The Science of Crime Scenes

The Science of Crime Scenes, 1st Edition

The Science of Crime Scenes, 1st Edition,Max Houck,Frank Crispino,Terry McAdam,ISBN9780123864642

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Academic Press




Covers the philosophy of crime scenes as historical events, the personnel involved at a scene (including the media), the detection of criminal traces and their reconstruction, and special crime scenes, such as mass disasters and terrorist events.

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Key Features

  • Offers a science-based approach to crime scene investigation
  • Includes in-depth coverage of disasters and mass murder, terror crime scenes, and CBRN (chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear) – not covered in any other text
  • Written by an international trio of authors with decades of crime scene experience
  • Instructor website with lecture slides, test bank, outlines, definitions, and activities, and a student companion site with an image collection


The recent National Research Council's report on forensic science calls for more fundamental education and training in the science behind the discipline. Nowhere is this need greater than in crime scene investigations. Long seen as merely "bagging and tagging," crime scene investigation and processing is now a complex process, involving numerous sciences and methods. The Science of Crime Scenes addresses the science behind the scenes and demonstrates the latest methods and technologies in depth.

The Science of Crime Scenes covers the philosophy of crime scenes as historical events, the personnel involved at a scene (including the media), the detection of criminal traces and their reconstruction, and special crime scenes, such as mass disasters and terroristic events. Written by an international trio of authors with decades of crime scene experience, The Science of Crime Scenes is the next generation of crime scene textbooks.


Advanced undergraduate and graduate students in forensic science programs; forensic practitioners and crime scene technicians

Max Houck

Dr. Max M. Houck is an internationally-recognized forensic expert with research interests in forensic science, education, and the forensic enterprise and its industries. He has worked in the private sector, the public sector (at a medical examiner's office and for the FBI Laboratory), and in academia. Dr. Houck has published in a wide variety of areas in the field, in books, book chapters, and peer-reviewed journals. His anthropology and trace evidence casework includes the Branch Davidian Investigation, the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon, the D.B. Cooper case, the US Embassy bombings in Africa, and the West Memphis Three case, among hundreds of others. He served for six years as the Chair of the Forensic Science Educational Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Dr. Houck is a founding Co-Editor of the journal Forensic Science Policy and Management and has also co-authored a major textbook with Dr. Jay Siegel, "Fundamentals of Forensic Science."

Affiliations and Expertise

Vice President, Forensic and Intelligence Services, LLC, Virginia, USA

View additional works by Max M. Houck

Frank Crispino

Forensically educated at the University of Lausanne (MPhil & PhD), Frank Crispino is a former Cadet of the French Air Force Academy and a just retired Colonel of the French Gendarmerie, qualified from the French War College (the Gendarmerie is a French police with a military status). During his law enforcement career, he served as: - Head of two Gendarmerie regional criminal investigations departments in Bourges and Bordeaux, in charge of investigating serious, organized international crimes and preventing terrorist incidents; - Deputy chief of the anti-terrorism office at the General Directorate of the French Gendarmerie in Paris. - Head of the forensic anthropology department (1993-1997) and of the fingerprint department (1997-1999) at the Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale (IRCGN - Forensic Lab of the Gendarmerie). - Forensic adviser of the Brigadier General, head of the forensic assets of the Gendarmerie, in charge of proposing new strategies to develop forensic intelligence. From February 1999 to July 2002 he provided forensic capacities to the Palestinian Authority granted by the European Union within the Oslo Agreements, and became Scientific and Forensic Adviser of the European Union Special Adviser Office (EUSAO) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on counter-terrorism. He left the Middle East after the destruction of the Palestinian forensic assets in 2002. In summer 2012, Frank Crispino joined the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Canada, to launch the first forensic academic programme in this French spoken Province, aiming at educating forensic scientists dedicated to security traces investigation and analysis. Professor Crispino is the author of about 30 papers in various forensic and security journal.

Affiliations and Expertise

University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières, Chemistry-Biology Department, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada

Terry McAdam

Mr. McAdam has 26 years of experience in the field of forensic investigations. He is currently employed as the Supervisory Agent In Charge of the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory in Tacoma, Washington. He is also a proud graduate of the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1979. He also earned a National Certificate in Chemistry from the University of Ulster in 1977. Terry McAdam has been continuously employed as a criminal forensic scientist since 1977. He has served both the Washington State Patrol (16 years) and The Northern Ireland Forensic Science Service (10 years) with distinction for more than a quarter century. He has developed subject matter expertise and decades of total experience in the following areas of trace evidence: • Glass analysis (17 years) • Paint analysis (17 years) • Small particle identification (17 years) • Fibers (11 years) • Explosives (3 years) • Hair (14 years) • Clothing damage interpretation (17 years) • Scanning Electron Microanalysis (17 years) • Shoe impressions (11 years) • Tire impressions (10 years) Furthermore, during the course of his career, Terry McAdam has personally processed over 330 violent felony crime scenes, to include homicides and rapes (175), arsons and bombings (60), hit and run accidents (45), and firearms assaults (50). Terry McAdam has also played an integral role in the investigations of both the Robert Lee Yates (Spokane and Tacoma serial murder) and the Gary Leon Ridgeway (Green River serial murder) cases. He has testified in various felony cases in superior and federal courts throughout the State of Washington on 163 occasions involving trace evidence and crime scene processing. In addition to his academic credentials and work experience, Terry McAdam has successfully completed nearly 800 hours of additional education and training in forensic science and crime scene technology during his tenure with the Washington State Patrol.

Affiliations and Expertise

Laboratory Manager, Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, Seattle, Washington, USA

The Science of Crime Scenes, 1st Edition





Section 1 The Science of Crime Scene Investigation

Chapter 1.0. The “Forensic Mindset”

Forensic Professionals Are Knowledge Workers

Hunting as an Origin for Forensic Science

Trifles, Traces, and Clues

From Science to Art to Literature

Evidence Is Proxy Data


References and Bibliography

Chapter 1.1. From Scene to Laboratory to Court

Access to the Scene

Sensitivity to Initial Conditions

Downstream Effects


Chain of Custody

Submitting Evidence for Analysis

Conclusion: Evidence in the Courtroom

References and Bibliography

Chapter 2.0. What Is a Crime Scene?


A Definition

Staged Crime Scenes


References and Bibliography

Chapter 2.1. Crime Scene Intelligence

Connections through Contact: Transfer and Persistence

Classification and Resolution

Individualization of Evidence

Relationships and Context

Known and Questioned Items


References and Bibliography

Section 2 Personnel and Procedures

Chapter 3.0. Personnel

Forensic Scientist Focus

Time and Money



Building the Team


References and Bibliography

Chapter 3.1. First Responder on the Scene

Competing Responsibilities

Securing the Scene

Preserving the Scene

Releasing the Scene


References and Bibliography

Chapter 3.2. The Investigator in Charge

Security at the Crime Scene

Leadership at the Scene



Chapter 3.3. The Forensic Team

A Forensic Team



Chapter 3.4. Nonforensic Personnel

Information: Two Points of View

The Public as Reporters

Communicating to Superiors



Chapter 4.0. General Crime Scene Procedure

Chapter 4.1. “Freezing” the Scene and the Three R’s (Recognize, Recover, and Record)

Death Investigations

Preliminary Search

Recognizing Evidence

Recovering Evidence

Recording Evidence


Chapter 4.2. The Chain of Custody

A Chain of Custody Example

Problems with Chains of Custody


Chapter 4.3. Recording the Scene

Crime Scene Photography




Geographic Information Systems (GISs) and Crime Mapping



Section 3 Detection and Reconstruction

Chapter 5.0. Searching for Evidence

From Trace to Proof, or Why Only Finding a Trace Is Not Sufficient

Which Evidence Is Useful?

The Search for Evidence


References and Bibliography

Chapter 5.1. Detecting

What Is Light and How Do We See an Object?


From Theory to Practice: The Forensic Light Source

General Crime Scene Screening


Specific Crime Scene Screening

References and Bibliography

Chapter 5.2. Collection

Types of Evidence to Collect

Materials and Containers

Available Techniques to Collect Evidence

References and Bibliography

Chapter 5.3. Preserving

Threats to Evidence

Safety at the Scene


References and Bibliography

Chapter 5.4. Submitting Evidence to the Laboratory

General Submission Guidelines

Biological Evidence

Trace Evidence

Impression Evidence


Physical Match

Firearms Evidence

Toolmark Evidence

Latent Prints Evidence

Chapter 6.0. Evidence Types and Enhancement

Chapter 6.1. Chemical Evidence





Restoration of Serial Numbers

References and Bibliography

Chapter 6.2. Biological Evidence

DNA and Trace DNA

References and Bibliography

Chapter 6.3. Impression Evidence

Object Traces

References and Bibliography

Chapter 6.4. Other Types of Evidence

Questioned Documents

Computers, Cellphones, and Other Mass Storages



Insects and Time Since Death




References and Bibliography

Chapter 7.0. Crime Scene Reconstruction


References and Bibiliography

Chapter 7.1. An Archaeological Approach

Of Artifacts and Evidence


Time and Space


References and Bibliography

Chapter 7.2. Bloodstain Pattern Analysis


Grouping Bloodstains

Droplet Size and Force

Types of Bloodstains



Chapter 7.3. Photogrammetry and 3D Reconstruction


3D Laser Scanners


References and Bibliography

Section 4 Special Crime Scenes

Chapter 8.0. Special Crime Scenes

Chapter 8.1. Disaster and Mass Fatalities

The Disaster Scene

Human Remains



Chapter 8.2. Terrorist Crime Scenes


References and Bibliography

Chapter 8.3. CBRN Crime Scenes

Preparing for Forensic Collection

Collecting Relevant Evidence

Entering the Hot Crime Scene

An Operative Flowchart


References and Bibliography

Chapter 8.4. Underwater and Underground Crime Scenes

Underwater Scenes

Locating the Scene

Working the Scene

Preservation of Materials in Water

Underground Scenes


Reference and Bibliography


Quotes and reviews

"The Science of Crime Scenes is a good reference for the crime scene investigator. It incorporates excellent tables, charts, and illustrations which can be a great aid when processing a scene…It does a good job in describing the total spectrum of factors which can impact crime scenes and provides the reader with the necessary knowledge and tools to successfully evaluate and process the scene of a crime." --Journal of Forensic Sciences, July 2013

"The text provides in-depth detail of the science behind the scene and demonstrates the latest methods and technologies - as well as the philosophy and history behind crime scene work." --Evidence Technology Magazine, July-August 2013

"…The Science of Crime Scenes is a good reference for the crime scene investigator. It incorporates excellent tables, charts, and illustrations which can be a great aid when processing a scene." --Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2013

"…The Science of Crime Scenes fits well within the framework of crime scene training and documents the nuances of the challenging tasks required of these specialized personnel. This reviewer’s recommendation is that forensic laboratories add The Science of Crime Scenes to their training literature, and allow analysts to garner invaluable insight from the highly experienced trio of authors." --Crime Scene, Volume 39, Issue 2, Spring 2013

"A half century has not dimmed skeptics' suspicions about the death of Marilyn Monroe at age 36, but the intervening decades have seen technological leaps that could alter the investigation were it to occur today… ‘The good news is we're very advanced from 50 years ago,’ said Max Houck, a forensic consultant and co-author of ‘The Science of Crime Scenes.’ ‘The bad news is, we're still trying to put it in context,’ he said." --Associated Press article on the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death carried on multiple publications and sites incuding CBSNews.com

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