Two of the largest crime scenes I have worked in my career were Ground Zero after 9/11 and the landfill that was Joey Miller’s wooded park of horrors. Both had commonalities. They required multiple skills in forensics and due to their size and scope they required an infrastructure called an “Incident Command System”(see Forensic Glossary). Both scenes required stamina, cooperation and meticulous attention to detail.
In the Joey Miller case my team and I utilized multiple areas of forensic science. We first had to establish and execute an effective search pattern. We searched multiple acres over multiple days so we needed a methodology that would assure we covered every foot of ground.
To name just some of the sciences involved:
-Crime Scene Investigation
-Wound Pattern Analysis
-Behavioral Evidence Analysis
It was a big project for our small community. What impressed me most was the team's dedication and how determined everyone was to identify those who were left, but not forgotten, in this wooded graveyard.
As the massive team worked to identify, document and process the evidence at the scene, others were working to piece together what Joey had done over a period of years. Information from the interviews flowed back to the crime scene and aided in the direction of the search. Slowly, bone by bone, a story unfolded of violence and murder. Soon evidence was uncovered that would tell the story of Joey’s deeds, regardless of whether he recanted his statements or not.
Forensic science and teamwork allowed us to speak for the dead and bring a little bit of closure and justice to families that had been in a suspended period of loss and incompletion. I am so proud of the men and women who worked so hard to give answers to the families.
Recently, one more victim was identified. A cold case unit and the advancements in DNA techniques allowed us to identify bones that had been in my office’s possession for about twenty years. The community held a funeral service for this young girl, in honor of her life so that everyone who loved her could come together. How different the world would be if we believed every life is important. To me each person is much more than a random collection of carbon-based molecules; there is a meaning and purpose to each life. Many times we fail (or think we fail) to achieve that purpose. It remains for us to stay on the journey towards meaning.
This case is closed, but there is always another story . . .