Insects help investigators solve crimes

Tampa, Florida -- They're creepy. They're slimy. But tiny bugs that may make your skin crawl, are making it easier in some cases to solve crimes.

"When we arrived at scene, it was a wooded thick area," says Jason Brando, a crime scene investigator with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

It was May 2010, Crime scene investigators with the sheriff's office, arrive on scene to find a woman's body.

"She was found partially clothed with insect activity," says Brando.

The body was heavily decomposed.

"This case, I'm not sure when last seen alive. Bugs are very important," says Brando.

Those bugs are where investigator Terri Dewitt comes in.

"There's no better feeling then being able to find that piece of evidence that can help your detective put a case together and really get resolution for families," says Dewitt.

Dewitt is trained to remove those insects from a crime scene.

And send them here to Jason Byrd, a forensic entomologist at the University of Florida

"We utilize insects on humans or animals after death we use growth to determine and answer questions how long bodies been deceased- if it's been moved," says Byrd.

Byrd is one of 18 forensic entomologists in the country helping solve crimes with bugs.

"We get cases all the time. We're at point where we are turning away cases," says Byrd.

Byrd says the woman's body found in a wooded area of Tampa Bay, is one he remembers today.

"We're able to accurately predict when insects on body and when death occurred," says Byrd.

"It's a very simple way to be able to say this is when we believe the time of death was and it doesn't match up with the story suspect is giving us," says Dewitt.

Byrd was able to take the maggots found from the body and put together a timeline from when the body was placed.

"We as entomologists are able to predict how old these insects are," says Byrd.

The scientific evidence allowed detectives to identify false statements given by the victim's husband -- in the end putting him behind bars for second degree murder.

"It really establishes the time line -- when the detectives lock suspect in to the story -- and entomologists evidence are showing their story is completely false that can be used to show what exactly happens and be able to say hey this is what we know happened because the science is telling us," says Dewitt.

Dewitt says nothing can beat scientific evidence, and that's why some crime solving investigators, are putting on a brave face, to help solve crimes with these crime solving insects.

"You just buckle down and do it because it's valuable evidence," says Dewitt.

For more information on forensic entomology, visit this website.


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