The advent of new technology and the success of television shows like CSI have made forensic science more popular than ever. But the science of solving crimes is never as simple as television screens imply. Behind these doors, sophisticated science and modern technology merge under the guiding hands of skilled scientists to unravel the mysteries of crime.
This is where a blood test can determine if a driver, who plowed into a child crossing the street for an ice cream cone, was drunk. And, were the bloody fingerprints left in a Willoughby bedroom, where the victim was stabbed to death with the phone still clutched in her hand as she dialed 9-1-1, really those of a Wickliffe man?
Founded in 1973, the Lake County Crime Laboratory is funded by a countywide tax levy. The Lake County Crime Laboratory adheres to national standards and stringent policies and ensures that its’ scientists are skillfully trained in state-of-the-art technology. The Laboratory serves Lake County law enforcement agencies at no cost and assesses a fee for out of county police agencies.
The Laboratory has earned recognition for its prompt evidence examination and courtroom testimony.
Whether you watch television or read newspapers, DNA is bantered about as the miracle crime solver. In some ways it is.
DNA is the genetic coding that is unique in every individual. It is the combination of genes that determines such things as the color of our hair and our eyes. Scientists can test the smallest fragment of the ladder-like DNA molecule to determine if a known suspect was at a crime scene. A tiny drop of blood, a sweaty cloth or a fragment of skin under a fingernail, may all contain the unique DNA of a suspect.
Newer technology like the fluorescent multiplex STR, allows Lake County Crime Laboratory scientists to find DNA strands in places never before visible. These modern tests can even decipher decades old samples that before could not be tested due to decomposition.
The Lake County Crime Laboratory is a member of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) maintained by the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice. The federal partnership allows local DNA swabs to be matched against millions of samples taken from violent offenders all across the country. This allows Police to arrest criminals for committing a series of crimes, across several jurisdictions, after DNA is matched to a sample in the national data base.
Drugs & Toxicology
Many of us have had first hand experience with the drugs that forensic chemists test every day. That bottle of beer, that mixed drink or two that you had at the corner bar, can easily be detected in your blood and urine and tell whether you are over the legal limit. The blood alcohol tests are a minute portion of the testing done here at the Lake County Crime Laboratory. Illegal drugs and deadly toxins hidden in blood droplets or liver tissues can be discovered by our laboratory chemists. The Laboratory can identify more than prescription drugs and common narcotics, such as cocaine and heroin, but also other toxic cocktails, including ecstasy and date rape drugs.
When a bullet blasts through a gun barrel, the microscopic grooves and scrapings left on the projectile are the key to matching a bullet to a specific gun. Each firearm, whether mass manufactured or hand made, has its own unique tool markings that leave distinct grooves on the fired bullet and shell casing. Tool markings are as unique as a fingerprint. Examiners use microscopic comparisons to identify and catalog tool marks and match them. Weapons experts at the Lake County Crime Laboratory have more than 20 years experience matching bullets and spent casings found at a crime scene to a particular gun.
The tiny swirls and curves, thinner than a strand of hair, linger at the edge of our fingertips creating a unique pattern. The analysis of those patterns has come a long way from the black powdery smudges sprinkled around crime scenes. Now infrared cameras and adhesives lift finger prints off many surfaces. Once a print has been located, it can be digitized and cataloged into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) capable of comparing 15,000 prints per second. The Laboratory is electronically networked with the State of Ohio’s Bureau of Identification and Investigation database thereby allowing for near instantaneous statewide search capabilities.
There is rarely a perfect crime. No matter how careful, a suspect may leave behind a trail. A hair, a fiber, skin cells, shoeprint or tire tracks can lead experts to a killer’s door. The Lake County Crime Laboratory’s trace evidence section has modern instrumentation that can enhance the smallest fragment and the tiniest traces. A paint chip embedded in a bumper, a shoeprint impacted in the snow, a tire tread embedded in the mud, or the slightest vapors from an arson fire may be detected with the right equipment. Scientists gather the fragments and fabric and analyze them for their composition. Paint fragments can be traced to a specific manufacturer and then to a vehicle.
This information is to assist Law Enforcement Agencies who are submitting evidence to the Lake County Crime Laboratory. (Only Law Enforcement Agencies may submit evidence to the Laboratory.)
The link below will open the Laboratory’s Evidence Submission Form. You must have Adobe Reader installed on your computer in order to open and use this form. If your agency does not have Adobe Reader there is a free download available at this address http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html
Please enter all information into the document and print one copy to bring to the Crime Laboratory with the evidence. The form will be signed by the Officer who delivers the evidence to the Laboratory. Once the evidence has been accepted at the Laboratory, you will be given a signed copy of this form to document the chain of custody.
Also available below is a link to the Laboratory’s Evidence Submission Procedures.
If you would like to save a copy of either document to your computer; when you click the link and are prompted to choose ‘Open’ or ‘Save’, choose the ‘Save’ option.
If you have any questions about the evidence submission form, evidence collection or submission, or accessing your reports using iResults, please call the Crime Laboratory during regular business hours: Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at (440) 350-2793.
** NOTICE **
We have recently updated the Evidence Submission Form and the Evidence Submission Procedure document. Please download the current versions by clicking on the links below.
Arriving at the crime scene first, the Police Officer may be the most integral part of the crime scene team. The Lake County Crime Laboratory provides periodic training to local law enforcement agencies, to insure the proper collection and preservation of evidence.