Education through investigation at WLU

TRIADELPHIA – Everything was left exactly as police found it when the investigators arrived on Thursday afternoon.

Immediately they set to work examining everything from the murder weapon to the bullet casings and personal possessions left at the scene of the crime. They took notes, pictures, measurements and began crafting theories as they wrapped up their examination in the space of about 20 minutes.

Once their time concluded, representatives from the West Virginia Criminal Justice Educators’ Association broke the scene down to set up again for the next group of criminal justice students. It was the beginning of the 17th-annual WVCJEA Conference at the West Liberty University Highlands Center on Friday, which began with the dramatization of a crime scene set up by educators who volunteered for the event, followed by a research paper competition.

This was the first year WLU has hosted the conference, open to all colleges and universities with criminal science majors in their curriculum. In charge of supervising the events was WLU criminal justice professor and conference program chairman Keith Bell.

“We are pleased to welcome the conference to (WLU) for the first time this fall and look forward to the opportunity for our students,” Bell said.

Thursday’s crime scene was scaled back, as it typically includes dummies or human subjects standing in as corpses at the scene. Bell explained the dummies and fake blood were removed because coordinators did not want to risk permanently staining the floors in the two classrooms used.

Friday’s events took students back to West Liberty where they presented their findings in a panel at the Elbin Library. The event ended with closing remarks and award presentations. Bell said WLU is no stranger to the awards portion of the program.

“Last year was the first time we sent one of our criminal justice majors, Kathleen Butcher, to the conference and she won the research paper competition,” Bell said. “It’s a great experience for West Liberty students.”

Special guests to the conference this year included Ohio County Sheriff Pat Butler, Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger and the Ohio Valley Cold Case Task Force organized by Fred Connors.