FORT PIERCE, Fla. - At Indian River State College, learning goes far past the classrooms. Here, students are solving real murder cases.
"This is the ultimate, in giving back to our own community," said professor and victimologist Dr. Kimberlie Massnick.
The university partners with the Indian River sheriff’s office.
"My students get access to every piece of information, every piece of evidence we pull in the detectives if they are still living from that era of the case, and then we look at it with a new set of eyes," Massnick said.
The class just solved the cold case of Steven Patterson, a 28-year-old man found burned to death in a car just outside Vero Beach in 1988.
Originally ruled a murder, students spent more than 100 hours working on the case until they made a discovery. They found an updated death certificate from 5 years after the case, where the medical examiner changed the cause of death to suicide; a change that never made it to sheriff’s office.
"They were able to give peace to a family that have wondered for some 30 odd years," Massnick said.
Now, the old class is passing the torch to the next group.
Geraldine Valencia is part of the new team, finishing up their next case; a homicide from 1989.
"It goes beyond these four walls, seeing real evidence, crime scene pictures, autopsies, interviews of the detectives with the victims, so it gives you a real hands-on experience for what you will see in the real world," said senior Geraldine Valencia.
Creating the next generation of detectives, police officers and attorneys.
"It allows them to get their hands on different things and find out what they can, and can’t handle," Massnick said.