Professor David Tate -- known around Purdue University as the "CSI Guy" -- visited North and South Putnam high schools before giving a forensic presentation to local Purdue University Alumni recently.
Chemistry students at North Putnam High School and science students at South Putnam High School listened intently as Tate explained forensic procedures like fingerprinting, ballistics, DNA, blood splatter and profilers.
"A lot of it is just plain common sense," Tate explained. "Forensics isn't like what you see on television. They don't carry guns and absolutely don't have Hummers."
As he talked about ballistics and the markings on bullets, SPHS student Jeff Hunter asked if the residue from a fired gun could show what kind of gun was fired.
"That's an excellent question. One I've never had anyone ask," said Tate, who then explained that no, the residue cannot show the type of gun.
"Every gun creates marks on the bullet when it goes through the chamber. Every one is unique and can be matched to the bullet fired," he said.
Amid slides of blood splatters, maggots and bodies in varying degrees of decay, the professor went on to explain all the elements involved in forensic research and the team effort involved in solving crimes.
He showed examples of using biological, chemical and physical sciences in figuring trajectory of bullets, types of blood splatters, identification of bodies and other forensic processes.
"It's a lot of physics and trigonometry plus common sense," he said.
In discussing anthropology's role in forensics, Tate showed bones and skulls.
After clicking on a slide showing an African skull, Tate offered $5 to anyone who could explain why African skulls have wider noses in their skulls.
One student collected the money as he said, "to get more air."
Because of the humidity of the climate in Africa, humans need more air hence their nose passages are wider.
Tate went on to explain that as the world becomes smaller and races intermarry it becomes harder for anthropologists to define race by bones.
He showed slides of people who had been strangled and asked students to define what was used in the strangulation.
SPHS freshman Sarah Cheatham told Tate, "It looks like a shoelace."
"That's exactly what it was, by the way this is a photo of 6-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey whose murder has never been solved," added Tate.
According to Tate, the crime scene was compromised by the number of people who were in the house at the scene of the crime prior to Ramsey's body being found in the basement.
He referred to the Locarus Principle, which basically says you bring something into a crime scene and you also take something away.
Tate later talked about Nicole Brown Simpson's murder and the bloody footprint that was found at the scene of the crime.
"It turns out it was one of the police officers who arrived on the scene first. Because he stepped in her blood they had to test over 40 people to identify the print," said Tate.
Later at the Putnam County Purdue Alumni dinner held at Autumn Glen, Tate talked about serial killers like the Green River Killer, Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.
"There are active serial killers out there now," Tate told the roomful of Purdue Alumnus before showing slides and discussing some of the known serial killers in the U.S.
"Green River killer Gary Ridgeway killed 48 women. That's all of you in this room. That happened over 20 years and his victims were as young as 14 and 15 years old," said Tate.
He explained that every killer leaves a signature in some form.
He also talked about defining the characteristics that distinguish one murderer from another. He categorized these as disorganized and organized.
These characteristics are often displayed by the killer in how he leaves the body, where he leaves the body, how the murder happens and even how a serial killer targets his victim.
"Most of these killers can read you like a deck of cards," said Tate, who went on to talk about the Hillside Stranglers Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi who were cousins. Between Oct. and Dec. 1977, 11 victims were strangled by the pair.
"These guys flipped a coin to see who raped the victim first," said Tate.
He also used Henry Lee Lucas as an example of what characteristics may be apparent in a serial killer.
Lucas had low self esteem, a lack of education, terrorized animals, was abused by his mother and had a strong sense of hatred for life.
At 17 he killed a girl he raped. He went to jail, was released and his very next victim was his own 74-year-old mother.
"Lucas claims to have killed over 300 people. He died in prison before being executed," Tate said.
Tate holds three degrees and teaches at Purdue. He and Professor Ralph Williams introduced what was considered to be the largest introductory forensic science courses among the national colleges.
That program has grown into three courses and includes some students visiting the University of Tennessee's Forensic Research Facility outside Knoxville.
This facility has 50 bodies in varying degrees of decay and forensic students tour the facility and study the bodies.
"With the popularity of TV shows like 'CSI', 'The New Detective Series' and 'Justice Files,' students have an avid interest in crime investigations," said Tate. "A lot of what you see is on TV is junk. Forensic folks use science and common sense to solve crimes."
Tate also avidly supports education. He encouraged students to continue the education whether it was college or vocational school.
He expressed his support to the Putnam County Purdue Alumni for the scholarship they offer through the Putnam County Foundation.
"I came from a really small high school in Warren County, and I didn't have the money to go to school. Somebody left a $200 scholarship in my county, which I applied for and received. That $200 got one person through," Tate said. "I'm here today, a proud Purdue University graduate. I will never be able to pay back that $200 to Purdue. When you can, do what you can to help somebody down the line."
Information about the Putnam County Purdue University Alumni Association is available by contacting Ron Birt at (765) 526-2466.
Information about the Purdue University Forensic program is available online at www.purdue.edu.