Lisa Provost: Real-life CSI

On TV and in movies, police radios and radio chatter is usually depicted in clear, concise language, easy to understand, free of static and usually at some point includes the constant yelling of “Shots fired! Shots fired!” And while it is very possible to have calls for shots fired come across your radio in the average day, (much more so on Federal Holidays) it’s far from the only things announced over the airwaves.

Sometimes what you hear over the radio makes you pause. Sometimes it makes your heart stop. Other times, it makes you laugh hysterically and, upon listening to the radio, I am constantly reminded that the call you get is not always the call you get. It’s a common occurrence. You’ll get a call for a breaking and entering of a residence and it’s actually a larceny of motor vehicle. Or you’ll get a larceny from a motor vehicle call and it’s actually recovered stolen property. Or you’ll get a call for attempted breaking and entering of a residence and it’s an arson call. The information given by the 911 caller is usually never 100% correct but it’s the information given to patrol because it’s the only information they have to give. It’s up to patrol, and sometimes the forensic technicians once we get on scene, to truly determine what the call is actually in reference to.

Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to intern with three different law enforcement agencies and now I have the pleasure of working for one. As an intern I listened to the radio chatter and tried to keep up with what was going on and where. It’s not an easy task to do some days. At times you have multiple units having multiple conversations, dispatch sending multiple units to multiple locations, forensic units being dispatched all over the city and more. Through all of the static, wind noise, feedback, echoes, sirens blaring, dogs barking and people screaming in the background while others are trying to relay information, you can understand why I chuckle when I hear a crystal clear dispatch on a TV show.

But I digress… I carry a radio of my very own now. It is my lifeline. It is how I get dispatched to calls. How I let my colleagues, dispatch and everyone on the road know where I am, what I’m doing and if I need assistance. Watching a movie where an officer’s radio either gets shot, damaged and/or is inoperable, I now understand the fear the director and writer is trying to portray. Without my radio I feel almost naked. When I am in areas where I am experiencing heavy static and/or my radio cannot connect, I am keenly aware of how vulnerable I am at that very moment.

So with all of that in mind, I thought I would share some things I’ve heard over the radio over the years. Since each department calls their dispatch something else (Command, CQ, Comm, City, etc) I’ll just use what we do where I work. We call dispatch “City”. And of course all the addresses listed are not the actual addresses for the calls that came across the radio. (You know the drill… names and locations have been changed to protect the family… etc, etc.)

To make it a bit easier for folks to understand some of the following radio chatter, here are some ten-codes commonly used. While not all ten codes are universal in all departments across the nation, the following seem to be pretty common in most departments (well… in my experience so far):

10-3 – Hold radio traffic

10-4 – Okay, Understood, Yes, Correct

10-9 – Repeat

10-10 – Negative

10-14 – Information and/or message

10-67 – Found body


In the city I work for we have three radio channels we work with. As a forensic technician, I am dispatched from channel 2. I will move to channels 1 and 3 but I must always return to channel 2 when I clear a call. One thing you of course have to do is check back in service on your channel. But is the channel clear? Can you talk? Is another unit clearing a house and asked for dispatch to hold traffic? Is there a chase going on and vital information is flowing that cannot afford to be interrupted? You don’t know so you ask:

Me: City, channel clear?

(And sometimes you hear…)

City: 10- *static*

Me: *waits*

Me: *waits* City, channel clear?

City: 10- *static*

Me: *waits*

Officer: (Obviously doing the same thing) City, channel clear?

City: 10- (line cuts out)

So of course you’re thinking… is it 10-3? 10-4? 10-9? 10-10?! You don’t want to keep being that person that is attempting to check back in service while someone else is attempting to locate a suspect in a house and every time you key up on the radio you are potentially giving away their position, now do you? Thankfully, the dispatch in our city is used to heavy static in some areas and will usually respond:

City: Channel is clear.

Now that we’ve gotten all that prep out of the way, here are a few calls I remember well as they came in over the radio. Remember, when dispatch is relaying information, this is usually all the information they are being given by the 911 caller (while they are usually still connected with the 911 caller). And sometimes it is all the information they will ever get.

City: All units, be on the lookout for a white female, behind the Waffle House. Possibly hungry.

Officer: City, do you have a clothing description?

City: 10-4. No pants.

Officer: City, any further?

City: 10-10. Caller advises woman. Hungry. No pants.

The situation ended up being a woman was high on illegal narcotics, had attempted to steal food and was now attempting to trade sex for money in order to pay for said food.


City: All units, be on the lookout for a white male wearing a baseball cap driving a pickup truck.

(…a very, very long pause on the radio…)

Officer: City, can you narrow that description down any?

City: 10-4, the vehicle is a green truck.

(Note: This was in a rural county where half the population is male and approximately 75% of the population is Caucasian and a lot of folks drive trucks and wear baseball caps). I looked at the officer I was riding with and said “Well, I can narrow down two guys for you. My husband doesn’t wear baseball caps and drives a black Jeep, and you…you’re not wearing a hat and currently driving a white SUV.” He laughed and replied “Well, that leaves about 60,000 more guys to check!”

The situation ended up being a verbal disturbance between a couple where the female kicked the male out of the house and upon him leaving decided he was taking the truck. She was upset because that left her with a beat up old car and not the pretty new truck. So she called the vehicle in as stolen even though it was legally not hers. Police did end up finding the male in question. The male was not charged with any crime.


City: All units, be on the lookout for a male wearing black walking north on Main Street.

Officer: City, can you advise race? Or age?

City: 10-10.

Officer: City, can you advise direction of travel?

City: 10-10.

Officer: City, can you advise a nearby cross street?

City: 10-10.

(Note: The road in question was approximately 5 miles long, 8 lanes wide, with numerous cross streets, commercial areas and residential complexes and with the average of 100,000 people a day traveling over it.)

The situation was a verbal disturbance between a male and a female where the male decided he was just going to walk away from the argument instead of letting it escalate. The female, enraged at his walking away from her, called 911 stating he had attacked her (he had not) and gave the above description. Police did find the male in question. They found him because as an officer pulled up to a male wearing black on the sidewalk, he yelled “Oh that bitch called you didn’t she?!” The male was not charged with any crime.


City: Unit in the area of ABC Cemetery, be advised we have received a call, reference a 10-67 at this location.

Rookie Officer: (Snickering slightly) City, are you saying someone found a dead body at the cemetery?

City: 10-4.

Rookie Officer: (A pause after keying up the mike and then, sounding incredulous) Above ground?!

City: (With the sound of someone roaring with laughter behind her) 10-4.

The situation was not a dead body at the cemetery but an intoxicated male who was walking home from a bar and decided to take a nap. In the cemetery.


City: Unit, respond to Wendy’s on Main Street, reference a large disturbance between at least 20 people.

Officer: 10-4 enroute.

City: For 10-14, be aware it’s in reference to a female being given a ring by a male and others on scene being upset.

Officer: 10-4.

City: For 10-14, be aware the caller states numerous other vehicles are pulling into the parking lot. Caller is worried the violence will escalate.

Officer: 10-4.

The situation was a young man was on one knee, displaying a ring, and proposing marriage to his girlfriend. A few intoxicated people began cheering loudly for the newly engaged couple. Other intoxicated people at the restaurant were upset that the first group of intoxicated people was being so loud. A full on brawl ensued. The other vehicles driving into the parking lot were just there for the drive-thru and had no part in the brawl. The newly engaged couple was not injured and had already left the scene by the time officers arrived. Multiple people were detained for fighting.


City: Unit, respond to 123 Main Street, reference yelling and a dog barking loudly.

Officer: 10-4, enroute.

(A few minutes later….)

Officer: City, there is no dog at this location. Just loud music playing next door. I believe the song is called “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

City: 10-4. Caller advises barking dog.

Officer: (Obviously amused) 10-4 City. I will let the caller know no dogs are out or barking.

The situation was literally, a neighbor had “Who Let the Dogs Out?” on repeat at full blast on his stereo and an elderly neighbor thought a dog was in distress so she called 911.


I could go on and on but I’ll leave you with my favorite call so far. I did not hear this one personally but it was relayed for me by colleagues and I just had to add it:

City: Unit, respond to 123 Main Street in reference to an animal with a head like a snake and the body of an alligator.

Officer: City, do you have any further on description? Size?

City: 10-10.

Officer: City, is the caller stating the animal is aggressive?

City: 10-4.

Officer: 10-4, enroute.

(A few minutes later…)

Officer: City, on scene.

City: 10-4.

(A few minutes later…)

Officer: City… the salamander has been released.

City: (with the sound of lots of laughter behind her) 10-4.

The situation was a lady had found a skink (a two to three inch long lizard) in her kitchen and contacted 911, hysterical with fear, with the above description.


Lisa Provost graduated with a Bachelor’s in Forensic Biology with a concentration in Criminal Justice and  currently serves as a Forensic Technician with a police department in a large U.S. city. Some of you may remember meeting Lisa at a past Writers’ Police Academy.


Lisa Provost: The Body

Born in August 1974, in Brooklyn, NY., Lisa Provost grew up in the Catskill and Adirondack mountains of upstate N.Y. where, from the time she was 12 – 16-years-old, she raised dairy goats.

Lisa studied Biology at RIT in Rochester, N.Y. from 1992-1994. Later, in 1998, Lisa married and moved to the Midwest when her husband enlisted in the US Air Force. The couple moved to N.C. in 2003 when his enlistment term was done. In August 2007, Lisa began studying Forensic Biology at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. Lisa is an avid knitter and lover of four legged mammals.

The Body

Have you ever handled a cadaver? I have had the opportunity many times. They are cold. Clean. Prepared. There is a slight smell of chemicals, their hair is gone and their skin is no longer soft to the touch. Yes it’s flexible but not the same way that living flesh is. In this way, it is easy to distance yourself from the fact that they were once alive. Now they are a specimen. A tool with which to learn. This does not mean they should not have your full respect though! They were alive at some point. They had names, families, dreams, desires and fears just as you and I do now. But when you look at a cadaver, you do not see those things. You do not think of those things. You are never allowed to know their names in life nor anything about their families. Many people have asked me if I wanted to know about them. The answer is no I do not. What makes them the person they were is long gone. This is just a shell now. A learning tool with which I will expand my knowledge. It sounds cold but honestly, it is better to think of it that way.

The first time I had the opportunity to handle a cadaver was as a student at RIT. I assisted with a spinal cord dissection of a human female specimen. And that is how I will always remember it. It was not a spinal dissection of Sarah, or Tiffany, or Bertha, etc. It was of a human female.

The next time I had an opportunity was when I worked at a medical school here in North Carolina. I helped the staff by arranging the cadavers in the gross anatomy labs. Over the years I was there, I helped do this twice. I observed as the cadavers were placed in the body bags used in the gross anatomy lab and then I helped move them to their designated rooms. All those cadavers had been people at some point but I had no desire to know any of that information. I know their families were gracious people for giving these bodies to us. I would never meet them but I hoped they knew how grateful I was for their kindness and generosity. But to know the name and life of the man that was on the gurney I was wheeling down the hall? No I had no desire to know at all.

So I have handled many cadavers over the years and it does not bother me in the slightest.
But have you ever handled a body? Even though you might think a body and a cadaver is the same thing, you are completely wrong. I had the chance to handle a body while on one of my internships.

When I arrived at the PD that afternoon, I knew the day would be interesting. There was no one in the lab when I arrived so I rode with a patrol unit until 8pm when the next lab tech would be coming on duty. We chased speeders, broke up two fights, convinced a woman it was in her best interest to let EMT’s treat her so she wouldn’t go into insulin shock, responded to two assaults and did a welfare check on a mother and her children who had not been heard from for three days. When we arrived at the home for the welfare check the officer I was with said “Man, I hope she’s okay! I don’t want to find a body tonight”. We walked to the door and knocked. And waited. And waited. He looked at me and sighed “oh man… I just know it…” He knocked again and the door opened. There stood the mother looking incredibly confused at us with her children in the background, jumping on the couch and watching SpongeBob Squarepants. After repeatedly assuring her that she was in no trouble and that I was in fact not a CPS (Child Protective Services) worker, we found out the reason that she hadn’t been in contact with her anyone was that her phone had been disconnected. As we walked away I said “You know… I was kinda hoping for a body. All the other interns have had a chance to respond to a body scene but me. I really want to see how it’s done.” He smiled and said “Well the night is young!”

It was about 8pm when I got back to the PD. The PD is rather close to the train tracks and I remember thinking as I walked inside “Man… that train engineer really likes his horn!” It had been blowing a good long while with almost no pauses. I poked my head in the lab and saw that no one was in there so I wandered over to get some peanut M&M’s and a Coke from the vending machine. I could hear radios chattering on the hips of officers as they walked past but I really wasn’t paying attention. I was thinking more of the ride I had and the notes I had made. A few minutes later I walked into the lab just as one of the techs was putting her satchel down on her desk. She looked at me and said, “Hey do you wanna see a mess?” “Of course!” I replied. She looked at me and said “You haven’t had a body yet have you?” I shook my head no. “Well you’ve got a good one now. A pedestrian was just hit by a train.” I remember that my heart skipped. A train? Really? Wow. Okay wow. I was instantly paralyzed. My mind began to race. Was this going to be too much for me? What if I couldn’t do it? Then I thought well if I ever wanted a test of being able to “handle” this job… a pedestrian being hit by a train would be a good way to find out! Yet still I was paralyzed. The lab techs were busy gathering their equipment and discussing if they should take two trucks or just the one. My mind raced. What if I can’t do this? What if I faint? Good god what if I throw up?! It was only one of the techs yelling “Let’s go!” over her shoulder as she headed out of the lab that brought me back to my senses and sent me trotting after her.

As we drove to the scene I popped M&M’s into my mouth one right after the other and repeated an internal mantra; “You can do this. You can do this. You can do this.” Then the thought hit me as I looked at the package of M&M’s “oh crap, I just ate. I’m gonna get sick!” And then my mantra became “Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick… You can do this! Don’t get sick. Don’t get sick…” The grip on my notebook became so strong, my knuckles began to ache. The ride over was silent which was a pleasant distraction from my mind screaming at me. I decided to start taking notes to get my thoughts back on track.

From my notebook:

Arrived on scene 8:16pm

Most likely intoxicated, PD had call of an intoxicated man in area matching description

When we arrived on the scene I once again had to stay behind the tape at first. They needed to be sure that this was not a homicide so I took the time to make more notes, draw my sketch and observe. It was difficult to focus on my notebook because of the lights. There were at least 6 police cars with more arriving every few minutes, 2 fire trucks, an ambulance and our truck at the scene. Blue, red, and white lights flashed with such chaos that the shadows danced in the trees like playful ghosts. I was broken from my observations by a shoulder bumping into me. I looked up to see three teen-aged boys walking along the foot path I was standing on, toward the crime scene. The one who bumped me apologized and asked “what’s going on?”

“There’s been an accident” I replied.

“Did someone die?” I nodded in reply. “Damn man. I hope it’s not someone we know.” I waited because I really didn’t know to say. He broke the silence and asked “Hey can we go see?”


“Are you a cop?” I shook my head no. “Well then f*** it man, I want to see this s***” and with that he began to lead his friends toward the tape. I made a b-line toward the nearest officer and let him know these kids were about to cross the tape. Just as their hands hit the crime scene tape, the officer jumped in front of them on the footpath on the other side of the tape.

“You can’t cross that tape” the officer said.

“Well why not?”

“Someone is dead. And I said so. That’s why.”

“But man, we just want to get across. We got some s*** to do over there man.”

The officer crossed his arms and stood his ground. “I don’t care. You can’t cross here.” He pointed up the hill to his right “take the bridge across”. I turned to look in the direction he pointed but could see no bridge.

“Man f*** that. It’s a mile up the road!”

The officer nodded. “Yes it is.”

“Well then can y’all niggas give us a ride?”

I nearly gave myself whiplash with how quickly I snapped my head toward them. I thought “did this kid seriously just ask for a ride…” And with a poise and calmness I envy to this day, the officer replied “No. You’ll have to walk.”

He pointed behind him into the darkness and dancing shadows.

“A man is dead because he tried to cross the tracks. This is why you can’t cross here. Now go take the bridge across the tracks, go do something else, or go home but you can’t cross here.” Exasperated, they walked off, cussing as they went. The officer and I shared a chuckle.

It was at that point I got the wave that it was okay for me to cross the tape. It looked like an apparent accident and thus I was allowed to enter the scene. I stuffed my notebook under my arm and with a deep breath ducked under the tape and headed toward the techs waiting for me. “Keep an eye open for blood and tissue” she said as I approached. I pulled out my flashlight and began searching the gravel on the rail bed and stumbled around a few rocks covered in shining wet blood. When I got next to her I realized it was now or never. “Where is he?” I asked. She pointed along the rails in the direction of the idling train. “He’s under the bush over there. Careful, one of his shoes is here and his hat is over there and there’s lots of blood in between.” I nodded but was not really paying attention to what she said. I was sweeping my flashlight back and forth to find the victim. And then there he was. And there I was moving toward him before I even realized it. No sickness, not worry, just curiosity. “Keep an eye out for his other shoe. We haven’t found it yet. And careful of the footing. This gravel is hard to move over.” I nodded. “You got it” I said over my shoulder still moving toward the victim. I stopped over his body. He was wedged under the bush, his back to me yet both feet and one arm were pointed toward me at an angle I knew was not natural. Wet blood shined as I passed my flashlight over his body. Smells began to waft up as the wind died down for a just moment. Beer, blood, feces, urine, and pepperoni all made themselves present. I moved toward his feet to get a better look at the injuries he had sustained and observed a three inch piece of his left tibia shining in the light. It’s jagged broken edge sticking straight out pointing toward me. “I hope it was quick” I whispered aloud. “It was” came from behind me. I turned to see the Lieutenant assigned to the case standing there. “I talked to the train engineer. It was quick. His head took the full impact. The rest is probably when he was thrown from the force of the impact.” I looked back at the victim and realized he was right. The man’s head was not in a normal shape. I hadn’t noticed when I was standing to his side but as I stood below and looked up, I could see the damage done by the train.

“Hey Lisa, let’s go. We have to look at the engine.” I looked up to see one of the techs waiting for me. “You find his other shoe yet?” I asked as I scaled back up the gravel onto the rails. “No not yet. Keep an eye open for it. I think he’s homeless. Hell he might not even have a second shoe,” she replied. I nodded and we started making our way to the train.

As we approached the train I realized that it was a passenger train. Some of the passengers were looking out the window at us, a few children waved, while others were either reading or sleeping. The train had what I would only assume is a modern day “cow catcher”. It was short being maybe only three or four feet tall, but definitely designed to push obstacles out of the path of the train. The lights from the emergency vehicles didn’t reach all the way to the front of the train and with no street lights the only light to search by was our hand-held flashlights. A first I couldn’t find any sign of the impact but as we moved to the left side of the train I spotted the blood spatter. There was very little of it, maybe 6 or seven small drops of blood about six inches from the edge of the “cow catcher”. As we moved along the side of the engine, I noticed a few more drops of blood on the ladder which leads up to the engine. But that was it. It was then that I realized if his head had been seven more inches to the left, the train would have missed him. I made notes in my notebook while the tech took pictures of the blood and the officer spoke to the engineer. Apparently, as the train came down the hill, the engineer spotted the victim laying on the tracks. He blew his horn and the victim started to get up and crawl feet first toward the edge of the rail, in a kind of ‘crab-walk’ fashion. He hit is brakes and continued to blow his horn but of course trains cannot stop on a dime. It was so close that at first he thought he had missed the victim until he saw the man’s body sailing through the air in his mirror. Officers questioned the passengers while we worked. No one on board saw or heard anything of the impact. All they knew was the horn blowing and then the train stopping. Once we were finished taking pictures, swabs and writing down the train numbers, the officer cleared the train to leave. As the engine started back up and the train began to move, the children began waving anew. I truly hoped they hadn’t seen anything. I waved back, as did another officer and we watched the train chug off into the darkness.

We still hadn’t found his other shoe and came to the conclusion that he might not have had one. The tech made a note to have an officer return in the daylight hours to look for the other shoe, and we began documenting the scene. Using a telephone pole as our main reference point, we started taking our measurements. At one point while kneeling on the gravel holding a tape measure I realized that there was a man in a suit pacing along the rails, within the crime scene tape. I knew all of the detectives and could not figure out who this man was. When I asked I an officer standing near me I was answered with a growl “Oh that’s the train guy. You’ll love him”. Her voice dripped heavily with sarcasm. She was right. As we took measurements, photographs and were attempting to move the victim’s body to send it to the morgue this guy was quoting us on how much money his company was losing by having the rail closed for our investigation. As time went on, the amount climbed higher and higher from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. “I have two trains waiting ladies. Can you step this up?” It then became “Four trains now ladies. I gotta move these trains!” And with a completely un-motivating clapping of his hands like a coach trying to rally his team; “Let’s go ladies. Let’s go!” I was halfway to standing fully upright and about to unleash a flood of expletives on this man when the gentle voice of one of the techs I was with whispered to me “He’s just doing his job. You keep doing yours. He can wait.” It brought me back to the task at hand and I got back on my knees and kept calling out measurements.

When the mortuary service arrived, the officer in charge made sure we were all done with our work and then released the body to be taken to the morgue. We were trying to determine just how to lift the victim’s body when I heard that his family had arrived. It was not that anyone told me they were there. I heard them. It was an instinctive and primal sound. I knew instantly it was sorrow, pain and loss so deep as to cause physical pain. I’d never heard that sound before and I hope to never hear it again, yet I know I will. It’s part of the job. I turned to see a detective easing a woman to her knees so that she wouldn’t fall onto the gravel. Another officer put a coat around her shoulders. The detective held her with such strength and gentleness all at once that it froze me in place. Every other sight and sound was gone except for them. That moment is burned in my memory now. Her sorrow and pain. His strength and gentleness. The reflective lines on the coat glowing in the lights of the patrol cars. All the while shadows danced around them. I realized I could not do what that detective just did. I could not tell someone that their loved one was gone. I closed my eyes for a moment to push back the tears that were forming. When I opened my eyes I saw the other techs looking toward the officer and the woman. The dancing lights shone brightly on the tears forming in their eyes as well.

We lifted his body into a body bag and then onto the gurney. As the men from the mortuary service brought the victim’s body to their van, the detective turned the woman to face him and away from the body. He raised her to her feet and walked her away from us, all the while keeping her back to us and the van containing the victim’s body. As she was gently guided to a group of people that had just arrived, I found out that she was the victim’s estranged wife. The officer that had put his coat around her shoulders made the presumptive identification of the victim (we confirmed it later with fingerprints) and now I had a name to go with the bloody face that had just been zipped up in the bag.

When we arrived at the morgue our victim was already there. A single gurney with a body bag on it stood in the middle of the room. As one of the techs began flipping on every light in the room, the other tech began setting up her equipment to take more photographs, and postmortem fingerprints. She unzipped the body bag and everything I had smelled while standing on the rails came tumbling out. Blood, urine, feces, and beer. And pepperoni. And at that very moment my stomach let out an embarrassing growl. It seemed to stretch on for an eternity sounding like an angry beast demanding to be fed. It echoed in the bright tile room. I was mortified. Oh my god, how could I have just done that?! I wanted to climb into the freezer to hide. The tech popped her head up to look at me “Man I’m hungry too. When we’re done here you want pizza?” I snickered. “Hell yeah!” My embarrassment passed and I stuffed a piece of gum in my mouth hoping my stomach would be silent for a little while longer.

Once everything was set up, we got to work. As the techs took pictures I made notes and got a much closer examination of his body. In the light of the morgue every inch of damage to his body could be seen. A small piece of what I thought might be his cranium was sitting just on the edge of his left nostril floating in a small pool of congealed blood. Hovering only three inches over his face, I could still feel the slight warmth weakly radiating from his body. I almost expected him to open his eyes at any moment and look at me and smile. I could see that he had smiled a lot in life by the creases at the edge of his eyes and the corners of his mouth. His face seemed one of hardship yet filled with happiness and no pain. For a moment I stood transfixed. Stepping back a bit and looking at his head, I could see the damage to his skull. The cracks were visible as protrusions and folds under the skin that I knew should not be there. I stepped back further and swung my eyes over the rest of his body. I didn’t need an autopsy report to know that he had an extensive amount of trauma to his body. His left shoulder and hip were obviously dislocated. His left arm was broken in three places and his left leg was nearly severed completely. His right arm was broken in at least two places and his right lower leg was broken.

As I started taking my notes, the techs began taking their pictures. The only sounds were the buzzing of the lights overhead, the click of the camera, the squeak of our shoes on the cold tile and the scratch of my pen. When the pictures were complete, we rolled his prints. I’d rolled prints on live people a few times. I would have thought that rolling prints on a dead person would be a lot easier. I was wrong. Thankfully the techs had their postmortem print spoon and were able to get his prints rather easily. I made my final notes as they zipped him back up in the body bag and wheeled the gurney into the freezer. As we drove back to the PD I heard a distant train horn.

I think of him now every time I hear a train horn. I know his name. I know of his life, his family, his dreams, his fears and of course his death. For me, he’s a person I will never forget and his name is one I will carry with me forever. And no we never found a second shoe.

*     *     *

Only 9 days left until the Writers’ Police Academy and we still have room for you!


The deadline to enter the 200 word short story contest was September 10. The Golden Donut Award sure would look nice sitting on your desk! I hope we have your entry! And we now have the names of the five finalists.

The mystery judge will be making a decision soon. We’ll announce the names of the finalists tomorrow. We’ll also reveal the identity of the mystery judge.


All FATS information and schedules have been sent to the recruits via email. Partners have been assigned, so please check your inboxes and confirm upon receipt of the message. If you have not received your scheduled shoot time please let me know at A few of the emails bounced back to us as undeliverable. Therefore, we need a working email address for you.


Exciting News!!!!

The names of the eight finalists for the Don Knotts Silver Bullet Novel Contest are in! Good luck to each of you!

Marshall Armstrong

Melanie Atkins

Karen Cantwell

Lara Louise Crawford

Donna Glaser

Jodi S. Kilpack

H.B. Moore

Bonnie K. Stevens

Lisa Provost: The Body

Born in August 1974, in Brooklyn, NY., Lisa Provost grew up in the Catskill and Adirondack mountains of upstate N.Y. where, from the time she was 12 – 16-years-old, she raised dairy goats.

Lisa studied Biology at RIT in Rochester, N.Y. from 1992-1994. Later, in 1998, Lisa married and moved to the Midwest when her husband enlisted in the US Air Force. The couple moved to N.C. in 2003 when his enlistment term was done. In August 2007, Lisa began studying Forensic Biology at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. Lisa is an avid knitter and lover of four legged mammals.

The Other Scenes

In one of the internships I participated in, they dealt closely with what some would call the very common criminals. The Prostitutes, drug dealers, drunk drivers and the like. When people think of crime scene work they think of people responding to scenes like traffic accidents, assaults, rapes, breaking and enterings and of course, homicides. These are all important scenes and I found all of them fun, exciting, and extremely interesting… but it’s the drunks, “crackheads” and dope fiends that in some ways I miss the most.

Most of the technicians in the department were certified to use an intoximeter. This device is used to determine if the person is legally intoxicated and what their blood alcohol level actually is. Of course you realize when doing this… you are dealing with drunk people who are usually not the most coherent nor the most cooperative people. Trying to take the mugshot of or the fingerprints of a drunk or stoned person is not the easiest of tasks. There are more than a few mugshots of people out there that have my gloved hands holding their heads straight for the camera. Trying to roll the prints of a person as they themselves are rolling around on their feet can be an interesting challenge as well. Try holding onto the pinky of a person when they start to fall backwards because of their intoxicated state. Your instinct is to pull back in an attempt to keep them upright. Pulling someone by their pinky is not easy especially when you know full well it’s not going to help in the slightest!

Just for note: In North Carolina the law states you are impaired if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher and you are taken to the hospital if your blood alcohol level is 0.30 or higher.

Every week it seemed the excuses got more outlandish and bizarre. One man said “he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just heading home.” His speech was so slurred that when the handcuffs were removed, the technician and I were sure he had said his “ass hurt”. He was saying his “hands hurt”. He blew a 0.29. One lady said that she had only one drink that day about four hours prior to her arrest. She blew a 0.22. One man stated that he should have “never gone to that titty party.” He blew a 0.19 then proceeded to begin a forty-five minute tirade about anyone and everyone he could.

He threw himself against the holding cell door until he cut himself and began bleeding from various wounds he inflicted upon himself. He spit at the magistrate. He called us “f***ing pigs” and “wondered how we could sleep at night” since we had “just arrested a man going home to his family from an innocent titty party” and “Didn’t we give a shit what his wife would think?” God I loved that guy! I learned later that in his incredibly intoxicated state he had punched an exotic dancer in the face because she would not perform fellatio on him. I wondered what his wife would think…

Then there was the young man who told us that our job as crime scene technicians was nothing but “lies and bullshit” and (of course my favorite) “f***ing heebee jeebee f***ing science”. He then lunged at the technician I was with. He was subdued and back in his chair before I even realized what had happened. Thankfully, there was always an officer with us when the technician was running the intoximeter. But what made him the most memorable was when he ran for the door. He begged, pleaded and cried until he had the opportunity to use the bathroom. When given the chance to relieve himself, he bolted for the door. The door he ran for was the one unlocked door in the entire secure area and it led to the secured garage where all the patrol cars and incoming officers were. Once again though, he didn’t make it very far. He was brought back in kicking, screaming, swearing and biting. And he finally blew a 0.10.

There was the lady that at 3:00 am who was pulled over two blocks from her home. When the officer stepped out of his car to make the traffic stop, she drove off. He caught up with her in the parking lot of her apartment complex. She had a rocks glass with vodka and cranberry juice in it. She had obviously been drinking from this glass while driving since the vodka and the cranberry juice bottles were on the passenger seat. When asked why she drove off she stated “well I saw this strange white boy walking toward my car. I didn’t know what he wanted.” My time with her got even better when she tried to beat the machine. She burped.

She touched her face. She even put her tongue over the tip of the nozzle you blow into. These are all things you are specifically instructed not to do. While she waited there for us to reset the machine to try again, we found out that she had been arrested ten days prior for DWI.

There was the man that asked for my phone number. When I declined he said “It’s because I’m drunk right?” My response was “…among other things.” Then there was the man that was determined to show us his “Mexican shoes. My Italian shoes. My Mexican shoes.” That is all he would say non-stop for half an hour. (His shoes were the color of the Mexican and Italian flags.)

There was the prostitute that was so high on crack cocaine that she was naming her prices and attempting to show the officers her “goods” so they could choose what they wanted from her. We had to make all the men leave the room so that she would keep her clothes on so we could fingerprint her and take her mugshot. When the officer (male) returned to take her to the magistrate it started all over again. I would have paid good money to go with them to see her interaction with the magistrate since a man was on duty that night.

There was the man high on who knows what that had to fix his hair before his mugshot so “he could look good for the ladies!” He primped and fluffed his hair then proceeded to put his best pose on which ended up looking like it was somewhere between Elvis and Austin Powers.

The man that was arrested for possession of crack cocaine that came back to retrieve his crack pipe still makes me smile. He was so upset that we would not return it to him. He even offered to pay for it. He said it was an heirloom and that it meant a significant amount to him. He even demanded to see a supervisor about getting his crack pipe back.

There was the woman that was so drunk that upon being placed into the back of the patrol car she attempted to kick the rear window out. She tried to head-butt one of the officers in the testicles. She kicked them both so much she broke a toe nail on one foot. They pepper-sprayed her when she would not stop attacking them. When I saw her she was crying demanding that “someone wipe my tears!” The officer asked her if she needed to use the bathroom to which she replied no. She then urinated on herself and then screamed that we were being mean to her and we would hear from her attorney. It was midnight when the officer called her family. They said we “could keep her”. I was not at the courthouse for her intoximeter screening as I had to respond to a different scene but I would have been interested to know what her blood alcohol level was.

Some of these fine folks urinated and/or defecated on themselves in an attempt to get out of their tickets/arrest. Some cried. Some hollered and screamed. Some spit, bit, kicked and fought. I only remember one that was polite and remorseful. He was nineteen years old and had been pulled over for weaving all over the road and blasting through a red light. When he was brought in he was wearing a pink Bacardi Rum hat, cocked to the side. He smiled and his cheeks glowed red with the rum flowing through his system. As his rights were explained to him his smile faded and he nodded and answered politely. It was when what would happen to his vehicle that his whole demeanor changed. He had no problem with it being impounded. “Yeah I f***ed up man, I understand.” He had no problem with paying to get it out of impound. “Yeah man, I know… I f***ed up. A cab would have been better than this.” He nearly fainted when he was informed that the person that would need to retrieve the vehicle was the registered owner. His father. In New Jersey. Every ounce of blood was gone from his face and the look of terror that crossed his eyes made me turn my head because I couldn’t help but smile. “Are you gonna call him?” he asked. The officer nodded. He swallowed hard then asked “Can I use the phone man? I gotta call him before you do.” I wish I could have heard that conversation between father and son but I had another scene to respond to. When I left all I saw was the young man on his knees with a death grip on the phone and his eyes fixed on the number pad. Apparently he was trying to figure out what to tell his father about why his father’s pretty little Jaguar was sitting in an impound lot in North Carolina.

I could go on and on… but I will leave you all with the one person that I still cracks me up whenever I tell the story. When I got to the PD they were bringing in a woman who was incredibly intoxicated. She was arrested because she had been trying to get back into her house because she locked herself out. The problem was the house she was trying to get in was not hers. When she was brought in she referred to all the officers as “Deputy Fife”. (Mind you … we were not at a sheriff’s office.) You could hear her all the way around the corner when she was brought in. “What the hell is this all about?! I was stopped dammit! What’s going on Deputy?” She was placed on the bench in the processing room, hands still cuffed behind her. “And where the hell is my God damn bologna sandwich?!” I looked up from my notes to the technician sitting across from me and she shrugged. “Pardon?” the officer asked. “My God damn sandwich! I want my damn bologna sandwich!” We had no idea where she got the idea that we owed her a sandwich. The officer came into our office with a huge smile on his face. “All yours,” he said. One of the other technicians got up to process this woman. The questions began:

Your name? – What the hell do you need that for?!
I just need your name ma’am. – Ma’am! I’m not your damn mother, girl!
Would you prefer Miss? – Why yes I would.
Your name please Miss? – What the hell do you need that for?!
I need it to add your information to our computer system. – I ain’t saying nothing.
Are you invoking your right to remain silent? – I didn’t say that!
So you’ll answer my questions? – As soon as I get my bologna sandwich…

This went on for some time until she finally relented.

Your address Miss? – You gonna come and visit me girl?
Maybe… can I have your address? – Well it’s gonna be the prison ain’t it? Lock me up with them dykes!
Do you want to be locked up with the women there? – Well I ain’t had much luck with these men. Bring on the dykes!
Well then maybe you’ll find some love there. – Maybe. It’d be nice.
Is the address on your license correct? – What?
Is the address on your license correct? – Nope.
What is your new address? – The prison! Put me in there with them dykes… and where the hell is my God damn sandwich?!

This went on and on for the entire time I was there with her. Apparently she continued on like this with the magistrate (referring to her as “Sheriff”) when she went to the court house for her intoximeter. And no, as far as I know, she never got that damn bologna sandwich.