Forensic Facts—“VCU Edition” Bloodstain Patterns



Last week’s Forensic Friday continues with more Forensic Facts garnered during the visit to The Department of Forensic Science and Dr. Marilyn Miller at VCU log 2VCU.






VCU Forensic Fact #3: Bloodstain Patterns–How the Blood was Shed


Using physics, biology and mathematics, an investigator can study a bloodstain’s pattern, size, shape, location and distribution to determine what either shed the blood or what might have come in contact with it.  Blood spatter patterns, transfers, and voids can help investigators recreate the sequence of events before, during and after the crime.  To do this, investigators must match blood patterns to the objects that created them.


At VCU we we played a guessing ‘game’–match the blood pattern to the object.  Some patterns were easy to match whereas other we quite a challenge.



Mary Burton Forensic Facts VCU ID items creating blood patterns #1














Below we are identifying the object that created the bloodstain pattern.


Mary Burton Forensic Facts VCU ID items creating blood patters #2Mary Burton Forensic Facts VCU ID items creating blood patterns #3




Forensic Facts—“VCU Edition” Paint Chips


Forensic Friday continues with more Forensic Facts garnered from Sisters in Crime Central Virginia‘s visit last week to The Department of Forensic Science at VCU log 2Virginia Commonwealth University. Thanks again to Dr. Marilyn Miller for inviting us.



VCU Forensic Fact #2: Paint Chips=Evidence


Mary Burton Forensic Facts VCU paint chips #2A chip of paint can be an important source of trace evidence that helps investigators solve a crime such as a hit and run accident or a breaking and entering.  Paint chips and flakes knocked off of a vehicle during a collision can help pinpoint a vehicle’s make, model and sometimes the year.


Paint can also identify a tool used to wedge open a door or window during a burglary.  Mary Burton Forensic Facts VCU paint chipsIt is often the under layer of paint that provides the most information to an investigator.


Because paint is on most surfaces, it is a valuable source of evidence.

Here Comes On Sale Week and My Final “Countdown To VULNERABLE Grab Bag Giveaway”

Mary Burton VULNERABLE image hi res



It’s just two days and about seven hours until VULNERABLE goes on sale!  I’ve enjoyed counting down with you all to forensic specialist Georgia Morgan’s story and hearing the reaction from winners as they received their books.


So, here it is, the seventh and last of my Grab Bag Giveaways. This one has a much shorter time for you to enter.  It ends at midnight Monday, 3/28. That’s when VULNERABLE is officially published and ready to go on sale when stores open on Tuesday. And, if you pre-ordered, it’ll be waiting for you at your favorite bookstore or will be about to appear on your doorstep.


Enough said, except for two things—thank you for all the great feedback on my Morgan Family novels and here’s a new excerpt. This one’s from—of course—VULNERABLE.  Enjoy!


“Did good tonight, kid,” he said. “The crowd loved you.” He pushed a fresh glass with ice and diet soda toward her.


She took a long sip. “Thanks for letting me share the stage. The day job has been crazy lately and I haven’t had much time. It was fun.”


“So I hear big brother gave you a cold case.”


Big brother was Deke Morgan, who now ran the Nashville Police Homicide Department. He was joined by her other brother, Rick Morgan, who also worked in the same unit. Third brother, Alex, was the outlier. He worked for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, or TBI.


“I should be more careful when I ask for extra work.” She scooped up a handful of nuts from a bowl on the bar and popped them in her mouth. “It’s taken me weeks to read through the files.”


“Deke tells me Dalton Marlowe is putting the squeeze on everyone.”


Dalton Marlowe was a very rich man whose son was one of three teens who went into Percy Warner Park five years ago. The students, from an exclusive high school called St. Vincent, went hiking in the southwest Nashville park that covered twenty-six hundred acres of wooded land crisscrossed by a dozen backroad trails, bike paths, and dead end roads. Their plan was to collect data for a science project and return home by dark.


When the teens had not reported in that night, search crews had been dispatched. At the end of the second day, volunteers found one of the kids, Amber Ryder, at the bottom of a ravine. Her arm was badly broken and she suffered a head injury. When she woke up in the hospital the next day, she swore she had no memory of what had happened in the woods. Search crews continued to look for weeks but the two other students, Bethany Reed and Mike Marlowe, were never found.


Mr. Marlowe has been pressing the Missing Persons Unit relentlessly for answers. This year, he again made a sizable donation to the police foundation, a kind of gesture that expects a return. Marlowe was clear that he didn’t want to hear any more bullshit theories about his son Mike and Bethany running off like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.


“So Deke’s balls are in a vise with the mayor?”


She shrugged. “He’s getting a hell of a lot of pressure from City Hall, but it doesn’t look like it’s fazed him. He hopes to kill two birds with one stone. Give me a cold case that I’ve been clamoring for and pacify the powers that be. It’s a win all the way around.”



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Forensic Facts—“VCU EDITION” Latent Fingerprints


This edition of Forensic Friday comes to you from the heart of downtown Richmond and The Department of Forensic Science at Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU boasts one of the oldest forensic science programs in the country and members of Sisters in Crime Central Virginia were invited to spend the evening VCU log 2with them this past Tuesday, 3/22.


What a time we had. A thank you and shout out to Dr. Marilyn Miller and her students. There’s too much info for one Forensic Friday post, so I’m sharing some today and will follow up with more next week.



VCU Forensic Fact #1: Developing Latent Fingerprints with Magnetic Powder

Mary Burton Forensic Facts VCU fingerprints


Forensic scientists can use magnetic powder and a magnetic powder wand to develop latent fingerprints.   At the end of the wand there is a magnet that when exposed will “grab” the magnetic powder so it can be gently brushed over surfaces.  Magnetic powder works well on plastics and textured surfaces, and because a brush is not used, there’s less chance of damaging the print. Once the fingerprints are developed and the excess powder removed with the tip of the magnet, an investigator can capture the fingerprint on a clear piece of tape and affix the tape to a white card.

Last Chance VULNERABLE ARC Flash Giveaway!

Mary Burton VULNERABLE image hi resThis is it! Just five days until the publication of VULNERABLE, my latest Morgan Family suspense novel, and enough time for one more Flash Giveaway. Enter now for a chance to win an Advance Reader Copy of forensic specialist Georgia Morgan’s story, in which she and Detective Jake Bishop investigate a cold case that turns red hot.  Giveaway ends at midnight tonight!


P.S. While you’re waiting to hear if you’ve won, you’re invited to read the excerpt on my site. I hope you enjoy it.
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