by Tonie Lopez and Julia Moro

The series features different experts in the field each Friday 

Students have the opportunity this fall to dive into the world of forensic science through talks given by experts in the field at this semester’s Forensic Science Seminar Series.

Guest speakers from all over the Northeast will come to the University of Rhode Island to bring audience members into the minds of criminals and those with deviant behaviors, among other topics. Attendees will also have the opportunity to be lead through in-depth investigations into crime scenes. The seminar started Sept. 13 and will run until Dec. 6. 

Walter Williams, a detective with the Warwick Police Department since 1998, recently spoke at the seminar on Sept. 27. Williams was a detective for the Providence Police Department for 26 years before he joined the Warwick Police Department as a criminalist. 

Williams’ talk went behind-the-scenes of a 2005 murder case where a 37-year-old Warwick woman was killed. Using photos of the crime scene, he gave a detailed account of the murder. He talked about how the victim was discovered by her father in her basement. According to Williams, she was drenched in blood and stabbed multiple times, with large, open gashes across her throat. 

An extensive investigation was done in her home, checking for DNA, blood spatter analysis and any hair fibers. This eventually led to her killer being caught and arrested.

This particular case was a very personal one for Williams, which is why he chose to share it. 

“I have three daughters, so for me it hits home,” he said. “I used to go small game hunting, small animals, rabbits and squirrels, in Jamestown,” said Williams. “It took one me week to realize the real animals in this world walk on two feet, not on four. And since then, I never raised my gun to another animal.”

Williams hopes that URI students can really take in and value what they learned in the seminar. 

Ann Burgess, another speaker at this year’s seminar series, is a researcher and nursing professor at Boston College that studies victimology and works with trauma victims. She spoke about an FBI study that explored the motives of many notorious murderers. The study included multiple interviews with serial killers like Ed Kemper, Montie Rissell and Dennis Rader.

 “One of the most important climates was how proactive were they from a very young age [with] the role of fantasy,” said Burgess. “Earliest behaviors were explored with animals, such as practicing with dismemberment and cannibalistic fantasies. One as a six-year-old fantasized about eating his babysitter. Another one had a shoe fetish.” 

Burgess said the FBI agents who profiled these criminals found that they had many similar characteristics: the need for control, sexual deviancy and lack of empathy or remorse. These traits have been attributed to many other killers who began their immoral acts young in life. 

The Forensic Science Seminar Series is run by Dennis Hilliard, an adjunct professor of Biomedical Sciences, as well as director of the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory.

According to Hilliard, the seminar series began in the fall of 1999. 

“When the original CSI [TV show] started, we had a lot of kids interested in forensic sciences,” Hillard said. “It eventually lead to the Center of Forensic Sciences here at URI, including the Center of Excellence. It’s a very interesting field; I have been working in it for 40 years now.”

The series will take place every Friday afternoon from 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m., and is located in Room 100 of the Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences building. It is available to all students, staff and the general public free of charge.