Crime Scene Forensics – Studying Soil Samples

If you are a big fan of the CSI or Forensic Files TV shows, you may have seen the TV scientists analyze soil samples that were found at the scene of a crime. These were soil samples that were perhaps found on the victim’s shoes but no where else to be found in the immediate vicinity of the crime scene. They could be soil samples embedded in the tire tread of a car that is suspected to be used in a crime.

Soil is not just plain dirt. It is a conglomerate of several things. They include minerals, plants, animal matter, and tiny particulates of synthetic products like glass, paint, asphalt, cement, and other things. The contents of soil are not uniform wherever you go. They differ from one place to another. Soil found on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland has different components from soil found on the beach in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The first step involved in analyzing soil samples is visually and microscopically inspecting the soil to make determinations of acidity, consistency, color, and mineral content. Next, the forensic scientist looks for any foreign objects such as plant materials like leaves or animal material like hair, teeth, or nails. For instance, finding evidence of beachfront sandy soil on the carpets of a suspect’s car can contradict his statement that he had never been to the beach on the day the crime was committed. Similarly, finding horse dung in a soil sample could suggest that the soil came from a horse farm and not from the suspect’s backyard.

Further forensic chemical analysis can determine whether two samples share the same chemical properties. Using X-ray diffraction, the criminalist can examine and compare the minerals that are present in soil samples. Gas chromatography/Mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) can be used to identify many individual components in a soil sample. Another laboratory technique called differential thermal analysis is useful. The premise behind differential thermal analysis is that soils release and absorb heat at varying rates. In this analysis, a soil sample is heated, and the point at which the soil breaks down, melts, or boils is recorded. These results are then compared with the same thermal properties of other soils to determine whether or not they are consistent enough to be considered a match.

Forensic laboratory science can be a powerful tool when solving a serious crime such as murder.

The next time you watch your favorite CSI or Forensic Files TV show, you will have a better understanding of why soil samples are important in the investigation of a crime.

Introduction to Crime Scene Clean Up

On the arrival at a property where a death has occurred, especially after a vicious death, important tasks are performed by the policemen, firemen and CSI investigators. But as a general statute, these civil servants do not clean up the mess. It is the responsibility of the victim’s family to mop up after the violent death of their member. Until recent times, just a few companies offered this kind of service, so, most of the time, the family still ended up doing the work. This is a service that is expensive. Crime Scene clean up service begins at approximately $600 per hour. And, actually, most people are willing to pay more.

The clean-up of a natural death or a suicide is a part of the cleaning industry. This is called the CTS Decon or the Crime and Trauma Decontamination. This type of clean up involves the removal of dangerous objects. A dangerous crime could be one of brutal death that is biologically contaminated or a scene that contains chemical contamination. The cleanup team returns the scene to the state it was in before the incident happened.

Typically, a family does not move out of their house even if the death that occurred in their home was a violent one. It is the job of the scene cleaners to remove the signs of the incident. This removal includes any bio hazards which were the result of the crime. Federal regulations consider all bodily fluids as bio hazards. Bodily fluids also include the tissue or blood because they can be a source of infection.

A blood cleanup specialist must have special knowledge of bio hazardous materials in order to be able to handle them safely. Also, crime scene cleaners are knowledgeable on what to look for to clean in a death scene. This type of cleaning requires more than “just a good spring cleaning”. Permits are also needed for anyone who needs to move and dispose the bio hazardous wastes.

Most people who become cleaners typically come from the medical field. Because of their background in medicine, they are prepared to handle viewing a bloody scene. They could be nurses from an emergency rooms or an Emergency Medical Technician [EMT]. Construction workers are another group of workers who make good crime scene cleaners. They are able to remove walls and other structures. Because of the splatter of blood and tissue this is sometimes required in the clean up after a death. Other characteristics required in a strong crime scene cleaner are strong stomach, capacity to emotionally separate from his line of work and sympathetic nature.

Why a sympathetic nature? Because crime scene clean up is a lot different from cleaning up after a hazardous leak in a chemical plant. Many times, the family members of the deceased are still present while the clean-up is occurring. The cleaners must be able to complete their job while being sensitive to the state of the family who has experienced a loss. Therefore, crime scene cleaners must stomach a wide range of messy incidents which each have dangers of its own.

Crime Scene Cleanup and Death Cleanup Services

Typically, when we think of a loved one dying, we think of it in a peaceful way, in a hospital or with a loved one at their bedside. We want to think of them in a deep sleep and in a better place. However, throughout the United States, there are hundreds of deaths a month that do not end up peaceful. Many lives are taken each month in ways that leave bio hazard cleanup need cleanup. The reason for the need of a crime scene cleanup is even if it is a natural death, clean up is required due to the blood loss, body decomposition, and debris that is left from a body. A body left sitting for more then one day or a death in which a wound occurred, such as a suicide or homicide, releases fluid that is a bio hazard.

Although a person is able to cleanup after a death themselves, the issue of safety and ability to complete the cleanup correctly comes into play. When decomposition takes place in a body, their are a number of fluids, including blood, urine and feces, that seeps from the body. This body matter can start to move into floor boards, carpeting, and furniture, depending on where the body might lay. As well, in the case of a homicide or suicide, you are dealing with a tragedy that usually involves a gun wound, and therefore, blood splatter and the trajectory of the blood splatter becomes an issue. Clean up in matters such as this may involve removing drywall, ceiling tiles, floor boards, carpeting, and again furniture that has been affected by the death.

A crime scene cleanup business uses specific tools like special lighting to determine what areas are contaminated. Technicians will then develop a game plan for what items can be picked up and cleaned and what areas must have restoration work completed. After the cleanup and restoration is done, then the contaminated material, such as furniture, walling, floor boards, and anything else removed from the home must be transported by a licensed transport unit to a nearby incineration facility. Safety must not be left behind, and so, the methods of completing this transportation safely is imperative.

Cleaning up a scene where there is any body fluid, such as blood, urine, or feces is dangerous. There are numerous diseases, such as HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis, MRSA (a highly contagious bacterial infection), and staff infections, that are carried by bodily fluids. For this reason, hazmat training is required for major crime scene clean up services to not only make sure they know how to do a death cleanup but also how to protect those cleaning up the scene. To assure the cleaners are prepared, competent, and that further tragedy is avoided during the cleanup of a death, trained crime scene clean up employees will go through many clean up simulations before they are released into the field. As well, employees learn how to wear protective gear correctly to make sure they can minimize exposure to blood and body decomposition debris. The protective gear typically includes hazmat suits, goggles, tight fitting and thick rubber gloves, and steel tipped boots. Trained crime scene clean up employees are also trained to be cautious of their environment by knowing the potential dangers. Finally, before a cleaners goes into the field, they typically have to go through a number of vaccinations and make sure all their shots are up to date. It is necessary to assure that these employees are capable of dealing with these scenes both physically and mentally.