The CSI’s Utility Belt Part 4 – A Sticky Situation

What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?  1 Corinthians 4:21  (NASB)

In business a better product brings greater profit. Adhesive companies such as 3M know this. Producing stronger adhesives than competing companies brings superior profit. A 3M employee, Spencer Silver, worked to make the next big thing in adhesives. However, his attempts to make a super strong adhesive instead produced quite the opposite. It was so weak his management considered it a failure. The new product was effectively shelved until one of his co-workers, a chemical engineer named Art Fry, went to church.

As the video above relates: Fry sang in his church choir and had a continuing problem of page markers falling out of the hymnal he used. Luckily he remembered Silver’s “failed” low-tack adhesive and applied it to the slips of paper he used as markers. The markers stuck to the page but did not damage them. Luck? I don’t believe so after all Proverbs 16:33 says,”The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” A need for a weak adhesive and an inspired moment in church gave birth of the world-changing office product, the Post-It Note. This super weak adhesive, first thought a failure, continues to be one of 3M company’s best selling products. Strength sometimes comes through gentleness.

Two sought-after types of evidence are hairs and fibers. In the late 80’s while searching a vehicle for evidence I noted a single hair waving very proudly at me from the driver’s seat head rest. Its appearance was consistent with that of the suspect description so I determined it valuable evidence. Traditionally when searching a vehicle for evidence, sections of seats and floorboards are “taped.” A small section of the surface is covered with a paper tape. The tape is then pulled away lifting surface hairs and fibers. An analyst then examines the trace lift for evidence and comparison. It is important that the tape is low-tack. If it is not evidence can be damaged when the analyst retrieves it from the lift.

My choices of retrieval were either using tape or a pair of tweezers. Since I specifically wanted the analyst to look at this hair I did not want to mix it with other surface material. I needed a specific collection method. Tweezers were my next option. However, as my wife will verify to this day, when trying to be delicate, I am often quite clumsy. Remembering this I decided tweezers were out. I thought of cutting a small piece of tape and then inspiration struck me…Post-It Note!

Taking a note from a new package I easily retrieved the hair, and secured it by folding the note over on itself. The analyst had little trouble retrieving the hair due to the extreme low-tack of the adhesive. It turned out the technique and medium worked well. I cannot say that I am the first to use Post-It Notes for this. I can say that I am the first person I know who did. For the last 20+ years I have used it for collecting specific hairs, fibers, paint chips, and many other small items of delicate evidence. I have also taught the technique many times as well to law enforcement personnel.

Hair caught in point of entry

To this day I use them for collection of strong evidence that requires a gentle touch. The photo above is from a more recent crime scene in which the point of entry was a boarded up window. The scene yielded very little in the way of fingerprint or shoe impressions. The hair caught in wood at the point of entry though provided a color and hair type of the suspect. If you will notice the end of the hair on the right side bears a root, which is a DNA source prized by analysts.

In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church (verse 4:21) he wrote regarding conduct of members. Very plainly he asked them if they wanted him to come to them with strong disciplinary measures or with a gentle touch. He gave them the choice to straighten up or face harsh penalties. Throughout history God Almighty gave mankind the choice between strict laws and harsh rule, or gentleness and a loving relationship. Mankind continually chose the path leading to harsh. In the fullness of time God gave them the gentlest of alternate options in His Son. It was Jesus Christ Himself who said, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” His gentleness provided a strength that changed everything.

Eventually we will all have to choose gentleness in a loving relationship with God or harsh punishment outside of it. Take note (pun intended)!

If you have any questions or feedback please contact me via the form below.  I am always open to readers thoughts.

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

The Impression Left Behind

Do not lift up your horn on high, do not speak with insolent pride.  – Psalm 75:5

tracks in snow


Hundreds of stolen items recovered after Lakeville housebreaks – News – The Enterprise, Brockton, MA – Brockton, MA.

Recently in central Texas we enjoyed actual snow. Schools declared a snow day, and kids conquered whatever hills they could slide down.  Some used storage tubs or float tubes, others cardboard boxes. A few had real sleds (a rare commodity here). It was a chance to experience fun they normally couldn’t. I saw the white fluffy stuff as an opportunity to have fun and practice shoe impression casting.

Shoe impression evidence is often overlooked. Casting, like the other CSI techniques, needs practice. In my locale, I normally cast in sand, dirt, or mud. A good impression might be the only evidence tying a suspect to a scene–to prove presence. A badly cast shoe impression equates to an ugly chunk of rock. It has no value. An observant police officer in Massachusetts recently took advantage of the large amount of snow in his jurisdiction. The story linked above relates how a  license plate impression left in snow cracked several cases. Kudos to him!

Knowingly, or not, we leave impressions each day that can heavily affect those we meet. Forensic pioneer Edmond Locard stated that when two things come in contact with each, other evidence of that meeting will exist.

The snow, the impressions I cast, the officer’s efforts in Massachusetts, and a recent sermon at church led to this post.

I have been approached by Christians attempting to “share the Word”. I usually tell them I am a Christian myself and chat afterwards. Sometimes though I will just listen to hear how they present the message. If they present a faulty message or presentation I will try to gently correct them. As a new believer my experience was like a child having tasted the most wonderful new flavor of ice cream. I exclaimed how good it was, stuck my cone in their face, and asked them if they wanted a lick. In my fervor to share, I didn’t always communicate well.

My practice of letting the unneeded presentation carry on might seem mean but has altered how I speak with others. I know the truth the Bible conveys. However to someone who does not, a bad impression can affect their total view of Christianity. Sadly, I have walked away from encounters with well-meaning evangelists that left a very bad impression. Like a shoe cast, a good spiritual impression, is evidence that someone (Jesus) has been present in your life. This impression also makes a huge difference in the case we make about our faith. In an earlier blog post I wrote about speaking to non-believers about the Gospel. But I wanted to put forth a few reminders that I have seen “Christians” forget in this post. Christians need to remember:

  1. We cannot save anyone.  The Gospel itself is enough to open a heart for the Holy Spirit to save.
  2. Our purpose (our work) in the process is to present the truth and defend our faith gently and honestly.
  3. Christ did not command anyone to follow man-made traditions, other believers, or the church. We are to follow Him.
  4. Our greatest works amount to no more than dirty rags. We are saved solely by what was done for us by God through Jesus Christ.
  5. We are no more than beggars telling other beggars where to find shelter and food.
  6. We should never speak down to anyone regardless of what sins they may display in their life. Because in truth your life isn’t so clean either.
  7. If Jesus Christ is not really in your life, you will be incapable of consistently remembering these. Pride will get in the way and you will think yourself as more than you are.

Leaving a good impression allows others to see the good effect Jesus Christ’s presence has in the lives of others. If He has stepped into your life His shoe prints will make the case. A bad impression leaves others thinking you are as confused as anybody else. People want to see something that works because there is plenty of failure to see everywhere.


What If You’re Wrong?

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, – Hebrews 9:27

Processing Sequence Paper

A match between a person and physical evidence collected from a crime scene does not prove guilt of a crime but presence at the location of offense. However, in conjunction with other evidence, it can make a case. Latent (hidden or invisible) evidence overlooked or destroyed by improper processing can lose a case.

In crime scene investigation the manner chosen to uncover evidence, such as latent prints, is decided prior to the search. The methods vary per the type of scene searched and evidence sought. Subsequent analysis and comparison of discovered physical evidence can lead to a match with a suspect.

So what if that decision is wrong?

Steps in Examining Physical Evidence for Latent Prints

I have written before about processing items for latent prints using fingerprint powders. Those techniques are effective for only certain kinds of evidence. Their use on other types will either fail to enhance (reveal or make visible) or simply destroy a print. Alternate techniques use chemicals to enhance latent prints.

Lab and field personnel have used sequential charts to effectively process evidence for years. The first step on each is visual examination. Each step after targets different components of the latent print and the substrate examined. Processing out of sequence hinders or eliminates success. For example, referencing the chart to the left, in processing paper for latent  prints:

  • Iodine fumes can be used to enhance fatty oils (they appear dark brown) but do not affect amino acids in latent prints.
  • Ninhydrin can be used to enhance amino acids (they appear dark purple) but will destroy fatty oils in latent prints.
  • Using ninhydrin prior to iodine fuming eliminates what iodine might have yielded.
  • Instead of having two chances to enhance a print only one remains.

I have learned valuable lessons seeing prideful decisions based on a CSI’s believing their personal knowledge greater than those who have come before them. Their decisions, more often than not, turn out bad.

  • Procedures exist because mistakes, very likely the ones you will make, have been made before.
  • Learning from mistakes of others is better than learning from your own.
  • Considerate examination and processing of evidence has the potential to prove a person innocent or guilty of the highest crimes. Making the examiner directly or indirectly responsible for drastically affecting or ending a person’s life.
  • If you decide to skip a step be very, very sure because, if you are wrong, the blame falls on you and you alone.
  • That decision can drastically affect your life.

Steps in examining spiritual evidence

I am not aware of any sequential processing charts to guide you through examination of spiritual latency. I suppose I might try my hand at making one in a future post. However, the mistake of letting one’s pride-in-self override the experience of those who have come before is the same.

There are plenty of people, theologies, and ideologies to tell you what decision to make. We all must decide to make a choice, or not decide, and choose nolo contendere (no contest).

So what if the decision is wrong?

You now know the potential end results not following steps in examining physical evidence. I seriously request you look at the end results of NOT following the steps of finding truth in the world’s major religions.

I have looked at each of them and found Christianity to have the simplest end results. Death brings you immediately into the presence of the Creator. The choice you have made to believe: Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was sent by the Creator, and did die as sacrificial payment for your sins (past-present-and future), did rise from the grave, and did ascend back to heaven to reign over us; brings you eternal life without pain, sorrow, or hardship. The choice to not believe sends you to an eternity outside of God’s love, in pain, sorrow, and hardship. Pretty straight forward, no do-overs, ifs-ands-or-buts; simply heaven or hell—based on one decision.

Look at what the major religions teach about afterlife. How many hoops do you have to jump through to get to heaven? Or is it even possible?  Which one do you NOT want to get wrong? Be very, very, sure about this one. The choice is yours. If you’re wrong the blame will fall on you, and you alone.