Crime scene investigation

Bodies were everywhere.

Deputies processed four crime scenes inside, and one outside, the old cookie building in Coupeville this week. They dusted for prints, gathered fiber, collected evidence and looked for blood. They even found a body in the trunk of a car.

No arrests were made. While the crime scenes were based on reality, the incidents were all part of a training exercise for crime scene investigation.

Commander Mike Beech with the Island County Sheriff’s Office said the week-long course is unique because the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission brought it to Whidbey Island. That means the 20 deputies involved in training — 14 from Island County — did’t have to travel, stay in hotels or eat out to attend.

That’s a big savings for the department while still allowing top-quality training for deputies.

Beech said the 40-hour course is a little more advanced than what deputies learn at the academy.

“A lot of it is brush up on what’s available today,” Beech said, referring to new forensic techniques and technology.

Ron Peterson, a retired Whatcom County deputy who teaches the class, brings it to different regions in the state. He invites many different experts in forensic science to teach specific parts of the class. A scientist from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, for example, talked to the class about DNA collection and analysis.

Peterson and Russ Lindner, chief criminal deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, set up four fake crime scenes inside an old building on North Main Street, and a fifth scene in a car out back.

They used dummies from the fire departments as victims.

Peterson said Lindner collected an eclectic assortment of items — furniture, ugly lamps, weird decorations and even a golf club — from Good Will and the dump to make the scenes seem authentic.

Peterson said he set up the scenes to mimic real incidents, including two crime scenes that he processed. One scene was a domestic violence-related murder; another was a ballpeen hammer homicide that had been cleaned up; another turned out to be a suicide; and one was a gang-related killing.

The deputies broke up into teams to investigate the scenes. Tuesday, deputies spent the morning in classroom, learning about fingerprints. In the afternoon they went to the faux crime scenes and applied what they had learned.

That night, Peterson said he would spread animal blood on the walls. The deputies would learn how to use the chemical luminol, which glows in the dark revealing blood traces. Specifically, an expert will teach them how to photograph luminol.

At the end of the course, each team presented their findings to the class for discussion.

“To be critiqued by a class of your peers is the ultimate learning mechanism,” Peterson said.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at or 675-6611.

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