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Forensics students test their skills

by Sarah Hauck
shauck@recordcourier.com
Junior Sam Melhus dusts a knife for fingerprints at DHS as part of Kim Tretton's Forensics class on Thursday.
Brad Coman |

Yellow evidence signs, overturned chairs, a gun and a knife lay on the floor of room 228 at Douglas High School.

Students in Kimberly Tretton’s forensics class were tasked with determining the who, how and why of the mock crime scene as part of their final fall semester grade.

Just returning from interviewing a witness junior Brooke Miller still had a lot of questions about what the crime scene eluded to.



“All we know is that there was knife and a gun involved,” Brooke said. “She (the witness) added to our knowledge.”

Brooke, along with her investigative team, put what they have learned in class all year to the test.



“We do a lot of interactive things,” Brooke said. “It’s fun to experience what might actually happen instead of just sitting and taking notes about how to work with a crime scene.”

This was the eighth year that a crime scene has needed to be processed by the forensics class.

“This is a good way to put all of their knowledge to the test at the end of the semester,” Tretton said. “I try to throw as much at them as I can, not to trip them up, but to see how they can adapt what they’ve learned to help them. It really encourages the higher level of thinking people want these kids to have. It really encourages a creative way of thinking.”

With the help of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 4, Tretton was able to recreate a student-to-student shooting scene.

“This is the first year that we’ve done a student shooting,” Tretton said. “It is kind of edgy especially with what is, unfortunately, going on in the world right now.”

Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Elges was on hand to help guide the students through the crime scene as well as score their ability to process the scene correctly.

“They are getting more practical experience than someone in the academy would get,” Tretton said. “It makes me feel great that we’re giving these kids a unique experience that some people in the profession don’t get.”

Elges saw the mock crime scene as an opportunity for the students to not only get hands on experience, but to also take notes for their possible futures.

“This is great. I wish I’d had it in high school. It really gives them thoughts about job opportunities which is what high school should be about,” Elges said.

Explaining how the nature of a blood splatter can determine where a shooter and the victim were standing at the time of the incident was one of the pointers Elges gave to the students.

“They didn’t know much coming in,” Elges said. “They had to let the scene talk to them. These are top notch kids and they are really trying to do it right.”

The students were broken up into teams to process and analyze what they found at the crime scene.

Junior Maddie Elder was a team leader and said processing the crime scene was a good way for her to learn.

“I really like this. I learn so much from hands on experience. It also shows that it’s much harder than it looks on TV,” Maddie said.

While Maddie doesn’t have specific plans of going into a forensics field of study, it does interest her.

“I wanted to see how it would be if I were to go into some aspect of the field,” Elder said. “It’s interesting and real world and not something you would typically think of in a high school.”