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CSI at CMU

Fake crime, real investigation

CMU students have hands-on investigations in mock crime scene

Contact: Dan Digmann


Imagine if Stephen King knew nothing about crime scene investigations.

Budding writer Delany Lemke is making sure that won’t happen to her.

The senior English major was totally in her element when the area south of Anspach Hall became an active crime scene of sorts at Central Michigan University.

“I won't be helping to recover bones from crime scenes in the future, but I will remember what I learned about the fragility of human life and the way our stories can be written right on our bones.” — Delany Lemke

Lemke and her “Principles of forensic anthropology” classmates suited up in full crime scene investigation gear — vests, gloves, foot protectors and face masks — for hands-on preparation to handle real-life investigations.

The mock crime scene was the midterm exam for the class anthropology faculty member Cathy Willermet teaches.

Mug-Lemke.jpgLemke’s major concentration is creative writing, and she said anthropology-related classes help her to better understand the human existence.

“I find myself frequently applying the language of anthropological studies to my poetry. It gives me a new lens to understand the human experience,” she said. “I won't be helping to recover bones from crime scenes in the future, but I will remember what I learned about the fragility of human life and the way our stories can be written right on our bones.”

“Principles of forensic anthropology” introduces students to concepts including identifying human skeletal remains, recovering human remains and estimating time since death.

There are 32 students enrolled, and only about a third of them are anthropology majors, Willermet said. Many students take the course because it fulfills the science requirement for many undergraduate programs.

“That’s what is so great about this class,” Willermet said. “It is broadly appealing and brings scientific thinking and application to a lot of different majors — everything from English to advertising, psychology, music and journalism.”

Even though the situations were fake, the circumstances students studied mimicked real crime scenes.

Lemke, of Marysville, Michigan, said she felt “weirdly emotional” as she looked forward to the mock crime scene midterm.

“This is how some missing people are finally identified,” she said. “This is how justice happens.”


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