A Dream Within A Dream

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Rachael Kramer photos


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Running Away

Well, it’s finally here…moving day. Yep, my bags are packed and we’re off on another adventure. So…no blog today. But, after the dust settles and Mayberry is in my rear-view mirror, I’ll be back at it. Right now, there’s lot’s of track to cover before dark…

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Bill Lanning: The Shallow Grave Crime Scene

Your first call of the day shift is not supposed to be like this. Summers are hot, even in the morning and here you are, responding as CSI to a “suspicious smell” call to 911, before 10 AM. Maybe, it’s just an animal hit by a car. They can really stink up a large space this time of the year. As you pull off of Stanford onto Delivery, you pick up the smell, even with the windows up in the van and the A/C on “MAX.”

As you exit your vehicle, the acrid sour stench invades every part of your sinuses. The eyes begin to water, your mind races as to the source of the emanation. The yellow crime scene tape hangs limp, as if melting in the morning heat. The first officer on the scene meets you from the other side of the tape, her face a mask of disgust and indifference as she greets you.

“It’s a nice one… shallow grave,” Deputy Morales states, her hand held closely over her mouth. “Glad you’re here. I hope you are up to this. Why does my shift always get the nasty ones?”

A decomposing human body is a complex challenge to the crime scene investigator. It’s not just the smell; you get used to that. Usually, the body has been left in a small place that, minute by minute, is rapidly decaying or breaking down into component parts. No matter if the deceased is inside a structure or outside, you are racing against time to photograph and process the scene before the key evidence to help bring justice to those who are responsible for the heinous act is lost forever.

What does the crime scene photographer or evidence technician face when he or she reaches the scene of a grisly death? How does one get over the “complications” of smell, sight, feel… did I mention smell, of death in a found body event? Couple these concerns with the certain invasion of ants, flies, beetles, and wasps, whose sole function is to eat as much of the crime scene as possible before their own life cycle comes to an end, and you are facing a daunting task to bring justice to another victim of man’s cruelest inhumanity to man- cold-blooded murder.

In this September’s Writers’ Police Academy, a new interactive learning experience has been added to the already impressive line-up of classes, workshops and labs planned for the WPA participants. At least two sections of “The Shallow Grave Crime Scene” will be held during the event, to give the writers first hand contact with a buried body crime scene. The sessions will not be just another classroom examination of a topic, but will provide session attendees the opportunity to actually step into a simulated human remains burial site. Participants will have the opportunity to go inside “the tape” and photograph the scene, and potential evidence found there. Writers in attendance of the sessions will be exposed to the sights AND smells of a realistic shallow grave site.

In modern American crime fiction, as well as true crime works, thousands of characters have found themselves placed in a hole and covered with soil. Most writers have to envision the task of digging a space large enough to conceal a human corpse based on the literature, or films they have encountered. In these sessions, individuals will actually take part in the digging of a shallow grave. Participants will know the hard work and complexities that accompany the efforts to conceal violent behavior, as they will be exposed to the tools of the killer’s trade- the shovel, the pick, the bag of lime, and black plastic. Participants will learn the importance of each tool and will be able to add this realistic opportunity to their repertoire of life experiences.

The Writers’ Police Academy, scheduled for September 23-25, 2011 at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, North Carolina is THE place for crime novelists to come and experience many of the things they write about. As an instructor, the WPA gives us the opportunity to share tips and techniques, theories and facts to help provide that “extra spark” of realism in a novel or true crime book. In this day of real trials, real crimes and real criminals, the WPA hopes to lift the writer above the rest, giving their work the gritty veteran level of knowledge that will separate them from just another book.

If you want to see and smell the crime scene as you have not experienced it before, and use the tools of the cold-blooded killer to create a “hiding” place for your prey, you may want to attend the “Shallow Grave Crime Scene” workshop. Come prepared with your digital point-n-shoot camera, or the trusty old 35mm film camera. Crime scene photographs will be limited to those registered for the workshop.

Sturdy footwear, like athletic shoes, will be the shoe of choice for this event. We are going to be in the woods, flip-flops, sandals, fuzzy bunny slippers or other thin forms of “scoots” may not suit you.

If you are going to dig, have a pair of gardening gloves or leather hand protection from Mr. Mattock or Mr. Shovel. Knit mittens won’t last long, especially with perspiration levels at high during the course.

If you have questions, contact me at Guilford Technical Community College at welanning@gtcc.edu or get with Lee. He knows how to find us.

See you in September,

Bill Lanning

Assistant Professor

Criminal Justice Department

Guilford Technical Community College



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IBIS: Integrated Ballistics Identification System

In prehistoric times, when crime-solving technology was basic, almost non-existent, evidence-matching was a daunting task. Remember those days? You know, way back in the early 2000’s… Well, bullet-to-firearm matches were especially tough in those oh-so-distant times. Investigators first recovered spent ammunition, the bullet or bullet fragments and/or the part of the round that once contained the powder (cartridge). Then they set out on the mission of trying to match those bullet parts to the weapon that fired them.

Markings on the surface of a fired bullet – Larry Reynolds photo

Two fired cartridges – Larry Reynolds photo

To do so, they examined the recovered evidence for specific markings left behind by the firearm—lands and grooves left by the pattern inside the gun barrel, and firing pin and ejector marks left on the cartridge.

Then, investigators set out on the mind-numbing task of manually searching scores of image databases and other evidence comparison collections, hoping to locate a match to their piece of evidence. And it sometimes took forever and a day to find a match, if then.

Well, in 2003 a new star in the evidence-matching world was born…IBIS. The Integrated Ballistics Identification System. IBIS is totally automated, much like the AFIS and CODIS systems (fingerprint and DNA systems). Once IBIS hit the scene, investigators were able to enter an image into the system, starting a search of images from all databases AND from all current, on-going, and past crime scenes. And all this is done automatically, without having to paw through page after page of pictures.

But, it’s still not like you see on TV. There’s no moment where an image of a bullet pops up on a computer screen next to a picture of a suspect, complete with the thug’s address, phone number, and shoe size.

Investigators still must compare the items by hand and eye to determine that the two images, the image of the evidence and the database image, are indeed a match.





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Evidence Collection Course For Writers

How would you like to attend one of the most elite evidence collection courses in the world? The week-long, exclusive session at Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories is normally offered to law enforcement only, but I’ve made arrangements for 20 writers to attend. The event is tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2012 (July or August) at the Sirchie compound outside Raleigh, N.C.

This will be a Monday through Friday Noon course that covers state–of-the-art methods of identifying, recording, collecting, processing and transporting physical evidence found at the scene of a crime. The program is geared for “hands-on” use of equipment, materials, and supplies necessary for a thorough and comprehensive evidence collection mission and fully conforms to the training Sirchie® has conducted for over thirty years to thousands of officers from the world wide law enforcement community.

If you are interesting in attending this once-in-a-lifetime event please contact me immediately. Space is limited to the first 20 people who sign up. Believe me, this course is highly-sought after by the best-of-the-best crime-solvers in the world, and there’s a very long waiting list. So we’re extremely fortunate to have made it possible for a select few writers to go where no civilians have gone before.


Crime Scene Investigation

The various types and categories of physical evidence are reviewed with the emphasis being placed on the proper procedures for securing the crime scene and the proper sequence for the collection of evidence.

Fingerprint Theory

The fundamental principles of fingerprints are examined, including the basic concepts of ridge pattern development, identification characteristics and classification methods.

Latent Fingerprint Development – Powders

The proper use of oxide, metallic and magnetic powders are discussed. Students will develop latent prints on a variety of porous and non-porous surfaces, glass and polished metals. Photographic techniques are covered along with the use of various print lifting devices such as tape, hinge lifters and rubber lifters.

Latent Fingerprint Development – Chemicals & Vapors

During this session, students will develop latent prints on various surfaces, utilizing iodine fuming, ninhydrin, DFO and silver nitrate. Chemical fixatives and removers will also be covered as well as the chemical development of latent blood prints. A second session is devoted to the development of latent prints using cyanoacrylate (superglue) fuming techniques, sticky side powder and small particle reagents. Students will also learn the latest methods of locating and photographing latents without powder or chemical processing with SIRCHIE’S KRIMESITE ™ Imager.

Fingerprint Taking Techniques

Students will discuss and practice various techniques for achieving superior results when taking fingerprints and palm prints.

Fingerprint Classification and Comparison

Students will learn the fundamental techniques of fingerprint pattern interpretation in order to classify, search and file. The basics of comparison are reviewed.

Basic Photography and Crime Scene Sketching

Various procedures for taking crime scene photographs are discussed as well as the proper techniques for constructing crime scene sketches.

Biological Evidence

Students learn to presumptively identify biological fluids, including blood and seminal fluid, using various testing methods. Students will use chemical reagents to detect invisible traces of blood. The proper methods of collecting and handling rape and sexual assault evidence.

Controlled Substance Identification

Students will work with standardized presumptive field test kits to screen the most commonly abused drugs and narcotics.

Theft Detection Techniques

Students learn the uses of visible and invisible fluorescent powders, pastes, dyes, crayons, ink markers and other tagging devices.

Serial Number Restoration

Working with various metallic and plastic surfaces, students will restore obliterated serial numbers. Liquid and gel reagents are used in conjunction with the electron accelerator.

Firearms Residue Collection

Students will learn the proper methods for collecting primer and gunpowder residues from the shooter’s firing hand and/or clothing.

Tire, Footprint, Tool Mark

Impression evidence types and their value in criminal investigation will be reviewed. Students will have the opportunity to experience first hand the casting of footwear and tire impressions using various mediums. In addition, castings of tool marks and other impressions will be demonstrated.


*Again, please contact me for details immediately if you’re interested in attending. This course is available to the first 20 people who register. Also, there will be a very brief registration period. The registration fee for the week-long course is $600, the same price paid by law enforcement (hotels, meals, and transportation are the responsibility of the attendees).

*Please DO NOT attempt to register for this event on the Sirchie website. Registration is not yet open. The courses you see on their website are for law enforcement ONLY.

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

Deputy Sheriff Richard “Rick” Jerome Daly, 55

Clayton County Georgia Sheriff’s Office

July 20, 2011 – Deputies assigned to a sheriff’s fugitive squad spotted 17-year-old Jonathan Bun, a suspect wanted for robbery, getting into a car near his home. The deputies then followed Bun in their unmarked car, waiting for a safe place to conduct a traffic stop. When they were ready to make the arrest they called Deputy Rick Daily to make the stop with his marked patrol vehicle. Policy in most departments mandates that traffic stops be conducted by a marked patrol vehicle driven by a uniformed patrol officer. This is done to eliminate any doubt that it is indeed a police officer who’s stopping the vehicle.

As Deputy Daly approached the passenger side of the vehicle, Bun emerged firing a weapon. The rounds struck Daly in areas of his body not protected by his ballistic vest—shoulder and abdominal area. Officials believe the round to the abdomen was the fatal shot.

After shooting Deputy Daly, Bun fled into a nearby wooded area where a team of 40 officers quickly assembled and surrounded the section of woods where Bun was likely to be hiding. Once all officers were in place, tactical teams began slowly searching as a helicopter circled overhead.

It was a canine officer and his police dog who first made contact with the suspect. Bun attempted to evade capture but was immediately apprehended by the dog. The teen was transported to the hospital where he was treated for several bite wounds to his head and neck. Ironically, Bun received treatment in the same hospital where Deputy Daly succumbed to his wounds just hours before his killer was admitted.

Deputy Sheriff Rick Daly was a 25-year veteran who loved his job and wanted to help people.

Cop-killer Jonathan Bun, 17, has been charged with one count each of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Bun has been released from the hospital and is now in jail at an undisclosed location.

*100 line of duty deaths so far in 2011. 42 deaths from gunfire, a 25% increase over last year.

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