Forensic Botanist: Helped convict the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapper
In 1932, Bruno Hauptmann propped a homemade ladder against Charles Lindbergh’s house, climbed up to one of the bedroom windows, and snatched the aviator’s 20-month-old son. When Hauptmann was brought to court, forensic botany helped lock him away. Arthur Koehler, a wood technologist, discovered that one of the ladder rails had formerly been part of a floor. He later matched the tree rings on that ladder with a missing floorboard in Hauptmann’s attic. Since then, botanists have used pollen (which clings to clothes and hair) to link suspects to crime scenes, soil and plant samples to determine when unmarked graves were dug, and algae blooms to identify where drowning victims died. So avoid committing crimes in front of your ficus. It’s a snitch.
Forensic Linguist: Tracked down the Unabomber
The language patterns you demonstrate while communicating are as distinct as the sound of your voice. That makes them an important piece of evidence in a criminal investigation. Though forensic linguistics emerged in the late 1960s, it didn’t become popular in the United States until the mid-1990s, when FBI linguist James Fitzgerald was hunting for the Unabomber, who had killed three people and injured two dozen by mailing homemade bombs. Fitzgerald believed publishing the bomber’s “manifesto” would help catch the criminal – and it worked. Several people, including his brother and sister-in-law, recognised the writing style and called in. Soon Ted Kaczynski was in handcuffs.
Forensic Accountant: Caught O.J. Simpson and Al Capone
Some investigators carry guns, while others wield calculators. After all, when the FBI was founded in 1908, 12 of its 34 original investigators were bank examiners. Today about 15 percent of the FBI’s special agents are accountants, and thousands more are scattered across government agencies and police departments around the world. Why so many number crunchers? Because most crimes revolve around one motive: money. Forensic accountants work on various cases, including money laundering, securities fraud, insurance claims and embezzlement. They commonly search for cash in hidden accounts, once memorably exposing that O. J. Simpson – who’d claimed he was too poor to handle a civil suit in 1997 – actually possessed millions. Accountants even helped throw Al Capone in the slammer. His crime? Tax evasion.