VIDEO: Students given a chance to apply forensics

  • South Point students unravel ‘murder mystery’ in unique class project

    In a break from their usual school routine, students at South Point High School found themselves in the midst of a mystery, applying their investigative training to solve a make-believe murder case.

    The fictional incident unfolded just outside Gimbels department store (South Point’s cafeteria) where students from teacher Jennifer Sanders’ forensic science class were shopping for last-minute holiday gifts.  Amid the chaos of “Buddy the Elf” and Santa Claus, a precious diamond bracelet vanished.

    Little did the students know, this marked only the beginning of an eventful day at the department store.  Gimbels’ store manager soon reported the shocking discovery of a murdered man clutching the missing diamond bracelet, and Santa Claus had been tied up in a storage closet.  The responsibility to unravel the mystery surrounding the male shopper’s death fell upon Sanders’ class. They were in charge of solving the mystery and tasked with figuring out how the shopper died.

    Sanders explained, “This project incorporates all the hands-on experience that the students have learned, such as fingerprinting, blood spatter analysis, handwriting analysis, and estimating time of death.  They get to apply what they’ve learned in class to solve crimes using all these components.”

    Students organized into groups and had 30 minutes to investigate the scene, collect evidence, and analyze it.  Teams examined carefully blood spatter, the handwriting of a note, and fingerprints on the murder weapon.  As the night unfolded, the theme added an extra layer of excitement, and students had the opportunity to interview characters played by South Point High School teachers, who volunteered their time and proclaimed their innocence.

    The investigation concluded with a press conference where detective Nayeli Diaz-Pastranan revealed that “Buddy the Elf” (teacher Alexander Davis) had tied up Santa Claus (teacher Adam Hodge), and the Head Elf (teacher Kay Zeimer) had murdered the diamond thief (teacher Bobbie Cavnar). Her motive was to keep her job as the Head Elf, attempting to stop the thief, but accidentally killing him by throwing a golden star at him.  School resource officer Chris Trexler and FBI agent (teacher Jennifer Sanders) handcuffed the Head Elf and led her away.

    For students like Sage Judkins, a senior who prefers hands-on experiences, the murder-mystery project offered a change to learning.  “It makes you actually visualize what you have learned,” she shared, expressing her enthusiasm for playing the role of a crime scene investigator.

    According to Sanders, the project not only brought classroom knowledge to life, but allowed students to appreciate the applications of forensic science in a real-world (albeit fictitious) setting.