Author: Dr. Mark McCoy

Training Events – 2020

  • Crime Scene Processing, Edmond PD, Jan 29
  • Clandestine Grave Excavation, Oklahoma Law Enforcement Agencies, Apr 13-15
  • Drug Overdose and Homicide, OSBI, Dec 2

Practicum with Edmond Police Department

This practicum with the Edmond Police Department proved to be beneficial and worthwhile to my forensic science studies. Each department was explored, and many different responsibilities
were given throughout the 120 hours. I learned how a police department functions and all of the
communication and teamwork it requires. In addition, I was able to observe and practice the
disciplines I studied at the University of Central Oklahoma, such as fingerprinting, crime scene
photography, AFIX, criminal procedure, and crime scene protocol. Records gave me the
responsibility of fingerprinting people and entering IO-print cards into AFIX. The Technical
Investigators allowed me to participate in their search warrants. I observed traffic stops,
arrests, and patrol shifts with the police officers. Property permitted me the responsibility of
inventorying evidence items. Lastly, the Municipal Court, Animal Control, Dispatch, and the Dive
team showed me their daily responsibilities. This internship exceeded my expectations in a
multitude of ways and provided me a great deal of insight into the daily life of the Edmond Police

Internship at DNA Solutions

Internship at the DNA Solutions as a forensic science practicum was highly valuable experience for
me. It helped me grow as a person as well as a scientist by shadowing full-time lab workers and
being art of the kit validation study and sample preparation for forensic science mock casework
evidence samples and doing DNA work beside another DNA analyst for the reproducibility as part of
the study. It also exposed me to new things such as statistical calculations used in the DNA
analysis work in the real world and how it is used and also the use of automated DNA purification
via Maxwell 16 instrument. In addition, it had made me realize that the DNA work in the real world
is possible to have more than one method to extract, purify and analyze depending on the kits used
and the type of DNA analysis the client had asked for amongst other things that I have observed and experienced at DNA Solutions internship.

Practicum Experience in the OSBI Forensic Chemistry Unit

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) was created to help law enforcement
throughout the state investigate crimes. One of the ways the OSBI does this is providing
laboratory services to all law enforcement agencies in the state. The OSBI lab has six divisions:
Forensic Toxicology, Forensic Chemistry, Trace Evidence, Firearms and Toolmarks, Forensic
Biology, Latent Prints, and Digital Evidence. This summer I worked in the Forensic Chemistry
Unit under Penny Cooper. This experience allowed me to see what it was like to work in the
Forensic Chemistry Unit as well as determine if I would be interested in other units. It was very
interesting to experience the things that I had learned about in class, which allowed me a better
understand of quality assurance and quality control measures, and the use of presumptive testing
and how it can guide the analysis. Overall it was a very eye-opening experience that made me
consider all my options after graduation and start to figure out what I would like to do for the rest
of my career.

OSBI Latent Evidence Unit Practicum

For the final semester of the Forensic Science degree program, students are required to complete
an internship class or an off-site practicum. I was fortunate to get chosen for a spot at the
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Science Center laboratory in Edmond,
Oklahoma. Almost every day, I was able to observe and learn from various experts in forensic
science. I learned about all the criminalistic units at the laboratory and the foundations of their
field, especially so for the Latent Evidence Unit, the unit I was selected to join. Through
observing casework and practicing various latent fingerprint processing techniques during
experimental studies, I was able to expand my knowledge of the field of forensic science and the
discipline of latent and patent friction ridge skin analysis. The practice was hands-on through the
experience of validation studies comparing new products such as Lumicyano and Hungarian
Red, both of which are advertised are better and more efficient processing techniques. This
experience has widened my scope and understanding of forensic science and the way it is applied
beyond the classroom.

Use of Forensic Corpora in Validation of Data Carving on Solid-State Drives

The need for greater focus on the validation and verification of tools has become more evident in recent years. The research in this area has been minimal. Continued research regarding the validation of digital forensics tools is necessary to help meet demands from both the law enforcement and scientific communities and to bring digital forensics in line with other forensic disciplines (as cited in Guo, et al., 2009). One of the most effective ways to perform validation and verification of digital forensics tools is to enlist the use of standardized data sets, also known as forensic corpora. This study focused on the use of forensic corpora to validate the file carving function of a common digital forensics tool, Access Data’s Forensic Tool Kit (FTK). The study centers specifically on FTK’s ability to recover data on solid-state drives (SSDs). The goal of this study was to both evaluate the use of forensic corpora in the validation and verification of digital forensic tools, as well as a serve as a validation study of FTK’s carving function on solid-state drives.

Kristina Hegstrom – 2016

Computer Crimes Case Simulation and Design Model

The overall purpose of this graduate project is to provide digital forensics instructors at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) with a manually generated computer crimes case simulation that offers students a replicated real-world experience of what it is like being a practicing digital forensic examiner. This simulation offers digital forensic students an opportunity to apply their forensic knowledge and skills in a realistic environment. Secondarily, this project sought to develop a rudimentary computer crimes simulation design model. The case simulation provides scenario/simulation-based learning to future digital forensic students at UCO. The computer crimes simulation design model presents general steps and considerations that should be taken when generating similar digital forensic simulations. The generated simulation portrays typical “kitty” exploitation and illicit drug activities and consists of two computer crimes case scenarios, two sets of investigative notes, two search warrant affidavits, eight crime scene processing forms, a solution report with associated PowerPoint presentation for the instructors, the digital evidence, a bootable clone of the evidence, and a disk image of the evidence.

Maritza S. Jeremias – 2018

The Utilization of Forensic Corpora in Validation of Data Carving on SATA Drives

The field of digital forensics has become more prevalent in the court of law due to the increase of availability of technology. With digital evidence coming up in court consistently, digital forensics and its tools are coming under scrutiny and being held against disciplines that are more standardized. Wildson and Slay went so far as to call digital forensics the “neglected family member of the forensic sciences” when discussing the lack of standards in the discipline (Wildson & Slay, 2005, p. 2). In order to begin addressing this issue, we must start looking at the source – the tools. Validation and Verification of tools is vital to maintaining the integrity of the evidence received by them. Utilizing standardized data sets, or forensic corpora, as a part of validation and verification techniques has shown to be effective. This study will replicate Hegstrom (2016). This study will focus on validating the file carving function of Access Data’s Forensic Tool Kit (FTK) using forensic corpora on SATA drives instead of the Solid-State Drives (SSDs) that Hegstrom used. The goal of the study is to assess the use of forensic corpora in the validation and verification of one of the most commonly used digital tools.

Caitlin G. Willimon – 2019

Disease Surveillance and Projected Expansion in Climatic Suitability for Trypanosoma cruzi, the Etiological Agent of Chagas Disease, in Oklahoma

The vector-borne hemoflagellate parasite Trypanosoma cruzi infects seven million people globally and causes chronic cardiomyopathy and gastrointestinal diseases. Historically, T. cruzi was endemic to Central and South America, but is now found throughout the southern United States and across 43 countries globally. There are three reports of T. cruzi in wild raccoons and dogs in Oklahoma, but its endemicity in the state is poorly studied. We suspect Mexican free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) contribute to the endemicity of T. cruzi in Oklahoma by their annual migration from Central America to North American maternity roosts. During the summer of 2017, we sampled 361 Mexican free-tailed bats at three maternity roosts in Oklahoma for T. cruzi. We collected wing tissues and extracted DNA, amplified target T. cruzi DNA by PCR using the primers TCZ1/TCZ2, and observed amplification by gel electrophoresis. We detected T. cruzi DNA in one juvenile Mexican free-tailed bat resulting in a prevalence of 0.27% in the 361 sampled bats. The positive sample was sequenced at Eton Biosciences, confirmed as T. cruzi, and uploaded to GenBank (MG869732). This finding is the first reported detection of a wild bat naturally infected with T. cruzi in Oklahoma, suggests Mexican free-tailed bats can contribute to T. cruzi endemicity via migration between endemic foci, and provides insight on the endemicity of T. cruzi in underrepresented endemic areas. To better understand the potential impact of global climate change on the future epidemiology of T. cruzi in Oklahoma, we used the program MaxEnt to develop an ecological niche model for T. cruzi and five widespread Triatoma vectors based on 19 bioclimatic variables and 546 published localities within the United States. We modeled regions of current potential T. cruzi and Triatoma distribution, and regions projected to have suitable climatic conditions under a Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP 8.5) scenario by 2070. Regions with potential suitable climatic conditions for T. cruzi, T. indictiva, T. lecticularia, T. protracta, and T. sanguisuga are predicted to increase within the United States and Oklahoma by 2070. Regions with potential suitable climatic conditions for T. gerstaeckeri are predicted to increase within the United States but not in Oklahoma by 2070. Our findings agree with previous literature and confirm that climate change will influence the expansion of T. cruzi and important Triatoma vectors in Oklahoma and the United States.

Matthew D. Nichols – 2018

Comparative Subtidal and Supratidal Taphonomic Changes in the Elemental Components of Marine Vertebrate Bones using Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy and Principle Component Analysis: Ecological and Forensic Applications

Individuals and agencies of multiple disciplines have evolved interests which result in the studies and research of marine mammals as well as other protected marine dwellers such as sea turtles. Aside from wildlife conservation, a logarithmic increase in interest to these protected animals have been the side effect of trade for profit to fund activities targeted at human populations as acts of terror. Wildlife trade and trafficking have aided terrorist groups in the funding of ammunition and weapons of mass destruction. This study focuses on observations made by analysts while examining remains of protected animals that may be involved in trade or trafficking on the black market. Recent observations have found that marine organisms like the sea turtle and porpoise display signs of advanced taphonomy and even premature fossilization following decomposition. In this study, skeletal remains from submerged marine vertebrates including a porpoise, seal, sea turtle, and a cow control were sampled in order to determine a plausible explanation for these observations. The specimens were necropsied prior to submersion, and the bones of each vertebrate were segregated with  respect to species. Periodic samplings took place throughout the course of this study. Using the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), the bone specimens were examined for topographic changes and analyzed for elemental composition. Among the different elemental aspects of bone composition, a list of elements was compiled and monitored for change throughout the course of this study.

Caitlyn B McElreath – 2018