Local Crime Lab Helping To Solve Homicide Cases
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They are the real CSI.
Forensic scientists don’t carry weapons and don’t make arrests; but in the new Allegheny County Crime Lab, they’re using state-of-the-art technology to help police solve murders and rapes.
A wild shootout between police and drug dealers and caught is in the crossfire of more than 40 shots is 21-year-old Arika Hainsworth. She was killed by a single bullet, leaving her children motherless and a mystery for police and the crime lab.
“The obvious question with multiple guns being fired is what was the origin of that bullet,” said Dr. Karl Williams, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner. “What gun did it come from?”
A first clue comes from the autopsy, which shows the bullet’s trajectory was from above.
“This particular bullet went downward,” says Dr. Williams.
On the tip of that fatal slug, ballistics experts find smoky white powder they believe to be glass – supporting the theory of investigators that the fatal bullet came through a second-floor window.
“I just want to remind you guys, the bad guys were on the second floor and they were shooting through windows,” said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.
Using a scanning electron microscope, forensic scientist at the lab compare the powdered glass with shards found at the scene.
“When you run the spectrum, you see these little peaks,” Dr. Williams says.
They get an exact match of the two, as good as a fingerprint.
Next, they match the slug with pristine slugs from a gun recovered from the scene and determine the exact murder weapon, which investigators say was tied to Amir Ferguson, who was later convicted of Hainesworth’s murder.
“So, we have the bullet, we’ve glass in the bullet, we have the trajectory of the body,” said Dr. Williams. “You put all of those together and you say, ‘I know what happened at that scene.’”
But the forensic scientist emphasize that all these pieces of evidence mean nothing without dogged police investigators putting the pieces together – a new team breaking cases.