Guest Blogger: LJ Sellers: A Visit to the Crime Lab

27 Jul

I visited the Eugene Police Department’s crime lab where the lead criminologist gave me a two-hour crash course in processing evidence. Many of the chemical references didn’t stick with me, but what I learned is that real-life evidence technicians (versus the CSI kind) spend most of their time processing latent fingerprints and watching/editing surveillance videos. Both are tedious pursuits that require attention to detail and patience, but what they produce is the critical evidence that leads to criminal convictions.

Here are the photo highlights of my visit.

This is a downdraft table where technicians use various colors of powder to process fingerprints. The downdraft sucks up the excess powder, which would otherwise go everywhere.

The Superglue Dryer: Technicians don’t really use superglue, only one of its chemical components: cyanoacetate, which mixes with steam to form a coating all over an object. The coating reveals latent fingerprints when it hardens.

The lab refrigerator holds many things, including entomology evidence. Evidence technicians grow and kill flies at various stages to establish time of death for bodies that aren’t found in a timely manner.

The large bay where technicians process cars, ATM machines, and other big items looks a lot like a homeowner’s garage, including a little blue kiddie swimming pool.

No lab is complete without a shower. Many of the chemicals technicians use are dangerous, and they must have access to an immediate way to rinse off their clothes or bodies.

L.J. Sellers is an award-winning journalist and the author of the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/suspense series: The Sex Club, Secrets to Die For, Thrilled to Death, Passions of the Dead, and Dying for Justice. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and Spinetingler magazines, and the series is on Amazon Kindle’s bestselling police procedural list. L.J. also has two standalone thrillers: The Baby Thief and The Suicide Effect. When not plotting murders, she enjoys performing standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.


Posted by on July 27, 2011 in General Forensics, Guest Blogger


13 responses to “Guest Blogger: LJ Sellers: A Visit to the Crime Lab

  1. Lynn Demsky

    July 28, 2011 at 1:41 am

    Seller’s books are out of this world! I won one a couple of weeks ago and have since bought them all up for my Kindle and only have 2 to go and there’s not a bad one in them! Thanks for having her on your blog! Keep on writing so we can keep on reading!


  2. Pj Schott

    July 28, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Reminds me of my tour of the morgue in Boston. Not the glam stuff you see on TV. Thank you. Always love to see photos.


  3. Helen Ginger

    July 28, 2011 at 5:37 am

    Very interesting, L.J. Thank you for sharing, especially the pictures, which let us see the lab.


  4. Jodie Renner

    July 28, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Interesting, LJ! Now how about a visit to a morgue? And do they ever let lay people, like crime writers, observe an autopsy? I’ll bet Doug knows the answer to that one!


  5. Betty Gordon

    July 28, 2011 at 6:38 am

    LJ, a great blog that rests in reality. The CSI series has introduced a lot of information for viewers, but we all need to keep our feet based in correct information. Many thanks.


  6. ljsellers

    July 28, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Hey, everyone. Thanks for stopping in. And thanks Lynn, for your praise of my series.

    Jodie, I have tried to see an autopsy, but as Doug mentioned, the privacy issue has prevented the pathologist from letting me. I’ll watch the video version.


  7. Craig Faustus Buck

    July 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Hi LJ, sounds like a fun tour. What’s the kiddie pool from or for?


  8. ljsellers

    July 28, 2011 at 11:13 am

    They were doing some kind of test in the kiddie pool, but I’ll have to check my notes. I’ve been meaning to listen to the interview tape again, anyway. So much information!


  9. Marlyn

    July 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    This is so cool, LJ!!


  10. Stacy Green

    July 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    This is very cool, L.J. Thank you for sharing it with us. I would love to do something like this one day but I suppose you have to have a few books under your belt before that can happen.


  11. Peg Brantley

    July 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I just love REAL photos and information . . . as unglamorous as they might be. Thanks, L.J.! Great post.


  12. Fritz Strobl MD

    July 31, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Cool LJ & DP. So at least some of CSI/NCIS is factual! I’ve heard that some juries expect it to be like TV and that’s been a problem for prosecuters.



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