MICHIGAN CITY — Corpses, weapons and criminals and murderers are the stuff of everyday life to a homicide detective in a major metropolitan area.
“But it’s nothing like ‘CSI,’” Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Detective Tom Lehn told Adam Goebel’s eighth-grade science students Friday at Elston Middle School.
One reason real homicide investigations differ from TV is because “you don’t wrap up an investigation in an hour,” Lehn said.
Another difference is that “CSIs don’t go out and chase down criminals,” he added.
Lehn, who happens to be married to Lori, sister of Elston High School Principal Kelly Martin Fargo, began his presentation with an apology.
“I was supposed to be here four weeks ago,” he said, “but unfortunately, four young men decided to kick in a door and rob someone.”
In the process of the crime, someone was killed and Lehn was needed to investigate the homicide.
Eighth-grade students Mario Ellis and Patrick Norred both seemed to be paying close attention to the detective, and both answered questions. Future police detectives, perhaps?
“I don’t know, but maybe,” Patrick said.
“I want to be an engineer,” Mario said.
Each boy said he enjoyed the presentation.
How does a homicide investigation begin?
Often, with a search warrant.
Even if an officer clearly sees a corpse in a house through an open door, he must get a search warrant before entering the house.
Everyone deserves a fair trial, said Lehn, who has been with the police department for 18 years and a homicide detective for 11.
In those 11 years, he has had just one conviction overturned. In the trial, there was some question about a piece of evidence, and the man who had been found guilty got a new trial, which did not include the evidence in question, and the verdict was overturned.
Again, in the category of TV versus reality, Lehn said it can take up to a year to get results for DNA tests.
“(The lab) is backlogged,” he explained.
Indiananpolis police use the Marion County Forensic Laboratory, which accepts work from all of Marion County.
A man’s wallet, with identification, bank cards and business cards can be a valuable piece of evidence, the detective said.
“And a woman’s purse is very important to me. It tells me all about her,” he said.
The contents of a purse might identify some of the woman’s friends, and, “It tells me what’s important to her,” he said.
The most sought-after information these days is a cell phone, he said. By looking at recent calls, police can trace the cell towers from which the calls bounced. That information can tell police whether a person was where he/she claimed to be at a certain time of day.
Students listened carefully, and several asked pertinent questions.
Lehn gave students a handout that contained a copy of his business card and invited youngsters to call him if they have questions.
About a career in forensic science, he told students firearms experts are in demand and hard to find. About being a police officer, he said most departments want some college credits, and some require a college degree.
Lehn said he has no degree, “but I got lucky because I had experience in the military.” He was a Marine Corps military police officer for six years.