The News & Advance
At Mock Crime Scene, LU Students Investigate Death of Pete the Pig
Tobi Walsh, Oct 17, 2015
In the woods past Liberty University’s Camp Hydaway, police tape lines a patch of trees as a group gathers around the scene.
What makes this crime scene different than any other is that the investigators are students, and the victim is a pig named Pete.
Professor and Liberty Director of Forensic Science J. Thomas McClintock took several students in his Biology 421 forensic entomology class to participate in a mock crime-scene investigation to give them a hands-on approach to crime-scene investigation. The scene even had its own crime-scene photographer.
“Normally, we call local law enforcement up and treat it like an actual crime scene,” McClintock said. “They treat [the students] like investigators.”
Forensic entomology, in a nutshell, is the study of insects at crime scenes. For example, investigators can study insects and larvae on a crime-scene victim’s body to deduce the time of death.
This isn’t the first time students have participated in a mock investigation.
“We did a biochemical terrorist attack in (Liberty University’s) Vines (Center) back in March,” McClintock said. “We plan on doing that again in March and partnering with the National Guard.”
Armed with nets and gloves, the group took notes and samples of bugs to figure out how long their so-called victim had been dead.
For those who might wonder — the university does not have pig blood on its hands. McClintock said the school makes arrangements with a farmer who takes care of that for them.
Though they were no longer part of the class, Lauren Janiec and Morgan Roth enjoyed the project so much that they came back again this year.
“It’s a great experience,” Janiec said. “I was interested in forensics and I wasn’t sure what. This was a good experience to see if this was something I wanted to do. I’m not a bug person.”
Janiec said that the smell of the pig stuck with her once she got back home last year.
“I went home and stuck my face in a can of coffee,” she said.
While Janiec may not be a bug person, Roth, on the other hand is. As a zoology major, Roth gets a better understanding of insects from projects like this.
“I’m more in it for the bugs,” Roth said about participating. “I had never done an experience like this before. It’s a more specialized look at the flies and beetles. It’s very hands on for sure. A little smelly.”
Roth said that last year’s pig was much further along, making this year a little easier.
“She had blown up,” she said. “Her name was Betsy.”
McClintock said a pig’s body is used because its DNA is very similar to a human’s. It’s also a way for students to get experience in the field before they graduate.
Hands-on experience is something that you can’t get in the classroom, McClintock said.
“Textbooks are awesome,” he said. “But to go outside the classroom to experience what you learn [is better.]”
Virginia National Guard
THE COMMONWEALTH'S GUARDIAN
LYNCHBURG, Va. — Soldiers assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Blackstone-based 34th Civil Support Team joined members of the Virginia State Police, Lynchburg Fire Department and the Virginia Department of Health in sharing their knowledge and experience in the areas of hazardous material identification and collection with Liberty University students April 9, 2016, in Lynchburg, Virignia. The training was conducted in a non-emergency, simulated bioterrorism attack environment, and the CST personnel did not wear their normal protective equipment to facilitate easier communication with the students.
“This is an opportunity for our Soldiers and Airmen to practice their trade, cooperate with local first responders and showcase our abilities in order to build even stronger partnerships,” explained Maj. Michael Booker, commander of the 34th CST. “Our Soldiers and Airmen enjoy being able to take their training and experience and share it with college students and other HAZMAT teams.”
CST members have to complete more than 1,800 hours of training to be certified, Booker said. During each training year, they conduct hundreds of hours of additional training and conduct multiple exercises all over the commonwealth.
The event was organized by Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, professor and director of Forensic Sciences in Liberty University’s Department of Biology & Chemistry, and was designed to give students a first hand look at how first responders and military biological, radiological, nuclear, and chemical experts search for possible hazardous materials and proper techniques for collecting samples when materials are found.
“This has been an awesome opportunity for all these agencies to come together and work in a non-emergency situation to be able to train each other as well as train the students,” McClintock said.
He explained that while text books provide a valuable learning tool for students, the hands-on training facilitated by the Guard and local first responders added a tremendous level of realism.
Liberty University biology and chemistry students were organized into teams and instructed on how to set up meters that are used by first responders to detect biological, radiological, nuclear and chemical agents. After a initial familiarization session, students moved into the training area where specific targets and foggers were set up to simulate the release of a radiological and biological agent.
The 34th CST is comprised of 22 full-time Army and Air National Guard personnel with the mission to support civil authorities at a domestic chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear incident site with identification and assessment of hazards, advice to civil authorities and facilitating the arrival of follow-on military forces during emergencies and incidents of weapons of mass destruction terrorism. The unit complements and enhances, but does not duplicate, state CBRNE response capabilities is divided into six sections: command, operations, communications, administration/logistics, medical/analytical and survey.
View more photos from the training on Flickr:
The News & Advance
Soering Appeals to LU Students at Documentary Showing: 'I was a lot like many of you'
Rachael Mahoney, Dec 15, 2017
LYNCHBURG, VA. Efforts to pardon Jens Soering might be stymied for the time being, but the message of attorneys and investigators who are convinced of his innocence reached a collegiate audience Friday.
Liberty University hosted a showing of “Killing for Love” — a documentary that recounts the courtroom showdown in his case with running commentary from Soering in a prison interview — on Friday evening. Afterward students asked questions of Steven Rosenfield, Soering’s attorney who’s worked pro bono toward the case for his innocence, and J. Thomas McClintock, director of forensic science at LU who’s analyzed the forensics end of the investigation for about five months.
Soering, the son of a German diplomat and at the time a bright college student, was convicted in 1990 of first-degree murder in the 1985 deaths of Derek and Nancy Haysom in Bedford County. Elizabeth Haysom, Soering’s then-girlfiend and the Haysoms’ daughter, also is in prison after pleading guilty to murder charges in their deaths.
Soering has spent more than 31 years in prison since his conviction.
Since then, in McClintock’s words, “there’s a lot of new information that’s surfaced.”
Evidence unveiled in 2016 showed the DNA of blood at the scene didn’t match Soering’s profile, even though it was type O blood.
Soering himself recorded a speech to LU students as a preface to the film, some of which was played on campus Friday evening. In it, he drew parallels to the audience since he was an 18-year-old University of Virginia student around the time the Haysoms were killed.
“So it is especially important to me to reach out to young adults like yourselves, in the hope that perhaps my experience can be of some benefit to you,” he said.
Rosenfield told students having “having exhausted all possible legal remedies,” he’s turned to finding justice for Soering in the form of an administrative pardon, which was submitted in August 2016. Since then, he said those pressing for his pardon have submitted four supplements with the consideration of new evidence.
Soering won’t receive such a pardon this year.
On Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in TV interviews the investigation into DNA evidence in the case still is ongoing, according to The Associated Press.
"Mr. Soering's request is still awaiting an investigation by the Virginia Parole Board, after which it will be forwarded to the Governor for his consideration," McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy told The Washington Post via email, according to AP. "We do not expect that the investigation ... will be complete before the Governor leaves office."
According to a transcript, Soering voiced his disappointment in McAuliffe’s lack of action and mused on the potential for Gov.-elect Ralph Northam to free him from prison.
Rosenfield said he and the others seeking Soering’s pardon are hoping Northam might “take the rein” with their investigations. After the showing, he said he and others would be able to present evidence — to the tune of 1,500 pages of documents — once any state investigation would start.
“When we came across this DNA, we knew that we had a pretty good argument that there were two individuals,” he said during the Q&A portion of the night. “… Jens has been eliminated as the source of the materials tested at the crime scene.”
Quinn McEwen, a first-year law student at LU, remarked on how Haysom’s admission to investigators she killed her parents and “got off on it” seemed to be glossed over, according to the documentary. She and Hannah Smith, another law student, said they took note of the apparent holes in the legal procedure in the case.
“I think there was a big jury bias; that’s one of the things that really strikes me about that,” McEwen said after the showing.
McClintock and Rosenfield talked about various catches in the case besides the blood samples that lend to Soering’s innocence, from the lack of male DNA under Nancy Haysom’s fingernails that would suggest a struggle with Soering to the confirmation bias investigators seem to exhibit after hearing Elizabeth Haysom say, "I did it."
“This was a flawed investigation from the get go, and we are only now piecing together and trying to make a comprehensive case,” Rosenfield said.