Xavier Magazine

Scene of the Crime

A dark, windowless room holds the only evidence found at the crime scene: strands of hair firmly clutched in a dead man’s hand. Workers in white lab coats and floor-length aprons analyze every fragment, comparing the strands with hair samples from five suspects. They hurry to solve the crime, taking careful notes. After all, their final grade hinges on what they find.


The crime scene is actually Xavier’s new criminalistics lab, which was erected last year in the basement of the Cohen Center next to a classroom to form an interactive lab/lecture arrangement. Run by husband-and-wife professors Jack and Marilyn Richardson, the lab is the scene where the criminalistics courses come to life.

“The area of criminalistics, where a collection of evidence can legally and scientifically lead to prosecution, has been a hot topic since the O.J. Simpson trial,” Jack says. That increased the popularity of the courses—class sizes reach 40 or more with lengthy waiting lists—and spurred construction of the lab. The lab can be arranged to accommodate different types of evidence—blood spatter, fingerprints, hair fibers. “In a lot of ways, forensic science is more important than autopsy, because it begins at the crime scene,” Richardson says. “In our labs, students have a lot of fun while learning about how real crimes are committed and how criminalistics can solve them.”

So who killed the man with the hair in his hand? Can’t say, Richardson says. All we know is, the butler didn’t do it.

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