Coming home with a wealth of crime-fighting education, District Attorney investigator Stuart Colwell hopes to use what he has learned to make Warren and Van Buren counties less comfortable for those who break the law.
“It’s the best training you can get,” said District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis who sent her investigator to the 10-week National Forensic Academy sponsored by the University of Tennessee and U.S. Department of Justice.
The 400-hour course, which was made up of 170 hours of class work and 230 hours of field practice, took participants through a wide array of crime-fighting techniques.
“Law enforcement is evolving all the time and it’s important to keep up with the latest,” Colwell said, noting less than 1 percent of law enforcement officers are accepted into the forensic academy. “I hope to become better at what I do by participating in academies like this.”
Colwell said he was taught by experts across the country as they covered areas ranging from DNA and latent print processing to blood stain analysis and forensic fire investigation. There was also a major emphasis on death investigation which brought him into several autopsies and even to the famous body farm overseen by renowned University of Tennessee instructor Dr. William A. Bass.
The body farm consists of actual bodies that are placed and allowed to decay under natural circumstances. It is used as an investigative tool. A new farm recently opened in Morgan County and Colwell was among the first group to get to work there.
“We had to first locate the clandestine grave and that wasn’t very easy,” Colwell said, noting students were next taxed with working the scene. “It is a real-life scenario.”
Colwell, who has been in law enforcement for 20 years and has served as an patrolman for McMinnville Police and also as investigator for both McMinnville and Manchester, says the knowledge he received during his time at the academy will be used to benefit all of the district.
“My job is to assist law enforcement in everything from financial crimes to homicide,” Colwell said. “I’m going to try to pass on what I’ve learned to help all law enforcement agencies here.”
His crime scene investigation training, Zavogiannis said, will provide another tool in local crime fighting.