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'CSI' is sexy, but Phoenix Crime Lab's work is reality

PHOENIX -- It's National Forensic Science Week and Officer James Holmes with Phoenix Police said the impact of forensic science on the criminal justice system is growing.

It has become a method of producing investigative leads, exonerating the innocent and providing reliable evidence for prosecution, as a recent run-through of the process at the Phoenix Police Crime Lab showed.

Workers ran through evidence processing and collection at a mock crime scene.

Hillary Sellmeyer is a forensic scientist with Phoenix Police and specializes in fingerprint analysis. Her job is matching up fingerprints from crime scenes to those in a database. It can take hours or months. In other words, nothing is solved in an hour like the "CSI" TV shows.

"Fingerprints and DNA are the only two sciences that will allow you to identify an individual. It's important to have both," Sellmeyer said.

Solving a crime is "Wonderful," she said. "Like no other feeling in the world. We get a lot of feedback from and it is generally very positive."

Forensic scientist Matthew Sinclair's job is covering everything from analyzing gunshot residue to tire tracks and footprints and more. He's helped solve hundreds of crimes but said positive results is a team effort.

"We're a tool for the detectives and officers to solve the crime. We help solve those crimes," he said.

The Phoenix Crime Lab helped solve the high-profile murder cases involving the Baseline Killer and Serial Shooters.

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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