Category Archives: Crime Scene

Working with the FBI: A Brief Guide for Writers

Jan Burke and I recently had the FBI on Crime and Science Radio for a 2 part interview. It was outstanding. If you missed it, the shows are archived so go here to listen:–science-radio-past.html

Crime writers are always looking for experts to chat with about their plots. The FBI offers just such access.

Need info on the FBI for your next story? Not sure how to approach them. Here’s how:

                                                 WORKING WITH THE FBI: A Brief Guide for Writers

If you are a writer who wants to feature the FBI in a TV, film, and literary project, the FBI may be able to work with you to create an accurate portrayal of the Bureau’s work.

The FBI’s Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit (IPPAU) in the Bureau’s DC-based Office of Public Affairs works with screenwriters, producers, authors, and other industry personnel associated with TV programs, documentaries, made-for-TV movies, films, and books.

What the FBI needs from you:

Company name, point of contact, address, email, and phone number

Project status, i.e., sold, green-lit, commissioned, or speculative

Scope of FBI’s importance in the script

Overview of FBI characters and actions

Copy of the script or treatment

Project status and/or production schedule

Specificity regarding cases, procedures, or information needed

A list of FBI personnel desired for interviews and/or background meeting(s)

What the FBI can consider providing you:

Guidance on content and/or dialogue regarding FBI investigations, procedures, interagency coordination, structure, and history

Information on costumes, props, scenery, or weapons


Liaison and coordination with local FBI field offices for interviews or B-roll footage

Coordination of visits to FBI headquarters and other facilities

Background briefings

For project assistance, please send your written proposal with above info to:  For further questions, please contact the FBI National Headquarters, Office of Public Affairs, Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit at: 202-324-5348.

Please note that IPPAU considers and/or approves project assistance on a case-by-case basis. The FBI’s unit has limited resources and cannot assure cooperation or offer reviews or critiques of submitted projects/proposal. Please allow ample time for approval/clearance process.


Crime and Science Radio: Biotechnology and WMDs: An Interview with the FBI’s Betsy Glick and Edward You, and Biotech Futurist Andrew Hessel, Parts 1 and 2


Betsy Glick is with the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs in Washington, DC.  Her Unit works with screenwriters, authors, producers and other media personnel associated with TV programs, documentaries, made-for-TV movies, books, and motion pictures, to help them write accurately about Today’s FBI.  She recently organized a “Writing G-Man Stories Rooted in Reality” workshop at the FBI New York  for novelists attending the International Thriller Writers annual gathering in Manhattan.

An award-winning communications professional throughout her career, Betsy Glick built a strong track record helping nonprofit organizations. She served as communications director for the National World War II Memorial, was VP Marketing/Communications at the Drug-Free Kids Campaign, and was the Managing Director at startup Life and Health Insurance Foundation. She spearheaded grassroots campaigns for the National Association of Life Underwriters and the American Automobile Association.

Betsy honed her writing skills at two advertising agencies and KYW-TV after graduating cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with courses at Wharton and Annenberg.

Edward H. You (Official Photo 1)

Edward You is a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Biological Countermeasures Unit.  Mr. You is responsible for creating programs and activities to coordinate and improve FBI and interagency efforts to identify, assess, and respond to biological threats or incidents.  These efforts include expanding FBI outreach to the Life Sciences community to address biosecurity.  Before being promoted to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Mr. You was a member of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force and served on the FBI Hazardous Evidence Response Team.

Mr. You has also been directly involved in policy-making efforts with a focus on biosecurity.  He is an active Working Group member of the National Security Council Interagency Policy Committee on Countering Biological Threats and an Ex Officio member of the NIH National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity.  He also serves on two National Academies committees, the Institute of Medicine’s Forum on Microbial Threats and the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law’s Forum on Synthetic Biology.

Mr. You also provides law enforcement biosecurity outreach by serving on the Strategic Advisory Board for the Synthetic Biology and Engineering Research Center and as an instructor for the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute.

Prior to joining the FBI, Mr. You worked for six years in graduate research focusing on retrovirology and human gene therapy at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine.  He subsequently worked for three years at the biotechnology firm AMGEN Inc. in cancer research.


Andrew Hessel is a futurist and catalyst in biological technologies, helping industry, academics, and authorities better understand the changes ahead in life science. He is the co-founder of the Pink Army Cooperative, the world’s first cooperative biotechnology company, which is aiming to make open source viral therapies for cancer. His is the former  co-chair of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology at the Singularity University and currently a Distinguished Researcher with Autodesk, Inc’s Bio/Nano technology group he addresses the disruptive shifts underway in life. He speaks widely on topics that include cells as living computers, life science as an emerging IT industry, and biological safety and security. He is active in the iGEM, DIYbio (do-it-yourself) communities, and is the 2015-2016 AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassador and frequently works to inspire students and young entrepreneurs.

LISTEN: This is a two part show:

Part 1:

Part 2:


Andrew Hessel Website: Website:

Ed You ’91: From Bio Sci to FBI:

FBI, AAAS Biotech Outreach:

Synthetic Virology by Andrew Hessel Ted Talk:

Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense: Surveillance and Detection Video:




Bad Air: Sewer Gas and Death


Bad air will kill you. One form of bad air is Sewer Gas. It’s a combination of hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. If you enter a sewer or manure pit or some area where these gases are concentrated, you can be a goner is short order. Breathing this combination of gases can kill, and can do so quickly.

This is what happened to Iowa hog farmers Gene and Austin Opheim. Austin went into the manure pit to salvage a piece of equipment that had fallen in, but he was quickly overcome by the gas. HIs father, Gene followed, trying to save his son, but he too fell victim to this treacherous gas.




Hydrogen sulfide is a byproduct of fermentation and is often found in sewers and cesspools. The combination of the two toxic gases hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide and the suffocating gas methane is called sewer gas. When inhaled or ingested, hydrogen sulfide converts oxyhemoglobin (hemoglobin rich in oxygen) into methemoglobin, which does not release oxygen to the tissues, thus effectively suffocating the cells of the body. Methemoglobin imparts a dark purple color to the blood, which can be seen at autopsy, where the ME is also likely to fi nd high levels of sulfide in the blood of sewer gas victims. These deaths are almost always accidental and occur when the victim enters an area rich in sewer gas.

Howdunnit Forensics Cover


Getting Rid Of A Body Isn’t Easy

Killers often think that disposing of a corpse is easy. And important. If there is no body surely they can’t be charged with murder. Right? Fortunately, they’re wrong on both counts.

A case in point: 23 year-old French art history student Eva Bourseau.


Seems that three of her classmates killed her over a dispute about a drug debt. Drug debts are never good things.

So okay, now they have a body. What are the going to do about it? As good students of Breaking Bad, they decided to dissolve the corpse in acid. At least they did use plastic rather than a metal tub, as, yes, acid loves to eat up metal.


But they also discovered that acid doesn’t always do the trick. Jeffrey Dahmer discovered the same thing.


Hell, even Dexter tried it.



Francis Craig: Another Jack The Ripper Candidate?


Perhaps the most famous serial killer of all time is Jack the Ripper. Part of his popularity resides in the fact that he has never been positively identified. Many folks, including best-selling author Patricia Cornwell, have made claims that they have uncovered Jack’s identify, but each theory remains controversial. Cornell, among others, named Walter Sickert as the likely Ripper. Other candidates have been John Pizer, George Chapman, and Aaron Kosminski, to name a few.

3 Jacks

Now a new candidate has entered the picture—Francis Craig.

Dr. Wynne Weston-Davies, in his book THE REAL MARY KELLY, postulates that Francis Craig, the estranged husband of Mary Kelly, is the mysterious Jack. Mary was apparently Jack’s fifth and final victim. Weston-Davies suggests that Craig killed all the women when in fact Mary was his intended victim—-the others were to provide cover for the killing of his wife. Well, that has indeed happened before.

Mary Kelly

Mary Kelly

For those who study Jack, Mary Kelly’s murder has always been problematic. She was the only victim killed indoors, in her home, and she was mutilated much more so than were others. It has been suggested that Jack was able to “do more” since he was indoors and less likely to be interrupted in his work. Maybe. It might also mean that the killing of Marry was indeed very personal. More so than his other victims. Such as a spouse might do. So, yes, all the killings could have been done to cover the real target—-Mary Kelly.

Or, perhaps, Craig knew of the other murders—-how could he not if he lived in London at that time?—and seized an opportunity. He could kill his estranged wife and make it look like Jack did it. It’s not like that’s never happened before either.

The overkill of Mary could fit either of these scenarios since her killing seems more personal than the other four. Plans are to exhume her corpse for examination. I doubt much useful will come from this but I hope I’m wrong. Regardless, it will interesting to watch.


Muscle Proteins and the Time of Death


In any homicide, one the most important things, along with the cause and manner of death, that the ME must determine is the approximate time of death. This will help eliminate some suspects—-if they are far away from the scene and with many witnesses, for example—-and point the finger at others—-who might have been in the area at the time the murder occurred.

The problem is that most methods used to determine the time of death are inaccurate at best. They tend to be best guesses. And they are mostly useful only during the first 48 to 72 hours.

Check out my article “Timely Death” for a brief overview of how the time of death is estimated.

Or grab a copy of Forensics For Dummies or Howdunnit: Forensics for an in-depth discussion of this topic.

Researchers at the University of Salzburg are working in a new method that might allow the time of death determination to be accurately made up to 10 days after death. Their research suggests that measuring the rate of muscle protein degradation yields a clue to the time that has lapsed since death. If this technique proves to be accurate and reproducible in humans, it would be a giant step forward in criminal investigations.

Howdunit 400X533

FFD 400X600


Wildfires and Forensic Science


Here in Southern California, we are not strangers to wild fires. Other parts of the world are similarly afflicted. Some are natural, from lightning for example, but all too often they are the result of arson.

Forensic wildfire investigators face a difficult problem when analyzing a potential arson scene since often most, if not all, of the evidence is consumed by the fire. But not always. They search for the point, or points, or origin and then apply their knowledge and skill to determine how the fire progressed. This can often lead to crucial evidence in uncovering who started the fire. And why.

Wildfire pattern


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