical mannequin, had put up quite a fight before he became another bump in a body bag, and police knew their suspect, once they found him, would likely carry the injuries from Tommy's last battle.

Bad Bob, an imaginary man bearing a bite mark and discovered by police busily cleaning broken glass from his truck, fit the bill. Police suspicions became even greater when a witness reported he had seen two people fighting in a truck similar to Bob's at a third location on the night Tommy was killed.

But authorities would need more than suspicions to take Bob to trial for murder, and that's where Wilson Sullivan's forensic science students came in.

Their job was to help to solve Tommy Terrible's murder by piecing together bits and pieces of evidence Bad Bob had inadvertently left behind at each of the three crime scenes. If they did it well, justice would be served, and all 16 of Chaminade students would pass the lab portion of their end-of-term exam.

Assisted by two of his top students, Sullivan, a forensic science professor and former head of the Honolulu Police Department scientific investigations section, laid out the separate crime scenes on campus.

The murder scenario was based on a Honolulu murder committed and solved in the 1970s.

The suspect and victim were easy; Tommy Terrible and Bad Bob play the same roles in every crime enacted within the Forensic Science Department, Sullivan said.

The evidence? Well, top students Drae McQueen and Joey Gonzaga helped to manufacture that.

A little broken glass that fracture comparisons would show had come from the same sheet was purchased at an auto parts store and scattered around the scenes.

Some of the blood was theatrical, but real human blood was needed to give the students something to really work their chemical magic upon, and that is where Sullivan came in.

Using his own truck as a stand-in for Bad Bob's, Sullivan planted a few fingerprints, then cut his finger and slung the blood across the upholstery. Then he did it again. And again.

"I needed enough to make a lot of blood splatter on the passenger side of the door," he said. "I cut my finger three times and made sure it bled a lot.

"Fortunately," he said, "the upholstery is vinyl."

An extra layer of floor carpeting served as a platform for some of the blood, broken window glass, and a few human hairs from Sullivan's head, added to draw attention away from those left in the truck by his dogs.

The students who examined the truck passed the final when they carefully lifted the fingerprints and collected everything they saw. They vacuumed the area using a machine with a special filter, then cut out the carpet and sent all of it to the lab.

Careful examination linked not only the broken glass but also Sullivan's — er, Bad Bob's — blood to each of the crime scenes.

Adding realism to the scene were about a dozen volunteers from Chaminade's criminal justice administration program, who served as detectives and witnesses at the crime scene.

"I applied a little leverage," said Ron Becker, professor and director of the justice administration program who coordinated the volunteers. "I let them out of class to do it."

Becker said he thinks it is great that forensic science is finally getting its due through TV programs such as "CSI," but said he hopes most people realize the detectives, not scientific investigators, conduct the interviews that often lead to solving the crimes. Many prosecutions are based simply on confessions, he said.

"Then again," he said, "you do get more confessions when you can say, 'We have this, and we know it is yours.' "

Jonathan Zukeran, among about 70 Kaimuki High School students who came to learn, said he wanted more.

"It was pretty good, but we couldn't move between the different crime scenes," he said. "If we could have, I could have spent the day there. I could have been very satisfied, I'd say."

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.