A look inside Escondido’s crime scene investigation lab

ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- FOX 5 got an exclusive look inside Escondido's crime scene investigation lab and spoke with the forensic experts who help solve some of North County's most violent crimes.

Anytime day or night, members of Escondido's CSI unit have to be ready for work.

“It’s my passion so I don’t mind it. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to have," Forensic Services Supervisor Bryanna Toussaint said.

The unit is run by four women. One of them is Ashleigh Nichol, who is a latent print and evidence specialist.

“Our goal is to find the truth, what exactly happened,” Nichol said.

In a mock setup used for training, she explained to FOX 5 what they look for when on the scene of a crime.

“The first thing you do when you get to any crime scene you do an initial walk through,” Nichol said.

Then, she said, photos are taken all around the room before placing markers next to evidence.

“I look for things that would be good for finger prints,” Nichol said.

Once all the evidence is collected, she said, it goes back to their lab for processing and packaging.

“We have these drying chambers to dry the evidence,” Nichol said.

In the lab, the forensic experts spend a lot of time finding and documenting fingerprints. They showed us that you can get a fingerprint off of just about anything -- styrofoam, cans, tile, tape and even paper.

The fingerprints are photographed and then scanned into a database system that could result in a match.

“So when that name pops up and I’m like, 'yep this is the person' and I can go to the detective and say, 'here’s your person,'” Toussaint said.

Toussaint said there are many CSI units, now run by mostly women -- a shift that came after she said the job was opened up to civilians and not just sworn-in officers.

In her more than five years at the Escondido Police Department, she said they have helped solve a number of crimes including, more recently, a cold case that is currently going through the court system.

“It’s over 30 years old so to be able to bring justice to the family and know that we didn’t just shove it in a drawer and forget about it, we’re actually looking at it and we care about our cases,” Toussaint said.

It is a hard and tedious job that the women find fulfilling in the end.

“It’s getting justice for those who can’t talk, those that are no long here, or those that should be exonerated, or that should be found innocent or guilty or whatever it might be. We are the ones that collect the evidence and interpret that and present it for the jury to make the decision,” Toussaint said.

Toussaint said anyone who is interested in becoming a forensic expert needs to go to school, work hard and have a clean record.

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