GU Forensics Conference 2019 - About the Speakers

2019 Forensic Conference Speaker Biographies

Peter Smerick

Peter A. Smerick has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Penn State University in Political Science and a Masters of Education Degree from the University of Virginia in the field of Instructional Technology. He served in Vietnam as a U.S. Army Combat Photography Officer and at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, as an Army Intelligence Officer.

 Upon completion of his military service, he was appointed a Special Agent for the U. S. Naval Investigative Service (NIS), Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he was responsible for criminal/counterintelligence investigations and photographic operations.

As a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Smerick became the Photography Coordinator in the Los Angeles, California; and New York City, New York, FBI field offices and was responsible for surveillance/crime scene operations during major criminal, organized crime, drug, gang, counterintelligence, and terrorism investigations.

He was promoted to the FBI Laboratory as a Supervisory Special Agent where he was certified as an expert in Forensic Photography and Questioned Document Examinations. He and his colleagues analyzed the “Zapruder film” regarding the assassination of John F. Kennedy to determine if there was a second gunman concealed in the shadows of a grassy knoll. (NOTE: There wasn’t a second gunman in the shadows.)

He received a transfer to the FBI Laboratory’s Forensic Science Unit, FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia, as an Instructor in Crime Scene/ Surveillance Photography, Handwriting Examinations, Forensic Science, and Crime Scene Investigations.

Mr. Smerick became a Violent Crime Analyst-Criminal Profiler for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC). He was the first FBI Document Examiner/Violent Crime Analyst to testify in court regarding a missing person case where the subject, (Jack Crescenzi), was convicted of his wife’s death based upon Forensic Linguistics. Her body was never found. He was also the

lead FBI Profiler initially engaged in the David Koresch (Branch Davidian’s) standoff against the FBI in Waco, Texas, where he strongly recommended in writing that force not be used against the compound.

Upon his retirement from the FBI, Mr. Smerick became a partner in the Academy Group Inc., Manassas, Virginia, the largest behavioral/forensic science consulting firm in the world consisting primarily of retired FBI trained Violent Crime Analysts/Criminal Profilers. He had been an instructor for the Southern Police Institute, (SPI), University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, training Homicide and Sex Crime Investigators the art of Criminal Profiling.

Upon his second retirement, Mr. Smerick continues to train law enforcement officers in Criminal Profiling techniques and assists in Cold Case investigations.

Dr. Gary Cumberland 

Dr. Cumberland earned his medical doctor degree from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in 1978. He did four years of residency training in anatomic and clinical pathology at the University of Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Mobile. He is board certified by the American Board of Pathology in Anatomic, Clinical and Forensic Pathology.

Dr. Gary Cumberland, MD is a Doctor primarily located in Pensacola, FL, with other offices in Pensacola, FL and Milton, FL . He has 38 years of experience.

In 2015 he published a book titled. “My Life with Death: Memoirs of a Journeyman Medical Examiner.” He has published may journal articles. He has performed over 4,500 autopsies and those include over 350+ homicides. He is a qualified expert witness and has appeared in over 300 court cases. He is qualified as an expert in United States District Courts of Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida.

He lives with his wife, Beth in Pensacola, FL.

Debbie and Rob Smith  

On March 3, 1989, Debbie Smith was kidnapped from her home while her husband (Rob) a police officer, was sleeping upstairs. She was dragged into the woods behind her home and raped. The rapist threatened Debbie not to tell, and reminded her that he knew where she lived. Bravely, Debbie went forward and told her husband of the assault. The rape was officially reported and she consented to a forensic exam.

The traumatic effect of the assault remained with her and her family for six and a half years, and then her perpetrator was finally caught through a DNA database known as CODIS (Combined DNA Index System).

Because of all the suffering Debbie and countless other victims of sexual assault have faced, legislation has been passed to improve investigations and services for the crime. The Debbie Smith Act, now part of the Justice for All Act of 2004, was signed into law. It was renewed a couple of times, and it remains active to this date.

Debbie travels around the country with her husband Robert to talk about her experience. Her purposes for talking about the attack are to assist those who work with victims to be more aware of how to approach them. They would like to take away the stigma that comes with rape that puts the blame on the victim.

They are victim centered. Their work includes helping to enact legislation, both state and federal, presenting at seminars, giving press conferences, and generally working to raise awareness.

Debbie has appeared on TV talk shows, including 60 minutes, Oprah, John Walsh. She has been interviewed in numerous magazines and newspapers. Lifetime TV has produced a TV movie entitled, “A Life Interrupted”, about Debbie’s battle to pass legislation reference DNA.

Troy Stabenow 

Troy Stabenow earned his law degree from the University of Iowa in 1997. He then served eight years on active duty with the U.S. Army's JAG Corps. During five years abroad (one in Korea and four more in Germany), he tried a number of internationally sensitive cases and rose to become the senior prosecutor for a seven- office region in Hesse and the Rheinland-Pfalz. In 2003, he requested a transfer to defense work. He returned to the United States and assumed duties as the senior defense attorney for a three-attorney office at Fort Riley, Kansas. Troy tried cases throughout the Midwest and became known nationally as a guest speaker on trial advocacy and computer crime defenses.

In 2005, Troy resigned from active duty to become an Assistant Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Missouri. He helped open the Jefferson City office in March of that year, and has remained in that position ever since.

In 2008, Troy authored "Deconstructing the Myth of Careful Study: A Primer on the Flawed Progression of the Child Pornography Guidelines," a paper that dramatically changed the Judiciary's attitude towards child pornography sentences. In 2012 he published a follow-up article that documented changes in sentencing policies, analyzed recidivism studies in the field, and proposed better ways to tailor sentences to the offender. His work has been the subject of federal opinions in almost every circuit. He regularly speaks around the country to large audiences on computer crimes and creative sentencing practices.

In addition to his position as an Assistant Federal Public Defender, Troy has also served as an adjunct professor at both the University of Missouri Law School and at the

U.S. Army's Judge Advocate General's Legal School and Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of the four-volume "West Federal Forms for District Courts - Criminal (2012)." and serves on the 8th Circuit Criminal Jury Instructions Subcommittee.

Troy continues to practice criminal law in the U.S. Army Reserves. The Federal Sentencing Reporter published his most recent law review article in March of 2015. The article examines the changing treatment of victims in military and civilian courts.

Russell Strand 

Senior Special Agent (Retired) Russell W. Strand, CFP-A, is the Executive Director of Certified FETI and a managing partner and co-founder of Strand Holistic Innovative Forensic Techniques (SHIFT) LLC. Along with his partner, Myra Strand, he provides consultation, systems auditing, training and assistance to agencies and service providers.

Russell is an internationally recognized expert in child abuse and sexual assault investigations, domestic violence intervention, human trafficking, forensic interviews, trauma response, neuroscience, policing, and culture change. He is also the creator of the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI).

As a career law enforcement professional, trainer, educator, writer, and consultant, Russ has distinguished himself as an integral member of the criminal justice community his entire adult life.

He began his law enforcement career in 1975 as a military police patrol officer, performed duties as a military police investigator, and retired 22 years later as a senior special agent in the United States Army Criminal Investigations Command.

After his retirement as a senior special agent, Russ was appointed the Chief of the U.S. Army Military Police Behavioral Sciences Education & Training Division where he worked for 20 years retiring in 2016.

As the point-person in the Department of Defense and Department of the Army in the law enforcement fight against domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual violence, he distinguished himself by development and implementation of numerous training courses and programs across the entire department to include an 8-day child abuse investigations course, 1-week domestic violence intervention course, and a 2-week sexual assault and prosecution course some of which have been described as the “gold standard’ within the Department of Defense. These courses have also been sought after by civilian professionals across the nation.

Russ is a highly respected and sought-after speaker internationally, who has personally trained & educated more than 500,000 professionals in his career. He has been sought out by Congressional staffers and primaries who have been interested in his forward-thinking sexual assault investigations programs and approaches that not only assisted the Department of Defense but also lead the national effort at reducing sexual assault prevalence while increasing offender identification and accountability. Thus, Russ has briefed numerous Congressional staffers and members of Congress including the Congressional Woman’s Caucus.

Russ was selected by the Secretary of Defense to serve on the Congressionally mandated Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault as a member of the Comparative Systems Subcommittee. Russ served on this committee for 8 months examining response to sexual assault crimes across the country and made numerous crucial recommendations to national leaders to improve multidisciplinary response to sexual assault for military and civilian professionals.

Russ was a featured subject matter expert in “The Invisible War” documentary on sexual assault in the military, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary in 2013. He and his work have also been featured in numerous publications, various nationally recognized media outlets and news organizations, books, and educational videos

Because of his tireless efforts to protect victims of crime within the Department of Defense, across the nation, and around the world, he was selected to receive the 2012 End Violence Against Women International Visionary Award. He also received the St. Luke’s Health Systems Forensic Committee Visionary Award for years of executive direction, education, and leadership in providing effective multidisciplinary training, education, and expert consultation.

Russ graduated magna cum laude from Excelsior College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice.

Russ is unconditionally dedicated to continuing his work to build a world that doesn’t currently exist. A world in which every victim of abuse and trauma has confidence in reporting their experience and has a genuine voice that is truly heard. A world where every perpetrator of abuse is held accountable for their actions. A world in which all professionals responding to trauma and abuse are properly educated and feel confident in all they do. And a world in which we significantly reduce or eliminate all forms of criminal violence and abuse.

Russ lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with his wife and partner, Myra, two sons, and a dog.

Myra Strand 

Myra Strand is Co-Founder/ Managing Partner of Strand Holistic Innovative Forensic Techniques (SHIFT) LLC. Along with her partner, Russell Strand, she provides consultation, systems auditing, training and assistance to agencies and service providers.

In her previous position as CEO at Victim Witness Services (VWS) for Coconino County, Myra’s focus was to drive the sustainable growth of VWS in three areas: Vicarious Trauma Mitigation, Evidence Informed Practices, and the Expansion of Geographic Reach.

Under her lead, she more than doubled- nearly tripled– the operating budget, she tripled the number of victims served during immediate crisis, she increased services to rural areas of the county and opened two satellite offices and establishing funds for “pop-up services”. She added new services including counseling, trauma sensitive yoga, emergency financial assistance to address immediate crisis needs and a K-9 advocacy program. In 2013, when she started, there were nine staff members, when she left in 2018 there were nearly 30 people on VWS payroll.

Myra has had success in improving the systems response to victims of trauma in her eight years as a lead team member in the local Coordinated Response Team and the Sexual Assault Response Team. She co- founded the Coconino County Domestic Violence fatality review board, which later became the state model. She assisted in the process that lead to DV risk assessments being used by local law enforcement and by the hospital, she assisted in establishing DV strangulation exams in her area. Through her work with FETI (Forensic Experiential Trauma Interviewing) she has participated in bringing training to over 600 first responders in Arizona from over 50 different agencies. Myra was recognized for her work with FETI by “Latinas Rising” and featured by the Arizona Community Foundation.

Prior to her work at Victim Witness Services, Myra was the Director of Community Based Services for Northland Family Help Center (NFHC). During her eight years at NFHC, she provided legal advocacy for women fleeing domestic violence as a legal document preparer. She also created two sexual violence prevention programs, one targeting men as

allies. The other empowering alcohol serving establishment owners and staff to be effective bystanders which is now called the Arizona Safer Bars Alliance and has had a national level impact. She supervised the runaway/homeless youth outreach program and a primary prevention program focused on youth.

Myra is a visiting faculty member at Coconino Community College and Northern Arizona University where she teaches issues of violence, ethnic and gender studies, sex and dating and applied intersectionality. She has also taught social justice classes in the Coconino County Detention Center working with men on issues of violence and healing.

Myra is the recipient of the 2015 Woman of Excellence Award, 2014 and 2012 Northern Arizona University Community Partner Awards, 2013 Ruby Award, and the 2007 Martin-Springer Moral Courage Award.

Myra Lives in Flagstaff Arizona with her partner and husband, Russ, two sons and dog, Yeti.

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