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Who hurt Santa, and why?

Class hones observation, deductive reasoning skills

Comstock Park — Santa was hurt and whisked to the hospital in serious condition after attending a party. It was the mission of forensic science students at Comstock Park High School to examine the evidence at the scene and come to a hypothesis about the culprit. 

Juniors and seniors in Sarah Weber’s forensic science class took a field trip to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department on Dec. 8 in a session led by Dawn TenBrink, crime scene unit investigator for the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. Students were divided into groups of four and led to the evidence where the party took place. 

First step: photograph all the evidence and take notes using smartphones. The groups were given five minutes to examine the scene and check for fingerprints, blood spatter, footprints, and DNA, and to study toxicology reports. TenBrink advised them to put their observation and deductive reasoning skills to work. 

“Pictures are the most important. Take pictures all the way around the room and go closer,” she told the students. 

She reminded them that investigators can’t make judgments, but they can theorize.

“You have all the evidence you need to bring in a suspect. I want to hear your theories and your evidence to support it.”

Grinch & Scrooge

The forensic class covers topics including observation skills, deductive reasoning, crime scene basics, types of fingerprints, blood spatter, entomology, serial killers, poisons/toxicology, and analysis of bones and other prints. Weber has been teaching the class at the school for more than 10 years. 

After examining the scene, the groups presented their findings. 

“The Grinch threw the party and had a guest list,” said senior Aliyah Durry. “We concluded that the Scrooge and the Grinch both planned to hurt Santa, since they had a hatred of Christmas.”

From left, Sammy Munzo, Shelby Rogalski, Hannah Straight and Jacob Shoemaker look over evidence to decide who hurt Santa

Fingerprints found on coffee cups contained poison. Aliyah’s group matched those with four guests at the party. The group also found footprints that matched shoes Grinch and Scrooge were wearing and bottles that had cyanide in them, based on results TenBrink showed.  

Aliyah said her forensic science class prepared her classmates to observe, collect data and better understand crime scenes. 

“We learned that DNA can be found in many different types of things, so we used our prior knowledge to figure out the case.”

Said TenBrink afterward: “You guys did an excellent job, and your theories are solid.”

Aliyah said she found it very interesting to be in the corrections facility and to hear from someone who does the job. During the field trip, TenBrink got a call about an actual crime scene.

“It became very surreal,” Aliyah said. “It is a very hard job, to see that kind of stuff. She has it happening around her every single day.”

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be a part of the great team of journalists at School News Network and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools. She is a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St Joseph, Michigan and Central Michigan University. Read Karen's full bio


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