SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Unified Police Department Sergeant Cynthia Archuleta’s team is like a real-life cast of “CSI” solving murders and other major crimes by analyzing DNA, blood splatter and gunshot trajectories but this is no TV show. The victims and perpetrators are real and cases hang in the balance.
Bones and teeth glow under ultraviolet light, revealing secrets of what happened to their previous owner or owners. The Unified Police Department Forensics team gets their share of mysterious and gruesome cases, like the time 13 severed hands and feet were discovered in a local cemetery.
“Every crime scene tells a story and our job is to collect those pieces and to figure out what happened,” Sgt. Archuleta told Behind The Badge. “Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I have these epiphanies of things we should do or things we should look at.”
Overseeing the UPD Forensics team is the latest chapter in Sergeant Archuleta’s law enforcement career which started as a rookie corrections officer.
“I remember sitting the first week in the Correctional Academy watching safety videos of officers and inmates getting shanked,” she said. “And I thought ‘Oh gosh, what have I gotten myself into?'”
It turns out she had gotten herself into a 19-year career that’s included stints as a patrol officer, a narcotics officer, a K-9 handler and a school resource officer at Hillcrest High School.
Recently she was put in charge of supervising the Department’s nine forensics analysts.
“I’m just the lucky gal who gets to supervise these analysts,” Sgt. Archuleta said. “They are amazing and they are super talented. They are very smart. When they come together on a crime scene. They just blow me away. They’re able to work so efficiently and effectively together and they get the job done.”
Sgt. Archuleta says their work is nothing like you see on TV shows where the crime is solved in an hour. In reality, just processing a scene can take 10 hours and closing a case takes several months or even years.
“We want to know what happened and we want to put the pieces together in that puzzle,” she said. “If it comes to a conviction, that’s what we’re looking for in the end.”
Sgt. Archuleta says the goal is the same in every single case: to get justice for victims and closure for their families.
And as for those hands and feet found in the cemetery, it turns out they were not human. They were actually bear paws.
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