Someone driving by Mat-Su Regional Medical Center Tuesday might have mistaken activity in a nearby field for mass-murder crime scene.
Crime scene tape secured the perimeter. State trooper and police vehicles were everywhere. Body bags littered the ground. But rest assured, no crimes were committed. Instead, local law enforcement learned how proper crime scene forensic techniques in a state medical examiner's workshop.
Alaska's chief medical examiner, Dr. Kathy Raven, invited police in the Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage and Fairbanks police departments, Alaska Medical Examiner's office, Air Force CID, and a state cold case detective to participate in a two-day workshop called Buried Bodies. Leading it were forensic anthropologist Dr. Kathy Taylor and detective Kathy Decker from King County, Washington state.
What were Seattle-area experts doing with Alaska law dogs? Teaching them how to examine a scene without disturbing evidence and how to excavate a burial site, cataloging evidence so as much as possible is retained for possible admission in court.
Alaska has no board-certified forensic anthropologist, according to Raven, so a few times every year the state contracts the services of Taylor, sending evidence to her in Seattle. This workshop helps ensure that she has the best information possible for analysis. And participants seemed to enjoy the experience.
"I was just telling someone how much I hate getting dirty," said state medical examiner's office employee Eira Lara, as she sifted through buckets of dirt. "Granted, at the time I was elbow-deep in a person."
Contact Loren Holmes at loren(at)alaskadispatch.com