What’s New in the Laboratory – Criminal Forensic Services


The Criminal Forensics Department has had a busy 4th Quarter. The Group added two employees, presented at training for law enforcement officers who investigate cold cases, and testified in a trial where an alternate light source was used to view gunpowder residue.

The Criminal Forensic Department welcomed two employees in December 2007, Allison Murtha and Sara Rafferty.

For the past year, Ms. Murtha has been working under the direction of Dave Exline and Gary Casuccio at the Waynesburg University Forensic Science Lab. There, she directed all lab-related activity, as well as taught two undergraduate level courses. She has also helped organize and direct specific university projects, including a microscopy workshop and the 2008 Waynesburg University/RJ Lee Group CSI Summer Camp.

Ms. Murtha has been employed by RJ Lee Group since 2002. As an intern, she first worked in both the environmental and forensic departments. That’s where she gained experience in SEM/EDS, including gunshot residue analysis. She also worked with over 1,000 samples for a project associated with the World Trade Center disaster. Allison graduated from Duquesne University with her B.A. in Biochemistry in 2006, and her M.S. in Forensic Science and Law in 2007.

Ms. Rafferty graduated from Duquesne University with her B.A. in Biochemistry in 2005, and her M.S. in Forensic Science and Law in 2007. As a graduate student, she participated in two research projects – developing latent prints on latex gloves and ten-print fast capture imaging systems.  She has presented both at MAAFS 2005 and the Pennsylvania State Division of IAI in 2006.

Sara has been employed by RJ Lee Group since 2006. She was hired as an associate scientist in the pharmaceutical department in the Monroeville, PA and Waynesburg, PA laboratories.  There she primarily worked with automated Raman analysis and lab facilities management. Most recently, she worked in the Quality Assurance department as the analyst responsible for the biomedical/pharmaceutical group’s quality system.  Sara has also been actively involved with the Waynesburg University lab, participating in course lectures, as well as the microscopy workshop.

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The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice conducted an Advanced Cold Case Training Seminar.  The training was for law enforcement officers who investigate cold cases, and was to provide them with information on tools and procedures that can assist them in the important work.  RJ Lee Group’s Elana Foster was invited as a panelist for the session entitled “Cold Cases and the Crime Laboratory – It’s 2007: What Can We Do for You Now?”  The presentation was created by Dave Exline and Ms. Foster and presented to a group of 140 law enforcement officers.   The material covered areas such as gunshot residue, hair, fiber, paint and condom lubricants.  ________________________________________________________________________

RJ Lee Group’s Skip Schwoeble recently testified in a trial where an alternate light source was used to view gunpowder residue.  The technique, which was presented initially at the Scanning 2007 meeting, has progressed even further with the help of RJ Lee Group’s Dr. Mike Fuhrman. He was able to create a program that views the gunpowder residue particles and then measures the distance from each of the particles to the bullet hole. The program also measures the density of the particle patterns and spacing of the particles. This has helped to better quantify the amount of particles present and also characterize the particle distribution, so that a more precise proximity can be determined.

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