Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serology: It's in the Blood

Putting It All Together

Several different blood analysis techniques came together in the Caren Campano case to provide enough evidence for an arrest. She was missing and there seemed to be nothing amiss in the home... at first. 

Her husband, Chris, admitted that they'd had a fight just before she had disappeared on July 1, 1992, from their Oklahoma City home. He offered to let investigators look around, which was his first mistake. A huge brownish patch on the bedroom carpet alerted them to the possibility that it was blood. They used several techniques to find out more:

1. A hema stick (microcrystal test)
This stick is coated with a blood-sensitive chemical which, when touched to a substance and then sprayed with distilled water, indicates the presence of blood. Later in the lab, they determined that it was human blood.

2. Luminol 
Although the house appeared to be spotless, when this highly sensitive chemical was sprayed around the room in the dark, it illuminated so many areas that it was clear that a virtual bloodbath had taken place.

When blood flies through the air, the pattern in which it lands can determine its track, as well as the location and position of the weapon that inflicted the blow. It can also provide an estimate of how many blows were struck. Investigators found spatters on the walls, doors, and even across the ceiling. There was also a blood trail through the house and down the back outside steps. Piecing together from the splatter patterns what might have occurred, they felt certain that the victim had received numerous blows to the head with a blunt object, which collectively would have been fatal.

3. Blood Volume Test through stain recreation
On the same rug, they poured the amount of blood that would have been needed to make a stain the same size as the one they found, and then estimated that a person the size of Caren Campano would have lost at least 40 % of her blood. She could not have survived that.

Serologist testing blood samples
Serologist testing blood samples

4. DNA analysis – Reverse paternity test
Although Caren's father was deceased and they had no samples of her DNA, they took blood samples from as many members of her family as they could find, hoping for a partial match with all of them. Finding it, the police had enough for an arrest on the suspicion of murder.

Finally, a year after her disappearance, they located Caren's remains, which by this time were mostly skeletal. The dental records matched and the story told by the many fractures to the skull confirmed the theoretical scenario pieced together from the blood spatters in the Campano bedroom. Chris Campano was then convicted of the murder of his wife.

The various tests used on blood and blood patterns can offer crucial evidence in the reconstruction of a crime scene and even the proof of murder without having the body.


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