It’s a crime scene nobody in law enforcement ever wants to stumble upon.
Skeletal remains are discovered on land in Carroll County by a hunter on a hot day. After further investigation, the possible location of three missing girls is also pinpointed. Fortunately, it was not a real scenario, but a staged crime scene for students in Greg Bolen’s Criminal Justice II program at Carroll County High School.
A long-time veteran of law enforcement, Bolen has drawn on his knowledge and experience in the field to set up realistic scenarios for students. In this particular instance, Criminal Justice students were tasked with a learning module of study involving all aspects of crime scene investigation.
Objectives included employing procedures to protect, document, and process a crime scene. Students also are asked to demonstrate how to lift and preserve developed latent prints from a simulated crime scene, as well as how to photograph, sketch, search, collect, document, and protect the crime scene area for further investigation. The Carroll students also needed to answer the questions of what happened and who did it?
Bolen uses roleplaying-based practical scenarios to give his students a more realistic feel for the job. This particular afternoon, Bolen played the role of a man who owned property on land where a trespassing hunter found something extremely unsettling.
“A hunter has called in because he has discovered something disturbing on some property that he really wasn’t supposed to be hunting on. He was trespassing, but he found something, so he called the cops,” Bolen said. “They have met with him and he has kind of told them where this is and they are coming to talk to me. I am playing the resident. There has been some girls that have gone missing and I have a skeleton, so they are going to have to sift away, brush through it, and see if there are any marks of evidence and things like that, see if they can pick it out and see what is what. And they have to come up with what happened. And then they interview me and try to see what is going on and pick up different clues.”
The CCHS students worked in groups to cover all aspects of the investigation, from the initial interview with Bolen as the landowner, to the shocking discovery of a skeleton buried on the property. The story was it was only uncovered by a recent storm which produced flooding of the land.
During the interview process, Bolen tried to be uncooperative. He told the students they were wasting their time, that the hunter was on his property illegally, and other tactics aimed at getting rid of the police.
The students continued to conduct their investigation and collect evidence, however, concluding that the body was from a missing person from a couple of months earlier. Upon further investigation, the group found evidence that suggested the location of three more missing persons located on the property. With that determination, the group placed the landowner (Bolen) under arrest, and continued with their scene processing.
Bolen said the students admitted to being a little shocked when they were uncovering the dirt, and saw the skeletal remains of a face, complete with a fake eyeball the same color as the missing person report. The Carroll students also found a discarded West Virginia driver’s license buried with the body. Investigative student Dylan Boyd used a sifter around the skeleton to find the ID.
“I am really proud and amazed at how quickly some of these students catch on to the investigative process, and how well they follow the procedures that the police adhere to make a successful case to take for prosecution,” Bolen said. “I cannot express the gratitude I have for the unbelievable support that the Career and Technical Education Department receives from the administration, faculty, and student body here at CCHS, all the way to the superintendent’s office at central office.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN