F.I.R.S.T. (Forensic. Investigation. Research. Services. Training.)

Tripwire’s F.I.R.S.T. (Forensic. Investigation. Research. Services. Training.) Division, which is co-directed by internationally recognized experts in the field, forensic anthropology and archaeology consultants Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D., D-ABFA and FBI Special Agent Michael Hochrein (ret), provides a wide variety of services to the law enforcement, medicolegal, and jurisprudence communities, focused on forensic scene recoveries (outdoor and indoor), mass disaster incidents, forensic DNA interpretation, forensic anthropology cases, and general criminalistics. Real-time forensic scene recoveries and investigations can be completed upon request. Training courses are available both at the Tripwire Facility in Gettysburg, and at institutions across the country, again, upon request. Consultations and reviews of cold cases, current cases, and future cases are available.  F.I.R.S.T. offers a variety of short-courses in the areas of Forensic Anthropology, Outdoor Crime Scene Reconstruction, Forensic Scene Mapping, Mass Disaster Scene Processing, Disaster Morgue Protocols, Cold Case Reviews, and Scene mapping of Actual Forensic Scenes. 

Dennis Dirkmaat, PhD, D-ABFA

Dr. Dirkmaat is a board-certified forensic anthropologist who has conducted nearly 200 hundred outdoor forensic scene recoveries and analyses, throughout Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio.  He has served as Chair of the Disaster Scene Recovery Committee within SWG-DVI Committee, now OSAC. He served as First Scientific Advisor to the Somerset County, PA Coroner during the identification of victims of United Flight 93 and was in charge of the scene processing of the ColganAir Flight 3407 in Buffalo, NY in February of 2009. Dr. Dirkmaat is the Chair of both the undergraduate program in Applied Forensic Sciences and the Masters of Science in Anthropology (Forensic and Biological Anthropology) graduate program at Mercyhurst University, in Erie, PA. The master’s program is widely recognized as one of the top forensic anthropology graduate programs in North America. Since 1986, Dr. Dirkmaat has conducted over 600 forensic anthropology cases for over 70 coroners, medical examiners and state and local police in the US states of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. The cases have included recoveries of surface-scattered human remains, buried body features, fatal fire scenes, and mass disaster recoveries, as well as victim identification and skeletal trauma analyses. He has testified in court over 20 times as an expert witness.

Dr. Dirkmaat has published articles on the role of archaeology and forensic taphonomy in the field of forensic anthropology and was instrumental in convincing the Physical Anthropology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to change the name to the Anthropology Section. In 2008, he was the primary author of an influential state-of-the-field article on forensic anthropology for the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology. He is the editor of A Companion to Forensic Anthropology published in 2012 and contributed to six chapters in the book. He also co-wrote the chapter detailing forensic archaeological practices in the United States for the book Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective, published in 2015.

Dr. Dirkmaat’s research interests include the role of forensic archaeology and forensic taphonomy in the field of forensic anthropology, and in particular, postmortem interval estimation, as well as issues related to mass disaster/mass fatality recovery and victim identification. Dirkmaat served as the chair of the Search and Recovery Committee of the Scientific Working Group- Disaster Victim Identification (SWG-DVI) group and co-chair of the Anthropology Committee of SWG-DVI (FBI, NIJ). He is currently a committee member of the Disaster Victim Identification Subcommittee, within the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), administered through the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Dr. Dirkmaat has participated as a primary forensic anthropologist with the US Federal Government’s Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), in commercial plane crash incidents in Pittsburgh (USAir Flight 427, 1994), Guam (KoreanAir Flight 801, 1997), and Rhode Island (EgyptAir Flight 990, 1999), train accidents in Reno, Nevada (2011), as well as natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina (2005). In 2001, he served as the primary scientific advisor to Somerset County (Pennsylvania) Coroner Wallace Miller during the recovery and identification of victims of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA. In February 2009, Dr. Dirkmaat, consulting for the Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office (Buffalo, NY), directed the recovery of victims of Colgan Air Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo (50 victims). In November of 2015 he led the recovery efforts of eight victims of a commuter plane crash in Akron, Ohio. He serves as a consultant for international companies involved in the recovery and identification of victims of plane crashes from around the world (including Kenya, Angola, and Peru) and other mass disaster events (Haiti earthquake in 2010).

Dr. Dirkmaat has completed two major grant projects for the design of national scene processing protocols for mass disasters and fatal fire scenes for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), US Department of Justice.

Dr. Dirkmaat has spent the last 27 years at Mercyhurst University and is a Full Professor of Anthropology. As an instructor, outside of Mercyhurst, Dirkmaat has close to three decades of experience organizing training courses and lecturing for local, state and federal agencies throughout the US (26 states), as well as Mexico, Chile, Cyprus, Canada, and Spain. He has also presented over 300 lectures and 80 professional papers discussing forensic anthropology investigation at numerous regional, national and international meetings.

Michael Hochrein, FBI Special Agent-Retired

Michael J. Hochrein, B.A., retired in December 2018 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation after more than 29 years as a Special Agent.   Between 1988 and 2003, Agent Hochrein was assigned to the St. Louis, Missouri Field Office of the F.B.I.  From 2003 until his retirement, Agent Hochrein was assigned to the Laurel Highlands Resident Agency of the Pittsburgh Field Division located near Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  In his capacity as a Special Agent, he participated in the investigations of matters ranging from violent crimes, financial and government fraud, as well as child pornography.  Former Agent Hochrein was a member of the F.B.I.’s Evidence Response Team (ERT) Program since its initiation in the mid-1990s.  Within that program he helped in the development of its total station, or digital mapping, program.  He also assisted State and Local Law Enforcement in the documentation of numerous crime scenes.

As a certified police instructor in various topics related to the collection of evidence and management of complex crime scenes, Mike developed and conducted training for local, state, and federal law enforcement as well as medico-legal practitioners and academic audiences ranging from high school to graduate school. He is currently an adjunct professor at La Roche College’s Department of Justice, Law and Security, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  There, he teaches classes and develops training environments in crime scene investigation and criminalistics.  As adjunct F.B.I. faculty under the United States Department of State’s Anti-terrorism Assistance Program, he provided training for international police agencies in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa. As an FBI-ERT team member, Mike was also deployed to sites of judicial interest in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Within the United States, former Agent Hochrein was deployed to assist in the collection of evidence from major scenes to include the shooting and arrest scene for Boston Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in 2013, the 2007 collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis Minnesota, the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the 2000 aircraft crash resulting in the deaths of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, his brother, and an aide, and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. He is certified in Federal and State courts as an expert in forensic archaeology and crime scene mapping.

Among the awards and recognitions Mike received throughout his F.B.I. career are the following: Outstanding Performance, August 05, 2017, by the Pennsylvania State Police Indiana Camp Cadet Program for training provided from 2010 until his retirement; Outstanding Performance, June 16, 2009, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pittsburgh Division, in the successful investigation of the John Yelenic homicide case which resulted in the capital murder prosecution in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Kevin Foley; Outstanding Performance, August 27, 2007, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pittsburgh Division, in the successful investigation of the Gabrielle Bechen kidnapping case which resulted in the capital murder prosecution in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Jeffrey R. Martin; Meritorious Achievement Award, June 15, 2006, by the West Central Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Operation Forseti’s Quest”, for the successful investigation and capital murder prosecution in re United States v. Dustin Honken and United States v. Angela Johnson; Distinguished Service Award, November 20, 2003, for sustained superior performance and contributions to the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Missouri;  Distinguished Service Award, September 25, 2003, by the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Missouri, toward the successful white collar/government fraud investigation and prosecution in re United States v. Sheilah Smith;  Meritorious Achievement Award, October 06, 2000, by the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Missouri, toward the successful investigation and capital murder prosecution in re United States v. David Ray Martin;  Recognition of Outstanding Service, July 1989 – March 1992, in FBI undercover government fraud operation “Brownbag” by the United States Department of Defense, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, St. Louis Resident Agency;  as well as numerous Letters or Certificates of Appreciation from Federal, State and Local Agencies for forensic, investigative, and training assistance.

Former Agent Hochrein was a contributor to the F.B.I.’s Evidence Response Team Field Reference Guide.  He is also the author or co-author of several peer reviewed articles on topics of forensic archaeology and forensic geotaphonomy. In addition, Mike continues to compile, and update, an extensive bibliography for many aspects of crime scene investigation entitled “A Bibliography Related to Crime Scene Interpretation with Emphases in Forensic Geotaphonomic and Forensic Archaeological Field Techniques,” which is currently in its eighteenth edition.

Mike Hochrein has been a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences since 1997, as well as the International Association for Identification since 2004, and the International Homicide Investigators Association since 2007.  Other organizations with which he has been associated include The Scientific Working Group on Disaster Victim Identification, (SWGDVI), Search and Recovery Committee, as an Advisory Member since 2012, The Society for Archaeological Science since 2005; and the Society for American Archaeology since 2009.

 

See upcoming forensic science courses here.