Odessa, TEXAS (ABC Big 2/FOX 24) -“We get in a lot of evidence,” says Odessa Police Department Crime Scene Unit Supervisor Stephanie Bothwell.
OPD’s Crime Lab has five technicians on staff right now, and two property technicians. On an average day, lab techs may use a few different methods to analyze a scene, like fingerprinting.
“We’ve got two superglue cabinets and we use these to put in items for fuming and we use a little bit of superglue, add a little bit of heat, a little bit of moisture, and it puts a white covering over all of the contaminants or the latent prints and we can lift prints over and over again,” says Bothwell.
There’s also a process that uses graphite powder to cover an item to expose fingerprints. Techs have special tape to take off the print and examine it. The method that people at lab choose to get those fingerprints depends on the type of material, but also the value of the item. An item that’s sentimental to the victim and/or their loved ones needs to be well preserved, so technicians will try to use graphite powder instead of superglue in order to keep it intact.
While it can be fun, this job isn’t like the crime shows you may know and love. You don’t typically solve a a case within an hour.
“Normally it does take time to develop and process prints, and to do the comparisons, it take a little bit of time. It’s not like CSI and they push the button and it goes ‘zhh zhh match match’ and then the ID photo drop pulls up and then the address and they go arrest them,” says Bothwell.
Another tool workers use is a fuming hood to help find fingerprints on items.
We’ve primarily used Ninhydrin, which is an aerosol spray that stains the amino acids and perspiration prints on paper products and we use this quite a bit,” says Bothwell.
Bothwell has seen a lot in the 26 years she’s work on crime scenes. One of the hardest moments was 2019’s mass shooting. CSU workers had long days examining multiple scenes.
“Everybody pulled together. It was-for me it was just difficult…it was very-it was organized chaos. It was a lot to be done. You were just glad when it was, things wound down a little bit,” says Bothwell.
Bothwell says her team works hard, and finding the truth is what fuels them.
“They’re professionals and they’re going to take care of business and just, do the best possible job they can to get justice,” says Bothwell.
From the beginning of 2021 until now, CSU workers have worked on more than 11,000 cases.