CSI – Highland

For the past few years, the “CSI” (Crime Scene Investigation) programs have been among the ratings leaders on television. These shows take place in cities like Miami, Las Vegas and New York. Another real-life CSI took place in Highland Michigan, the results of which directly contradict the results of the “official” investigation.

At just before noon on June 22, 2003 (Corpus Christi Sunday), 16 year old Christopher Drypen was gunned down in the lower level of his home by deputies Todd Wood and Arnold Terrell of the Oakland County Sheriff Department (OCSD). Christopher’s parents were present in the house and in the same room as Chris until they were ordered out of the house by the police only minutes before the killing occurred. The timeline of direct observation by the Drypens was uninterrupted until immediately prior to the cold blooded gunning down of the boy.

Immediately after the tragedy the OSCD sealed of the “crime scene” (but nobody was accused of committing a crime). The family members were prohibited from going into their own home. Even the pastor of the family’s Catholic parish was denied entrance to the house to administer last rites or to even offer a final blessing over the boy’s body.

The “official” investigation of the action of the OSCD deputies was conducted by fellow officers of the OCSD. Detective Clay Jansen of the OCSD was asked by the family to have the Michigan State Police do the investigation so that it would be done impartially. Jansen refused, telling the Drypens that it is county policy that the department conducts all of its own investigations. When asked “how can you investigate yourself and be impartial?” He replied, without really answering the question: “That is how we do it”.   The Drypens asked a neighbor to telephone the Michigan State Police and request their assistance. The post in Northville was contacted and stated that they were unable to assist unless invited to do so by the local authorities. Since the OCSD decided to proceed without any oversight, the State Police were excluded from participation.

The investigation that was done that afternoon was conducted by members of the OCSD crime lab. It is important to note that the OCSD crime lab held no professional accreditations. The results of their “impartial” investigation drew the conclusion that Wood and Terrell decided that they were in grave peril and shot Chris to death in self defense. This conclusion was given to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office which ruled that there were insufficient grounds for criminal prosecution against the killing officers. This was exactly opposite to the belief of the parents based upon their first hand observations.

The exoneration of the deputies of any criminal wrongdoing by the prosecutor did not square with the situation as witnessed by the parents. The only way that they could arrive at the truth of what happened was to file a civil lawsuit against the officers and the department. Then, through the discovery process, the truth would come to light.

This is where the “CSI” came into play. A number of professional and certified forensic crime scene specialists were brought in to examine the scene of the killing. The Drypen family did nothing to any of the on-site evidence until these examinations were concluded. This meant that the family had to deal with living in a house riddled with bullet holes and chunks of missing carpeting. It is a good thing too because the evidence told a tale far removed from the prejudiced conclusions drawn by the OCSD.

A number of tests were conducted by the forensic investigators. The paths of each bullet were determined with sensitive laser equipment and each bullet path was traced with string. These “stringings” prove that it was impossible for Todd Wood to have been positioned at the top of the stairs as he demonstrated in photo reenactments and swore to in testimony under oath.

Another test used chemicals to analyze the carpeting and walls of the stairway for any signs of blood. There was no blood to be found on the stairway walls or the carpet of the stairs. The carpet on the bottom two stairs was removed the day of the killing (without permission), so no testing could be done on it.

Photographs taken by members of the OCSD crime lab immediately after the killing show no blood spatters at all on any of the walls of the stairway. Photographs of the blood spatter on the floor at the base of the stairs show circular patterns indicating that they fell straight down off of Chris at that spot. The photographs of the ceiling of the lower level show similar circular blood spatters indicating Chris was gunned down while standing on the floor, not on the stairs as reported by Wood and Terrell.

One of the “CSI” investigators at the Huff Place discovery forensic investigation was a doctor of serology. None of the OCSD investigators came even close to possessing such credentials. In fact, some OSCD investigators were actually taught by the “CSI” serologist.

The blood spatter analysis performed proved extremely insightful. Drops of blood tell the height and angle from which the blood fell. The forensic science of blood spatter analysis says that blood which fell perpendicular to the floor from a distance of 0-2 feet would make a circular drop with slightly frayed edges. Drops from a higher distance would have more pronounced tendrils fraying off the edges (a sunburst pattern). A blood smear on the wall or floor tells the direction of force of the blow.  The direction of force is always in the direction towards the tail, or smaller end, of the smear, or splatter. In other words, the largest area of the smear is the point of origin (a wave cast-off pattern). Bloodstain patterns tell a lot about position and movement during the shooting. This destroys most alibi and self-defense arguments and, at the very least, trips most suspects up in their explanation of what happened.

 The width and length of a blood spatter can be put into a calculation which results in an angle. This angle determines the direction of the source of the blood spatter. A protractor can be used to illustrate this is 3 dimensions. When this analysis is done for multiple blood spatters in various locations, the directional lines converge at some point in space from which the blood originated. In the case of Christopher Drypen, these lines converged in the lower level of the house, not on the stairs. The “CSI” investigators stated under oath that the evidence conclusively shows that Christopher was not on the stairs when Wood and Terrell fired the 18 rounds into his body.  

When confronted with this evidence the OCSD investigators admitted under oath that there was no evidence supporting Christopher being on the stairs as alleged by Wood and Terrell. In fact, it appears that the OCSD investigation the day of the killing was prematurely terminated when the facts began pointing to a conclusion that the investigating authorities did not want reached.

In addition to this team, the scene was also examined by the renowned forensic pathologist Werner Spitz. Dr. Spitz has served on committees investigating the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. He has offered expert testimony in several celebrated cases, including the Preppy Murder Trial in New York, the California Night Stalker case, the wrongful death lawsuit against O.J. Simpson, the case involving Mary Jo Kopechne, who drowned after the car she and Sen. Ted Kennedy were driving in went off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, Mass. and most of the high-profile cases in this (Metro Detroit) area. Dr. Spitz examined the scene and declared that based on the position of the deputies and Christopher’s location; there was no justification for the excessive use of force displayed by Wood and Terrell.

The Oakland County Coroner, Dr. L.J. Dracovic determined the cause of death to be homicide. He also called the death an “execution”.

Had it not been for the “CSI – Highland” discovery investigations, the truth as to what really happened would never have been know. The self-serving conclusions of the OCSD investigators would have been accepted as fact. The scientific proof shows the opposite.