Wayland criminal justice students process mock crime scene 

Release Date: April 7, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – With the help of the Hale County Sheriff’s Department, Wayland students in two of Dr. Denton Lankford’s justice administration classes received a first-hand experience in processing an actual crime scene.

On Tuesday morning, the Sheriff’s Department set up a crime scene based on an actual murder that took place in East Texas several years ago. Students in Lankford’s forensic psychology and criminal investigation classes received the call from the Sheriff’s Department dispatcher around 11:30 a.m. Students, robed in Wayland CSI gear, set out for the scene where they were in charge of processing evidence, investigating the crime and working up a criminal profile on the suspect. Each of the students participating had a specific duty associated with crime scene investigations.

The scene was set up according to the actual case, complete with fingerprints on the murder weapon and a victim’s body. Dr. Lankford said the scene was as authentic as they could possibly make it.

“The only difference was that the body will maintain 98.6 degrees, all its vital signs and be able to go home and eat supper,” Lankford said.

Theatre student Jake Miser portrayed the murder victim. Miser laid motionless on a linoleum floor for about three hours as the scene was processed. In the actual case, the victim was accidentally shot in the aortic artery by a 16-year-old neighbor who was target practicing with a compound bow he had received for Christmas. The victim was filling his lawnmower with gas when the assailant’s arrow sailed high over the target and struck him in the chest. The victim, who was bleeding out, drug himself into his kitchen to call 911. He dialed the phone, but never said a word to the dispatcher. As is the practice with a 911 hang-up, officers were sent to investigate the scene.

The young man responsible went to check on the victim. Seeing what had happened, the assailant panicked and instead of assisting the victim, he picked up a piece of cord and strangled him, then tried to set fire to the body to cover the evidence. The assailant was unable to start the fire prior to the officers arriving on the scene. The suspect quickly escaped out the back door before being captured.

Brittany Brownlee, a senior from Plainview, served as the lead investigator for Wayland CSI. Brownlee, majoring in justice administration, said processing the crime scene was a fascinating experience.

“It’s really interesting,” she said. “We learn how to do this in class, but it is totally different when it’s hands-on.”

Brownlee, an admitted fan of crime dramas and television shows such as Cold Case Files, said the real thing is a little different than what you see on TV.

“Things are just not as smooth,” she said. “It’s not as scripted as it is on TV.”

The students will be graded on their efforts in the class and their ability to solve the crime from the evidence. A perfect score is worth an additional 10 points on their final grade.