Rural Investigations

ROCIC Workshop

FINDAR  Locates Homicide Victim and the Gun

Sensors and Software Inc. attended the 22nd National Homicide Investigator’s Conference in Shreveport, LA., put on by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIC) in 2013. At that time a demonstration of how ground penetrating radar
(GPR) can be used to assist in police investigations took place.

GPR systems can detect metallic and non-metallic pieces of evidence buried beneath the surface. As a result of this capability investigators frequently use GPR to find physical evidence that is difficult to locate. Victims of homicide fall into the  non-metallic category and the use of GPR simplifies pinpointing their bodies.ns took place.

A human body is made up of about 65 percent water. To demonstrate that GPR can locate a body, three 1 gallon jugs of water were buried in Veteran’s Park. The jugs were placed approximately 2 feet deep, refer to Figure 1.

Figure 1: Location of the buried items in relation to Veteran’s Park

GPR can also be used to locate metallic items such as long guns. To demonstrate, a 1 ½ inch 3 foot long pipe was buried near the water jugs. The pipe was placed 8 inches deep in the soil.

The GPR device sends a pulse of radio energy into the ground, which reflects off different materials and returns. The system operator is notified that there is something that is different (body or gun) beneath the surface. The data was collected over a period of about 30 minutes, covering an area of 20 X 20 feet (400 sq. ft.).

Figure 2: An area view of the ‘homicide victim’

The collected information was processed on site. The depth slice in Figure 2 shows how the homicide victim appeared. The evidence can be clearly distinguished in the bottom left corner of the image.

Figure 3 illustrates the homicide victim on the FINDAR cross-section view of the ground. It is clear that the body was buried 2 feet in the soil. The cross-line (not shown) indicates the object.

Figure 3: Cross-section view of the 'homicide victim' It is easy to distinguish that it is buried 2 ft. in the soil and is 5 feet long.

Figure 4 shows a depth slice of the gun. The target can be seen in the bottom right hand corner.

Figure 4: An area view of the ‘gun’

Sometimes when creating a report on a GPR search it is helpful to show the placement of the collection grid in relation to the surroundings. Figure 5 displays a depth slice placed in Google Earth providing geographic information on the location of where the physical evidence was found. 

Figure 2: Depth Slice on Google Earth.

Conclusions: The demonstration given at the ROCIC 22nd National Homicide Investigators  conference was successful in locating the simulated forensic targets. In general the demonstration provided a clear idea of how GPR is useful to locate buried pieces of evidence. GPR also permits the user to see the depth of the buried target. This allows for quicker excavations without damaging the physical evidence.


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