Exhibit A: Secrets of Forensic Science is a compelling, innovative true crime series focused on the role of forensic science in solving some of the most perplexing crimes of our time.
Exhibit A was a groundbreaking concept when it premiered on Discovery Channel (Canada) and TLC (US) in the late 1990s – it blended police accounts and forensic science with potent dramatic reenactments. In subsequent years, its 65 episodes were broadcast worldwide and its popular approach was imitated by many true crime productions.
Produced by Kensington Communications in association with Creative Anarchy
“It is quick-paced and informative and delivers vicarious chills.” – Joe Chidley, Maclean’s
“…the real thrill is in watching the most powerful tool of all, the human mind, knit disparate facts into a picture.” – Henry Mietkiewicz, The Toronto Star
“…very creative, risk-taking directorial work…” – John Allemang, The Globe and Mail
2001 Gemini – Best Photography in an Informational Program
2001 Gemini nomination – News & Information Series
2000 CSC Award of Excellence, Documentary Cinematography.
8 Gemini Nominations
EPISODES: SEASON ONE
101: MYSTERY WEAPON
On Remembrance Day, in a wealthy suburb, a German matron is found beaten and brutally murdered. An autopsy reveals that the real cause of death is that she’s been shot in such a way as to conceal this fact. Firearms expert Sam Barbetta inspects the bullets and determines that the murder weapon was homemade – the bullets can’t be traced! With firearms experts stymied, detectives enlist other experts to turn up a suspect. A forensic biologist deciphers the bloodstain pattern at the crime scene to determine the nature of the attack. Now the investigators can zero in on a suspect. When a forensic accountant delves into the suspect’s financial circumstances, he discovers a possible financial motive for the murder. But the entire case hinges on finding the homemade gun. Can investigators and a firearms expert crack the case and pin the brutal crime on a calculating murderer?
102: THREE LITTLE WORDS
An ex-model is found dead by her recent ex-boyfriend, Jeff. The victim is laid out on the bed fully clothed, her hands folded across her chest in an “at rest” position. Jeff allegedly gets another shock when he finds the message “Jeff You’re Next’ scrawled in lipstick across the living room mirror. Investigators discover that Jeff had intended to move out that day. The question becomes, did this woman commit suicide and write the message to spook her ex-lover, or is it murder? A forensic document examiner determines that the handwriting on the mirror does not match the dead woman’s. So did the ex-lover kill her and write the note to turn suspicion away from himself? Or did a jealous suitor murder the woman and now have it in for her boyfriend? Detectives uncover a startling story. But it takes an ingenious ploy and the skills of a top handwriting expert to close the book on a murderer.
103: TRACE OF PARANOIA
Shortly after a young working student moves into a new apartment, she suspects someone has been visiting when she’s not there. To quell her suspicions, she places a bottle just inside the door as she leaves for work. When she returns, the chain is still on the door, but the bottle has been moved. She gets the shock of a lifetime when a stranger is found dead in her bathtub. The superintendent is the prime suspect but a stranger was seen outside. Luckily, a license plate number was written down. Forensic identification officers examine the murder scene for fingerprints, footprints and other trace evidence. But will they find enough to crack a haunting murder and thwart a potential serial killer?
104: SPLINTER OF GUILT
Two men are shot and killed in a botched robbery at a local community centre after catching two thieves in the act. The murders occur in the boiler room. One of the bullets has pierced a drum of purple air conditioning fluid and so the floor is a wet, sticky mess of blood and purple fluid. In a flash of forensic intuition, firearms specialist Finn Nielson picks a sliver of wood off the floor of the murder scene. Back at the Centre of Forensic Sciences, he identifies the sliver as a broken piece from the butt end of .300 caliber savage rifle. Police investigate recent robberies and find out that three guns have been stolen in the previous week only blocks from the community centre. The rifle was then sold to another man whom the police arrest. But they now must find out which of the two thieves actually pulled the trigger. To add to the confusion, each of the two suspects tells a contradictory tale of what happened. A forensic biologist analyzes the blood on the clothing of the two suspects’ clothing to determine who will pay the price for this tragic crime.
105: BAD BLOOD
Dr. Cheryl Wagner treats her first ever female patient with AIDS. Only days later she treats a second woman with the same affliction…then, a third. Incredibly, all are infected by the same man. At Dr. Wagner’s insistence, public health officials issue a restraining order, forbidding the man from having sex. He then infects another woman. The doctor, frantic and furious, insists that it is now a matter for the criminal authorities. Amazingly, no law exists in Canada to punish a person who knowingly transmits a sexually transmitted disease. The crown has to prove that the accused was the only source of the infection, nearly impossible in a society of sexually active adults with multiple partners. Enter Michael Montpetit, a young Canadian biologist in Ottawa. His task is to be the first scientist to match DNA in each of the women’s AIDS virus to the same in the suspect.
106: THE CASE OF THE SHOE
It happened on a native reserve in Southern Ontario. That’s where two masked men broke into a house in the middle of the night. Living there were a husband and wife who owned a profitable gas station/restaurant. When their demands for money aren’t complied to quickly enough, the masked men open fire, grab the money and flee. By the time ambulance crews take the man to hospital, the crime scene is so trampled and smudged that the only uncontaminated clue is a sneaker print in the snow. Jim Eadie, an OPP forensic identification officer and a leading expert on footprints, makes a plaster mold of the sneaker print in the snow. But with running shoes such a popular choice and with the overwhelming number of brands on the market, can the expert pinpoint this particular print in a “haystack” of running shoes? With the help of a forensic biologist and a firearms expert, see how police are able to stop the killers cold in their tracks.
107: SEX FIEND
When women are being drugged and sexually assaulted, a forensic toxicologist wrestles with his own integrity to nail the disgusting culprit.
108: THE FRANKENSTEIN OF SLEEP
A man drives 20 minutes along a super-highway and then murders his mother-in-law, allegedly while sleepwalking. Can a sleep expert determine if this is a bogus defense?
109: BONE OF CONTENTION
When a leg bone washes ashore, a forensic pathologist holds the key to the five W’s (who, what, where, when and why) of the mystery.
110: SCHEMES AND DREAMS
Experts from documents and chemistry become the arbitrators on whether a cheque and a lottery ticket are genuine of forgeries.
111: THE CHEERLEADER MURDER
When a vivacious cheerleader is murdered and sexually assaulted, DNA profiling helps investigators exonerate the innocent and convict the guilty in a 13-year-old case.
112: THE ACCIDENT
Just as a woman is about to be cremated after a traffic fatality, a blood spatter analysis is needed to determine if it really was an accident.
113: A DARK CRIME
When a Montreal co-ed is murdered, and no suspect is found, a criminal profiler sheds new light on a dark crime.
EPISODES: SEASON TWO
201: LITTLE GIRL LOST
A little girl is found murdered and the case could slip away were it not for the new application of forensic DNA to solve the crime.
202: EVIL LIVES HERE
The murder of a suburban teenager leads investigators into the dark world of punks and skinheads.
203: RUSSIAN PRINCESS
A young woman is found dead with a bite mark on her body. Can a forensic dentist help them track down her obsessed killer?
Maggots that have eaten away the face of an unknown victim could turn out to be the key to solving the brutal murder.
205: SIX LITTLE LETTERS
A son battles his stepmother for a $2,000,000 will. Can science reveal the truth about a dead man’s final wishes?
206: VIDEO GUILT
An execution style slaying in a convenience store is captured on surveillance video. Can science unlock the mysteries hidden within the images?
207: THE DANFORTH LADY
When the skull of a young woman is unearthed, it leads police and scientists to a 50 year old murder mystery.
208: THE GUN MEN
Two men who kill a gun shop owner and steal a cache of handguns begin a crime spree that terrorizes a city. How will science turn the weapons back on the killers?
209: THE SOLAR TEMPLE
Accident, murder or suicide? Forensics tell the gruesome tale of the Solar Temple cult and their belief that death by fire would lead to rebirth on the planet Sirius.
210: THE PERFECT HEIST
The crooks are their own worst enemies in this absolutely perfect crime gone wrong.
211: THE HEADLESS CORPSE
A headless corpse baffles police and shocks a community. It is up to an astute pathologist to lead investigators to the brutal murderer.
212: SAD MOTHER
For twenty five years a woman receives the sympathy of family and friends for the tragic sudden deaths of each of her five small children. Can good forensic science expose bad medical science to solve an unthinkable crime?
213: THE QUEEN OF CONS
A consummate con artist is finally trapped in an elaborate sting. Can a skilled forensic psychologist prevent her from succeeding in a final, clever deception?
EPISODES: SEASON THREE
301: HOUSE HERMIT
After breaking into a series of cottages, a mysterious house hermit turns killer. The case is unlocked when the police turn to the public for help and release the killer’s distinctive handwriting to the press.
302: KILLER IN A BOX
In 1986, Toronto and the rest of Canada were stunned by the Alison Parrott case. More than a decade would pass before this tragic case would be solved thanks to the perseverance of the newly formed “Cold Case Squad.” In the meantime, the horror of Alison’s fate changed many parents’ views towards the safety of their children and ushered in an era of educating kids on street smarts. In 1999, due to sophisticated DNA techniques, police finally nabbed the killer Francis Carl Roy and closed one of Toronto’s most chilling cases.
303: SKY HIGH
A quiet May evening is shattered by the blast of a huge explosion and minutes later part of a quiet urban neighborhood is up in flames. The police are confronted with hate slogans spray-painted onto what is left of a garage door. Is this a hate crime and if so, who was the target?
An Ottawa journalist champions early parole for a convicted murderer and in the tradition of a cheap romance novel, ends up falling in love with him. After he’s released, the two move in together. Then she mysteriously disappears. Where else would suspicion fall but upon the ex-con lover?
305: FABRIC OF LIES
A three and a half-year-old child is reported missing. After a 20-day search, her body is found floating in Toronto harbour. Fibre evidence found throughout the child’s clothes plays a crucial role in solving this crime and convicting a child killer.
306: TRAGEDY OF ERRORS
“Tragedy of Errors” focuses on the forensic skills of two blood spattering experts, who not only teach at the police college in Ottawa – but are still active in the field. The difference between academic knowledge and the reality of an actual crime scene is brought to life in this intriguing episode. As the story unfolds we witness how these investigators are able to decipher a story from bloodstain patterns the way archaeologists read ancient hieroglyphics.
307: KILLER GLOVES
An intruder breaks into a family home in a well-to-do Calgary neighbourhood. When he’s confronted by the owner, the burglar stabs him to death. The killer flees leaving behind several smudged prints on a window that appear to be left by a pair of gloves. Can these help nail a murderer?
308: DEAD SEA
A fisherman, trawling off the English coast, comes upon what appears to be a large fish in his net. But it turns out to be a dead body. The body is wearing shoes and a Rolex watch, but has no I.D. – is it murder or suicide? So begins the Albert Walker case – the story of a man who was wanted for embezzlement in Canada, fled to England, then killed a man so that he could steal his identity. This episode recounts one of the strangest, most intriguing cases of mistaken identities in the recent history of crime.
309: THE TROUBLE WITH SUSAN
A woman is reported missing. It takes nearly 2 weeks for the police to determine that this is no missing person case. The homicide squad slowly amasses enough evidence to charge a man with murder even though the victim’s body still has not been found.
310: STOPWATCH GANG
In 1974, this band of gentlemanly bank robbers from Canada stole $700,000 in gold bricks from a storage warehouse at Ottawa International Airport. It was and still is Canada’s biggest-ever gold robbery. The gang was eventually caught, but escaped before the end of the 70’s. After escaping, all three moved to the US and regrouped, beginning an incredible string of more than 50 bank robberies. Their MO gave the group their unique name – one member carried a stopwatch and would time their hold-ups based on the interesting supposition that if they weren’t out of a bank in 90 seconds their chances of getting apprehended were mathematically higher. The “Stopwatch” story is a fascinating part of Canadian criminal history.
Two young sisters are murdered and recovered DNA points a “finger from the grave” at the killer. The police determine the crime scene had been staged to look like a ‘break and enter’ and the primary motive for the crime was homicide not theft.
312: DOUBLE JEOPARDY
As sophisticated as forensic science has become, the human factor opens the door to fallibility. “Double Jeopardy” presents a tragic example of what happens when forensic science fails. In this case, a forensic scientist misinterprets the facts surrounding a shooting, thereby allowing the guilty party to walk free. But the victim’s mother won’t let the case rest. Eventually she gathers enough evidence to reopen the case – and prove it was murder. But the murderer can’t be tried again because of the laws of “Double Jeopardy.”
313: OUT OF CONTROL
A finger print from a piece of broken glass sets in motion what becomes an investigation spanning 2 provinces and involving numerous police forces and social agencies. A deranged murderer is on the loose, and needs to be stopped before he kills again.
314: MAPPING EVIL
A serial rapist in Lafayette, Louisiana is finally caught thanks to a tenacious, local investigator and a unique Canadian forensic scientist, who developed “geographic profiling.” This sophisticated analytical tool helps investigators figure out where a serial criminal lives. This case has a truly unnerving ending as the rapist is found working within the local Sheriff’s office.
EPISODES: SEASON FOUR
401: TIME BOMB
A bomb goes off in a postal truck in downtown Toronto. A security camera records the reaction of the burning postal driver. His trauma is so severe, he is put in an induced coma. Who set the bomb? Who was the target?
Investigators and bomb experts put all the pieces together to solve a devilish case.
402: NORTH BAY
An exhaustive 18-month investigation follows the murder of a young woman in North Bay. The prime suspect’s DNA matches that on the woman’s clothes. In a startling development, further DNA tests prove the wrong man has been charged. Out of the blue, a phone call from a prison administrator in Calgary sends the investigation in a completely new direction.
A car carrying six friends crashes. As bodies fly in all directions, four teenagers die and two are critically injured. Sara LeBeau, who owns the car, survives but has total amnesia. Who was driving? Using toxicology, chemistry, accident reconstruction and DNA, charges are eventually laid against LeBeau. (This Ontario case is currently under appeal.)
404: BEAUTY SHOP BANDIT
In 1990, John Willis of Chicago is sentenced to 105 years in prison for a series of bizarre robberies and sexual assaults. They all take place in women’s beauty shops. Willis proclaims his innocence. It is not until 1998 that a committed young US attorney and sophisticated forensics by a Toronto lab uncover a serious miscarriage of justice.
She was a typical teenager, everyone’s potential sister, daughter, neighbour. In 15 minutes she went from living an ordinary life to becoming a quadriplegic. Her name is Barbara Turnbull and she was shot in a Mississauga convenience store in a senseless robbery. Ballistics will show which of two brothers did the shooting. Now a Toronto newspaper writer, Turnbull tells her own dramatic story.
406: IF THE SHOE FITS
The beaten and frozen dead body of a missing man is found in his abandoned car in Ottawa. The suspects are his wife and/or two male tenants. Detectives unearth stories of jealousy, abuse and a bloody boot. Whoever wore the boot killed the man. Police call on a forensic footprint specialist to solve the mystery.
407: HIGH PARK RAPIST
Michael Giroux confesses to a sexual assault. A psychological assessment supports his claim that this was a one time offence. While in prison, his house is sold and the new owner finds numerous photo IDs. The police link one name with a woman who was sexually assaulted in Toronto’s High Park eight years previously. Is Michael Giroux a sexual predator and the notorious High Park rapist?
408: ROOT CAUSE
The body of a cocktail waitress is found in a dumpster in Vancouver shot and burned beyond recognition. Detectives follow a maze of clues to the likely killer. Unfortunately, the body is so charred, it is impossible to see if the blood in the suspect’s car matches the victims. A forensic dentist steps into the picture. Only he can get to the root of the dilemma to close the case.
409: MURDER IN A SMALL TOWN
A young female taxi-driver is fatally stabbed and left to die in Banff. The investigators find a knife and blood in the abandoned cab. Hundreds of men are questioned and give blood samples in a cross continent manhunt. It is two years before police identify two suspects who refuse to co-operate. It will take undercover operations to get the DNA samples and put a killer behind bars.
410: NINE LIVES
A woman goes missing in Summerside, PEI. The blood inside her abandoned car tells a terrible story. DNA confirms the blood on a splattered man’s jacket matches that of the missing woman. The jacket is also covered with white cat hairs. When the woman’s body is found, her estranged common-law husband is charged. Forensic history is made when geneticist and cat expert Dr. Stephen O’Brien matches Snowball’s DNA to the hairs on the jacket.
411: POINT BLANK
Disguised bandits fell a Brinks guard in Oshawa. The police find a fake bomb in the abandoned getaway car. It is a major forensic clue in tracking the gang. The bandits are charged – but the prosecution needs to find the murder weapon. Just days before the trial, investigators get a break, putting them knee-deep in swampy water searching for the murder weapon.
412: THE TWO MR. SMITHS
Firefighters find two dead bodies on a burning boat in Sydney Harbour, Vancouver Island. Another boat has been broken into. The assailants may have drunk beer from the discarded cans on the boat. A forensics ID unit matches the cans through a serial code on the lid. Whoever broke into the second boat also killed the couple on the burning boat.
413: BARE BONES
A hunter makes a gruesome discovery near Saskatoon – a human skull. Detectives find the remains of two more bodies close by. A forensic anthropologist determines the three victims are female and aboriginal, all killed in the same time frame. The victims are identified through a police artist’s reconstruction drawings. Behavioural profiler Ron MacKay helps nail a brutal serial killer.
414: DEAD DRUNK
A middle aged Vancouver barber is having remarkably bad luck with his girlfriends – they kept dying. Coincidentally they were all native and alcoholics, so it is some time before an astute pathologist questions the staggeringly high blood alcohol levels. Forensic science pins Gilbert Paul Jordan as the serial killer in the world’s first trial of homicide by alcohol poisoning.
EPISODES: SEASON FIVE
In this special one-hour episode, a labour dispute at the Giant gold mine in Yellowknife has the town divided. After months on strike, tensions reach a boiling point when replacement workers are brought in and union members begin crossing the line. When nine miners are killed down in the mine, forensic experts establish the explosion is deliberate – this is murder! The investigation to discover who walked the killer’s path will be among the longest and most complex in Canadian history.
A family is found murdered in their home. They have been sealed up in their suburban house for over a week. The police come upon a ghastly scene. There is no sign of forced entry. Is this a burglary gone terribly awry or something more sinister? Forensic entomology, bloodstain analysis and computer analysis will draw a net around the killer.
503: SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENCE
A young Asian student is raped and murdered in the apartment she shares with her sister. The killer has left a minute trace of himself in the apartment. His identity is a complete mystery. Who could have killed this innnocent girl and why? Forensic fingerprinting points to a suspect but it will be tears that close the case.
504: KILLER NEXT DOOR
Two teenage girls are ambushed by a man wielding a baseball bat. He wants to party. The girls resist but in the struggle, one girl is beaten and left in a coma and the other is raped and murdered, her body dumped in the nearby river. As police mobilise their investigation, the killer taunts them by telephone. For months, the killer eludes the police and terrorises the town. It takes forensic dentistry, behavioural and geographical profiling, fingerprinting and an unexpected tip to put a face to the voice of a devious killer.
505: BIG CATCH
After the dead body of a beautiful young woman is found in a stream, suspicion falls on a three hundred and fifty pound wannabe biker who was seen drinking with the victim the night before. But before police can make an arrest, they discover their prime suspect is destroying evidence. He is attempting to clean up the blood that will connect him to the murder – from the weapon, even from the inside of his car – by going through a car wash with the windows open! Can he really wash away all the traces of evidence or will the power of DNA analysis outwit him?
506: DEADLY THRILLS
A young gas station attendant in rural Nova Scotia is found dead. He has been shot twice and the gas station robbed. With no eye-witnesses, the police have a monumental task before them. After weeks, the case appears to have reached a dead end, until another shooting reveals a forensic connection. The police must sort through a maze of half-truths and finally search across the U.S. border to nail a deadly gang. Can firearms and bloodstain analysis help police determine what really happened?
507: NIGHT OF RAGE
On Victoria Day as fireworks are going off, someone is on a killing spree. The next morning, three prostitutes are found shot dead. One is a transvestite, one is a transsexual and the third is a woman. The bullets from each killing prove to come from the same gun. The investigation to find the gun and the shooter takes the police from the suburbs of Toronto to the harbour of Halifax in pursuit of a serial killer.
508: BROTHER’S KEEPER
When a young man goes missing and his wallet is found near Algonquin Park, his sister and mother call it murder, but without evidence, the police must deem him a “missing person.” From interviews with relatives, it looks like the young man wanted to get away – he was on parole, his marriage had broken up, and his father’s suicide still haunted him. For three years, his sister searches for her brother in vain. Finally she gives up. But on the eve of his memorial service, police get a tip about his murder. It takes forensic anthropology, bloodstain analysis, tool mark analysis and tenacious police work to unearth the story about the murder and nail the killer.
509: MASTER MIND
When a respected gallery owner suspects he is being scammed, he calls in the police. He has been sold a painting by a well-known artist that he fears is a fake. The detective on the case undertakes a crash course in the colourful world of art; a world with its dark side of master thieves and fraud artists. The trail to convict the master con-artist is a winding one and crosses international borders. In the end, it will be the artistry of forensics that will put a thief out of business.
On a cool November evening, a young woman walks home from the bus stop through a local park. Suddenly, she is approached by a man. He politely asks her if she dropped any money. But before she can respond, he grabs her and drags her off the path, where he sexually assaults her. This begins a week of terror for three more unsuspecting women. There is a rapist on the loose. The only clue to his identity is his DNA. The police enlist the help of a Behavioural Profiler and Forensic Artist to trap the elusive predator before he strikes again.
Ronald Dalton has an idyllic life – a loving marriage, three beautiful children and a solid career in banking. But in one night, all that is ripped away from him. His wife dies under unusual circumstances and the forensic pathologist says it is murder by strangulation. Although he insists he is innocent, Dalton is convicted. For eight years, Ronald Dalton tries to get a new trial, but with no luck, until his case lands on the desk of lawyer Jerome Kennedy. Kennedy believes Ronald Dalton is innocent and wins back his client’s freedom on the strength of testimony from nine forensic pathologists, an expert in emergency medicine, and a forensic psychologist.
and many others
Produced by Exhibit A Productions for Discovery Channel, CTV Network, The Learning Channel, Canal D and others.