Ripon agency helps solve crimes in 42 counties
Criminologists based in Ripon help law enforcement solve crimes in 42 California counties.
A senior criminalist from the California State Crime lab staff gave an overview of the agency’s operations recently for Ripon Rotarians meeting at Spring Creek Country Club.
Libby Schreiber touched on everything
from murder investigations to the effects of using methamphetamine has on women’s faces over a 10-year period. She explained that a criminalist is a scientist who uses various scientific techniques such as biology and chemistry to examine physical evidence to reach a conclusion based on their examination and present their conclusion in a court of law.
She noted that former crime labs in Stockton and Modesto combined their resources for the more centralized location in Ripon in a 32,000- square- foot behind Ripon’s City hall. The Central Valley facility serves 42 counties with two field labs and has a staff of 292 employees. The state labs cover and area from Eureka to Riverside. The Ripon facility is west of the FBI field office located two blocks away on Wilma Avenue.
Schreiber joined the crime lab staff in 1994. She served first in the drug to the alcohol section. Currently she is working in the biology section screening evidence for DNA investigations.
“When your day ends, ours begins,” she said.
She recalled several of the cases she and her associates had investigated including the Stockton bank robbery two years ago where a customer was kidnapped as a shield during a police pursuit and was killed in the process.
“We had three criminalists working a 24-hour period on that case,” she recalled.
Then there were the Ng mass murder torture victims in Calaveras County, the Lacy Peterson murder case and the Shermantine-Herzog multiple murder case which evolved into searching an old abandoned water well looking for bodies. The people living on the property had used the well as a dump for anything and everything – including an engine block, she noted. The well had to be excavated before they found human remains. One woman who had been killed had been pregnant and her remains and that of an infant were also located in the dig, she said. The team of investigators in the Herzog case worked for two weeks straight.
Schreiber added that whenever there is an officer involved shooting, the lab has a specific protocol to follow in their investigation which is quite intense.
When working with blood splatters in a murder case, they learned that different types of wounds produce different patterns on walls from bullet wounds causing arterial spurts.
DNA can be found on anything from underwear to cell phones, she explained, and can be central in solving a case in a court of law. And, there is now the RAP or rapid analysis for rape cases with a 20 day turn around time.
She further explained that there are now over two million rapist profiles in a national data base keeping track of those with a criminal history with expectations of going international soon with a more detailed data base.
Schreiber said her lab has over 2,000 guns in their inhouse collection that are used for comparison when they need a part or need to identify a weapon used in a crime. She noted that when a suspect’s weapon is missing a part, investigators can go to their collection and get the gun working with available parts – test firing it into a water bath so they can examine the microscopic lines caused from the bullet traveling through the barrel and prove their case in court with that evidence.