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.