CSI: Fox Meadow High School
Students Get a Crash Course in Criminal Forensics

 

They may not look as glamorous as their television counterparts but the forensic science specialists at the Westchester County Forensics Lab catch criminals using many of the same tools. So says Dr. Robert Adamo, director of Forensic Science for Westchester County.

Dr. Adamo spoke to students at Fox Meadow High School Wednesday about a field that has become increasingly well-known thanks to television shows like CSI Miami, NCIS and CSI New Orleans as well as many other police procedurals.

“I don’t wear an Armani suit to work and none of the people in our unit look like the actors on television,” Dr. Adamo said, adding that they do, however, help solve crimes from hit-and- runs to murders using science.

Dr. Adamo’s unit serves 47 police departments in Westchester County along with the Department of Environmental Protection Police, the SUNY Purchase Police and Metro-North Police agencies,among others.

“You name it, if they give us a piece of evidence, we can analyze it,” he said.

DNA evidence frequently enables police to identify and link people to crime scenes even in cases that have been cold for years. Dr. Adamo led the students through three cases where the lab played a pivotal role in solving a crime.

The first involved the murder of three young women on separate occasions between 1987 and 1990, all of whom were found in the woods in Westchester. Using blood stains on victims’ clothing, the Forensics Lab developed two DNA profiles and determined that the same person had killed two of the women.

They then were asked to go back and look at evidence from a third murder using equipment that had not been available at the time of the crime. The DNA was a match with the other two, leading to the arrest and conviction of Patrick Baxter.

In another case, a man was fatally struck by a car whose driver left the scene. Using paint chips swept up from debris on the road and taken from the shirt of the victim, the lab was able to identify the type of car that struck the victim. When they tracked down the truck that matched the vehicle description, the paint did not match. But investigators determined that the vin number, which identifies the unique vehicle, was not the same as the car that had been identified from the scene. The real car, as it turned out, was dismantled and hidden on property upstate. That perpetrator was also convicted.

Students in Patricia Lucido’s Forensic Science class were fascinated by Dr. Adamo’s real-life stories about the field. They asked questions about the salary range for forensic science technicians and analysts, how hard it is to leave the job at work and whether they had ever used evidence to free someone who had been wrongly convicted.

Dr. Adamo said their work had, indeed, freed a person who had wrongly served 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Senior Devonte Hudson praised Dr. Adamo’s presentation. “I would say he was a well-spoken and articulate man who knew how to get his point across. It was fun learning what kinds of things go into forensic science research.”