The bad guy made a good impression.
Thanks to his dusty butt.
In his nearly 21 years at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab, Lead Forensics Specialist Andrew Hayes figures he’s worked close to 5,000 crime scenes, from burglaries to homicides to officer-involved shootings to in-custody deaths to fatal traffic accidents.
Rarely has he come across a print so vivid and unusual than one left behind by a suspect last year on a residential burglary call.
OCSD deputies were looking for the suspect, who was evading arrest for an unspecified crime, when the suspect climbed into the attic of his apartment, made his way through a crawl space and then dropped down into the apartment of a neighbor, who was not home at the time.
Deputies called Hayes to the apartment when they found an open bottle of Gatorade and a clear impression of someone’s jeans-covered backside on an upholstery-covered bench.
Seems the bad guy got thirsty, helped himself to a seat, and indulged in a little hydration.
One of the many things forensic specialists do, in addition to pulling prints from crime scenes, is take pictures of crime scenes.
Hayes’ black-and-white photograph of the butt print won top honors in early August at the International Association for Identification’s annual conference, held this year in San Antonio.
Hayes not only bagged first place in the Judge’s Award competition. He also won the People’s Choice Award, which attendees vote on. He beat out more than two-dozen competitors. He recalls a competing photograph of bugs and maggots eating a frog. By comparison, Hayes’ shot is mild stuff.
Hayes had never entered the contest before, but he did at the urging of a former supervisor.
He named his entry:
The suspect left something behind
Clever, Hayes. Clever.
“I used side lighting to get a good image,” Hayes said. “I have never seen something like that. You just don’t get this at crime scenes.”
Hayes surmises that the suspect got his jeans dusty from climbing through the attic.
The butt print didn’t lead to an identification of a suspect — that would have made for an interesting suspect line-up of rear ends — but Hayes obtained a fingerprint hit from the Gatorade bottle.
“It was awesome,” Hayes says of winning the two photography awards. “I was like, ‘Really?’”
Hayes, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, caught the bug for CSI work — before TV shows in the early 2000s made “CSI” a household acronym — at Cal State Long Beach, where he majored in sociology with a concentration in criminology.
His interest grew more shortly after he earned a master’s degree in sociology at Cal State Northridge in 1996.
While working as a grant writer for the Los Angeles Housing Authority, Hayes worked a few shifts a week as a volunteer on the Santa Monica PD identification unit. He rolled with forensic specialists to crime scenes.
“I realized this is what I wanted to do,” Hayes said.
After burnishing his resume with other college classes such as fingerprint classification and field evidence technician work, he landed a job at the OCSD Crime Lab in 1997, and has been there ever since.
Photography, Hayes notes, is a necessary interest and skill for anyone considering pursuing a career as a forensic specialist, which is a non-sworn position.
So is a strong stomach.
Hayes has seen, countless times, the ghastly aftermath of unspeakably grisly crimes and accidents.
“You focus on your job,” says Hayes, who works 3 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. four days a week. “You have to follow procedures, and there’s a lot of work to do. I sometimes will think about it (gross stuff) later when I’m talking to my colleagues.”
Hayes still rolls to crimes scenes, but as a certified footwear comparison expert he also spends time at his desk doing that and also tire track comparisons, two of his specialties. His screensaver on his desk computer is a photo compilation of footwear prints.
Outside of work, Hayes, who is married to an elementary school teacher, loves camping and travelling. Last year, he and his wife enjoyed a trip to Eastern Europe.
Shortly after he won the dusty butt photo awards, a colleague put a note up in Hayes’ cubicle.
The note congratulated him for his “booty-full impression.”