Crime Scene Investigation – Metal Detectors Help Crack the Case!

Material evidence is everything when it comes to investigating a crime scene. Thus, metal detectors play a key role in locating necessary pieces of a “crime puzzle.” Police officers and investigators (first to arrive at a crime scene) know all too well the scrutiny they are under in a courtroom when prosecutors are trying to prove a case. That’s why they pay meticulous attention to detail and attempt to gather every bit of evidence possible at the scene of an alleged crime. Metal detectors at the scene help to immediately locate weapons (guns, knives), as well as bullets, shell casings and any other metal objects that need to be studied. Unfortunately, human error can occur during an initial crime scene investigation—evidence can be overlooked, contaminated or inadvertently discarded. With the proper investigation equipment, such as a CSI metal detector and pin pointer, it is much more likely that each piece of ballistic evidence will be found.

Ballistics is the study of gun use. Internal ballistics is used by forensic scientists—they examine the process of a particular bullet being fired and traveling down a gun barrel. Bullets found by crime scene investigators each contain marks on them, like “fingerprints” of the weapons from which they were fired. The bullet data can be compared under a microscope to match firearm ballistics. In a forensic laboratory, a firearm of interest undergoes test firing. The gun may have been found at the scene of a crime, in the possession of a suspect or elsewhere. After the test firing, the marks made by the gun on the bullet and on the cartridge are examined. If they match those found on bullets or cartridges found at the scene, the weapon and its owner are linked to the crime.

Forensic Files Episode- Metal Detector Provided Proof

TV shows like Forensic Files illustrate the importance of linking hard evidence to a killer in order to seek justice. Many times, physical proof is the only way a jury will find a conviction. Forensic scientists believe that every contact leaves a trace—no matter how foolproof a criminal’s plan appears to be. One episode of Forensic Files, “Buried Treasure,” explains why a metal detector can offer “smoking gun” evidence.

Pennsylvania Murder Case Solved After 15 Years

A metal detector proved pivotal in this murder investigation. An episode of Forensic Files tells the chilling tale of a man who mysteriously went missing back in 1985. Melvin Snyder, of Greencastle, Pennsylvania suddenly went missing. To this day—no body or murder weapon has ever been found. Contacts closest to Melvin Snyder, including his wife, were questioned and cleared of any wrong-doing.

Upon digging into Snyder’s missing person’s case, it was discovered that Snyder had an affair with another man’s wife a year before his disappearance. The man, Ronald W. Harshman, reportedly rammed his truck into Melvin Snyder’s car and fired gunshots at him when he learned of the affair in 1984. Harshman was charged with assault at the time, according to police records. Then, a year later in 1985, Snyder disappeared; his pickup truck was found outside of a local grocery store. Police and investigators had a motive with Ronald Harshman, but the only evidence found was a .25-caliber shell casing which was discovered in Snyder’s barn.

The case of Melvin Snyder’s disappearance went cold for almost 15 years, until a Pennsylvania investigator picked it up again. This time, he solicited the help of a metal detector hobbyist and they went to the site of Ronald Harshman’s former home. A neighbor told of an incident when Harshman fired a gun into the ground during an argument. Don Hinks, the metal detectorist from Gettysburg, PA., searched the vicinity described and discovered a shell casing about an inch into the ground at Harshman’s old home. At the same time forensic scientists discovered that the two .25-caliber shell casings were a match, it was revealed that Harshman purchased a .25-caliber pistol months before Snyder went missing. The indisputable evidence found with a metal detector provided proof that the suspect did it. A jury found Harshman guilty of first-degree murder in 2001.

Metal Detectors Designed for Crime Scene Investigation

Specialized metal detectors are designed strictly for the purpose of crime scene investigation. This expert equipment allows police officers, investigators and first responders to recover evidence in a quick and expeditious manner. CSI metal detectors have special target identification displays designed to identify bullets, shell casings, weapons and other evidence. They are often equipped with a display screen that accurately indicates the type of bullet gauge found, among other details. Below are suggested CSI metal detectors which are used by CSI teams throughout the world. With the help of metal detectors, a crime can potentially be solved instead of going into cold case files.


About the author: Daniel Bernzweig manages in Southborough, MA. He has written on the subject of treasure hunting and metal detecting since the mid 1980’s. He enjoys traveling with his metal detector and helping to educate others in the correct use of metal detectors in their explorations.