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Real-Life CSI Follows Evidence To Catch Killers

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(credit: CBS) Esme Murphy
Esme Murphy, a reporter and Sunday morning anchor for WCCO-TV, h...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Crimes aren’t solved in an hour like on TV shows. But some killers do give themselves away, if you know where to look.

Three years ago, two teenage boys stabbed Katricia Daniels more than 100 times inside her home in Minneapolis. Her 10-year-old son, Robert, also died after being hit in the head with a television.

Randy Hanson is a real-life Crime Scene Investigator. He was called out to the scene of the crime early in the morning with his partner.

“It was pretty horrific. The two victims had been brutally murdered,” Hanson recalled.

Fifteen years on the job, he said this was one of the worst.

The scene was so bloody it took investigators five days to gather the evidence that would allow them to piece together what happened to Daniels and her son.

“The scene was very extensive and there was a lot of aspects to it,” Hanson said.

They took notes and made drawings at the scene. And they took pictures to highlight evidence.

“So when we’re taking a photograph, you might not see that stain of blood but from a distance. So we put the marker down and it lets us know where that stain of blood came from,” Hanson said.

Investigators had to be careful. Normally, they move a body to the morgue right away but they couldn’t risk it.

“We left Katricia Daniels overnight there because she was in such a confined area,” said Hanson. “When you’re pulling a body out, you’re going to create some sort of disturbance. We didn’t want to lose any evidence.”

There was so much blood, they had to call in a blood spatter expert.

“The expert is going to look at the blood, at the stains, and determine which areas are best to collect,” Hanson said.

Some blood is visible while some is not. So investigators sprayed down the scene with a chemical called Leuco Crystal Violet.

“We use the Leuco Crystal Violet for things where we know there’s blood present but we can’t see it very well. So then we’ll spray down the area and … it binds to the protein in the blood and turns it purple, making it more readily visible,” said Crime Lab Supervisor Shannon Johnson.

Investigators determined Daniels was ambushed in her bedroom.

“They attacked her while she was sleeping,” said Hanson. “There was blood moving from the bedroom to the bathroom. The bathroom was covered in blood.”

She ran to the bathroom to fight off her attackers.

“You can kind of see the toes, big toe. She was in the bathroom with her foot up trying to keep them out,” Hanson said.

Footprints that were found in the boy’s bedroom were pieces to a puzzle.

“You can see more of the impressions of socks in blood, in the carpet,” Hanson said.

And those socks gave investigators some important clues.

“It didn’t seem like somebody broke in and killed these two people,” said Hanson. “Now they didn’t bring a knife, they didn’t bring a weapon. So now we’re starting to tie in a little bit of a tale that there was somebody inside the house and they were probably invited in.”

The killers also left a trail.

“At some point blood was on the shoes, walking into the kitchen with blood on the shoes. It’s not readily visible. We can sort of see a little something but we sprayed the kitchen floors with the LCV,” Hanson said.

Police discover the kitchen is where the attackers found their murder weapons that included a knife and a golf club.

The suspects also left fingerprints on them.

“We did develop finger prints on the door frame in blood. And they were developed using a blood enhancing technique that were identified to the suspects,” Hanson said.

There was another bit of key evidence. Investigators also discovered that Daniels’ cell phone was missing. So they had her cell phone company turn on its GPS. It turned up two blocks from the crime scene.

Police then called the last number on her phone. It was a young woman who led them to her boyfriend. She told police he had blood all over him.

Stafon Edward Thompson and Brian Lee Flowers were convicted of the murders.

During the trial, lawyers used 3D pictures recreated from drawings investigators made when they first got to the scene.

“This is just another tool that we have to help them visualize the scene without having to show them all of the gruesome scene photos,” Johnson said.

While the crime lab doesn’t have equipment as high-tech or as fast as on CSI, they do have amazing tools to solve crimes.

“It makes us feel worthy, on some level, that what we’re doing is actually making a difference,” Hanson said.

Thompson and Flowers appealed their convictions last year. They were denied, so they’re now serving life sentences without parole. Both teenagers were friends of Daniels’ oldest son. Police think they wanted money and her car.

Sonya Goins, Producer
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