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Morrisville State College criminal justice students assist with 1999 cold case murder investigation

MORRISVILLE, NY—Shelby Scholefield lined up diagrams that illustrate the relationships between a male murder victim and people he may have known.

“The ones close to the center, the closer they are to the victim,” said Scholefield, one of seven criminal justice students from Morrisville State College who recently assisted the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office with a cold case murder investigation.

In July of 1999, police found 38-year-old Thomas “Tomcat” L. Francisco dead at his residence on One Eye Road in the Town of Pharsalia, located east of the city of Norwich. According to police reports, he had several gunshot wounds.

Francisco’s murder has never been solved, but MSC students acting as law enforcement investigators and detectives were eager to generate new leads in the 18-year-old cold case.
Guiding them were Mark Blakeslee and Gregg DeLuca, both assistant professors of criminal justice at MSC and retired police officers.

“The advantage is to have a fresh set of eyes reviewing the case,” DeLuca said.

“These students have learned a lot from the criminal justice program and we could see the evidence of their learning while they were investigating this case,” Blakeslee said.

Students handled the case file and desk notes, but not the physical evidence. Among their tasks were reviewing, organizing, tabbing and indexing volumes of police reports, crafting evidence lists and writing case summaries. They also reviewed the medical examiner’s reports, lab tests, statements and crime and forensic reports from evidence analysis.

“We went through all of the leads and did a lot of reading,” Nicole Allen said.

“We wanted to come up with a lead or a different way of looking at the case,” Mason Craine said.

The project offered the students hands-on investigation experience.

“This opportunity allowed me to see how an investigation works from the inside out,” Courtney Gaines said.

“It’s different listening to lectures and hearing what you do,” said Scholefield, who wants to be an FBI profiler. “This allowed us to apply what happens in the real world.”

“Morrisville State College has opened the door to so many experiences such as this one,” Gaines said. “This has been one of the most monumental experiences of my collegiate career.”

Students who worked on the cold case:
Honor Williams of Truxton; Mason Craine of Red Creek; Erin Brown of Cragsmoor; Shelby Scholefield of Morrisville; Nicole Allen of Canastota; Courtney Gaines of Baldwinsville; and Gregory Puzo of Brooklyn.

Morrisville State College’s curricula are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology and has been lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs.

The college was ranked among the Best Regional Colleges in the North by U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges 2017 issue and was also recognized in the Top Public Schools, Regional Colleges North in the 2017 Best Colleges rankings. For more information about Morrisville State College, visit www.morrisville.edu.