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SBI Crime Lab Helps To Solve Hit-And-Run Accident

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The State Bureau of Investigation's multi-million dollar lab helped link a

Dodge Caravan

to the hit-and-run death of Nancy Wood and her 3-year-old son, Robbie, last weekend. Lab officials cannot discuss the case specifically, but they said high-tech tools deserve most of the credit.

Sometimes, a fragment of glass or plastic left behind will yield a manufacturer's name or a serial number. Otherwise, there is serious legwork such as comparing the pieces' shape, color or contour to a vehicle. Color also helps SBI officials make a connection. Even the most minute traces of paint pulled off a victim yield results under a microscope.

A detector that operates off liquid nitogen can take a piece of paint and cool it to -375 degrees Fahrenheit. The paint then gets compared to colors in a national database established in the past decade.

"Years ago, it was much more labor intensive. We would actually have to take the paint chip, a microscopic paint chip and compare it to, physically compare it to a number of, I guess you'd call it, slides of various paints from vehicles," SBI agent Troy Hamlin said.

The SBI handles hit-and-run cases for the entire state. It has three people trained to analyze paint and two to check out glass and plastic.