J. Lynn Windsor, Staff Writer -
Lynchburg College students enrolled in Psych 263, Psychology of Law, will have unique work to do for the remainder of this semester: to solve the “murder” of senior Erin Grogan.
These students will be investigating the mock murder of Grogan, found playing dead at approximately 10:18 a.m. on Feb. 16. Grogan’s features were masked by senior make-up artist Jason Smith. Smith took several minutes to place a false patch of gore over Grogan’s left eye, cover her arms with bruises and spatter Grogan with copious amounts of boysenberry syrup to simulate blood. Beyond Grogan’s body, a message was written in “blood” on the wall, reading “Marry this, bitch.” Grogan’s “death” was caused by a stab to the eye by a stiletto heel. The processing of the case will proceed as realistically as possible, including the investigation and prosecution of the killer.
Senior Ashley Desrosiers, Head Psychology Lab Assistant and PASS Leader, was the major coordinator of the project. Desrosiers said she was given permission by Associate Professor of Psychology and the teacher of this course, Virginia Cylke, to help with the planning of the murder.
On the day of the murder, the body was initially discovered by eyewitnesses within the class, after a long trek around campus led by Desrosiers. Students picked their way through rain, scanning for suspects through Hopwood Hall, Hundley Hall, Westover and the Burton Student Center before finally finding Grogan in the Psychology Building.
Junior Shannon Grey said she was shocked upon finding the body.
“I tried to expect the unexpected,” Grey said.
A call was made to the “police” of the class, who were beat to the scene by students acting as media. Soon afterward, detectives swarmed upon the scene.
Sophomore Jessa Hamel, acting as a detective in the case, said she put much effort into researching her role. Hamel said the students were to list in order which roles they preferred and the roles were then assigned during an in-class debate.
“This is what I want to do. I’d like to work with the Behavioral Analysis unit of the FBI after being a homicide detective,” Hamel said.
The student detectives and police coordinated together to remove the media from the scene. Senior Chris Wishon, acting as a police officer, said that the situation involved a lot of working together.
“It was obviously well thought out,” Wishon said. “We had been prepared for a murder, but we didn’t know what kind of murder it would be.”
For the rest of the semester, the students will gather evidence and look for suspects. When a suspect is taken into custody, the class will hold a trial to determine their innocence.
“We want to make [the murder] solvable,” Desrosiers said. “We manipulate the suspects and pick one that we want to look like the murderer.”
Desrosiers also said the class has never been correct in which suspect they accuse of murder.
“We have done some tweaking,” Cylke said. “We want to make this the experience students want to have. The more students research their role, the more dynamic the interactions will be and by the end of the semester, everyone has had a great time.”
“I created this internship and was guided through this project by Dr. Cylke. It’s kind of become my baby,” Desrosiers said.
Cylke said she began to implement this project within her course after reading about the course study in a journal.
“I learned I’m really good at planning murders,” Cylke said.
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