Geologist assists police at murder scenes
Posted June 15, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — One week ago, police found the remains of a missing woman and 5-year-old boy buried behind a Durham home.
To help find the remains at 2622 Ashe St., police enlisted the help of geologist Ron Crowson, who works in conjunction with the North Carolina Program for Forensic Sciences at North Carolina State University. The program has assisted in the death investigations of Zahra Baker, Nancy Cooper, Shaniya Davis and Kelly Morris.
One of the first things a forensics team does is look for an area of ground that might have been disturbed, such as a bare patch of land, Crowson said. Then, they test the soil to see how hard or soft it is.
First, Crowson surveyed the Durham site with a high-tech metal detector. It picked up on mineral in the soil that's usually deeper in the ground, indicating that someone might have dug up the area recently.
Crowson then used a ground-penetrating radar, which creates a map of the area.
"It does have the ability to look into the ground and see if there are object underneath the ground," he said. "It doesn't identify what the objects are, but it does tell us there is something there."
Crowson used a computer to put several maps together, ultimately leading to the discovery of Jadon Higganbothan's remains wrapped in a plastic bag.
"That morning they found the boy and it was exactly where the radar and EM (electromagnetic) unit had shown," Crowson said.
Higganbothan was last seen in October. An informant told Durham police in February that the boy was killed inside a home at 2109 Pear Tree Lane, and his body was stuffed into a suitcase and disposed of.
Police charged Peter Lucas Moses, 27, with murder in Jadon's death. Moses is also charged with murder in the death of Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, whose remains were also found behind the home.
Crowson, who works as a private contractor through his company Geo Solutions, has worked on murder cases in Hope Mills and Elizabeth City. He said that while he tries to keep his mind on science, he knows his work might ultimately lead to justice.
"My main Impetus is to provide information for police to nail the guy. That's what I'm after," Crowson said.