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CEU alum becomes CSI investigator

Justin Bechaver with his "forensic rake" showing that sometimes crime scene fieldwork is not all high tech.

College of Eastern Utah alumnus Justin Bechaver had no idea that playing baseball for CEUwould eventually lead him to a path of solving crime.

He had moved to CEU in 2000 to attend school and play baseball. Although he had watched CSI: Crime Scene Investigations on television, he didn't really know how someone went about getting the required education. However, as he attended classes at CEU, he discovered that he liked criminal justice and chemistry. This interest got him accepted into the Utah Crime Scene Academy, which was co hosted by CEU. He was one of two students that were selected into the program.

When recently asked how he got in, he says, "I just begged the criminal justice professor to let me in".

During the class, he discovered he had a true passion for crime scenes and forensic science.

The pursuit of his bachelor's degree and love of baseball led him to Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Ore. There, he completed his Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry in 2005 and quickly returned to Salt Lake City to do a summer internship with the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services. The bureau hired him in November of 2005.

Bechaver's work life has been a blaze of travel, training and casework. He has attended the Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) forensic chemistry training in Virginia, FBI Post Blast explosive's training, Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists training, Clandestine Laboratory Investigating Chemists training, Marijuana Leaf Technician training and both the Basic and Advanced Crime Scene Specialist training. That's a lot of travel in 2 ½ years.

His in state training has included controlled substance analysis, advanced instrumentation and clandestine drug synthesis. In order to become a court qualified "expert" scientist, Bechaver has had to complete some "atypical" exercises. As part of their training, forensic scientists have to understand how the "bad guys" make their drugs. To do this, crime laboratory scientists have to recreate the same processes, which sometimes can have unintended and often "exciting" results. For instance, one lab experiment involved synthesizing a drug using the "Nazi" method. As the reaction was progressing, it got out of control and before Justin could "vent" the pressure, the container blew up. Fortunately, the bureau has extensive safety procedures, including explosion proof fume hoods. Justin remembers that training episode because, "I had to clean up the mess".

One of Bechaver's biggest assignments has been coordinating the state's crime scene response team. He has to schedule teams, order and validate new equipment as well as ensure that required monthly training is completed. The crime laboratory will eventually become accredited in crime scene response and Justin have been tasked to ensure that the bureau passes all of the rigorous accreditation standards.

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