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In this second episode of the Case Studies: Part 1 mini-season of the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence’s Just Science podcast series is an interview with Stacey Chepren, member of a trial team that prosecutes federal criminal misconduct cases, who is interviewed about the investigation and prosecution of a fatal pedestrian hit-and-run case that involved trace and digital evidence.
The interview focuses on how paint-chip analysis and video footage helped solve a fatal hit-and-run case. In this case, a man was walking across the street in a crosswalk early in the morning about the time the sun was beginning to rise. He was listening to his music as he was crossing the street when he was struck by a vehicle going at a high rate of speed. The victim was thrown a far distance from the intersection and was dismembered, as one of his legs was severed from his body due to the impact. The victim was in the military, so the military criminal investigation office was notified, which involved Stacey Chepren. There were no witnesses to the hit-and-run, so when the police learned of the case, they began looking for vehicles in the vicinity with estimated damages caused by the collision. Within about 45 minutes, they had located a black F-150 truck with significant front-end damage on the driver’s side. Individuals who owned and/or traveled in the vehicle denied having been involved in the hit-and-run case or being in the vicinity at the time it happened. Since at the time the vehicle was observed, it was parked, the users of the suspect vehicle claimed it had been stolen and must have been driven by the person who stole it and then parked it at the location where it was found. The steps in the investigation that led to a conviction of the driver are described. Security cameras at homes near where the truck was found identified the driver and other occupant parking the truck at the location where it was found, as well as their subsequent inspection of the vehicle. The matching of the black paint of the vehicle to black chips of paint found on the victim’s clothing helped secure a conviction.