classroom is a crime scene
students approach the bodies deliberately. Every few steps,
they scan the crime scene visually for clues, careful not
to trample any evidence. After all, theyve been told
that what their cameras record could lead detectives to the
The students treat this "investigation" with all
the seriousness of the real thing
even though its
actually a lab assignment in Mission Colleges Forensic
Photography 250 class.
Goldberg and adjunct instructor Lloyd Mahanay, senior criminalist
with the Los Angeles County Coroners Office, teach the
course jointly. Goldberg teaches elements of photography to
the students, while Mahanay focuses on the specifics of crime
scene photography. After eight weeks of classroom techniques,
the students are ready to venture out to Veterans Park, where
a double homicide scene awaits them.
Kelly Moes photographs victim at mock
crime scene as instructor Lloyd Mahanay looks on.
situation we have here is a boyfriend and girlfriend who came
out to the park to be alone," explained Mahanay as he
prepared the scene. "They were assaulted by a stranger
or strangers, and both were killed. A man walking his dog
this morning saw the bodies and called police."
talks, Mahanay twists and contorts the limbs of the two flexible
dummies (specially made for crime scene training) that represent
the "victims" in this scenario. The figures are
placed about 15 feet apart under a tree: the "man,"
his arms and legs tied behind his back, dumped in a ditch;
the "woman," showing signs of sexual assault, left
"dead" under some bushes.
The mock set-up mirrors actual crime scenes that Mahanay said
he has seen "three or four times" during his 25
years with the Coroners Office.
While the victims are easily spotted, Mahanay also places
evidence, including a water bottle and cigarette butt, at
the scene for students to discover and photograph. In groups
of four, the students approach the scene, take several photos
of the bodies from different angles, and soon discover the
water bottle and cigarette butt.
"Okay, guys, I think we need to mark these," said
student Kelly Moes, pulling out a 6-inch ruler that is placed
alongside evidence to provide perspective in the photos.
Moes said she is a chemistry major but wants to apply knowledge
in that field to a career in forensic science. Another student,
Bruno Dueker, is undecided about a major but took the class
because forensic science interests him. Yet another student,
Adolfo Muller, is more typical of the class enrollment, which
consists mostly of Administration of Justice majors. He hopes
to become a forensic pathologist.
Mahanay believes the class is a good starting point for students
interested in all aspects of forensic science.
"A forensic photographer is one of the most important
investigators at a crime scene," he said. "Theyre
the photographer, but also a detective and a criminalist.
Their job is to look at everything."
Looking at the students photos will help Mahanay determine
if theyve really understood the methods stressed in
the classroom, he said. And even though the victims in this
case are just plastic dummies in a simulated killing field,
the experience challenges the students to ask themselves if
murder scenes are where they want to spend a career.
See Additional Photos from the "Crime Scene"
BY EDUARDO PARDO