DELAWARE STATE POLICE HOMICIDE UNIT
Captain Ralph Davis
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 2011 the Homicide Unit investigated a total of 19 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 19 new cases investigated by Unit members, eight were homicide investigations. Arrests were made in seven of the eight homicide investigations. The Unit also investigated two police officer involved use of force cases. In addition, eight death investigations from previous years were adjudicated in the court system with findings of guilt or guilty pleas during 2011 and Unit members cleared one cold case.
This year the Homicide Unit hosted the 16th 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 150 criminal investigators representing 45 law enforcement agencies from the northeast region attended the conference, which included several nationally recognized speakers. Topics included crime scene management, blood spatter analysis, domestic related homicides, statement analysis and child death investigations. The conference also included a dinner cruise aboard the Cape May/Lewes Ferry.
In January 2011, Unit Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge, Sergeant Robert Hudson was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and transferred to the Patrol Section of DSP Troop 3. Lt. Hudson’s years of investigative experience and leadership will be greatly missed. Lt. Hudson was replaced by Sergeant Millard Greer. Sgt. Greer is a 14 year veteran of the DSP. Sgt. Greer brings a diverse investigative background to the Homicide Unit having completed successful assignments in both criminal and drug investigative units. Sgt. Greer’s investigative experiences and proven leadership abilities will be valuable assets to the Homicide Unit. Sgt. Greer joined detectives William Porter, Mark Ryde, David Chorlton and Roger Cresto, and Administrative Assistant Debra Powell to create a cohesive unit that cleared nearly 90% of the investigations undertaken in 2011.
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 IBIS technician and Mr. Carl Rone who is the certified forensic firearms examiner.
From November 2006 through December 2011, 3,030 firearm related investigations have been submitted to the FFSU for examination. During 2011, 504 firearms related cases, 28 murder investigations, 395 firearms, 893 cartridge cases, and 177 bullet specimens were submitted to the Unit, which provided forensic firearms services to 25 Delaware law enforcement agencies, as well as several federal law enforcement agencies. In addition to the submissions received by the FFSU, 121 IBIS/Brasstrax ballistic case matches were confirmed by the forensic firearms examiner. In addition, the examiner provided expert witness testimony on 45 occasions regarding the results of the forensic ballistics examination. The FFSU also 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 three units specializing in blood and breath alcohol analysis, hairs and fibers analysis and forensic and general photography.
Director Willey and forensic chemist Ms. Cynthia McCarthy conduct the alcohol analyses of all DUI/alcohol and DUI/drug cases (except fatal accidents) statewide. In 2011 approximately 1,902 blood alcohol cases were submitted for analysis. Additionally, 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. Two-hundred eighty-six Intoxilyzer calibration checks were performed and 44 new operators certified in 2011. Members of the Lab also made 16 Intoxilyzer repairs during the year. As a result of the statewide service, the Crime Lab staff received 1,980 subpoenas to appear in Delaware courts during 2011.
In September, Ms. Elisa Vassas, the Division’s photographer, retired after 31 years of committed service to the State Police. Ms. Vassas began her career with the Division in 1980 at the State Bureau of Identification. She moved to the Crime Lab in 1991 when the new section was established. Prior to her retirement in September Ms.Vassas provided a wide variety of photographic services to all Delaware law enforcement agencies, to include the Delaware Office of Highway Safety and the Office of the Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security as well as the Governor’s Office. Services include portrait photography, ceremony photography, storage of digital photographs taken by members of DSP crash reconstruction and evidence detection units and responses to requests for non-electronic photographs. Ms. Vassas also provided digital photographs upon request to attorneys and insurance companies, to include members of the Delaware Department of Justice and defense attorneys, in criminal and civil cases. Additionally, Ms. Vassas provided instruction regarding crime scene photographic techniques at the DSP Academy. Ms. Vassas’s services to all members of the Delaware law enforcement community will be greatly missed.
In December, the Crime Lab welcomed its newest chemist, Ms. Jill Winterling. Ms. Winterling comes to the Crime Lab with a vast amount of scientific experience having worked for the Delaware Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. Ms. Winterling fills the chemist vacancy created by the resignation of Ms. Deborah Louie.
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 the new year, the members of the Delaware State Police Homicide Section remain 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 2011 DSP Annual Report -