The Watch with Will Kennedy: Special Charlotte CSI Weapon
CHARLOTTE, NC — Blood stains at a crime scene are pivotal evidence, often the cornerstone to cracking a case. But sometimes, they can be nearly impossible to find.
In this Watch, we get an exclusive look at a special weapon CMPD Crime Scene Search uses to help bring killers to justice.
“If that’s the victim’s blood in your house, and you say you don’t know the victim, we’ve got a problem,” says CMPD Crime Scene Investigator Kris Woodhouse.
Blood evidence can be the holy grail for crime scene investigators. The key that unlocks the mystery.
“The best thing about blood evidence is it really can tell us a lot,” says Woodhouse. “And the thing with blood spatter is, it is very minute droplets. And because it works just like any liquid in physics, it goes everywhere.”
Kris Woodhouse and Cricket Price have been helping crack cases for 15 years with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police. These crime scene investigators find blood that’s been left behind, even when the criminals try to cover their tracks.
“What’s unique about a lot of the scenes we go to is that you’re able to tell if the area has been cleaned up recently or not,” says CSI Cricket Price. “Meaning that all of a sudden you’ve got this nasty apartment, and there’s one section of the floor that is all of a sudden very clean.”
But even then, CMPD has a way to uncover the truth.
This is BlueStar, a chemical that reacts with blood, and only blood.
“Once the chemical and the iron group come in contact, it creates light,” says Woodhouse. “So it’s a chemical luminescence. So it actually produces light.”
It can reveal blood stains that are invisible to the naked eye: drag marks, swipe marks, hand impressions and foot prints.
BlueStar can be applied as a spray, to easily cover large areas, even areas that have been cleaned with bleach.
“If it’s a wall that’s cleaned up, we’ll spray the whole wall,” says Woodhouse.
Bathtubs? All that stuff?
“Sinks,” replies Woodhouse.
“I’ve done a crib,” says Price. “You know it’s just dependent on what’s specific to that scene.”
“You might have shoes that we’re going to spray” continues Woodhouse. “We might have some sort of a murder weapon, or a weapon that we might want to see if it was used.”
The tech allows CSI’s to recreate the scene.
BlueStar is often used in high profile cases, like the 2008 murder of Sally Rohrbach. The state insurance examiner was killed by Michael Howell while she was investigating his Dilworth agency.
BlueStar helped lead to a conviction, after traces of blood were found inside the office.
And that blood, even hidden blood, can tell police a lot.
“It can show us directionality,” says Woodhouse. “It can do sequencing of events. So we might be able to explain what happened, and what transpired. Because we are that victim’s voice. We’re going to tell their story for them.”
That story-telling means looking for places where blood should be, but isn’t; and places people wouldn’t expect it to wind up.
“You’re going to have these little droplets that might be on the inside of a lampshade,” says Woodhouse. “Underneath the side of a desk. On the hem of your jeans. Shoelaces. Things you don’t think about.”
Those blood stain patterns can be analyzed by experts, and help answer numerous questions.
“Little tiny pieces of a puzzle,” explains Woodhouse. “And it takes all of us within the department to piece together and make that case happen.”
BlueStar is expensive; four individual tablets run about $80. Each tablet mixes enough for one small spray bottle.
CMPD Crime Scene Search uses BlueStar for about 20 cases each year.