In part two of her special assignment "the CSI effect" Ashley Davidson tells us how police really solve a crime. Police say from the moment they arrive at a scene everything is considered evidence. If there's a confession a murder can be solved in a few hours. Some cases aren't as open and shut. And some are never solved.
Unlike the television shows that deal with heinous crimes, a real life crime scene is not solved in an hour. Sometimes it takes much longer, and never fully leaves the mind of homicide detectives.
"A murder case will stay open forever until it's solved or whatever.
But a murder case stays open forever."
In the 17 years Sergeant Tommy Smith has worked for the Kentucky State Police he has seen everything at crime scenes.
Smith says: "There's a lot of talking to people, getting stories from people. Asking them the same question multiple times to see if you can get the same information every time."
He says when detectives first arrive on a scene they have to determine what is evidence.
Smith says: "In the initial stages of something like that you just have to assume that everything should be considered a piece of evidence."
Making sure evidence is collected properly is something they have to pay precise detail to.
Smith says: "We just want to be very careful that we don't cross contaminate any evidence to where it could be concluded it was tainted by not being very careful in how we collect it and how we package it."
Now that shows like CSI have popularized forensic science, DNA evidence is a key component of an investigation. Not all suspects are willing to give police a DNA sample. In that case, police have to get a search warrant granted by a judge or use another method.
Smith says: "You can follow the person if he discards some piece, some item, that would have some of his DNA on it, such as a cup he'd been drinking from, cigarette butt or chewing gum, or something like that."
Which is perfectly legal since the item they collect has been thrown away. Even after they collect samples, it can still take months for forensic analysts to get results
Smith says: "It can take anywhere from three or four hours to several years.
The Morgan Violi case is one that has taken several years. That's the 1996 case of where the little girl was kidnapped while playing with a friend. Police found her body three months later in Tennessee. It's one case Smith says he thinks about often.
Smith says: "It has taken all this time and still is not solved. I still hope we will solve that case and get some closure before I retire."
Tomorrow WBKO talks to Warren County Commonwealth Attorney, Chris Cohron, about the burden the CSI Effect has put on prosecutors. It's affecting cases all over the country. You may be surprised to hear what he has to say. That's in part three of the CSI Effect.