By Nate Strauch

By Nate Strauch

Herald Democrat

They referred to her as simply Jane Doe. Her blond hair covered most of the table on which her head rested. A knife sat on the surface nearby. Her blouse was stained red with blood from the stab wounds.

Her face was blank — actually, literally blank.

That’s because Jane was only a mannequin at Thursday’s 12th annual Grayson College Crime Scene Competition. She represented a chance for local high school seniors to get some hands-on experience in the criminal justice field.

"I have a lot of students that are interested in law enforcement and a lot of students that are interested in Grayson College, and this just seemed like the perfect way to (provide value to both groups)," said Denison High School instructor Steve Cherry, the contest’s creator. "They’ve seen it on the page, but this makes it a little more real."

Denison students were joined, for the first time, by their cohorts from Sherman High School, which founded its criminal justice program only two years ago. Todd Gruhn, who brought nine students to the competition, said the event was a chance for the new program to gain some traction in the student body.

"I really wanted to get the word out about our program to our students, and I thought that being able to get the students involved outside the classroom would be a good thing," said Gruhn. "So I took most of the top students we had and brought them out here. This activity sort of gives students a way to see things going on here at the college that they wouldn’t be able to see on just a normal college day."

Participants broke up into teams that rotated between three stations: crime scene investigation with Jane, a written test and a turn at the college’s new, state-of-the-art virtual firearms training facility, where they fired modified weapons at a projection screen in law enforcement simulations.

"The girl that won it last year had never fired a gun, and she did the whole thing wearing a little giraffe backpack," said Grayson County instructor David Huss. "This event is for our high school students that are going, ‘You know, I think I might want to be in law enforcement, but I really don’t know anything about it;’ or what they do know is what’s on TV, which means that it’s incredible wrong. (Using the firearms simulation,) I can show them some of the things we do on training. I can show them this isn’t TV; this is what the real world looks like."

For Sherman senior Courtney Wright, who wants to become a forensic scientist, TV was the source of her interest, but Thursday grounded that interest in reality.

"(The TV show) ‘Bones’ got me interested, just … watching them do all the crazy forensics and … identify it through the bones. I thought that was crazy," she said. "I think (this competition) is giving us a lot of really good insight about … how it’s going to be in the field."

Denison student Tobie Roberts said Cherry’s class, and this contest in particular, provided her with some direction in her studies.

"I always wanted to go into law, but I wasn’t really sure which field. So I took the criminal justice classes, and it struck a match, I guess," said Roberts. "I want to do the crime scene investigation part. I just want to help people and solve stuff."