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VMD in the Media – Montana State Crime Lab recognised for fast case turnarounds

KRTV News Reports with video. Originally published on May 30, 2022.

For the second year in a row, the Montana State Crime Lab has been recognised for its efficiency by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.

“The FORESIGHT Maximus award is given out through West Virginia University’s Project FORESIGHT, which is a business guided self-evaluation of forensic science laboratories. The award measures success based, in part, on how fast a lab can process or test evidence and get the information back to the requesting agency.
Almost 200 forensic laboratories submitted for the award in 2021, and The Montana Department of Justice’s Forensic Science Division was one of 13 award winners.”

Staff at the lab work with any law enforcement agency, as well as public defence attorneys. The lab’s forensic scientists and medical examiners test blood samples for alcohol or drugs, identify confiscated substances, conduct autopsies and reveal latent fingerprint impressions. Latent fingerprints are imperceptible to the eye.

To be able to examine them, Fingerprint Analysts such as Stephanie Shappee use a vacuum metal deposition chamber.

“It’s a high-vacuum chamber that evaporates very thin layers of metal,” Shappee said. “We use gold, silver, zinc, sterling silver. It evaporates, and it does a light thin coat of metal on the surface and we’re able to visualise impressions on it.”


Shappee placed a plain white piece of paper with her handprint on it into the machine, and a silvery handprint appeared.