MHS forensics class

Cadonny Hill, a student in Mike Sullivan’s law enforcement class, uses a metal detector to search for a “body” buried in a dirt courtyard as Sullivan looks on Tuesday at Mohave High School. A forensics unit this week will have students in two classes finding, excavating and cataloging evidence. Sullivan said that some of the students’ parents expressed wishes that they had had a similar opportunity.



BULLHEAD CITY — They weren’t trying to figure out “whodunit” just yet.

They were sifting — sometimes literally — for clues that might help them solve the murder case, however.

Two law enforcement classes at Mohave High School spent Tuesday scanning a dirt courtyard for mock body parts.

Instructor Mike Sullivan had the parts buried as part of a forensics lesson the students are working on this week.

The students used a metal detector to search for clues, and shovels and brushes to expose them for collection. They also turned up many items that undoubtedly will prove to have nothing to do with the mock homicide.

Sullivan said that searching thoroughly and cataloging everything is part of a forensic investigation.

The metal detector eventually led the group to a watch, which led to some conclusions:

  • the victim was male (it was a man’s watch).
  • he was right-handed (the watch was on the left hand).

Continued searching revealed a skull, the location of which revealed where other body parts might be. Sullivan said the students will excavate and catalog the body parts and then look for clues. 

Second-year student Zondra Thompson said she liked the hands-on nature of the project.

“I thought it was really helpful,” she said. “It gives us insight into what actually goes on when finding a body.”

“You can learn about it on a screen,” Thompson said. “But actually doing it in person makes it more interesting and makes you want to pay attention.”

Another second-year student, Michael Ramos, is considering a career in archaeology. He said he enjoyed learning the techniques the group used. He was on the shovel when the skull was discovered.

It’s possible that the jeans in which the leg bones were found could contain evidence that helps solve the case.

One place to search would be in the pockets. Sullivan said they would be checked after the remains are removed from the ground. 

The forensics unit is to continue today and Thursday. The students will stake off the recovery site and mark it with a grid, identifying where on the grid everything was found.

“Once you leave the scene,” Sullivan said. “You can’t go back and gather evidence, because it’s tainted now.” 

Sullivan said he’s trying to arrange a field trip to a morgue for his students, during which they would observe an autopsy.

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