Coroner’s Office, lab showcase crime-solving technology

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — As part of National Forensic Science Week, the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office and the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab are showcasing how their equipment is making a difference in solving cases in the Dayton area.

“We’re here to just get the right answer,” states the Montgomery County Coroner, Dr. Kent Harshbarger.

Touch DNA, skin cells left behind at a scene, comprises about 70% of the lab’s case work. A $235,000 dollar grant is helping the lab to process touch DNA and do it faster.

“What’s new is the ability to do it rapidly, and then do it off lower-level crimes,” says Harshbarger. “A breaking-and-entering — a piece of evidence that normally would not have been tested — we can test with this equipment very quick.”

The lab is also on the forefront of drug testing and its changing landscape, following the legalization of hemp in Ohio and differentiating between hemp and marijuana.

“Marijuana is primarily used in medicinal and recreational use, whereas hemp is used across a lot of different industries like cosmetics, dietary supplements, food products, and textiles and fabrics as well,” states the lab’s chemistry technical leader.

The chemistry and toxicology departments are working together, changing the way they analyze seized drugs.

“We will still do a qualitative analysis on all of the samples, because we are still looking for all controlled substances.”

Fingerprint scanners have also proved crucial, used on scene to identify someone who has died.

“There’s a scanner here that will capture each of the index fingers and then transmit that using a cellular signal to remotely search our database, the state database, and what’s called the FBI risk database,” explains Jennifer Yoak, the technical leader for fingerprinting at the lab. “Within a few minutes, you’ll get a color-coded result back for each database that’s searched.”

The results help notify families of the deceased.

The lab’s equipment and technology is helping make strides in serving the community.

“Buying new equipment in the laboratory — the toxicology department for instance — equipment is expensive. So those grants are vitally important to get the new equipment, and then to develop the system around it, the testing process, and the ultimately to keep the people working here on that equipment,” says Harshbarger.

Another technology showcase will be held Wednesday. A panel discussion for local university students will be held Friday.

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