While many forensic specialists find satisfaction and security in working for a government agency, one recent graduate is determined to make a name for herself in her own forensics company.
Upon entering graduate school in 2002, I thought I knew exactly where I was headed; I planned to complete a degree in Criminal Justice, concentrating in Criminal Profiling, and apply to the FBI. Life takes some interesting turns, however, and the path I was about to embark on led me to places I never thought I’d be.
Graduate school at Youngstown State University in Ohio, provided me the opportunity to explore several areas of forensics. I was fortunate to intern at the Youngstown Police Department’s Crime Scene Unit. I spent six months working and studying with several knowledgeable homicide detectives and investigators and got my first taste of actual crime work. My experience broadened while doing coursework when I was assigned to work with a forensic psychologist and a forensic scientist. With undergraduate work in psychology, I felt right at home with the former, but with little lab experience, I was overwhelmed by my first job as a forensic scientist. That job, however, led to work in a private forensic toxicology lab and opened up for me, the world of private forensic consulting. Additionally, my focus began to include not only the psychological but the physical. Physical evidence from fingerprinting to casting tool marks to bloodstain analysis fascinated me.
In addition to my lab duties, I assisted in teaching an Introduction to Forensic Science course. I wanted the students to not only have the opportunity to learn the physical evidence side of things, but with a twist; that is, learn how criminal profilers use physical evidence to help comprise psychological profiles. I was determined to meld my interest in psychology with my newfound skills in physical evidence. While doing research, I became captivated with bloodstain analysis. One day I read a book on bloodstain pattern analysis while walking on the treadmill. Before I knew it, I had walked five miles and my path had taken a new turn.
A Little History
The first reference to bloodstain pattern interpretation is found in the Bookof Genesis in the story of Cain and Abel:
“And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not, am I my brother’s keeper? And He said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
The fact that blood cried out from the ground to be heard is significant because bloodstain analysts are the speakers for bloodstain evidence which otherwise remains silent.
The first scientific work in bloodstain analysis was begun in the 1890s by Dr Eduard Piotrowski. He designed several experiments using hammers and hatchets to beat the heads of rabbits, studying the resultant bloodstain patterns.1 This, of course, was undoubtedly looked upon with disdain by Victorian era animal rights activists, but Dr. Piotrowski was able to illustrate his work and describe it in his literature, nonetheless. While reconstruction still plays a role in the analysis of bloodstain patterns, the technology used has changed significantly.
Moving from the Psychological to the Physical
I changed the focus of my planned Graduate Research Project from the psychology of serial killers to bloodstain pattern analysis. My research led me to Herbert Leon MacDonell, who sent me several sources on the history of bloodstain pattern analysis, including a bound copy of his own Segments of History: The Literature of Bloodstain Pattern Interpretation, Segment 00 Through the 1800’s. Little did I know with that first contact that I was acquainting myself with the “Father of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis” himself.