The Benton County chief deputy coroner looked across the room before speaking to nine students who were visiting his workplace.
“You’re the ‘weird’ kids that signed up for this, huh?” Roy McLean joked.
McLean was a teacher for 32 years, and he said his current job is the most fascinating he’s ever had.
He returned to his teaching role when the Kennewick students from Kamiakin High School visited the Benton County Coroner’s Office. The field trip was part of Stacey Johnson’s forensics class at the high school.
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They learned about death investigations, how to determine causes of death and saw where bodies go when someone dies.
County Coroner John Hansens first worked with McLean to share the forensics academy with students about two years ago. Johnson teaches science at Kamiakin and used to work with McLean when he was a math and science teacher for the Kennewick School District.
Wednesday’s course was a shortened version of a forensics lessons he offers as part of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office Citizens’ Academy.
This is about helping people — finding answers for them and being able to help people on, a lot of times, the worst day of their lives.
Roy McLean, Benton County chief deputy coroner
Sometimes the coroners offer courses in addition from the citizens academy lesson. The next session is planned for spring.
“It’s just to help educate the public about the role of the coroner and death investigation,” McLean said. “This is about helping people — finding answers for them and being able to help people on, a lot of times, the worst day of their lives.”
John Dean, a senior at Kamiakin High, said he’s into the science.
“It tells people the truth,” Dean said.
Senior Zach Bono said he’s fascinated with the investigative side of things and found the whole experience interesting. Whatever he does for a career, he wants to help solve puzzles.
StonRay Palmer, a junior, wants a career in law enforcement.
“I plan on being a police officer, and forensics kind of goes hand-in-hand,” Palmer said.
McLean showed the students several graphic images from actual forensics textbooks and had them ask questions based on what they observed. He wanted to see if the students could notice if something seemed off about objects in the photo, or if certain wounds on a deceased person looked suspicious.
None of the photos were from local cases, McLean added.
One student was quick to point out the possible cause of a facial injury on a woman, saying it was likely a dog bite.
McLean, while impressed, told her what happened.
“Actually, it was a cat,” he said.
The woman had been shot by her husband. Investigators found a cat trapped in the room with her several days later.
After the presentations, McLean had a message for the students about what he learned as a deputy coroner and teacher..
“Show me your friends, I’ll show you your future,” he told them.
McLean said he first heard the message from Ernie Chapin, a retired teacher who had a penchant for working with at-risk children in communities.
He told the students he wanted the message to resonate with them. He’s personally seen too many younger people dead because of circumstances involved with drugs, violence or preventable accidents.