Middle School Biology students learned from two special guests on February 14, as they kicked off their forensic science unit.
Speaking to all the classes were Suffolk Commonwealth's Attorney Narendra Pleas, who is the first African American woman to serve in that constitutional office, and Joan Turner, Suffolk's Community Outreach Coordinator and a former Crime Scene Investigator for the city. Pleas won election in November 2021. She has represented the commonwealth in criminal cases in four jurisdictions, including Norfolk. Among Turner's previous jobs, she worked for the FBI in Washington, DC, and was a fingerprint examiner in Newport News.
Pleas and Turner provided a wealth of knowledge for students, teaching them the importance of taking good photos at crime scenes, proper finger printing (using students to demonstrate), and other essential crime scene responsibilities. As Pleas said, be as thorough and descriptive as possible, because “you never know what's going to be relevant."
Turner opened the presentation by sharing stories of her experiences working crime scenes, and her variety of responsibilities at the scenes that were crucial to the investigation. “I like finding the pieces to the puzzle," she said.
Pleas then explained why taking care of seemingly minor details is important. Trials sometimes don't happen until two or three years - or more - after an alleged crime took place, necessitating taking an abundance of photos and copious notes right away. Additionally, notes should be written on paper, so they can be saved.
When fingerprinting, roll the finger from nail to nail, both women said. And when taking notes, include as many details as possible.
The forensic science unit annually is a popular one among Middle School students. After learning from Pleas and Turner, the 135 “CSI agents" began their work to solve The Case of the Murdered Monsieur. Faculty play the roles of suspects, with students coming to them to conduct interviews and research - and hopefully solving the case over the next few days.
The students will work for three weeks to solve the case using microscopy, blood type analysis, karyotyping, and DNA profiling, and present their findings in a video to conclude the project.