Students study lessons in forensic evidence at Smith-Cotton


By Hope Lecchi - [email protected]



Aly Shaw observes the reaction to “blood” in a solution of copper sulfate Tuesday morning in Kelsey Stuart’s forensic class at Smith-Cotton High School. The students were completing a lab designed to test how blood evidence could be used to solve a crime. Many of the students made their own “blood” using a mixture of corn syrup, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, water and red food coloring hoping to mirror the viscosity of actual blood to make their tests more accurate.


Allie Wilbanks, a junior at Smith-Cotton stirs her “blood” before she and her lab partner Haley Barnes test the splatter pattern of blood through a chamber similar to what would occur if a victim were shot by a gun. Wilbanks said she had considered a career in law enforcement but after taking Stuarts’ class she was certain of her decision.


Mason Johnson coats a toy dagger with “blood” during his blood splatter lab in forensics Tuesday morning at Smith-Cotton. He and lab partner Jake Kindle were being careful to always measure the exact distance they stood from their collection paper on the wall as well as replicating the same angle from which the blood was cast to ensure it would not change the data they were collecting.


Haley Barnes draws a sample of “blood” through a straw while Allie Wilbanks holds the beaker of “blood.” The two girls were testing the impact the size of a barrel had on a blood pattern. They were also analyzing what factor the different strengths of air pressure would have on a blood pattern.


Sarah Bergman, left, and Blanca Melgar discuss what object they are going to place drops of “blood” on next. The girls, along with their lab partner Aly Shaw, were testing the patterns “blood” left on surfaces such as dirt, wood, sawdust, sand, Styrofoam and various liquids. As part of their lab, the members of the class learned about protecting the integrity of a crime scene and how to properly preserve blood and other evidence.


By Hope Lecchi

[email protected]

Aly Shaw observes the reaction to “blood” in a solution of copper sulfate Tuesday morning in Kelsey Stuart’s forensic class at Smith-Cotton High School. The students were completing a lab designed to test how blood evidence could be used to solve a crime. Many of the students made their own “blood” using a mixture of corn syrup, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, water and red food coloring hoping to mirror the viscosity of actual blood to make their tests more accurate.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_tsd020316bloodlab1.jpgAly Shaw observes the reaction to “blood” in a solution of copper sulfate Tuesday morning in Kelsey Stuart’s forensic class at Smith-Cotton High School. The students were completing a lab designed to test how blood evidence could be used to solve a crime. Many of the students made their own “blood” using a mixture of corn syrup, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, water and red food coloring hoping to mirror the viscosity of actual blood to make their tests more accurate.

Allie Wilbanks, a junior at Smith-Cotton stirs her “blood” before she and her lab partner Haley Barnes test the splatter pattern of blood through a chamber similar to what would occur if a victim were shot by a gun. Wilbanks said she had considered a career in law enforcement but after taking Stuarts’ class she was certain of her decision.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_tsd020316bloodlab2.jpgAllie Wilbanks, a junior at Smith-Cotton stirs her “blood” before she and her lab partner Haley Barnes test the splatter pattern of blood through a chamber similar to what would occur if a victim were shot by a gun. Wilbanks said she had considered a career in law enforcement but after taking Stuarts’ class she was certain of her decision.

Mason Johnson coats a toy dagger with “blood” during his blood splatter lab in forensics Tuesday morning at Smith-Cotton. He and lab partner Jake Kindle were being careful to always measure the exact distance they stood from their collection paper on the wall as well as replicating the same angle from which the blood was cast to ensure it would not change the data they were collecting.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_tsd020316bloodlab3.jpgMason Johnson coats a toy dagger with “blood” during his blood splatter lab in forensics Tuesday morning at Smith-Cotton. He and lab partner Jake Kindle were being careful to always measure the exact distance they stood from their collection paper on the wall as well as replicating the same angle from which the blood was cast to ensure it would not change the data they were collecting.

Haley Barnes draws a sample of “blood” through a straw while Allie Wilbanks holds the beaker of “blood.” The two girls were testing the impact the size of a barrel had on a blood pattern. They were also analyzing what factor the different strengths of air pressure would have on a blood pattern.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_tsd020316bloodlab4.jpgHaley Barnes draws a sample of “blood” through a straw while Allie Wilbanks holds the beaker of “blood.” The two girls were testing the impact the size of a barrel had on a blood pattern. They were also analyzing what factor the different strengths of air pressure would have on a blood pattern.

Sarah Bergman, left, and Blanca Melgar discuss what object they are going to place drops of “blood” on next. The girls, along with their lab partner Aly Shaw, were testing the patterns “blood” left on surfaces such as dirt, wood, sawdust, sand, Styrofoam and various liquids. As part of their lab, the members of the class learned about protecting the integrity of a crime scene and how to properly preserve blood and other evidence.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/web1_tsd020316bloodlab5.jpgSarah Bergman, left, and Blanca Melgar discuss what object they are going to place drops of “blood” on next. The girls, along with their lab partner Aly Shaw, were testing the patterns “blood” left on surfaces such as dirt, wood, sawdust, sand, Styrofoam and various liquids. As part of their lab, the members of the class learned about protecting the integrity of a crime scene and how to properly preserve blood and other evidence.

There are many different methods of teaching, just as there are different ways of learning. On Tuesday, in a forensics class those two concepts became one as the students became teachers, helping each other to analyze crime scenes and the forensics of blood.

“I had to laugh yesterday when my students came in and told me my blood wasn’t any good,” Smith-Cotton High School forensics teacher Kelsey Stuart said. “They said they spent part of their weekend making some better, newer blood for me.”

The blood was not actually for Stuart’s personal use, but was needed by the students for a unit of study, “Nicole Brown Simpson and Blood Splatter.”

Which brings us back to Stuart’s blood.

“The students thought the blood I made out of corn syrup, water and red food coloring was too thin; in fact they called it a sticky mess,” Stuart said. “Many of the students came in on Monday with their own mixtures of blood that they felt had a viscosity more like real blood.”

The students have been completing tests on blood patterns and how those patterns can be used to solve a crime.

“The last few days we have been flinging blood with different tools analyzing how the velocity and angle of the object can change the patterns of the blood,” Stuart said. “So often, people don’t consider things like the thickness of blood and how that can affect how it lands and how it has to be treated at a crime scene.”

Protecting the integrity of a crime scene has been a topic of discussion not only during this unit but also throughout the year in Stuart’s classes.

“We’ve talked a lot about the O.J. Simpson (Nicole Brown) case during the year,” Stuart said. “At the beginning of the year we talked about crime scenes and how evidence can be destroyed by carelessness and not paying attention to details.

“The Simpson case is a classic example of that,” Stuart added. “This is the 20th anniversary of the case and I think that most of the students truly think that he is guilty.”

Stuart is planning to have retired Detective Bob Dockler from the Columbia Police Department speak to the students.

“Bob can talk to them about things he has dealt with on a firsthand basis,” Stuart said. “So many of the students don’t think that anything like that can happen to them.

“They don’t think that they can be in an unhealthy relationship because they don’t realize what the signs of those are,” Stuart added. “There are so many things for them to consider in this lesson. One of the things we have talked about in regards to domestic violence is there is a huge difference between not guilty and innocent.”

The literal and implied lessons are not lost on the students in Stuart’s class.

“I knew I wanted to go into some type of law enforcement before I took this class,” Allie Wilbanks said. “This has just helped me decide more that this is what I want to do in the future.

“I like all the hands-on tests that we do like today; it’s fascinating to me,” she added. “I can’t take the class next year but I’m hopeful I can be a teacher’s aide for the class because I want to learn as much as I can and help others benefit from it as well.”

Seniors Mason Johnson and Jake Kindle realize they will not have many more months to be a part of the class but both young men said they feel they have benefited greatly from the lessons they have learned.

“One of the best things about this class is you learn the basics like the vocabulary terms and things like that, but it is never boring,” Johnson said. “She doesn’t just give us that to take up time but it always comes into play later on in ways you don’t realize.

“We really learn from everything she tells us,” Johnson added. “That’s why this class is so cool.”

Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484

Sedalia Democrat

Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484

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