Citizens Police Academy: sex predators and forensics, part three of ten

ForensicsThe Citizens Police Academy is an outreach program conducted by the Sevierville Police Department. The ten week program is free to the public and teaches attendees about police work.

Keeping tabs on sex predators, pedophiles and computer crime is the job of Detective Doug Shanks of the Sevierville Police Department. According to Shanks, registered sex offenders live in neighborhoods throughout the city and many residents are oblivious to the criminal history of these felons. The SPD has been diligent in keeping sex offenders away from children and schools. Once a sex offender or child molester is released from prison he or she must register with the city and is required by law to meet his neighbors and inform them of his criminal history.

A free web site allows private citizens to research pedophiles and determine if any are living in their neighborhoods. The site is www.familywatchdog.us. This site will map the neighborhoods and pinpoint where registered sex offenders live.

Pedophiles have been known to visit amusement and water parks in hopes of snapping photos of children in bathing suits. In an effort to prevent them from entering one local water park the SPD had a golf course designated as a city park. The law forbids pedophiles from entering or coming within 1000 feet of parks owned by the government. However, the law cannot prevent pedophiles from entering privately owned parks such as The Wilderness. The Wilderness Resort is located next to the Sevierville Golf Course. Shanks led the drive to have the golf course designated as a city park. By doing so it meant registered pedophiles could no longer enter the Wilderness Resort without violating the law.

According to Shanks, Dollywood staff monitors the sex offenders registry. If a registered pedophile purchases a ticket the park’s computer system alerts security. A security guard will tail the individual in question the park in order to keep him from coming in close contact with children.

Shanks discourages people, particularly children, from posting selfies on Snap Chat. Although the photo disappears within seconds a pedophile can freeze the image on his phone.

The second part of Thursday’s class was conducted by Arthur Milo Bohannan who holds several patents for inventing a method to lift fingerprints from the skin of murder victims. Bohannan boasts an impressive resume. He has more than 50 years of forensic experience with the Knoxville Police Department and other agencies. Bohannan is regarded as an expert in the field of fingerprinting. As proof of his expertise he has lifted fingerprints from historical documents that were more than 100 years old.

Following the terrorist attacks on 9-11, Bohannan was called to New York where he spent 11 weeks identifying the dead. In some cases small amounts of human remains could be found that would identify the deceased. Bohannan now suffers respiratory problems due to his work at the site.

The forensics specialist was called in after Hurricane Floyd pounded the coast washing out hundreds of caskets from local cemeteries. Bohannan utilized DNA to identify the dead and have them reburied.

During class Bohannan displayed a number of unusual items on a table. The first was a small plastic jar that containing severed human fingers. Another jar contained a large piece of human skin. He also displayed several x-rays that had been taken of murder and suicide victims. Two of the x-rays were of a human skull with a bullet embedded within it. Another depicted a human spine with a bullet lodged near it.

Bohannan presented numerous slides of some of the thousands of cases he has worked. This macabre collection included photos depicting corpses of three babies killed as a result of child abuse.

Another photo depicted a murder scene in which a seemingly insignificant clue helped skilled investigators arrest the murderer. The slide was of a smudged bloody palm print on the wall above a light switch. To the untrained eye one would think the police could get a fingerprint. But the prints were smudged. From this one bloody palm print investigators were able to deduce that the killing took place at night and the victim knew the killer. It also indicated the killer had been in the home on more than one occasion.

“This smeared print is above the light switch indicating the killer was looking for the light switch meaning it was dark,” said Bohannan. “It also indicates he knew where the switch was because he was feeling around in the general area where the switch was located. This meant he had been in the house before meaning he knew the victim.”

Police immediately began the investigation interviewing suspects close to the victim and had a suspect in custody within 24 hours of the killing.

As a result of his research Bohannan has made discoveries answering questions that had baffled investigators for decades. Investigators had long been stumped by the fact that younger children seldom left fingerprints.

“If a young child leaves a fingerprint it evaporates after about two hours as if it were never there. People 12 and over leave fingerprints that can remain on objects for years,” said Bohannan. According to his discovery children who have not gone through puberty do not have oil in their fingerprints. Their prints are water based and they evaporate. People that have been through puberty have oil based fingerprints causing them to remain on objects for up to decades.

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