Critical Thinking in Death Scene Investigation
CRJM 490  |  JAN 9-15 2023



Critical Thinking in Death Scene Investigation

The groundbreaking Winterim course called Critical Thinking in Death Scene Investigation is back! The course, offered by the Criminal Justice Department, is a collaborative concept created by Dr. Jana-Marie Truesdell, PHD, College of Social Sciences and Professional Studies Dean Peggy James, and the Theatre Department.

Centered around Francis Glessner Lee’s Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths, this course seeks to challenge your investigative skills through critical thinking and attention to detail. To this end, each day of the week will focus on one of the five manners of death (natural, accidental, suicide, homicide, and undetermined), with lecture-style presentations from local experts in the morning. You will work in groups, with the “Nutshells” themselves in the afternoon.

Topics will include forensic history and touchstone cases, body examination and signs of death, autopsy and pathology, overdose deaths, accidental deaths, blood pattern analysis, trauma analysis, poisons, fatal fire analysis, SUIDI deaths, and the importance of thorough investigation in the context of the courtroom. A “life-sized” recreation of one of the “Nutshells” will then be presented for you to put your skills to the test on the final day of class. While rigorous, this course is meant to be an introduction to both the theory and practice of death scene investigation and will benefit both beginners and professionals alike.

The Critical Thinking in Death Scene Investigation course is offered each Winterim, selecting a different life-size diorama each time. For more information about the course please contact Dr. Truesdell at


WED, JAN 20  |  1-3 PM - SAVE THE DATE!

Centered around Francis Glessner Lee’s Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths, guests are invited to walk through the life-size nutshell. We will be featuring Dr. Jana-marie Truesdell as she walks us through the crime scene analysis and concept for Nutshell Crime builds. This is a free event open to the community.


Noncredit Professional Development

Law Enforcement And Medicolegal Professionals

Police officers can participate in the course (as noncredit students) to earn certification credits approved through supervisors.

Medical examiners can participate in the course (as noncredit students) to earn 40 ABMDI credits for the weeklong course.

If you are a police officer or medical examiner, you may register here.


Dr. Jana-Marie Truesdell, PHD (Cultural and Social Anthropology with an emphasis in Forensic Anthropology). She has over eight years of experience in this field working in conjunction with various Medical Examiner’s offices in SE Wisconsin. Her experience and passion for this area of study has been instrumental in her sensemaking for this one-of-a-kind course.

UW-Parkside Theater department members who lead the design and creation of the scene are set designers Nate Stamper and Josh Christofferson. 

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