Criminologist, USF grad creates forensic fiction
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012 03:03
O: Are there any landmarks in the books that locals will recognize?
RW:Not just places. In the novel that I’ve just finished up, there’s a forensic anthropologist that helps out with the investigation. Erin Kimmerle is a forensic anthropologist from USF that works a lot with us on scene, and that character is based loosely on her. They have lunch at Carmine’s in Ybor City and a couple of other scenes take place there. There are plenty of Tampa landmarks that people will recognize.
O:What aspect of your career would you say had the most impact on your decision to stay in crime investigation and eventually write about it?
RW:I started off as a crime scene investigator with the Tampa Police, so my career started building up around that. I started doing fingerprint comparisons. I became a fingerprint expert, and probably working on major homicide cases, when I would finally make that identification — the thing that links the suspect to the crime that becomes relevant in court.
Fingerprint comparison can be very difficult. You might have a fingerprint from a crime scene that has eight or 10 points of identity on it, and the average person’s palm print has 2,300 points of identity on it. It almost is mind boggling when you get into it. But when you make the match, it’s hard to describe. It’s a feeling like you’ve never had when your efforts have just cleared the case.
O:What is your job as director of forensics like today?
RW: All the forensics operations in the Sherriff’s Office fall under me. So I’m in charge of interviewing, hiring recommendations, doing the budget, disciplinary — all that stuff. But I also still get down in the weeds with it because I’ve got the background. I was down yesterday looking at a fingerprint on a murder case that we’re working on right now. I still go out to crime scenes; there was a death investigation over the weekend.
O:That doesn’t sound like an ideal weekend.
RW:It ruins your weekend to be honest with you, but you do what has to be done. I got a call on Sunday and had to go out and help out with the investigation. I’m just there to provide guidance and oversight, to answer questions and offer my input.