FBI Confidential: Evidence Response Team

Jun 21, 2018, 6:02 AM | Updated: Jun 22, 2018, 4:07 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Real-life crime scene investigation is nothing like what you see on TV, according to the man in charge of the FBI Salt Lake City Division’s Evidence Response Team.

“The Evidence Response Team is basically CSI,” says Special Agent Steve Daniels. “We’ve got at least one team of eight people in all 56 of our field offices, spread throughout the nation.”

Where it differs from what you see on CSI and other television shows is speed. You might see the same detective process a crime scene, swab DNA on the spot and get instant results. Daniels says the reality is far more deliberate and slow.

“It’s kind of a methodical, slow sometimes, process – where we can’t rush, we can’t hurry,” he explains.

Part of Daniels’ job is to collect evidence so prosecutors can build a case against a suspected criminal. For example, his team’s work was instrumental in tying the suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Utah Transit Authority employee Kay Ricks to the multiple crime scenes that were involved.

“[The suspects] took him in his own UTA truck,” Daniels recalls, discussing how Ricks’ body and his stolen truck were recovered from separate remote locations in Wyoming. “Instead of us going to the truck, and having to deal with the truck in this remote area, I had them drive the truck here and put it in this bay that we’re in.”

With the truck now in the same location as Daniels’ team and high tech tools, they were able to recover evidence that would have been harder to get in the field.

“I think we ended up finding an Arctic Circle receipt, which, yes, they did go to an Arctic Circle and I think they found video from that later. So just little things like that, that just match up with this case,” helped build a prosecution, Daniels says. “I mean, that’s critical. Now we know at this timeline, these guys were together. Where is that in relation to where the body was found? …It just starts adding all of these different leads for the case agent.”

Daniels’ team was able to get a fingerprint from the front of the truck, where it appeared Dereck James and Flint Harrison had opened the hood to try to disable the vehicle. Another fingerprint was found inside the door handle of the truck, showing that the Harrisons had been inside the cab. A food bowl left on the dash had a spoon in it that contained one of the suspects’ DNA. Finally, a paint can left in the back of the truck helped tie the multiple scenes together.

“They used this fluorescent green paint to try to spray, cover up the UTA insignia on the side doors. And on that can, we found a fingerprint for one of the suspects,” Daniels says. “And then what was interesting about that was the Wyoming investigators, they processed the body site. The body dump site. And they happened to spot on – some kind of twig or branch or something, they found this little trace of fluorescent paint, and then that ended up matching that paint that was from the paint can.”

Dereck James “DJ” Harrison pleaded guilty in 2017 as part of a deal that took the death penalty off the table. He is serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Daniels’ team also helps from time to time in large crime scenes even outside of the FBI Salt Lake City Division’s three-state area. They were called in to help with the recovery efforts after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York City. Because the FBI was heavily involved in securing the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics, Daniels and the team from this region who assisted in the post-9/11 recovery efforts did not transfer into that area until April of 2002, several months after the terror attacks.

“By the time we got there, we were just doing a human remains recovery effort, going through that debris, looking for any kind of human remains, any kind of IDs, rings, anything that might be a personal affect, personal item to those victims, to their families, so they could eventually try to get that back,” Daniels says.

Members of the FBI Salt Lake City Division’s Evidence Response Team rotated in to the New York area in April 2002 to help with the recovery of human remains after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

He says the largest fragment of human remains anyone on his team found while they were there was a partial human jawbone.

More recently, Daniels’ team was called to help process the crime scene after the Harvest 91 Festival shooting in Las Vegas.

Sometimes, the work leads to justice for victims of crimes. But other times, it’s more about closure and answers for those who want to know what happened to their loved ones — and Daniels says that’s what he felt like his team was able to accomplish in Las Vegas and New York, where the suspects who might have been prosecuted died before that could happen.

“To me, it was like,  I’d want to know where my family member was. I’d want to know — you know, I’d want to have some kind of diagram or map that showed maybe what happened,” Daniels says.


Today’s Top Stories


Ogden police car...
Mark Jones

Ogden-Weber Technical College evacuated due to bomb threat; no bomb found

Weber County emergency personnel responded to the Ogden-Weber Technical College Wednesday afternoon for a report of bomb threat. After a search of the campus, no device was found.
1 day ago
Black Rifle Coffee...
Lindsay Aerts

Black Rifle Coffee, Dallas Cowboys take heat for timing of business partnership

The timing of a business partnership between Utah-based Black Rifle Coffee and the Dallas Cowboys has generated a lot of emotions on social media.
1 day ago
south jordan police...
Mark Jones

Two children hurt in auto-pedestrian collision in South Jordan

South Jordan police say two children are in critical condition after a auto-pedestrian collision Wednesday. Both children were taken to Primary Children's Hospital.
1 day ago
Local environmental groups are taking a victory lap now that a medical waste incinerator in North S...
Lindsay Aerts

Stericycle can no longer burn medical waste in SLC, but the fight to stop toxic pollutants may not be over

Local environmental groups are taking a victory lap now that a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake belonging to Stericycle, has been shut down.
1 day ago
Utah Fire Info says the Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained. Photo Credit: Utah Fire Info....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained, Utah Fire Info says

Utah Fire Info says the Deuel Creek Fire is now 100% contained after days of firefighters combating the blaze.
1 day ago
air conditioner...
Carlos Artiles

What if your air conditioner breaks down during the summer months?

If your air conditioner breaks down during the summer, you could be on a wait list of a few weeks before it could be fixed or replaced.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
FBI Confidential: Evidence Response Team