URI Forensic Science Series goes inside the mind of a serial killer

Cold cases, crime scene investigation, getting the dead to speak, all part of fall seminar series

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 9, 2019 – Digital forensics and cybersecurity, criminal profiling, autopsies and DNA are just a few of the topics that will be covered as part of the University of Rhode Island’s Fall Forensic Science Series, which begins this week.

The annual series, which is entering its 21st year, brings leaders in the field of forensic science to the University and provides students, faculty and members of the public the opportunity to learn about the science that goes into crime-solving.

Lectures will be held every Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, 140 Flagg Road, Room 100 Lecture Hall. All lectures are free and open to the public.

The complete schedule is as follows:

  • September 13, David DeTora, supervising medical examiner, State of Rhode Island. As the lead investigator with the Rhode Island Medical Examiner’s Office, DeTora has investigated approximately 7,500 deaths. His discussion on “Medicolegal Death Investigation” will draw not only on this, but also his experience in crime scene investigation as a detective with the Johnston Police Department and commander of their Bureau of Criminal Identification Unit (BCI).
  • September 20, Ann Burgess, professor of nursing, Boston College Connell School of Nursing. Portrayed as forensic psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr in the Netflix series “Mindhunter,” Burgess’ specialty is psychiatric nursing and the impact of trauma on very young victims. She worked with members of the FBI to study serial murderers and connect the dots between early trauma and subsequent perpetration. The findings of these studies were published in several scientific journals as well as the book, “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.” Her discussion, “Mindhunter Cases from the FBI Serial Murder Study,” will focus on several of the Mindhunter cases.
  • September 27, Walter Williams, criminalist, Warwick Police Department. Retired Providence Police Department BCI Detective Williams will take attendees “Inside a Rhode Island Homicide Investigation.” Williams, who has specialized in bloodstain spatter, finger and palm print analysis, is currently the only civilian crime scene analyst working for a law enforcement agency in Rhode Island.
  • October 4, Carl Selavka, president, Northeastern Bioscience Associates, LLC. As the chief forensic scientist for Northeastern Bioscience Associates, Selavka has decades of experience specializing in esoteric toxicology, explosives and arson. His toxicology expertise has extended to the application of non-traditional forensics to obtain information where normal tests would fail. His presentation is entitled, “Complementary Toxicology: Introduction to a Cool Forensic World.”
  • October 11, Anita Zannin, owner and principal, AZ Forensic Associates, LLC. An expert in bloodstain pattern analysis with more than 15 years’ experience, Zannin trained under Herbert MacDonell, who is widely recognized as one of the fathers of bloodstain pattern analysis. Her presentation –“Is Bloodstain Pattern Analysis REALLY Junk Science?”– will evaluate recent press on the reliability of bloodstain pattern analysis as well as review case studies.
  • October 18, Timothy Chadronet, Bryan Volpe, Sgt. Jack Foster, investigators, New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Chadronet, a public health analyst; Volpe, a drug intelligence officer; and Foster, a sergeant with the Massachusetts State Police, will provide “An Overview of the New England HIDTA Overdose Response Strategy,” relative to the current opioid epidemic. In addition to trends and providing Rhode Island and regional perspectives on the crisis, the presentation will include a discussion of what is fueling the opioid problem nationally as well as steps being taken to mitigate casualties.
  • October 25, Christine Zozula, associate professor of sociology, University of Rhode Island. Zozula, who holds a joint appointment with URI’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Program, will present “Marketing Justice: How Community Courts Cultivate Legitimacy,” based on her research into how community courts, which aim to promote community efficacy and prevent crime from escalating, may actually be criminalizing and punishing incivility.
  • November 1, Susan Cormier, detective, Pawtucket Police Department, and David Keatley, professor of criminology, Murdoch University School of Law. “Cold Case Investigations” will cover newer, novel methods of raising awareness and creating new leads in cold cases as well as some of the methods used in cold case research. Detective Cormier is the founder of the Rhode Island Cold Case Task Force, a diverse group of experts in the field of criminal investigation – of which, criminologist David Keatley is a part.
  • November 8, Claremary Sweeney, mystery author. The author of the South County Mystery Series, including such books as “Last Train to Kingston” and “Last Rose on the Vine,” Sweeney will bring attendees “Inside the Devious Mind of a Murder Mystery Writer.” Sweeney will discuss where she gets the ideas for her works, the research that goes into preparing to write and what goes into publishing a mystery novel.
  • November 15, Priya Banerjee, assistant medical examiner, State of Rhode Island. Dr. Banerjee is a board-certified anatomic and forensic pathologist who has conducted over 1,400 postmortem examinations, and has been called to the site of multiple crime scenes to provide immediate expertise. Her presentation, “Forensic Autopsies: Getting the Dead to Speak,” will cover the role of the Rhode Island Office of the State Medical Examiner, including its role in public health and criminal justice through the performance of autopsies.
  • November 22, Victor Fay-Wolfe, professor of computer science, University of Rhode Island. Fay-Wolfe will give a discussion on “Digital Forensics & Cyber Security,” including an overview of the university’s academic programs in digital forensics; its Digital Forensics Center, which is a working forensics lab on campus; and its Digital Forensics research program, which is the highest U.S. Justice Department-funded university program in digital forensics in the nation.
  • December 6, Robin Fortunati, chief, State of Rhode Island Center for Forensic Sciences. As chief of the Department of Health’s Center for Forensic Sciences, Fortunati oversees controlled substances identification, forensic biology, drug chemistry, DNA and breath analysis, and interaction with the FBI’s DNA database to assist in criminal investigations, among other things. Her presentation, “Drugs, Poisons and DNA: Rhode Island’s Center for Forensic Sciences,” will provide an overview of this work.