The Dark Science
The crack team at Milwaukee’s regional crime lab helps solve more than 5,000 cases annually.
There was something particularly bizarre about the call Christine Lamont received that night in March.
Lamont, whose professional name was “Cindy,” ran an escort service she named Beautiful Blondes. Most Johns knew to never mention anything sexual over the phone. Escort services provide “social companions” – if the escort chooses to have sex with the client, that’s her business.
But this caller lacked any discretion whatsoever: He spoke in an odd monotone, slightly flustered, like a nervous robot, ticking off a list of demands. “I would like a girl that enjoys being tied up, whipped, blindfolded…” He went on from there in lurid detail.
“That’s not how we operate,” Lamont interrupted. She was creeped out, but business was business. “Someone will call you back,” she said, hanging up before the man could say more.
Lamont started calling around to her girls, describing the customer. The first associate she reached flatly turned down the job. Too weird. But 19-year-old Anna Marie Lewandowski, a voluptuous blond who lived in Cudahy, was willing to do it.
Lewandowski left the job information with her cousin and roommate, Jacqueline Lewandowski, and drove to the job, an apartment on the 8700 block of West National Avenue in West Allis. The client there, the man with the robotic voice, had requested an hour with a Beautiful Blonde. When Anna Marie Lewandowski failed to return home a day later, her cousin called the cops.
It was nearly freezing on Friday, March 7, 2003, when West Allis police were dispatched to an efficiency apartment in the building on 87th and National to investigate the whereabouts of Anna Marie Lewandowski. The 26-year-old man who answered the door, Keith Michael Addy, was of average height but muscular. He denied having contact with Lewandowski. But a strong odor of cleaning products in the apartment and Addy’s past conviction as a sex offender aroused immediate suspicions. Backup was called for, and a search of the premises began.
Behind the building in a garbage dumpster, officers made a horrific discovery: a dismembered female body. The torso was almost completely cut in half and had been sealed, quadruple-bagged, inside heavy-duty garbage sacks. Next to it were three more garbage bags and a travel duffle. The duffle held what appeared to be the torso’s missing limbs and head. Another double-bagged garbage sack had been stuffed with a purse, a black satin bed sheet and a bloody hood from a winter jacket. The same bag also held a kitchen knife, hammer and one of two handwritten notes the police would find that had been torn to pieces. Another plastic bag held a rolled-up carpet runner wrapped around two bloody saws, a blood-soaked bath towel, a bloody bath mat and a pillow.
The gruesome dumpster held a trove of forensic evidence rarely found in such quantity and variation. West Allis police were certain the man they arrested was responsible for this horrific murder. But to understand exactly what had happened, they would need the help of forensic science. The body parts were transported to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office. All other relevant evidence was catalogued and taken to the Milwaukee branch of Wisconsin’s State Crime Laboratory. This case would require nearly the full panoply of expert analysts at the lab.
FROM THE OUTSIDE, the Milwaukee branch of the State Crime Laboratory is glaringly unremarkable. The building on Lapham Boulevard just off I-94 is a near-windowless beige cinder block structure of bland geometry and little character, save for a sloped entrance awning and a few weathered royal blue trimmings. But inside, in labs that ring the perimeter of the building, forensic scientists work diligently to help solve crimes.
Wisconsin created one of the nation’s first crime labs at the state level in Madison in 1947, and later added labs in Milwaukee and then Wausau. All three are part of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Milwaukee’s branch, the busiest of the three, handled 5,228 cases from the eight counties of southeastern Wisconsin in 2010.
The day-to-day reality at crime labs is almost nothing like the fictional version – sexy scientists catching criminals in the nick of time – on shows like “CSI.” Forensic analysis is often a tedious and solitary process spanning weeks or months. Lab personnel rarely know all the details of the crimes they are working on. “We do not solve crime,” says Jana Champion, director of the Milwaukee crime lab. “We analyze evidence.”
The Milwaukee lab has departments dedicated to drug identification, toxicology, trace evidence, firearms and tool marks, identification, imaging, documents analysis and DNA analysis. For the West Allis dismemberment murder, one of the first specialties called on was trace evidence, perhaps the broadest field in forensics. “If they don’t know what to do with it, they give it to us,” says Milwaukee trace evidence examiner Raymond Lenz.
The trace lab analyzes, identifies and matches various types of fibers, paints, chemicals, particles, hair, glass, botanicals and soil. It also deals with determining the fuels and chemicals used in arsons and explosions.
With thick, brushed-back hair and just a hint of crow’s feet around the eyes, only the gray flecking on Lenz’s sideburns and wiry eyebrows betrays his 56 years. Lenz has been with the Milwaukee crime lab for 19 years, and before that spent 14 years in Chicago, all as a trace evidence specialist. He began before the advent of DNA analysis, when “trace evidence examination was an even broader field,” he says. “But things like serology, which is determining blood types, have fallen to the wayside.” Lenz is one of only four trace evidence examiners working for the Wisconsin crime labs.
Typically attired in jeans, work boots and heavy-ply button-down shirts, Lenz, like many of his colleagues, seems more like a skilled craftsman than scientist. Highly visually oriented and mechanically inclined, Lenz loves what he does and is intense about the results he gets. “Not to get religious on you, but I feel like if God wants me to find something in the evidence I’m examining, I will.”
Arsons account for most of the 100 or so cases trace sees annually. In the typical case, police provide the lab with charred debris left at a suspected arson. To determine what was used to start the fire, trace examiners use everything from their own sense of smell to sophisticated spectroscopy equipment. The trace lab has dozens of potential arson accelerants – from lighter fluids to fake evergreen scent sprays for synthetic Christmas trees – on hand to reference. Lenz constantly keeps an eye out for new flammable products to add to the collection. While gasoline is the most common fuel used to start fires, Lenz sees upswings in other accelerants when gas prices soar. “I guess professional arsonists are budget-conscious,” he jokes.
Sometimes, police will ask trace to identify an unknown material taken from a crime scene. But more commonly, investigators provide the lab with a suspect’s clothing along with a paint or fiber sample from the crime scene to see if they can be matched.
In a recent hit-and-run case, a suspect was detained after allegedly hitting someone with his car. The suspect denied involvement. The victim’s cloths and suspect’s car were forwarded for trace analysis. The Milwaukee crime lab has a large garage and specialty tools for dismantling cars in the hunt for evidence. Lenz was able to find fibers matching the victim’s pants on the car’s side-view mirror, paint from the mirror on the victim’s pants and matching points of impact on the pants and car. Any one finding would not have been enough to identify the suspect’s car as the vehicle that struck the victim, but in concert, the results were definitive. Police had found their man.
When the trace lab examined the hacksaws found in the West Allis dumpster, it was able to conclusively determine that hair and skin tissue adhering to the saws were consistent with the victim’s. The lab also determined the rope segment pulled from the dumpster matched a rope found in Keith Addy’s apartment. Although he had already been arrested, Addy had yet to admit to the crime. But the evidence, thanks to trace, was quickly mounting against him.
DOWN THE WAY from trace is the identification lab, run by Tony Spadafora. Identification is best-known for fingerprint analysis, one of the oldest forms of forensic science, used since the late 1800s. But his lab is also called on to process and analyze tire tread and footwear impressions.
Spadafora worked at an Illinois crime lab for four years after completing his criminalistics degree at Michigan State University. He then came to Wisconsin, where he has worked identification at all three of Wisconsin’s crime labs over a 25-year span. His cubicle is adorned with vintage crime photos of mob hits and printed maxims like, “Sometimes war is the answer,” and “God bless the good guys.” Clear-cut results, you might say, are valued in forensic science.
Spadafora is personable but easily meanders into the intellectual ether of high math and advanced science. He has been teaching himself bloodstain pattern analysis and will soon be testing for national certification, even though the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory doesn’t analyze bloodstain patterns. Call it extreme professional curiosity.
Spadafora has handled some interesting cases involving tire and footwear impressions left at crime scenes. “Tires and the soles of most shoes are made in molds,” he explains, which makes it possible to identify an impression as coming from a certain make and model. But often, the molds also impart slight manufacturing imperfections that can identify a particular shoe or tire as belonging to a smaller subdivision. Normal wear and tear will further individualize specific shoes and tires.
A few years ago, Milwaukee police were investigating a gang-related murder. A body had been dumped in an alleyway. A detective at the scene noticed that an anti-drug pamphlet, thrown on the ground, had been run over by the suspect’s vehicle, which left a visible dirt imprint of a tire tread. Once police developed suspects and seized a van as the probable vehicle used in the murder, they brought the pamphlet and the van to the crime lab for comparison.
The pamphlet had only the imprint of a small section of one tire, Spadafora recalls, so matching it to the van’s tire was “quite a daunting task.” But by identifying features in the impression – pock marks, a gash and an imbedded stone – Spadafora found the exact section of tire that left this imprint and definitively concluded the van was at the crime scene.
But most of his work involves fingerprints, which are divided into three categories: “We look at nonporous, porous and sticky surfaces,” Spadafora says.
Nonporous items – windows, countertops – are typically fingerprinted using traditional methods such as the “dusting” technique. The tiny ridges of the fingers, palms, toes and surfaces of the foot (friction ridges, they’re called) accumulate oils and fine residues. This can leave behind friction ridge details unique to each person. Lab examiners brush superfine powders over hard surfaces, picking up the friction ridge impressions and yielding visible fingerprints.
Porous surfaces, like paper, are tougher for lifting fingerprints. Several techniques have been developed, including the use of chemicals that react with compounds secreted by the skin. A common method for examining documents – fraudulent checks, bank robbery notes – employs a chemical called ninhydrin, which reacts with the amino acids in sweat secretion. Objects are submerged in a ninhydrin bath and then air-dried. The chemical reaction creates a byproduct called Ruhemann’s purple, which makes the prints appear.
Sticky materials such as tape are examined with chemicals known as “wops.” The wop is painted on the sticky surface, then a washing process removes everything but the wop, which adheres to fingerprint impressions. Sticky surfaces often provide excellent fingerprints.
Suspects are routinely fingerprinted during processing, but investigators may also request that a set of “major case prints” be taken as well. Major case prints capture the full length and sides of fingers, and the palm and side of the palm in addition to the usual prints of fingertips. The crime lab can then more accurately compare any full or partial prints lifted from a crime-related object to those of the suspect.
In cases where there is no suspect, state and national databases are searched to find perpetrators. All convicts are fingerprinted upon admission to state and federal correctional facilities. These fingerprints are stored in databases. Examiners can run the prints they’ve developed through the databases to try and get a hit. They can also check if these fingerprints have been left at any other crime scenes.
The identity of the dismembered woman was easily verified through fingerprints. The body was that of Anna Marie Lewandowski.
The suspect’s fingerprints were more difficult to obtain, because Addy used rubber gloves. But Spadafora ultimately found Addy’s fingerprints on several pieces of evidence. This included the crime’s most revealing pieces of evidence: two handwritten notes that had been torn to shreds and discarded in plastic bags found in the dumpster. These documents would need to be reconstructed by another lab specialist.
THE QUESTIONED DOCUMENTS DEPARTMENT at the crime lab is run by Jane Lewis, who prefers dark suits to her colleagues’ denim and works by herself, tucked away in a small office with her microscope. Lewis used to be a dancer and still maintains an athletic physique at age 55. Questioned documents analysis is more of an art form than any other discipline, and with her black bobbed hair and tortoise-shell-rimmed glasses, Lewis looks the part.
But there is no improvising in her interview; she treats it like testimony in court (part of the job for forensic scientists). She has prepared a typed background statement and answers questions methodically. Any queries that might head off topic are ignored or deflected.
Her work, Lewis says, “is primarily the science of addressing questions of authorship in legally disputed documents.” She’s worked cases involving forged checks, threatening letters, altered documents, forged suicide notes and ransom letters. Things like bomb threats may be written on walls or mirrors rather than paper, but they still fall under questioned documents.
Lewis has been with the Milwaukee lab since 1988. She received a bachelor’s of science degree in dental hygiene from Marquette University in 1977 and owns a master’s of forensic science degree from George Washington University. “I had a friend who worked at the Milwaukee crime lab who got me interested in questioned documents,” she says. Lewis received further training in questioned documents through the FBI and U.S. Secret Service. It’s an arcane specialty. “There’s not many of us,” she says.
Lewis investigated a key document in the well-known Kenosha County murder case against Mark Jensen. In February 2008, he was sentenced to life in prison for the antifreeze poisoning death of his wife, Julie. One of the most damning pieces of evidence against him was a letter Julie Jensen handwrote and gave to her neighbor 10 days before her death. Part of the letter reads, “I pray I’m wrong + nothing happens … but I am suspicious of Mark’s suspicious behaviors + fear my early demise.”
This letter and what are called “known standards” (other writing samples) from Julie Jensen were given to Lewis for examination. The first thing Lewis always determines is whether the document is an original or a copy. The Jensen letter was original. Next, Lewis determines if a document’s writing is disguised or distorted. The Jensen material was written naturally.
Next, Lewis used a microscope to look at how individual letters are made, looking for repeated characteristics. Jensen invariably wrote her lower-case d’s and g’s in a highly stylized way, which showed up in both the questioned document and other samples of her writing. The accusatory letter was indeed written by Julie Jensen, Lewis concluded, and her analysis was so convincing, she received no challenge from Mark Jensen’s defense. Jensen is trying to get a new trial that would disallow the letter as evidence.
In the Addy case, Lewis painfully reconstructed the two torn-up notes found in the dumpster. Almost identical in content (one was written in cursive, the other printed), each note had a step-by-step plan for Lewandowski’s murder. The grisly details provide a look inside the bizarre mind of an insane man.
Step No. 1 listed all the deviant details he would request when calling the escort service. Step No. 2 said, “Eat one cup of grape nuts.” Step No. 6 read, “Ask the girl’s name,” next to which Addy had drawn a smiley face, “then change to [calling her] “worm.” The horrific plan specifies when to turn on the stereo and TV, and when to cut the victim’s body into quarters.
The court ordered Addy to provide both print and cursive samples of his writing. Lewis was able to determine that these known standards matched the writing on the notes she reconstructed. Addy was certainly the author, and investigators now had a step-by-step plan for how the murder was carried out.
DNA ANALYSIS IS BY FAR the fastest-growing and most accurate forensic science, giving law enforcement a powerful tool for placing suspects at the scene of a crime. The Milwaukee lab handled 2,276 DNA cases in 2010. That’s almost twice as many cases as any other Milwaukee crime lab department.
Surprisingly, only one-tenth of 1 percent of human DNA differs from one person to the next. But forensic examiners can use these tiny variations to definitively identify the blood, hair, bone, excretions and body tissues of a victim or suspect. Since Addy’s intentions toward Lewandowski were at least partially sexual, the medical examiner swabbed Lewandowski’s vaginal and rectal areas for DNA. The swabs were sent to the crime lab for comparison with DNA samples taken from Addy.
DNA profiling has been around since the mid-1980s, but it took several years to be accepted as a reliable form of identification by courts, notes Eva Marie Lewis, DNA lab supervisor for the Milwaukee office. Lewis has been with the lab 15 years, working first in controlled substances, then toxicology and now DNA. Lewis received bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and forensic science from Michigan State University, but her training was far from over. Forensic technologies are constantly evolving, and Lewis has attended more than 70 courses, seminars and conferences since graduating in 1993.
Lewis seems to be a driven go-getter. During one interview, she repeatedly apologized for losing her train of thought due to a lack of sleep. During a follow-up interview, she was much more grounded but seemed a tad inconvenienced by having to oblige the media. She doesn’t seem to have a lot of time for diversions like interviews or even sleep.
As DNA use has grown, it has become a key tool for exonerating those wrongfully convicted and turning up suspects in long-unsolved crimes. There are now national and state databases of DNA samples taken from convicted felons. Examiners use them to find matches, or “hits,” as they’re known. “We’ve hit on a lot of cold cases,” says Lewis.
DNA profiling has skyrocketed in the last decade. Police have started leaning on it for even minor investigations like burglaries, using DNA rather than (or in addition to) traditional fingerprint examination. Consequently, by 2005 or so, Wisconsin found itself with a huge backlog of DNA cases, as crime labs couldn’t keep up.
In 2007, 31 new analysts were hired between the Milwaukee and Madison labs. In April of last year, it was announced that the backlog had been eliminated, thanks in part to Lewis, who was moved to DNA to tackle the issue.
The DNA swabbed from Lewandowski came back positive for Addy’s semen. Addy had insisted that he didn’t have sex with Lewandowski, but the proof was beyond challenge. The case against Addy was beginning to look airtight.
CHIEF FIREARMS AND TOOL MARKS EXAMINER Reg Templin is cut from a different cloth than most of his colleagues at the lab. Anything but the subdued scientist, Templin is mustachioed with gray, combed-over hair, gold-rimmed glasses, and an upbeat and rather eccentric style. He answers the phone with an exaggerated “Reeeeeeeeg Templin” in an adenoidal upper-Midwestern inflection, and peppers his chatter with “geez” and “you know.”
Interviews with him are a wild ride, with segues into his childhood (he fell in love with firearms as a child) and his family tree, the glory days of the Milwaukee Police Department, some thoughts on the Waukesha tax code, and a particular passion, the history of his field. (Firearms identification, he says, arose as a result of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.) Templin sees himself as part of a noble lineage and plans to retire in two years, having passed his knowledge to two apprentices who have worked under him for many years. Templin lives his job. His license plate is SGAT, which stands for Shirley (his wife), guns and tool marks.
As it happens, no firearms were used in the Lewandowski murder, but police did seize a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle from Addy’s apartment. Addy had been found guilty of two counts of sexual assault in 1995, when he was 18, and the law forbids convicted felons from possessing firearms. So on top of being charged for murder and mutilating a corpse (a law put on the books after the Jeffrey Dahmer murders), Addy was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Addy’s rifle was sent to Templin’s unit to verify it was still functional.
The firearms and tool mark examination unit is by far the most interesting-looking part of the crime lab. Templin, who has dedicated 39 years of his life to this forensic discipline, has built one of the most complete collections of firearms in the nation. The lab’s walls are covered with pistols, rifles, shotguns and machine guns of every imaginable make and model. “It’s not every gun ever made,” Templin counsels. Close, though.
One wall features the exact make and model of the guns used to shoot famous world leaders: Lincoln, Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Reagan, to name a few. But Templin’s collection isn’t primarily for aesthetic purposes or even academic ones.
All firearms, due to random manufacturing variations, leave a unique mark on bullets and casings when fired. By test-firing a gun and then examining the casing and bullet under a microscope, examiners create a standard by which to compare the bullets and casings recovered from crime scenes. Oftentimes, however, recovered firearms come in damaged or otherwise inoperable. “Criminals don’t take the best care of their guns,” says Templin. The weapons collection Templin maintains is used for spare parts to repair broken guns. Templin receives calls from state crime labs all over the country asking for parts to rare firearms.
In many cases, bullets or casings are recovered from a crime scene without a firearm. Templin and his assistants analyze the bullet or casing and then enter the images into a national database known as the National Integrated Ballistic Identification Network (NIBIN). The database allows examiners to see if the firearm in question was recovered by another law enforcement agency or if the gun has left any casings or bullets at other crime scenes. NIBIN is a powerful forensics tool for identifying criminally used firearms.
“I have a joke,” says Templin. “If the average citizen in Milwaukee knew how many guns are out there, they would probably move.” Templin receives hundreds of recovered guns for analysis each year. The weapons are ultimately packed into junked cars and then destroyed in powerful shredders.
Although most of Templin’s time goes to firearms-related examinations, his department is also tasked with identifying tools. If a crowbar or screwdriver is used to pry open a door or window, police will submit the recovered tool. Examiners compare the marks left behind at crime scenes to the features of the tools suspected of creating them. It can then be determined if the tool was the exact one used in the crime.
Templin’s examination showed conclusively that Addy’s rifle was operational. It barely mattered at this point, but the felon in possession of a firearm charge would stand against Addy.
AMID THE VAST AMOUNT OF EVIDENCE collected against Addy, police also recovered a number of pharmaceutical pills from his apartment. These were submitted to the crime lab’s drug identification unit for analysis.
Vast quantities of legal and illegal drugs are seized in connection with crimes every year. “All confiscated drugs involved in a trial are sent to the crime lab for analysis,” explains Leah Macans, the controlled substance examiner for the Milwaukee lab. Macans graduated from UW-La Crosse in 2004 with a chemistry degree. She was hired at the Milwaukee lab in 2005 and received on-the-job training in drug identification.
At 29, Macans is one of the youngest people working at the crime lab. Her cherubic face and red highlighted hair accentuate her youth, but she comes off as a knowledgeable and confident expert.
Controlled substance analysis is one of the most cut-and-dried forensic disciplines. The first step is often to conduct what’s known as a “color test,” in which chemicals are added to a small sample of the questioned substance. The chemicals react and turn various colors to identify the family of drugs present in the seized material.
Armed with this knowledge, examiners next start confirmatory testing, which gives a 99.9 percent certain answer as to what is in a given mixture. One of the primary confirmatory tools used is infrared spectroscopy, which identifies the infrared spectrum – a sort of infrared signature – of anything present in a powdered substance.
The other main confirmatory testing technique, often seen on shows like “CSI,” is called gas chromatography or mass spectrometry. A machine essentially breaks down a substance into its most basic components.
Most illegal substance examinations are relatively straightforward, with cocaine and marijuana making up the majority of drugs seized by authorities. But once in a while, says Macans, “We see things that throw us for a loop,” typically from home labs attempting to cook methamphetamine. “They don’t quite get the recipe right and end up with this strange substance,” she says.
Macans also sees variations on classic hallucinogens like LSD manufactured in slightly altered forms to evade the law – “things that will look like a drug to us in our instrumentation but are not in any of the identification books,” she notes. Like most forensic disciplines, drug identification has an active professional community whose help comes in handy when trying to ID mysterious substances.
Macans’ department is also called on to provide the courts with an accurate weight for seized drugs. State laws against controlled and banned substances typically carry penalties based on the total weight, including cutting agents and delivery mechanisms for the drug (capsules, paper, sugar cubes, etc.). This can quickly get suspects into felony territory with a very low amount of a controlled substance.
The drugs recovered from Addy’s apartment were determined to be the popular sleep medication Ambien. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office also found the drug in Lewandowski’s system. It’s unclear if she took it voluntarily or was drugged.
THE TRACE, FINGERPRINT, DNA AND HANDWRITING EVIDENCE left little doubt as to who was Anna Marie Lewandowski’s assailant. The crime lab helped law enforcement construct a timeline of the events. After luring Lewandowski to his apartment, Addy struck and killed her with a hammer from behind while engaged in sex. He then used a hacksaw and knives to dismember the body, sealed the remains in bags and discarded them in the apartment dumpster.
Forensic science has become so sophisticated and accurate that placing a perpetrator at the scene of a crime is highly probable given just a few pieces of evidence. But this case was a forensic grand slam. Seldom is evidence collected from a crime scene that, through lab analysis, paints such a complete and detailed picture of a crime.
Addy’s only possible defense to the charge of murder and mutilating a corpse was an insanity plea. In his statements to detectives and mental health professionals, Addy claimed he discovered passages in the Bible naming him as the Messiah. In order to save himself and the world from the devil, he claimed, he had been commanded by evil spirits to make a sacrifice.
Kenneth Smail, a court-appointed forensic psychologist, concluded that, while Addy showed emerging signs of schizophrenia at the time of the murder, his efforts to dispose of the body and clean the crime scene demonstrated an understanding of right and wrong. Judge Richard Sankovitz, however, disagreed and found Addy not guilty by reason of insanity. On Jan. 5, 2008, Addy was sent
by court order to a state-run mental hospital, where he remains under confinement today.
Mario Quadracci is a contributing writer for Milwaukee Magazine. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.