Thawing Cold Cases in the Classroom


  • Michelle Renee Rippy California State University East Bay


This paper outlines the use of a current cold case to utilize foundational forensic science knowledge and connect theory to practice in an upper-division course.  The cold case presented by a local law enforcement agency to two upper-division forensic science courses, with the students being responsible for compiling information, researching testing, and presenting the information back to the law enforcement agency.  Data collection occurred using a mixed-methods approach, including online, voluntary student surveys and a semi-structured interview with the detective sergeant of the local law enforcement agency.  The student survey showed that the project was well-received, assisted in increasing knowledge in forensic science and cold cases significantly and to confirm future career paths.  The interview explained the preparation needed to provide the cold case as well as the benefits obtained and the willingness to participate in future projects.

Author Biography

Michelle Renee Rippy, California State University East Bay

Michelle Rippy is an assistant professor at California State University – East Bay (CSUEB) in the Department of Criminal Justice.  Before earning a tenure-track position at CSUEB, Michelle was a medicolegal death investigator for the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office, retiring as a Supervising Deputy Coroner after 10 years of service.  Michelle has also worked as a reserve police officer for the past 17 years in a variety of divisions.  Michelle holds a master’s degree in forensic science and is currently working on her doctorate at the University of Southern California.  Michelle’s research interests include medicolegal death investigations, time of death and innovative education in criminal justice.  






Activity or Laboratory Experiment: College Educators