The first crime scene processing in Charlottesville was conducted by retired Capt. M. W. "Mannie" Norford. A detective at the time, he was instrumental in procuring the department's first crime scene processing van in 1973.
In 1974, the state legislature authorized what was then called the Bureau of Forensic Science to open the Forensic Science Academy in Richmond, Virginia. The first Charlottesville officer to attend the initial session was Ron Webster. Ron Webster was followed by J. Richard Ward, Ron Willis, Charlie Wade, Phil Thacker, Ralph Barfield, Bobby Lowry, Karl Sprouse, Mel Bishop, Steve Dillon, Steve Upman, Mark Fields, Michael Flaherty, and Jeremy Carper.
The Evidence Unit remained one full time officer from the mid 1970's until 1989. A second detective position was added at that time. In 1990, the unit had two full-time detectives until the spring of 1995.
In May of 1994, Captain (Retired) John E. “Chip” Harding formed the Evidence Advisory Group. The group consisted of a cross-section of officers from the department with a mandate to look at every aspect of the Evidence Unit and make recommendations for changes which would improve the unit's quality and productivity. On March 1, 1995, the Forensic Unit was formed. In September of 1996, the Forensic Unit was authorized their first civilian clerk, titled Forensic Support Specialist.
In October of 1999, the unit obtained its' first DNA Data Bank Hit in a rape/robbery case. In the same year the unit worked the Spinner homicide which was solved because of DNA and has received international recognition. In October of 2000, the unit opened their first archive evidence room. By the end of the year the unit was leading Virginia in NIBIN shell casing identifications and had an additional 10 Cold DNA Data Bank Hits. Between 2000 and 2007, four serial rapists were identified, arrested and convicted from data bank hits.
In 2004, the unit moved to new facilities complete with space saver storage shelves and security video and alarms. In 2006, members of the Forensic Unit received a unit commendation from Chief Longo for their dedication to crime scene processing. In early 2007, members were instrumental in the successful prosecution of a man for the murder of his wife, whose body had been deposited in a local motel. Their work, along with detectives from our department and the Jacksonville Florida Sheriff’s Department led to two consecutive life sentences and 67 additional years. In late 2007, a new archive evidence room was added to augment the need for keeping state mandated DNA evidence and other evidence on cold cases.