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Training future forensic scientists at UIndy's crime scene house

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Posted at 5:32 PM, Apr 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-29 18:01:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Scenes of blood and violence are common in this little house on the south side of Indianapolis.

But this isn't a crime scene, it's a class room.

Welcome to the University of Indianapolis’s Criminal Justice Education Lab.

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UIndy Adjunct Professor Doug Boxler.

"It’s a very unique opportunity that the students at the University of Indianapolis have here," Adjunct Professor Doug Boxler said. "We meet here every Thursday evening of the semester and we conduct practical activities that would be conducted at a crime scene."

Students here learn to find and collect evidence just as the would if they land a job in host of forensic science fields.

UIndy students sketch a crime scene in the crime scene house.

Students practice sketching a crime scene; dusting for and collecting latent fingerprints and finding DNA evidence using special flashlights.

"I want to teach the students the importance of proper crime scene techniques and the work that goes into those crime scenes," Boxler said.

The real world is not like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and other TV shows that make forensic scientists look cool while they neatly solve a crime in about an hour, Boxler said.

"(It's) not necessarily true to real life," Boxler said. "I teach the the students the proper way to document that crime scene, take photographs, sketches, measurements, (and write a) narrative."

On a recent Thursday night, students were comparing shattered plates and torn pieces of tape to find matching pieces.

They were lifting fingerprints and finding a tiny dot of DNA evidence in a vehicle parked in the garage.

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UIndy junior Chloe Simnick uses an alternate light source to searc h for DNA in a vehicle at the crime scene house.

"I've always loved forensics and I want to be a forensic anthropologist," junior Chloe Simnick said. "I think it's a great hands-on learning experience."

The house is full of mock crime scenes, inside and out.

In one room, two dummies with Styrofoam heads play the victims. One dummy had a splotch of red on its shirt as it sat lifeless on a love seat. The other was on the floor, slumped up against a wall.

There was an empty liquor bottle and an open bottle of pills on the coffee table.

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This dummy is playing the role of victim at UIndy's crime scene house.

"I've learned a lot here with the sketching and the fingerprinting and all aspects of a crime scene," senior Alexis Dittmer said. "(These are) things I'm going to be utilizing in the field once I get there,"

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UIndy senior Alexis Dittmer photographs an open bottle of pills and an empty liquor bottle in a mock crime scene at the crime scene house.

The lab is a key part of UIndy's criminal justice program and is closely linked to the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency, which is better known as the county's crime lab.

The crime lab uses this house for training and to test new job applicants, Boxler said.

For his day job, Boxler is a firearms examiner and has worked at the crime lab for 23 years.

"This house makes for a fun Thursday evening," Boxler said. "This gives students a unique experience that if they become a professional in this field, they can gain that first-hand experience here at the crime scene house."

"Training in progress" sign at UIndy's Criminal Justice Education Lab.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on X/Twitter: @vicryc.