Liberty News

Simulated bombing turns students into crime scene investigators for the day

April 27, 2018 : By Will Young/Liberty University News Service 

Liberty University’s Helms School of Government, in coordination with the Virginia State Police and FBI, hosted seven different simulated crime scenes on Liberty Mountain near Liberty’s Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center on Friday to give students hands-on experience in processing evidence in a criminal investigation.

Members from the Virginia State Police Bomb Squad rigged a medical-grade, deceased pig with a half-pound of explosives and detonated it to simulate an attack by a suicide bomber. Every detail was considered; the pig was strapped to a vest that mimics one that a suicide bomber would wear. Although the explosion was controlled and there were no risks to participants or the environment, students could feel a small shockwave, and the aftermath was similar to how it would look in a live situation.


Law enforcement professionals walk students through crime scene protocol (Photo by Kevin Manguiob).

“This is a perfect simulation of the real thing,” said Lawrence Presley, assistant professor of criminal justice. “If you go down to where the explosion took place, you will see intestines and everything else exactly like you would see it at a scene, such as the bombing at the Boston Marathon. In this society, students in this track need to know how to respond to these kinds of situations.”

Other staged crime scenes involved stabbings, gun shots, and other causes of death so that students could get a large grasp of what they will be expected to do during any type of criminal investigation.

Liberty’s criminal justice students were joined by students from Liberty’s forensic science students as well as students from community colleges in the region.

“I think one of the most important things is that we’re able to offer students real-life experiences that apply classroom concepts and theories and pair them with criminal justice professionals,” Dr. Joel Cox, program director for Liberty’s criminal justice department.

In the staged suicide bomber scene, students worked alongside the Virginia State Police to examine and collect evidence. They placed flags in the ground to pinpoint where evidence was located and were walked step-by-step through the criminal investigation process by Special Agent Garland Snead from the Virginia State Police.

At the other staged crime scenes, Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, professor of biology and director of Liberty’s forensic science program taught lessons in how to use insects to determine how long a victim may have been laying outdoors.

“This is a huge step in getting my degree,” said Trevor Herbert, a senior forensic science student at Liberty. “Lectures and PowerPoints are a great way to learn, but being able to come out here and apply everything we’ve learned gives us a chance to answer a lot of the questions we may have about the (criminal investigation) process.”

In past years, McClintock hosted a similar “pig on the hill” simulation where forensic science students examined a pig carcass to find clues and answers about how long the pig was sitting in the woods. He has also hosted a bioterrorism simulation. Liberty commonly employs these exercises to allow students to gain real-world experience outside of the classroom before they enter the workforce.

DNA Expert Featured on ABC's 20/20 for Work on a 1985 Murder Case

DNA expert featured on ‘20/20’ for work on 1985 murder case

February 9, 2018: By Mitzi Bible/Liberty University News Service 

In 1985, Nancy and Derek Haysom were brutally murdered in their Bedford County home, just a few miles from the Liberty University campus. Their daughter, Elizabeth, and her former boyfriend, Jens Soering, are serving time for the double murders. The case is making national headlines once again as DNA evidence — never presented in the case — sheds new light on Soering’s longstanding claim of innocence.

Renowned DNA expert J. Thomas McClintock, Ph.D., a Liberty professor and the director of the forensic science program, was called up to work on the case last summer. He analyzed the DNA test results of blood found at the scene — results that he said could lead to Soering’s pardon. Soering initially confessed to the crimes, out of a blind love to cover for his girlfriend, he later testified.

McClintock, who has been working closely with investigators and Soering’s attorney, appeared on ABC’s ‘20/20’ Friday night. TV crews came to campus last fall to interview McClintock and filmed him working in a laboratory in Liberty’s Center for Natural Sciences. They also interviewed McClintock at a press conference in Charlottesville, Va., in September. (Soering and Elizabeth Haysom were University of Virginia students at the time of the murders).

He describes his work as “justice through science” and said this new evidence could set an innocent person free.

“It looks like one, if not two, unidentified male DNA profiles that were found at the crime scene are not consistent with Jens Soering’s DNA profile,” McClintock said. “That means the perpetrator is still at large, and if Jens Soering was pardoned and sent back to Germany (Soering is the son of a German diplomat), the case would be reopened, and then hopefully the true perpetrator would be apprehended.”

Dr. McClintock (right) and attorney Steve Rosenfield hosted a screening of the documentary film 'Killing for Love,' about the case they are working on, at Liberty in December.

Liberty hosted a showing of the film “Killing for Love” on campus in December. The film documents the murder case and the recent DNA evidence being introduced and features a full-length interview with Soering from prison. Prior to the showing, students heard an audiotape of Soering reading a letter that was written specifically to them that explains his innocence and his plea for pardon. McClintock and Steve Rosenfield, Soering’s attorney, answered questions from the audience afterward.

McClintock is one of the nation’s foremost DNA experts. In 2013, he was named among the top 15 DNA analysts in the country by, a leading website on forensics programs across the nation. In 2008, he appeared on the Nancy Grace Show to provide his insights on the use of DNA testing in the investigation of missing 3-year-old Florida girl Caylee Anthony.

At Liberty, McClintock has been working with administration from the School of Law and the Helms School of Government’s criminal justice program to lay the foundation and implement an Innocence Project, which exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing.

Trial for Lloyd Welch Scheduled to Begin on September 12, 2017

Update: Trial for man accused in Lyon sisters case now set for Sept. 12

Update: BEDFORD — The trial of a man accused of abducting two girls from a Maryland shopping mall in the 1970s, killing them and disposing of their bodies in Bedford County, has been continued until September.

Lloyd Lee “Michael” Welch Jr. faces two murder charges in connection with the deaths of Sheila and Katherine Lyon, sisters who vanished during a trip to a Wheaton, Maryland, shopping mall in 1975. Sheila was 12 and Katherine, 10. Investigators claim after killing the girls, he disposed of their bodies in Bedford County.

On Friday, Welch’s defense attorneys asked to extend the April 18 trial date to Sept. 12, citing additional time needed to review materials in the case. In written motions, they said the case involves more than 29,000 electronic files, and “preparing for trial has been a monumental task.” They also stated prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty if Welch is convicted.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance said the investigation into the case has continued past Welch’s indictment in 2015, and discovery from recent law enforcement activities has not yet been prepared. Defense attorneys cited a recent additional discovery in a motion dated Feb. 16.

Workers were on a Taylor’s Mountain site earlier this month, digging and panning through dirt at a site that’s been probed several times in the past. When asked about the effort on Feb. 9, officials cited a gag order.

On a 13-page list of items the prosecution has provided to Welch and his attorneys for the case, the ninth item listed is a “photo of recovered tooth from Taylor’s Mtn.”

Bedford County Circuit Judge James W. Updike Jr. continued the trial and also signed off on a motion to appoint a DNA analysis expert for the defense. Welch’s attorneys are looking to hire J. Thomas McClintock, founder of Lynchburg-based DNA Diagnostics Inc., for the case. The company performs forensic DNA testing and review, according to its website.

Documents reveal grisly details of 1975 murders of Lyon sisters in Bedford County

In a written motion, the defense states prosecutors have identified two DNA experts and will be producing DNA evidence at Welch’s trial.

Updike ruled in late January statements Welch made during interviews with investigators could be used against him in court, since he had changed his story and admitted he wasn’t being truthful during questioning. Updike also decided the death penalty would not be ruled out in the case.

Most recently, Updike has dismissed obstruction of justice charges against two of Welch’s female relatives; dropping the charge against Amy Ann Johnson on Jan. 10 and the charge against Gladys Stangee on Feb. 17. Nance had said the women cooperated in investigations.

Court records state more motions will be filed in the case.

McClintock Named as Top 15 DNA Analyst

Liberty News

McClintock named among top 15 DNA analysis professors in the country

December 4, 2013 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service 

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Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, a professor of biology in Liberty University’s Department of Biology & Chemistry, was recently named among the top 15 DNA analysis professorsin the country by, a leading website on forensics programs across the nation.

McClintock was recognized alongside professors from other prominent institutions across the U.S., including the University of California (Berkeley), Boston University, Penn State University, the University of Arizona, the University of North Texas, West Virginia University, and the University of Virginia.

“Dr. McClintock has been a fantastic addition to the department,” said Dr. David DeWitt, chair of Liberty’s Department of Biology & Chemistry. “The wealth of expertise that he has in the area of DNA analysis is a tremendous benefit to our students. He has already worked with the criminal justice department in regards to sample collection from crime scenes. I am looking forward to some possible new courses in the area of forensics and DNA analysis that Dr. McClintock would be involved in.”

Criteria for the selection of these professors included practical experience outside the academic setting, involvement in cutting-edge research, and being published in academic journals.

Among his many notable accomplishments, McClintock founded DNA Diagnostics, Inc. in 1993, which provides expert DNA advice in criminal and paternity cases. The company also gives seminars and workshops to investigators and law enforcement officials on topics such as presenting DNA evidence in the courtroom, and handling and analyzing evidence. DNA Diagnostics has provided services for nearly 300 cases in 18 states, three Canadian territories, and three European countries.

McClintock has taught with Liberty University Online since 2011 and is teaching residentially at Liberty for the first time this semester.