Fairmont State University Criminal Justice students recently took top honors at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences/Alpha Phi Sigma National Conference in Denver. In fact, they consistently perform so well in the national crime scene competition that there is a “Fairmont rule.”
“I’m pleased to report that our Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society chapter did exceptionally well at the annual conference in Denver last week. There were 30 Alpha Phi Sigma chapters, most from much larger programs, in attendance,” said Dr. Deanna Shields, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and advisor to FSU’s Epsilon Iota chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.
The FSU team won first place in the crime scene competition over teams from 16 other schools.
“Because FSU has won so many times, they have now what they call the ‘Fairmont rule.’ If a team wins one year, they can’t compete the next. Next year the FSU team will be hosting the CSI competition in Kansas City,” said crime scene investigation coach Dr. John McLaughlin.
Brian Miller took first place in the general knowledge exam out of a field of 70 of the nation’s best criminal justice students. FSU also won the Star Chapter Award, which is given only to chapters that complete 100 percent of required activities and reports each year. FSU received second place for the theme of the year project for which students developed a video and presentation on rehabilitation. Brianna Jackson earned third place in the undergraduate student competition. The FSU team also won third place in the T-shirt competition and third place in the web site competition.
“Ashley Webb currently serves as our chapter president and was elected last year for a two-year term as National Vice President. In that capacity, she will get to help plan next year’s conference in Kansas City, which will be Alpha Phi Sigma’s 75th Anniversary,” Shields said.
The FSU team is comprised of the following students: Nicholas Brown, Seth Fitzwater, Samuel Hamilton, Thairon Holler, Brianna Jackson, Mitchel Kelly, Sarah Landis, Amber Mann, Virginia Marnic, Brian Miller, Morganne Phillips, Kari Plybon, Jamie Riddell, William Seigler and Ashley Webb.
McLaughlin described how the crime scene competition works.
“The students go into a mock crime scene and put the pieces together to solve the homicide. They have to pick up all the evidence and put it together. For example, if there’s a firearm, they have to impound the firearm and see what type it is and have to send it to the lab and do ballistic tests on the firearm. In this particular case for the competition, there was a homicide but the weapon was a knife so the students had to identify knife wounds; there was also a head wound where the victim fell and hit his head on the sink. They had to put all the puzzle together and figure out what happened and write a report about it,” he said.
“The FSU team did an excellent job. According to the people who were grading them, they had the best report by far. There was no other team close to them. Their report was 51 pages long. They far exceeded what they needed to do. Some of the other schools only turned in a two-page report, which was the minimum requirement.”
Virginia Marnic of Bridgeport, a senior Criminal Justice major, was the videographer on the crime scene investigation team. She said she was happy her last year at FSU ended with a win.
“I actually have always loved crime scene investigation. I love the TV shows, but most importantly I have always loved problem solving. I took the crime scene investigation class that Dr. McLaughlin offers and I changed my major from forensic science to criminal justice that semester. I get very involved in anything I can,” she said.
“The crime scene competition was a lot of work. You have 10 minutes within the crime scene itself and then you have 24 hours to process that crime scene. We were in the crime scene at 4:30 p.m. and exited the crime scene 10 minutes after and then from there we went back to our hotel room and we all sat down with all of our computers. We had four different scenarios until one clicked. Once that happens, it’s down the road from there. It’s an awesome thing to watch. Once you find that one piece of evidence that clicks everything together, from there it’s just figuring the minor details out.”
Team member Thairon Holler from Belington is proud of the FSU third place win in the T-shirt competition.
“Every chapter gets together and comes up with a T-shirt that symbolizes what their chapter stands for and what they believe is important with Alpha Phi Sigma and criminal justice. On the front, our T-shirt has an American flag with a thin blue line through it signifying that law enforcement officers stand to protect the people who can’t protect themselves,” Holler said. “On the back it has ‘in memory of’ Sgt. Todd May who was a sergeant with the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department and Deputy U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller, who was killed in Elkins while serving a search warrant. Basically it says when an officer is killed in the line of duty it’s not just a department that loses an officer, it’s an entire nation.”
For more information about FSU’s Criminal Justice programs, visit www.fairmontstate.edu or call Shields at (304) 367-4161.
About the attached photo:
Pictured in the front row from left to right are Breanna Jackson, Dr. Deanna Shields and Ashley Webb. In the middle row from left to right are Brian Miller, Sam Hamilton, Thairon Holler, Seth Fitzwater, William Seigler, Dr. John McLaughlin and Mitchel Kelly. In the back row from left to right are Nick Brown, Morganne Phillips, Jamie Riddell, Amber Mann, Dr. Chuck Shields, Sarah Landis, Kari Plybon, Virginia Marnic and Professor Josh Smallridge.