Forensics questions answered!

By Dioptaz (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dioptaz (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

 When I signed up for the online Forensic Science class, I was hoping to get a few questions answered, in addition to learning some cool stuff. The instructors in the class held three live Q and A sessions during the course, through Google Hangout, where we could join in to ask questions.

Unfortunately, the live chats were held during my shift at the reference desk at work. No way to participate.

So, I turned to the textbook that they recommended as a supplement to the course – and I’m glad I did. That’s where I found the answers to the specific questions that I had for upcoming books.

Question 1: Is it possible to lift fingerprints from human skin? They did it once on CSI but I had no idea if that was actually possible.

It IS possible, but as the book says, “success has been limited.” It also says that human fingerprints last for about 1 1/2 hours on living skin – so they have to be collected from the deceased as quickly as possible.

Question 2: How would the police identify a Jane Doe through a missing persons database? Turns out there is a national database, NamUs, that links missing persons reports with unidentified remains. Kevin and Jon will be using that in an upcoming book.

Question 3: Is it possible to link ballistics findings across jurisdictions? If a gun is used in a murder in Los Angeles, can it be linked to an armed robbery in San Diego? Yes. The database is called NIBIN and is maintained by the ATF. It allows investigators to connect ballistics evidence across apparently unrelated crimes.

Question 4 was a question I didn’t know I had. What marks are produced on a victim’s neck during a strangulation by hand? The book has a whole paragraph describing the physical findings. That will allow me to make an upcoming strangulation much more realistic.

The book is called Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, 8th Edition, by Barry Fisher and David Fisher. I got a used copy on Amazon. It’s going to be a great reference for me.


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