CSI: Douglas High: Forensics students investigate mock crime scenes
Nevada Appeal News Service
Douglas High senior Cassidy Munoz tried to breach the yellow tape of a crime scene at the high school on Dec. 16.
Portraying a hysterical niece, Munoz told 17-year-old classmate Cameron Wells, who was watching the front door, that she needed to get inside her aunt’s house (really a classroom).
“I didn’t let her in, but now I have no way of getting a hold of her again,” Wells said, after he had redirected Munoz to the hospital.
Detective Rick Brown with the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Investigation Division advised Wells always to get the name of a potential witness, especially when they’re related to the victim.
Wells took the advice in stride, knowing it was all part of the forensics class he’d signed up for.
“It’s an interesting and fun class,” he said. “You learn a lot of useful stuff, mostly just being aware of what actually happens in the real world.”
Wells was one of 19 students split in teams to investigate three separate mock sexual assault scenes.
It’s the fourth year Brown and other detectives have teamed up with science teacher Kim Tretton for the project, which accounts for about 10 percent of students’ final grades.
“It’s a class kids are interested in,” Tretton said. “There are three or four students in the class alone who want to go into law enforcement and forensics. It gets a lot of kids thinking about stuff post-high school.”
“They get more training in one year here than we do in the police academy,” said Brown. “More forensic things. They do a lab on DNA, a lab on hair, and learn to collect fingerprints with superglue. We get to see that stuff, but we don’t get to do it.”
Brown said students that he worked with four years ago in the course now may be graduating from college.
“Maybe I will see some of them in the field,” he said. “We definitely need people trained in forensics. This is the only high school in the area that I know of that does this. It’s a unique thing at Douglas, and recently in the last few years colleges have been offering forensic programs. There’s a huge need for it.”
Senior Bryan Sanchez, 17, is planning to study criminal justice as an undergraduate and then advance to law school.
“I want to start at a local level and then move up to DA,” he said.
Sanchez was collecting evidence at one of the crime scenes. His team included six other students: a team leader, additional evidence collector, a photographer, scribe, sketch artist and security person.
Together the students searched the crime scene for a possible weapon. They lifted fingerprints and hair fibers and examined clothing. They also photographed and triangulated the scene for sketching purposes.
“We’re still collecting evidence, and it’s not really time to analyze it yet,” Sanchez said. “Once we analyze it, we can figure out the crime.”
Guarding the entrance, Wells got another chance to “protect the crime scene” when Vice Principal Dave Pyle, portraying a curious neighbor, tried to get inside.
“Are you of any relation to the occupants in the house?” Wells asked.
“No,” Pyle replied. “It just looked interesting, so I thought I’d stop by.”
When Pyle prodded Wells for the juicy details of the crime, the young CSI responded appropriately.
“That’s classified, sir,” Wells said.