Excavation team tired but talking

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 27, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Lunch was delivered courtesy of Bennett’s Creek Farm Market, and it was obvious that every member of the Excavation Class was ready for &uot;R&R&uot; as well as nourishment.

They quickly grabbed a sandwich and a drink and literally fell to wherever they could find a seat on the grassy, green field.

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Carla Guitar-Johnson of the Chesapeake forensic unit, said she was truly exhausted but exhilarated by the three days of activity.

&uot;This has been just outstanding training because, unfortunately, with crimes today you have to expect anything,&uot; said Johnson. &uot;What this has done for us… especially with any type of burial site…We’re able now to dig appropriately but we know how to carefully protect the evidence. This has been excellent in teaching us the big picture on how to bring out evidence.&uot;

James &uot;Wes&uot; Garrett of the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Department, said he hoped never to see such a scene as the two double murders in real life, but that he’s now prepared for it.

&uot;I have had only a little training in death investigations, but nothing prior to this in excavation,&uot; said Garrett. &uot;This has prepared me to handle evidence collecting and I’ve learned about site strategy, how to secure the site, and about recovery of the bodies.&uot;

A member of the Virginia Beach Police Department, Roslyn Gagne, said she learned just how intricate and meticulous an excavation of a burial site could be when properly handled.

&uot;This class has taught us that you have to get down and dirty, paying attention to the minutest details,&uot; said Gagne. &uot;It will be an invaluable tool to take back to the police department. I am actually excited about receiving our course certificates.&uot;

Amy Farris, a forensic technician with the Hampton Police Department, said she had never been trained in how to excavate a body.

&uot;I knew no more than you had to dig until you found it,&uot; said Farris. &uot;We used the shovels at first but we got down to business with the little hand brushes and teaspoons and other small instruments. It was pretty intensive training.&uot;

From Suffolk’s Police Department, Lance Callis, came out with Jones and Goyne and at the end of the third day, he was still enthusiastic and proud of what he’d learned. He was also ready to share his knowledge.

&uot;Also, I think one of the most important things was being out here with other jurisdictions and seeing how they do things,&uot; said Callis. &uot;I will help us work together as a team when the need arises.

&uot;We can learn techniques from other people. As evidence techs in the street, we don’t normally get to do something as detailed as this and it is good training for all of us. We can now pull from resources from the other cities and we can all work together as a team, just as we’ve been doing out here.&uot;

Carlton B. &uot;Bert&uot; Nurney of the Suffolk Police Department’s crime investigation unit said he was part of the team that investigated the scene where the body was found in Buckhorn.

&uot;We excavated that area, probably four by four feet in that particular instance,&uot; said Nurney. &uot;If an excavation is done properly, you can find even the tiniest item. That’s what this course is all about.&uot;

As for, the organizer of the &uot;Excavation Class,&uot; Forensic Crime Unit Supervisor

Joan Jones, her education in excavating bodies was learned from Thomas E.W. Govne, the death investigator for Virginia’s medical examiner’s office.

&uot;I wanted to organize this four-day school for all the jurisdictions so that we’d all know how to properly excavate a crime scene,&uot; said Jones.

&uot;I began planning for this in September of 2002, and they buried the mannequins in November. It takes time to plan one of these courses, but I do hope to have another class.&uot;