Douglas County crime scene investigators illuminate their work

Forensic scientist Josh Connelly shows Brandon Chavez, 14, Megan Otto, 18, and Megan Steffes, 17, how to use an alternate light source to find fingerprints on a bottle during a workshop Saturday with crime scene investigators at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

Omaha-area teenagers got a chance Saturday to see what real crime scene investigators do.

They did hands-on activities and saw what happens in the field at a workshop that included a crime scene, bloodstains and fingerprints.

“I think it's awesome for them to see how the science classes they take will be used and see that it's not just this glamorous thing that you roll into,” said Christine Gabig, a forensic scientist and Douglas County investigator.

The event at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office was sponsored by Exploring, an Omaha-based career education program, and drew 22 participants.

Josh Connelly, also a forensic scientist, led the fingerprint station, which taught the history of fingerprinting and showed teenagers how to work two machines used to pull prints from evidence.

The teens used a bright white light and a series of filters to enhance the contrast of fingerprints on a pop can. An ultraviolet imaging system helped them find fingerprints without the help of chemicals.

The bloodstain analysis station was led by Ashley Haggar. Using fake blood, participants learned how bloodstains can affect criminal cases.

Morgan Rodabaugh, 17, examined the size of drops of blood as they dripped from different heights.

“I learned that if you get blood that drips into another pool, you can trace it back to the original,” she said. “That's pretty cool.”

A crime scene was set up in the entrance of the Sheriff's Office, complete with bullets, bloodstains and cameras for investigating.

Forensic scientist C.L. Retelsdorf said his main goal was to give the teens a taste of what the reality is when processing a scene. Retelsdorf showed procedures used to lift dirt from footprints and find bullets inside a wall. “A good flashlight will be your best tool,” he said.

Jessie Bowman, an executive with Exploring, said the main goal of the program is to allow students to find the right career path and learn job skills.

“They might think they're really interested in something, and here they can find out if they really like it or really hate it,” she said.

Exploring puts on different programs year-round, she said, including events on nursing, firefighting and engineering in the Omaha area.

“Kids can broaden their horizons a little bit in different fields,” Bowman said. “It could save them time and money in college.”

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