DELAWARE STATE POLICE HOMICIDE UNIT
Captain Melissa Hukill
The Delaware State Police Homicide Section is comprised of three distinct and unique units; the Homicide Unit, the Forensic Firearms Services Unit and the Crime Lab. These units are staffed by talented civilian and sworn Divisional employees with specialized training and advanced education allowing them to detect crimes, identify suspects and prosecute the offenders in Delaware courts.
Established in 1989, the Delaware State Police (DSP) Homicide Unit is comprised of five sworn members and one civilian administrative assistant. The primary responsibilities of the Homicide Unit include the investigation of homicides, suspicious deaths, and missing persons in which the person is suspected to be deceased. The Homicide Unit also investigates officer involved uses of deadly force, attempted murders and selected assaults. In addition to new investigations, the Homicide Unit is responsible for investigating “cold case” homicides.
During 2012, the Homicide Unit investigated a total of 28 new cases. The Unit provided investigative assistance to all DSP criminal troops and allied law enforcement agencies in numerous death and missing person investigations. Of the 28 new cases investigated by unit members, twelve were homicide investigations. Arrests were made in eight of the homicide investigations. The unit also investigated two police officer involved use of force cases. In addition, five death investigations from previous years were adjudicated in the court system with findings of guilt or guilty pleas during 2012 and unit members cleared one cold case from 2009 with the arrest of the suspect.
This year the Homicide Unit hosted the 17th Annual Homicide Conference in Dover. This annual event is recognized as one of the premiere conferences in the nation dealing with the investigation of suspicious deaths. Approximately 135 criminal investigators representing 47 law enforcement agencies from the northeast region attended the conference, which included several nationally recognized speakers. Topics included crime scene management, domestic related homicides, use of DNA in criminal investigations, human decomposition and child death investigations. The conference also included a dinner cruise aboard the Cape May/Lewes Ferry.
In June Detective David Chorlton left the unit after two and one-half years and returned to the Patrol Section. Detective Chorlton was replaced by Detective Fred Chambers. Detective Chambers is a 17 year veteran of the Delaware State Police and brought 12 years of criminal investigative experience to the Homicide Unit. Detective Chambers joined Sergeant Millard Greer detectives William Porter, Mark Ryde, and Roger Cresto, and Administrative Assistant Debra Hughes to create a cohesive unit, which exceeded national clearance standards and which is committed to clearing 100 percent of all death investigations.
Within the DSP Homicide Section is the Forensic Firearms Services Unit (FFSU). The FFSU was created in November 2006 to assist all law enforcement agencies in Delaware with the investigation of gun related and other violent crimes by examining firearms and ballistic related evidence collected during criminal investigations. The FFSU is staffed by Detective John Ubil who serves as the Brasstrax technician and Mr. Carl Rone who is the certified forensic firearms examiner.
From November 2006 through December 2012, 3,657 firearms related investigations have been submitted to the FFSU for examination. During 2012, 627 firearms related cases, 45 murder investigations, 497 firearms, 1,386 cartridge cases and 506 bullet specimens were submitted to the unit, which provided forensic firearms services to 26 Delaware law enforcement agencies, as well as several federal law enforcement agencies. In addition to the submissions received by the FFSU, 170 IBIS/Brasstrax ballistic case matches were confirmed by the forensic firearms examiner. In addition, the examiner provided expert witness testimony regarding the results of the forensic ballistics examination and offered services such as firearm serial number restoration, gun shot residue testing, bullet trajectory work and tool mark examinations to Delaware investigative agencies.
Since its inception, the Delaware State Police Crime Lab has provided services for numerous local and municipal police departments, federal agencies and the Delaware State Police. Under the direction of Mrs. Julie Willey, the Crime Lab is staffed by three civilian employees. The lab is composed of units specializing in blood alcohol analysis, breath alcohol analysis and hairs and fibers analysis.
Director Willey and forensic chemist Mrs. Jill Winterling conduct the alcohol analyses of all DUI/alcohol and DUI/drug cases (except fatal accidents) statewide. Forensic chemist Mrs. Cynthia McCarthy oversees the Breath Alcohol Program. The DSP Crime Lab is the sole state lab responsible for the calibration checks of the Intoxilyzer instruments utilized for breath alcohol analysis as well as the training of operators of the instrumentation. As a result of the statewide services provided by members of the Crime Lab, the staff received 2,360 subpoenas to appear in Delaware courts during 2012.
In October Mrs. Deborah Louie joined the Crime Lab staff. Mrs. Louie filled the newly created position of Laboratory Technician and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Crime Lab having worked as a forensic chemist in previous state employment. In addition to assisting the forensic chemists with analytic tasks, Mrs. Louie will assist Director Willey with administrative tasks such as filling evidence supply orders. Additionally, Mrs. Louie will manage the DSP photo storage program, which includes responding to requests from attorneys and insurance companies for stored photographs.
In addition to the above services provided by the Crime Lab, Director Willey also performs calibration checks of the Ionscan instrument maintained by the Delaware National Guard. The Ionscan is used to detect trace amounts of illegal drugs and explosives. As cost center manager, Director Willey also manages funds allocated for the purchase of supplies used by the Forensic Firearms Services Unit, the Homicide Unit, the Crime Lab and the three statewide DSP evidence detection units and crash reconstruction units. Director Willey also serves as the DSP forensic microscopist and conducts hair and fiber analysis upon request.
As we move into 2013, the members of the Delaware State Police Homicide Section remains committed to serving the residents and visitors of our state with the highest quality of service possible. Unit members look forward to meeting the new challenges in crime fighting through continued and specialized training as well as the utilization of the latest advanced technology in forensics.
- Information obtained from 2012 DSP Annual Report -