Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Winners of Year's Subscription to CrimeSpree

Jon and Ruth Jordan were so very generous to give us two subscriptions to CrimeSpree to give away. Michelle and I know that it's a bother to fill out an evaluation. But...evaluations are incredibly important. Especially if you wish to repeat--and improve--an event.

So we asked if we could give away the gifts as "encouragement" for people to turn in evaluations.

The ploy worked! Many of our attendees responded. Thank you all for your input.

Our winners are:

Margaret Tessler


Luanne Whitbeck


Monday, November 12, 2007

Rave Reviews of Forensic University

They're saying we made Mystery History. To read more about the conference, check out these blogs:

Thank You for Making Mystery History

We appreciate the vision and leadership of Rochelle Krich and last year's board, Libby Fischer Hellmann for her enthusiasm early on, Beth Wasson for all her extra effort, Peggy Moody for her incredible responsiveness, Bonnie J. Cardone for stretching InSync deadlines to a nearly rubberized level, Lorraine Barlett for including us in the MySpace info, the financial wisdom of Kathy Wall, the support of Roberta Isleib, and our own fairy godmother SJ Rozan.

We could not have held this conference without our headliners. The early encouragement of Jan Burke and Dr. D.P. Lyle was critical. Jan and Eileen Dreyer were our speaker co-ordinators and did so many jobs that we could fill the entire program with lists of their help. Suffice it to say, they are truly the STARS of this event. We also thank Lee Lofland who tirelessly promoted the conference online and lent us his able expertise. And again, Dr. D. P. Lyle pulled us out of the fire by offering to teach so many classes that we have decided to appoint him Dean of Forensic University.

Most importantly, without the friendship and support of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of Sisters in Crime, this conference could not have been held. We are a small, but tight-knit group, the truest embodiment of the “little chapter that could.” Our sisters and misters have an unfailing attitude of “okay, let’s make it happen.” When our spirits flagged, they picked up the banner and ran forward. Michelle and I both owe all of you, our local members, more gratitude than two hearts can hold.

In particular we wish to single out:

Hotel co-ordinator and numbers guy—Tony Hooper
Bull’s Eye Shooting Gallery gurus—Paul Schmidt & Will Bereswill
CLP Foundation auction co-ordinator, chapter treasurer, and sage counselor—Mary Lou Merkel
Concierge and social chair—Donna Ross
Scout for auction items—Jaime Freveletti
Queen of Handouts and wise friend—Linda Hengerer
Program, website and graphics genius—Kelly Hackel
Rounder-up of speaker info—Claire Applewhite
National website help—Peggy Moody
10. Help with room monitors—Judy Moresi
11. On-site bookstore—Vicki Erwin and Janet Heyer
12. Eileen Dreyer’s son, Kevin Dreyer, our DJ
13. All the people who distributed flyers or information to help us with promotion of the event: Candy Calvert, Jamie Freveletti, Linda Hengerer, Silvia Foti, Mark Combes, Todd Stone, Jim Huang, chapter presidents throughout the Midwest
13. Gloria Bratkowski, Alexa Hull, and Angie Fox—our special team
14. Main Street Books of St. Charles–Sponsor of our book bags
15. Our families—David Slan, Tom Moresi, Tom Applewhite and Bob Hohmeier (who makes a great corpse!) and our children Holly, Amanda and Michael (who were pretty understanding….)

And all our other helpers and faculty:
Det. Joe Burgoon
Nancy Cadenhead
Dr. Mary Case
Larry and Kimberly Elliott, Paul Schmidt
Mary Fran Ernst
Dr. Robert Hall
Gwen Haugen
Christina Kinney
Lt. Kevin Lawson
Rick McMahan
Judge Donald Shelton (and his wonderful assistant Chris Tate)
Sgt. Steve Sorocko
Officer Pete St. James

To our Room Monitors:
Judy Moresi
Fedora Amis
Mary Burton
Pat Roy
Wil Emerson
Wil Bereswill
Helen Schwartz
Lea Wait
Tony Hooper
Mary Lou Merkel
Claire Applewhite
Linda Hengerer and Angie Fox.

We know we’ve left someone out. That always happens. Please know it’s no reflection on how much you helped…but it is a function of us being tired!

Thanks to you all!

Joanna Campbell Slan and Michelle A. Becker

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Auction Items!

New Auction Items!

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives Batch #1: Sampler set of Kentucky’s premier small batch bourbon, ATF shot glass to go with the whiskey, a Dominican cigar, Jane’s Guide to Firearms, a current issue of Handguns magazine, an autographed copy of Field Of Fire by James O. Born, an ATF patch and an ATF portfolio; donated by Rick McMahan, Jim Born, and ATF Louisville Field Division

ATF Batch #2: Under and Alone, and Armed and Dangerous, signed and donated by Billy Queen; Teasing Secrets from the Dead autographed by Dr. Emily Craig, ATF Coffee mug, Starbucks coffee, ATF notebook and patch; donated by Dr. Emily Craig, Rick McMahan, Billy Queen and ATF Louisville Field Division.

Scrapbook Supplies: Album, Archival Paper and Embellishments, plus Scrapbook Storytelling, One Minute Journaling, Quick & Easy Pages, and The Best of British Scrapbooking plus a coupon to be redeemed next fall for an autographed copy of Paper, Scissors, Dead: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrapbooking Mystery; donated by Joanna Campbell Slan

Monday, October 15, 2007

Auction Additions--You Must Come to the Dinner to Bid!

Auction items continue to pour in. Please note, you must be present at the Muddy Brew-Ha-Ha Dinner to bid on these items. (Send your ticket money to Mary Lou Merkel, 12729 Markaire Drive, St. Louis MO 63146 Remember it's $40 per person and you do NOT have to be a conference attendee to come to the dinner and auction on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2007 at the Hilton St. Louis Airport. Yes, it's a sit-down meal, plus a deejay will be spinning tunes in case you want to dance.)

Here's what we've received recently:

An ARC of Pushing Up Daisies by Rosemary Harris, and an outdoor garden tool set with canvas tool bag; donated by Rosemary Harris

Hardback of Chicago Blues, A New Collection of Crime Stories about the Real Windy City, signed by nine of the authors. Includes a special DVD with interviews by many of the authors and a music video of Chicago as seen through the eyes of the "Blues”; donated by Libby Hellmann

We have a lot more promised items, and we'll update this blog as they come in. Looks to me like I'll be doing ALL my holiday shopping at the CLP Foundation auction. It will be nice to know my money will benefit crime labs around the country. (That is, assuming I can bid high enough to win some of this remarkable bounty.)

See you in St. Louis!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reminder and New Class--Rape Avoidance


Just a reminder...on Monday the prices for Sisters in Crime's Forensic University, Nov. 1 through 4, at the Hilton St. Louis Airport, go up $50.

So, if you are planning to attend, please be sure to get your registration in before the end of the day!

The price schedule is below:

$250 (before 10/15/07) SinC member
$290 (before 10/15/07) Non-member
$300 (after 10/15/07) SinC member
$350 (after 10/15/07) Non-member
To register go to:

We've added two RAD sessions to the conference. Check it out--

Rape/Aggression Defense Training (RAD)

This will be a sample of a longer program, focusing on escape techniques and safety awareness. As most of you know, you should NEVER allow an assailant to get you into a car and take you to a secondary location. So, how do you avoid being forced into a vehicle or behind a building or into a secluded area? Executive Defense Technologies will share with you indicators of danger and some specific techniques for escape. These techniques are especially useful for your characters—but even more importantly, the skills you learn in this mini-workshop may SAVE YOUR LIFE. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes if you wish to participate. The Elliotts have 17-years experience in law enforcement, and this training is part of a nationally accredited program. The Elliotts will also have with them a variety of safety equipment you can purchase.

Thanks! And if you have any questions, email us at

Joanna Campbell Slan

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Auction Items for Crime Lab Project Foundation--A Muddy Brew Ha-Ha

(Updated as of September 27, 2007--More to Come!)
A crime in scene in miniature (dollhouse size) from Margaret Grace, aka Camille Minichino, with carrying case.

Law and Order script autographed by the cast with signed photograph of cast, and Law & Order baseball cap; donated by Rene Balcer.

Brick from Edgar Allan Poe's last known residence in Greenwich Village (with authentication papers); donated by Meg Chittenden

Crystal bracelet, shades of blue, with magnetic clasp; donated by Michelle Becker

"Laced," signed by Carol Higgins Clark and Main Street Books tote bag; donated by Main Street Books, St. Charles, MO.

Handcrafted bracelet by P. Tierney Designs with mystery-related charms including miniature book cover reproductions of classics such as The Maltese Falcon, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and others, plus poison bottle, evidence tag, etc.; donated by Joanna Campbell Slan

1858 Steel engraving, framed, by artist Henry Winkles from The Iconographic Encyclopedia, courtesy of MAH Antiques, and autographed hardback book, "Shadows at the Spring Show" by Lea Wait; donated by Lea Wait.

"Conch Shell Murder" and "Pier Pressure" by Dorothy Francis, autographed, trade paperbacks; donated by Dorothy Francis.

"Ms. Longshot" and "Pull of the Moon" by Sylvie Kurtz, autographed, mass market paperbacks; donated by Sylvie Kurtz.

"Fairway to Heaven," "Final Fore," and "Deadly Advice," by Roberta Isleib, mass market paperbacks, autographed; donated by Roberta Islieb.

"Writing and Selling your Mystery Novel" by Hallie Ephron, autographed, hardback; donated by Hallie Ephron.

"Murder with Reservations" by Elaine Viets, autographed, hardback; donated by Elaine Viets.

“Don’t Murder Your Mystery” by Chris Roerden, autographed; donated by Chris Roerden

Basket of books including “On the Ropes: A Duffy Dombrowski Mystery” by Tom Schreck; “The Last Secret: A Cotton Stone Mystery” by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore, “Murder at the Universe: A Five-Star Mystery” by Daniel Edward Craig; “The Devil’s Pitchfork: A Derek Stillwater Novel” by Mark Terry; “Stealing the Dragon: A Cape Weathers Investigation” by Tim Maleeny; donated by Midnight Ink.

"Yesterday's Fatal" by Jan Brogan, autographed, hardback; donated by Jan Brogan.

Jack Reacher toothbrushes; donated by Lee Child.

Mystery Writer's Resource Basket includes books about forensics and mystery writing plus consultation with George Schiro, Consulting Forensic Scientist at Forensic Science Resources, as well as cost of shipping the basket; donated by Greater St. Louis Chapter of Sisters in Crime and George Schiro.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Your Classmates--Published Authors You Thrill to Read!

Who will be sitting beside you in the classroom?

Well, go to and look at the yellow bar at the top of the page. Click on "Attendees."

And say, "Wow."

You will be sitting NEXT to published authors, women who are well known in the mystery genre. Now imagine this, you'll be next to your favorite author. She'll lean over and say, "I didn't get that last point, did you?" You will supply your notes. She'll say, "Thanks," and you'll glow with pride.

How cool is that?

So often we newbies or want-to-be's sit at the back of the room and gaze at our idols in awe. But this conference is different. We'll be colleagues, working together to learn!

About those the link below to see the schedule

Of course, there's always the possibility of changes, but as you can see, your brain will be packed with information by the time you head for home.

We're getting excited! We can't wait to SEE YOU IN ST. LOUIS!!!!!!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Beer, Blues and Baseball

St. Louis Insider

Like beer? Who doesn't? Tour the biggest brewery in the world--Anheuser-Busch, and have a free sample. If you're not convinced "bigger is better," we have several microbreweries to tempt your tastebuds, too.

The Mississippi has always been the inspiration for blues music like W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues." The closer to the River, the better the blues. We have too many blues clubs to count, but the most authentic are in the Soulard area--near the home of Budweiser, the Clydesdales and Historic Soulard Farmers' Market--in continuous operation since 1843. New Busch Stadium, home to the 2006 World Series Champs in nearby downtown, is built to look like an old-time brick baseball park. It houses a museum filled with memorabilia from the Cardinals' 115 year history. Indoor sports fans can find another one-of-a-kind treat next to Busch--the International Bowling Hall of Fame.

We can boast of another kind of blues, too--Blues Ice Hockey at Savvis Center, reachable by Metrolink. Oct. 30, Blues v Coyotes; Nov 3. Blues v Blackhawks.

P.S. Don't worry about the climate. St. Louis summers typically last through September. After that we have a mild and delightful fall which often sees flowers bloom through Thanksgiving.
Questions? Ask

Monday, August 13, 2007

St. Louis Insider

Riverfront park (Metro--Take the hotel shuttle to the airport and light rail to the riverfront.)

We have the only one in the world--Eero Saarinen's Spectacular monument to westward expansion-The Gateway Arch. It towers over the Mississippi and two premiere attractions, the Eads Bridge and Jefferson National Expansion Park. Going up in cable cars small enough to fit inside the Arch's steel and concrete legs is not for the claustrophobic. The view at the top is worth it, though.

But the park is more than the Arch. The Arch base houses a fine little museum. On the grounds is St. Louis Basilica, the oldest Cathedral west of the Mississippi (1770) where mass is still celebrated every day. The park reaches into the city itself with the Old Courthouse and its fascinating history. You can see the courtroom where Dred Scott was denied freedom and the hall where Reese Happersett refused to let Virginia Minor vote. Both began landmark civil rights cases which went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Only blocks away you can amble around the brick streets of Laclede's Landing, a quirky place with nightclubs and a casino, wax museums, puppets and the only Dental Health Theatre in the world.

Athletic types can rent a bike or quadricycle (for 4 people) and pedal one of only two urban bike trails in the country. Converted from an old trolley line, ours roams past the industrial waterfront. The return trip offers spectacular views of the 1874 Eads Bridge. Unlike the short-lived I-35 bridge at Minneapolis,this bridge was designed his to last as long as the pyramids. James Eads built the unbuildable bridge--with a 6442 foot span, a bridge still rated above the vast majority of bridges for structural integrity.

America's cheerleader poet Walt Whitman loved to look at the Eads Bridge by moonlight. He called it a "Structure of perfection, beauty unsurpassable."
Questions? Ask

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

St. Louis Insider - Otherworldly

  • You could not choose a better time of year to visit St. Louis legends than the haunting season. Until recently, an eerie light from a painted-over window spooked passersby on the Campus of St. Louis University. Walking by DuBourg Hall on a chilly night makes the imagination whirl with tales of Jesuit priests exorcising a teenage boy possessed by demons. Yes, St. Louis not Georgetown, inspired William Peter Blatty to write his best-selling 1971 book the Exorcist.
  • St. Louis has a trove of terrifying places--like Lemp Mansion, home of multimillionaire beer barons--and scene of debauchery, madness and suicide which too much money can bring.
  • A short ride across the Mississippi ends in one of the most haunted towns in America. Be sure to bundle up. Anyone might get a chill by walking across the cold ground where once stood the Alton Prison--a place of death for thousands of Civil War soldiers. People still check into the Alton hotel, the ones who have the nerve.
  • For those who truly love the macabre, November 2 offers something most extraordinary-- a witching hour tour of one of the most ghostly places in the country--Alton Illinois.
    Since these tours sell out quickly, don't delay. Make sure your heart can stand the excitement--and your mommy lets you stay out past midnight.
  • Questions?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

St. Louis Insider

Don’t expect much free time between November 1 and 4, but if you are able to arrive before Forensic University or stay a few days afterwards, St. Louis has a smorgasbord of one-of-a-kind delights to tempt you--many of them low-cost or free.

From now until mid October, I will be tantalizing you with an insider’s menu. History, entertainment, shopping, food, even a touch of the bizarre--you can find it in St. Louis--if you know where to look. It would be my pleasure to help you fill your plate with special favorites. I can serve up tasty maps, directions, hours, reservations, suggestions.

Here’s an appetizer you might savor during free time on Friday evening, November 2. If Lady Luck is your favorite dish, you are invited to go casino hopping with a world-class poker player who has promised to share some of his secrets. Want to add your name to our poker party? Tell me.

If your palate prefers other food, I’ll be making suggestions in the upcoming weeks. Questions? Just ask

Monday, July 23, 2007

Law Enforcement Quiz

How well do you know your law enforcement procedures?

Check out this quiz by Joyce Tremel and Lee Lofland. It's just a sample of what you can learn at Forensic U!

Monday, July 16, 2007

This Idea Has Legs!

In Hollywood, if a project has a lot of instant appeal and generates buzz, they say it “has legs.” That’s how it’s been with Forensic University. Michelle Becker and I were discussing recent writers’ conferences we’d attended. We both thought we needed more forensic information, and better access to the forensics instructors. So…wouldn’t it be cool to put together an all forensic conference?

A couple weeks later, Sisters in Crime President Libby Fischer Hellmann and her pal Judy Bobalik were visiting our chapter. I mentioned the idea Michelle and I had. The next day Libby called from her car on the way back to her home in Chicago. She’d talked with Rochelle Krich, and they loved the idea. I emailed Jan Burke for help. Michelle emailed Dr. D.P.Lyle. Both were immediately enthusiastic. They brought along Eileen Dreyer and Lee Lofland. The national board approved and Forensic U became a national conference.

Boom! Just like that our idea had legs.

Now we’re more than half-way there. We have 95 people registered—the maximum is 200—and we’re four months out.

Thanks to the viral nature of the internet, I’m busy fielding questions and inquiries from around the world. One of the most interesting came from David Webb and Dr. Iain Pretty, who write and maintain the All About Forensic Science Website Check it out! You’ll find all kinds of fascinating links and information.

Now you might ask, what’s in it for me? Especially if you write cozies. (And all of us at Killer Hobbies do write “cozies”—our mysteries feature amateur sleuths, off-stage violence, and puzzles solved through a knowledge of human relationships.) With more and more attention paid to such television shows as CSI, Bones, and Law and Order to name a few, our readers are ever so savvy about forensics. But here’s a better reason to attend Forensic University: It’s a mother lode of great ideas.

Books aren’t written in a vacuum. They’re a lot like beef vegetable soup: you’ve got your meat (your main idea), your water (the setting), major veggies (your characters) and spices (your ancillary characters and tidbits). Each time I hear someone in law enforcement or forensics talk, my brain buzzes with new ideas. I keep several “pots of soup” boiling at once.

Which is why the nickname of our conference is “ForU” and the tagline is 50 Ways to Catch a Killer. We have a lot in store “for you” and I’m positive you’ll walk away with more than 50 ways to catch your killer! Check out the conference blog or sign up at

Friday, June 8, 2007

Things YOU Could Learn at Forensic U

Sure, you’ve worked hard to perfect your manuscript. You’ve taken classes in writing, read books, joined a critique group and edited your work carefully. But now--What if your editor or agent spots the flaws in your knowledge of police work, medical injuries, and forensic science? Why damage your chances of publication success?

Instead, join us for Sisters in Crime’s Forensic University of St. Louis, November 1-4, 2007, at the Hilton St. Louis Airport in St. Louis. Our two-and-a-half intensive days of classes will help you write with authority and accuracy. Our student/instructor ratio will allow you to get your questions answered by experts. The hands-on opportunities will help you bring your scenes to life.

And if you join us for A Muddy Brew-Ha-Ha Party and Auction to benefit the Crime Lab Project Foundation, you’ll be able to bid on such fascinating items as a brick from Edgar Allen Poe’s house or a signed script from the cast of Law & Order. Plus, you’ll be helping crime labs all around the country.

Remember: Attendance is limited to 200. Go online and register today at Early registration ends June 15, and then the price goes up!

Our headliners have offered up 18 samples of what YOU could learn at Forensic University!

Here are the ideas submitted by Headliner Eileen Dreyer:

1) Doctors are forever telling the cop what caliber bullet caused the injury just from entrance and exit wounds. Doctors and nurses NEVER make that determination.

2) People do not pass out from pain. Believe me, they'd be happier if they did.

3) Everybody has a limited number of times they can be conked on the head before they forget to tie their shoelaces (Mannix should have been on life support).

4) If conked on the head hard enough to lose consciousness for any appreciable amount of time, the hero will not remember how it happened. He might not remember anything past breakfast that morning.

Next week, I'll post four things Dr. D.P.Lyle has noticed that most mystery authors get wrong.

See if your face should be red!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do you need to know anything about forensic science if you're writing cozies?

Yes, you do!

Your readers are well-informed, intelligent people. Given the viewership of dramatic programs such as "CSI" and "NCIS," and non-fiction programs such as "The Forensic Files" and "The New Detectives," your readers are also likely to have an interest in forensic science.

Mystery novels almost always include evidence of some sort. If your story includes a dead body, anyone with a gun, a poison, a sleeping potion, fingerprints, or any of a thousand other elements, if you don't do your homework, your readers may wonder why something impossible has happened -- why rigor mortis has or hasn't set in, why a body moved from one location to another shows no signs of such, why a dead body is bleeding, how someone detects drowning in salt water without an autopsy. They may ask why the symptoms don't match the type of poison you chose, why a revolver has a safety on it, or why police haven't taken known measures to solve a crime.

Even if your novel is set in the past, natural processes (such as those that occur in a body after death) and chemical reactions (such as those caused by poisons) haven't changed over the centuries. You may also need to be aware of how much was known about some areas of forensic science in earlier times -- and what was not yet known in the period you write about.

There is a long tradition of forensic science in the mystery novel -- Agatha Christie knew her poisons, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes often used trace evidence to solve crimes.

ForUStL will help you to better understand forensic science, teach you how to learn more, and how to incorporate what you learn at the conference in your writing. Who knows? The idea for your next book may be waiting for you in St. Louis!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Adjunct Faculty

We have Jan Burke, Eileen Dreyer, and local member Eleanor Sullivan to thank for this stellar line-up!

** Ann Burgess

Burgess is world-renowned in forensic science. Not only was she one of the authors of Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives (with the FBI's John Douglas and Robert Ressler -- an extremely important book, this was one of the first scientific studies of serial killers) and the Crime Classification Manual, Sexual Assault of Children and Adolescents. She’s also the author of more than 21 books and 135 articles) that are in use by those in medicine, psychology, criminology, forensic science, criminal justice -- everywhere. She's also published studies on trauma, violence against women, domestic violence, infant abductions, elder abuse and other important subjects. She founded one of the first hospital-based rape crisis intervention programs in Boston in 1972.

** Detective Joe Burgoon (retired)

With funds from a federal grant, Burgoon is heading an initiative to tackle more than 70 unsolved violent crimes warehoused at the St. Louis County Police Department. Burgoon, a local hero for his work on cold cases, will focus initially on cases likely to have DNA evidence. Burgoon retired after 27 years as a police homicide investigator with the St. Louis Police. He also works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Team Adam project. In his tireless pursuit of justice, Burgoon has appeared on Oprah to talk about unsolved crimes.

** Mary Case, M.D.

Dr. Case is one of the country's leading medical examiners. A board certified pathologist with training and extensive experience in neuropathy, she has over 30 years of experience in forensic death investigation. She is a professor of pathology at St. Louis University Health Services Center. She's a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (the leading forensic science organization in the US), the American Society of Clinical Pathology, and the College of American Pathologists. She has been on the Board of the National Association of Medical Examiners (she is currently on their planning and accreditation committees). She also has numerous publication credits.

** Mary Fran Ernst, B.S.

Ernst has over 40 years of experience in pathology and toxicology. She's a past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. She's also the recipient of AAFS General Section’s John R. Hunt Award (for Outstanding contributions to the forensic sciences) and the National Association of Medical Examiners Outstanding Service Award (for significant contributions to the advancement of the medicolegal investigation of deaths in the United States). She has been on the faculty of the St Louis University School of Medicine's Pathology Department since 1972, and coordinator of courses for their Forensic Pathology Elective since 1993, and since 1995 has served as the university's Director of Medicolegal Education. She has been a medicolegal death investigator with the St. Louis County ME's Office since 1975. She is the Co-Director of the Medicolegal Death Investigation Training Course sponsored by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. She's a Board Certified Medicolegal Death Investigator. She's the author of numerous articles on death investigation, and is a co-author of a widely used text, The Medicolegal Death Investigator, and also the Handbook for Death Scene Investigators.

** Gwen Haugen

Haugen is a forensic anthropologist who has worked on death investigations in the U.S. and far beyond. As a member of the forensic anthropology team with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii, she traveled to remote locations throughout the world to recover remains of members of the American military, including many cases from the WWII and Vietnam eras. She was the scientific leader of a team of 13 people, mostly Mortuary Affairs Specialists, who worked in Southeast Asia to search for unaccounted for Americans. An eyewitness account of Haugen’s work appears in Earl Swift’s Where They Lay: Searching for America’s Lost Soldiers.

** Lt. Kevin Lawson

Lawson is Commander of the St. Louis County Police Department Crime Laboratory. He is responsible for the operational management of the crime laboratory and the forensic staff, which provides support services to the law enforcement agencies within the St. Louis County metropolitan area. The Police Crime Laboratory routinely handles in excess of 9,000 case analysis requests per year. The cases involve the forensic disciplines of chemistry, biology/DNA, firearms and tool marks and photography. Lawson also serves as an instructor in criminal investigation.

** Dr. Rena Roy

Roy is a DNA specialist who works at the Police Crime Lab.

** Rick McMahan

As a civilian Special Agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Rick worked a wide range of person and property crimes from narcotics to theft to sexual assault to white collar fraud. Now, as a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) Rick has investigated extremist militias, violent street gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs, as well as being a firearms instructor and an on-the-job trainer for new agents. Rick's short stories have appeared in anthologies such as Techno Noire, Low Down & Derby, and the Mystery Writer’s of America Death Do Us Part, edited by Harlan Coben.

** Officer Pete St. James

St. James trains and handles his working partner, a 90-lb.German Shepherd named Bo. The dog was bred in and imported from Czechoslovakia. Bo is trained in “bite work” as a patrol dog and to track explosives. St. James also handles a mixed-breed/German Shepherd named Lucy. Lucy is a cadaver dog. Unlike service dogs, the audience can interact with these two canine guests! (That's me, Joanna, Officer St. James and Bo in the photo.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Can't Believe It, Either

Since this is still my end of the process, I thought I'd update you on the latest in the faculty. This is news I never thought I'd be able to share, because this speaker is so in demand in the forensic and educational community, I never ever thought we might see her in the writing community. I can't begin to tell you how lucky we are that she's joining us.

Let me begin by saying that she is one of my personal heroes. She is the first forensic nurse. She was one of the four people who compiled the statistics and wrote the seminal work, Serial Homicide: Patterns and Motives that led to the founding of the Behavioral Sciences Unit at the FBI, and the practice of profiling. Two of the other names on that study you might recognize are John Douglas and Robert Ressler. The same team also collaborated on the Crime Classification Manual of violent crimes.

Ann Burgess is not a member of the FBI. She is a nurse and an educator who helped found one of the first hospital-based crisis counseling programs in the world. Her work at Boston College has helped revolutionize studies in impacts of violence on children and communities, elderly abuse, cyber-stalking and internet sex crimes. She teaches courses in victimology, forensic science, crime and justice, and continues her research in response patterns of crime victims, forensic markers in the elderly, and stalking and battering.

As Jan Burke said, I'd be perfectly happy to pay the entire tuition for Forensic U just to sit at this woman's feet and soak in her wisdom. Not to mention her experience. The difficulty we're having is in trying to pick one subject from her wealth of knowledge and experience to present. My instinct is to to focus on profiling and stalking. But I'd be happy to hear any interests from you.

The very best part is that, while Ann is the surprise, she is by no means the only star in our pantheon(okay, I get a bit excited when I think of the people we have coming). We now have, in addition to Lee Lofland, DP Lyle, Jan Burke and I, eight active forensic experts coming to share their expertise, another three waiting for agency approval, and one, whom if I don't hear from him soon is going to be about six inches shorter(I can say that because he's a good buddy--and a helluvan expert).

And my feeling is that if you're serious about your research, you can save all that time you troll all the different conferences to be able to listen to one, maybe two experts. We have them all right here, from forensic pathology to bomb and arson to DNA. And not just people who've been in the industry, or who have studied it. People who are working in it right now, who know the current concerns, practices and proclivities.

Joanna will be updating the bios on all the faculty soon. Don't wait too long to sign up. We have a limited number of spaces available. I really hope to see you there. I'll be the one sitting at Ann Burgess's feet vying for room with Jan Burke.


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Plans! We've got plans!

We've had some wonderful experts sign on this week, and more to come! You've already heard that Dr. Mary Case and Gwen Haugen will be joining us. Dr. Doug Lyle, Eileen Dreyer, Lee Lofland and I are also looking forward to presenting information about writing, police procedure, and forensic science in a more in-depth fashion than we can at a fan convention or general writing conference.

This week, we've learned of several other experts who have agreed to join us! We will post more details about our faculty soon, so check back often. For now I'll just hint here that we'll have some nationally recognized professionals on hand to teach you about forensic science and police procedure.

You'll remember that we told you a few weeks ago that the early registrants are eligible for one of the limited spaces for a trip to an indoor shooting range on Thursday, November 1. Those spaces are almost gone, so sign up now and you can join us at Bull's Eye LLC Indoor Shooting Range. The shooting range trip costs an additional $35, but that low fee includes transportation from hotel, ammunition, safety gear, targets, and assistance from a trained range instructor.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Eileen checks in

Sorry I haven't been here before. I'm afraid I was on deadline, and when that's going on, nothing else is. So I'm finished, I'm back, and I'm gearing up to extend some more invitations to some of the best and brightest among the forensics community here in St. Louis and wherever I can find them.

The thing that might not be readily obvious about St. Louis is that we are at the forefront of the forensic community. We boast a past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, several of the people responsible for mandating certification and educating death investigators, (not to mention being the first to mandate minimum training for coroners), and a brand new, state-of-the-art crime lab(which Jan can certainly tell you is an aberration in this country). Which is why I'm thrilled that Sisters in Crime let us host the conference. You can't believe the wealth of talent here.

I can, because I trained under many of them. My forensic background is this. My official initials are RN, BS. I spent 20 years working hospitals in St. Louis, 16 in trauma. I trained in death investigation with at least one of our presenters, Dr. Mary Case. More on her later. You should already be salivating. I am a member of the International Association of Forensic Nurses. I do not call myself either a death investigator or forensic nurse, because I no longer practice. But I'm trained. And I've been lucky enough to be trained by the best.

So anyway, when Joanna and Jan said something to me about contacting the people I really respect in the industry to ask them to share their knowledge with us, I jumped all over it like flies on a rump roast. And my first introduction should tell you why.

I met Dr. Mary Case when she was just a forensic pathologist working for the St. Louis County Medical Examiner's office. You see, in our jurisdiction, all ER deaths must be cleared by the ME. The nurses were the ones who did the evaluating, so we talked regularly with the office. Anyway, now Mary is the ME for not only St. Louis County, but about six surrounding counties, in addition to being a consultant for several out of state jurisdictions. Her two certifications are in forensic and neuropathology(I'm going to hear her speak on concussions this summer--something pertinent to anybody who's ever had his or her protagonist hit over the head). Her special interest is pediatric situations. Mary made some of the most important discoveries in early infant shaken baby syndrome findings. She helped pass a law in Missouri that set up a panel to review every death under the age of 15 so that the burden wouldn't fall on small county coroners without sufficient funds or resources to do proper justice to these delicate cases. She is a world expert, and one of the finest teachers I've ever had.

Here's the best part. She's a passionate reader. She loves mysteries. In fact, you'll see her name in every one of my acknowledgements, because she is forever helping me with making sure the pathology and procedure in my books is accurate. When I invited her to join us, she didn't even have to think about it. She can't wait. And I can't wait until you meet her.

So that's my first introduction. There will be more later, next being Gwen Haugen....but you'll have to wait just a bit for her. After her, well, I'm making the calls now. But if I can get half of the people we're considering, I know we'll have a conference that will set the standard.
I can't wait.

Eileen Dreyer

Friday, March 9, 2007

Further progress!

I'm just dropping a quick note here on a week that has been a little crazy for all of us, to let you know that we have added a couple of great speakers! More about this next week, but let's just say that you will be hearing from a great forensic anthropologist and...okay, Eileen, I won't steal your thunder re: the other announcement!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Opening and Closing Talks

Now that I've finally figured this blogging deal out I'll address a couple of items from previous posts. At the Forensic U I'll be doing two book-end talks. The opening will be titled something like The ABCs of Forensic Science. What I'll attempt to do in this session is to bring the attendees into the World of Forensics. We will look at: What forensic science does and what it doesn't do. How evidence is identified and how it is used to link individuals to crime scenes, to victims, and to the murder weapon. How evidence can elimate some suspects and point the finger at others. How evidence makes its way to the courtroom. And many other issues. This will serve as a basis for all the following classes that will be given in that this session will provide background and perspective.

The final talk will be titled Plotting the Perfect Murder. Every time I do this session we always have fun. It is highly interactive and attendees will use their new found forenisc knowledge to plot a perfect murder. Afterall, this what you must do to write a mystery novel. The more clever your villain, the better the story. The more clever the crime, the cooler your protagonist is when he solves it and captures the bad guy.

All of us involved in The Forensic University are working to make it a special event. Our goal is to provide a fun three days that will teach writers what they must know about forensic science and police investigation in the modern world. This is essential for writers to make their stories believable. And we're hoping to do all this and have a ton of laughs in the process. Who said forensics isn't fun? Come to St. Louis and it will be.

D.P. Lyle, MD

Monday, February 19, 2007

Items for the Auction

On Saturday evening, join us for A Muddy-Brew-Ha-Ha Party and Auction to benefit the Crime Lab Project Foundation. Of course, we need any items you might wish to donate, including, but not limited to, signed books, critique sessions, one-on-one opportunities (such as going to lunch or dinner with a winner), or character naming privileges.

If you have an item for our auction, please contact Mary Lou Merkel at to arrange receipt of your donation.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

An Overview of the Planned Events - Part II

Sorry, this is the week before the American Academy of Forensic Science meetings, and I ended up a little swamped with plans for that, so I didn't get this posted before midnight.

Continuing from the post on Tuesday 2/13 --

Saturday November 3

In the morning, we plan an opening 90-minute session that will be a presentation on crime labs and what they really do. (We'll have an announcement about the speaker soon.) You'll get a great overview of crime scene processing, evidence gathering and testing, and what really happens in forensic science labs.

I'll make a short presentation after this session on The Crime Lab Project.

That will be followed by 2 sets of breakout sessions before lunch. As on Friday, you'll have four topics to choose from, and the opportunity to hear from experts in specific fields of forensic science and police procedure.

Lunch together - a box lunch is included in your registration!

Saturday afternoon:
The afternoon 90-minute session on death investigation by Dr. Mary Case promises to be one of the highlights of the conference. Dr. Case is a leading forensic pathologist. I'm going to let Eileen tell you more about this session!

This presentation is followed by another set of breakout sessions.

We'll have another a panel discussion to help you incorporate what you've learned into your writing. This event will also include a Q&A session.

In the evening, join us for dinner, music, and an auction to benefit The Crime Lab Project Foundation! Keep checking back here for more information about "A Muddy Brew Ha-Ha" -- tickets are only $40.

Sunday November 4

A continental breakfast on Sunday morning is included in the price of your registration.

Dr. Doug Lyle will give a presentation that will bring it all together -- a close look at the notion of "A Perfect Murder." Since Doug will be blogging here soon, I'll let him tell you more about this grand finale.

So, as you can see, the program we have planned will give you a solid overview and also allow you to tailor your conference experience to meet your specific interests. You'll be offered six sessions on topics every writer of crime fiction (or any other person interested in forensic science) should know. We plan to give you 24 choices in breakout sessions. In addition to the above, there will be books for sale, and every participant will be given a notebook with further reference material in it.

You won't be a forensic scientist after one weekend. But you'll have solid information from knowledgeable individuals, chances to ask questions, guidance for learning more, and lots of fun!

Jan Burke

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An Overview of the Planned Events - Part I

I'm going to let Doug Lyle, Eileen Dreyer, and Lee Lofland talk about their own backgrounds and expertise, and as we go along they'll be telling you more about their sessions at SinC's Forensic University. But I thought I'd give you a rough overview of the event. Since it's a complex event, I'll do this in two parts!

We'll be in St. Louis at the Hilton at the airport -- very reasonable rates and no added transporation costs from the airport! More on the hotel soon.

The following is subject to change as we finalize speakers and events, but here's what is the works for the first two days -- info about the next two days will be posted tomorrow.

Thursday November 1
Two events:
1) Early registrants are eligible for one of the limited spaces at an indoor shooting range. Be one of the first 50 to register, and you can join us at Bull's Eye LLC Indoor Shooting Range. $35 fee includes transportation from hotel, ammunition, safety gear, targets, and assistance from a trained range instructor.

2) Opening reception

Friday November 2

In the morning, Dr. Doug Lyle will present an opening session, "The ABCs of Forensic Science."

This is followed by 2 sets of breakout sessions before lunch. These one-hour sessions will give you a choice of four topics to explore. Pick the areas that most interest you! The sessions will cover topics in forensic science and police procedure, and be taught by experts. We'll tell you more about these topics in future posts, but plans include speakers on forensic anthropology, toxicology (poisons, drugs, etc.), DNA, use of forensic dogs, blood spatter patterns, trauma, cold cases, trace evidence, interrogation, firearms, and much more!

Lunch together - a box lunch is included in your registration!

Friday afternoon:
Lee Lofland will give a presentation on police procedure.

This is followed by another set of breakout sessions.

The final event of the day is a panel discussion to help you incorporate what you've learned into your writing. You will have had six hours of instruction by this point, so we want to give you a chance to think about the information you've received. This event will also include a Q&A session.

Dinner on your own for this night!

We're looking into having an informal forum in the evening -- stay tuned! We'll let you know.

Jan Burke

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Looking forward to November 1-4!

I want to thank Joanna and Michelle and all the other members of Sisters in Crime who have set the ball in motion for Forensic University!

This promises to be a great program. All of you who want solid information about forensic science will be hearing from professionals in the field. You'll also receive helpful handout materials with lots of resource and reference information.

That's just part of what SinC's Forensic University will offer to attendees.

Remember that this event is limited to 200 attendees. The registration site is now live, so click here to learn more!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Welcome to Forensic University--How it Came to Be

Wow. This has been an exciting two months since we proposed the idea of a conference dedicated solely to forensic science. The best part has been the enthusiasm of our featured guests: Jan Burke, Dr. D.P. Lyle, Eileen Dreyer and Lee Lofland.

Little did Michelle Becker and I know when we dreamed up this crazy idea that several of our guests had come to the same conclusion--a conference dedicated to educating writers about forensics was sorely needed. Nervous as two kids asking for prom dates, Michelle and I divvied up the responsibilities for contacting our headliners. She e-mailed Dr. Lyle, and I e-mailed Jan Burke.

The next thing I knew, Michelle was shrieking on the phone, "Doug called! He's in! He's excited."

I thought it was a wrong number and almost hung up on her. Finally, I had the presence of mind to ask, "Who is this?"

"Jo----annnnn---aaaa! It' s Michelle! And Doug is excited."

"And who is Doug?"

"Uh, Dr. Lyle."

Oh. OHHHHH! (All right, I'll quit with the dragging out letters, but you get it, right?)

Then it was my turn to respond to Jan Burke's interested e-mail with a phone call. I was so nervous I couldn't talk.

"Take a deep breath," she said very sweetly. Soon we were chatting up a storm. I had seen Jan at a local library right when Nine came out, so of course I was star-struck. Heck, the book is terrific, and she obviously is very knowledgeable about forensics and the publishing industry.

Jan was thrilled. She'd seen the need for this sort of education.

Next came a lot of hard work--for Tony Hooper, one of our local SinC members. As part of our proposal for national, we needed costs for hotel rooms, meeting rooms, and meals. Michelle and I made two site visits and quickly determined we were in over our heads. Tony said he'd help, but one of us might have to lend him a dog house to sleep in. (Fortunately, his wife was understanding.) With Tony's background as a CEO, we quickly had a spreadsheet to show national.

Next came a conference call with Rochelle Krich, Libby Hellmann, Kathy Wall, Beth Wasson and SJ Rozan. Every one of the national members was enthusiastic about the project.

So here we are.

I once read an interview with an astronaut. "Are you nervous before a launch?" asked the reporter.

"Oh, heck no. Why would I be nervous? I'm sitting there on top of tons of explosives waiting for someone to light a match to it."

Yeah, that about covers it. We're nervous, but the sky's the limit. Fasten your seatbelts!