By Meghan Schiller

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At any moment, the FBI Pittsburgh Evidence Response Team could deploy to a major crime scene.

From lifting footprints to tire tracks, KDKA Investigator Meghan Schiller got an exclusive look at how it’s done.

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If there’s evidence left behind, Maria de la Cueva will find it.

“If people step in blood and they track it, we can collect it,” she said.

She’s a senior member of FBI Pittsburgh’s Evidence Response Team and agreed to take KDKA inside the lab for an exclusive look.

From lifting footprints using mylar paper to dusting for fingerprints on a coffee mug, the team collects and preserves evidence from the most complex crime scenes.

“Sometimes we go in there and be out of there in a couple of hours. And sometimes it takes days or weeks. So every crime scene in unique,” said de la Cueva.

She’s one of 16 people called out to handle the crime scenes we can’t forget.

From 20 years ago when a hijacked Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville on Sept. 11 to the search for Nalani Johnson, the kidnapped toddler from Penn Hills who was later found dead in the woods.

The team also spent weeks processing the scene after the mass shooting inside the Tree of Life Synagogue.

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“An alert goes out on your phone, and it says we have a crime scene that we need to go out to, respond if you’re available,” said de la Cueva.

Supervisory Special Agent Dave Foster said it is the work that brings justice.

“They expect us to have the best trained and best-qualified people at the ready to make sure that we don’t miss something,” said Foster.

The team spent weeks at the Tree of Life identifying, processing and collecting the evidence necessary to take the case to federal court.

“That was a very hard and important investigation for us. The evidence team is faced with being professional in the midst of tragedy,” said Foster.

For de la Cueva, her past 14 years on this specialized team fulfills a need to help others.

“Everyone comes from different fields, so it really helps the team dynamics when we go out and do searches,” she said.

A diverse team of special agents, linguists, forensic accountants, logisticians and FBI staff bringing their investigative skills together to bring peace to local families.

“If we can help bring justice to one case, that might be the highlight of our career. The reality is we bring justice to a lot of cases in our careers and some work closely with key evidence that will close a case and that’s a lot of satisfaction for us,” said Foster.

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The FBI Pittsburgh’s ERT also helps with Pennsylvania State Police, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and any other local police investigations. The team also covers all of West Virginia.

Meghan Schiller