Underage gumshoes came from as far as 60 miles away to solve a children’s museum cookie heist Tuesday.
One-hundred young detectives sifted through DNA, fingerprint, blood and bullet samples to find the thief among a veritable who’s who of suspects at Longview World of Wonders Museum’s Spy Camp.
“First of all, why would you bring bullets into a children’s museum?” a puzzled Lia Espinoza, 10, asked. “Why do you need bullets to steal cookies?”
Well, Lia, this isn’t the kind of case that will be presented to a grand jury.
This case revolved around finding the culprit who stole Professor WOW’s cookies. Each of the fictitious suspects reportedly came to the museum the day of the swipe.
Was it Kristen Ishihara, the Longview city councilwoman who brought her children to the museum when the cookies went missing? Or was it Shalonda Adams, the Pine Tree PACE principal seen dropping off paperwork that day?
Maybe it was Longview police officer Kristie Brian, who was carrying extra bullet cartridges as she prepared to teach a women’s handgun safety course. KLTV-TV reporter Anissa Centers had reported recently about gun safety and had visited the museum, but there’s also Longview Public Library director Jenn Eldridge, whose personal collection of books mysteriously included several cookie-theme works.
“All of them are ladies,” museum volunteer Bethany Hara said. “It’s a ladies’ day today.”
“We want to know why Anissa (Centers) stopped by,” young Kennedy Thompson said. “That’s mysterious.”
One year ago, Spy Camp attracted only 30 young people, but Executive Director Stacey Thompson said interest in solving this year’s spring break crime drew a sold-out class of 100 young investigators. Most of them were from Longview, but some were from such places as Marshall and Shreveport.
“They have five suspects, and so we read them a case file, and now they’re going from station to station, which they’re taking their own fingerprints and they’re going to match them to the suspect’s fingerprints and realize that all fingerprints are different,” Thompson said.
“In these stations, they’re learning more about DNA, what is blood and what isn’t (and) if you have blood on a surface, what do you put on it to let you know,” she said. “If you have four red things on a surface, how do you know which one is blood or if any of them are blood? So, it’s teaching them about what you can put on that surface to see if it’s blood, because it will bubble up.”
Children examined evidence that included multiple shades of lipstick, nail polish slides and hair samples visible by microscopes, and also bullet cartridges.
“Whoa!” 9-year-old Lily Dodson said when museum playologist Deli Rocha squeezed a drop of peroxide onto a red mark that instantly began to fizzle, denoting that it was blood.
Lia had her own suspicions.
“They have blood on them so they might have scratched themselves while doing something. There are bullet cases, so maybe the KLTV news reporter (or) the police officer — both of them could have done it because they both were involved with guns,” Lia said.
As volunteer Betty Crain assisted in the inspection of dental impression samples, student Avi Welch came to a conclusion.
“I think we found our suspect,” Welch said.
Crain answered, “That would be it.”
The culprit turned out to be Officer Brian, who rewarded the class with three boxes of St. Patrick’s-themed cookies.
No bribes this day, officer — book her.
As for the child spies, pretzels, bananas and water bottles were their payment for day’s work. Then their moms — relieved after a few hours of alone time on spring break — picked them up.
“Parents love us,” director Thompson said, “because they’re like, ‘Yea! We’re tired,’ and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we are, too.’”