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Crime-scene clean up takes compassion and careful provisions

Posted by Cindy Atoji Keene  March 26, 2013 12:11 PM

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By Cindy Atoji Keene

Who cleans up after a bloody murder or suicide? The potentially gory mess of brain matter, skull fragments, and pieces of corpses doesn’t faze crime-scene cleaner Bill Ciaccio, 33. He considers his job a service to the families who are left devastated after the investigators leave. Mopping up after someone dies involves handling risky biological waste such as blood and other bodily fluids, and properly disposing of material to avoid spreading viruses and diseases. “We have to treat everything with the utmost precaution, whether it’s a drop of blood or very morbid or grotesque,” said Ciaccio, who is a regional supervisor for Aftermath, a crime scene clean-up company.

Q: What sort of trauma do you clean up after?
A: It doesn’t have to be a crime scene; we also do industrial accidents, unintended deaths, gunshots and stabbings. My crew also does all the squad cars and jail cells for a lot of municipalities. There are strict laws about who can clean up fluids in a prison or police car. It could be vomit, feces, or blood – we see it all.

Q: How soon after it after the event do you show up?
A: We like to be in crime scenes shortly after the investigators leave the scene. The longer you let it sit, the more the odor and fluids spread, and what could be a one-day job turns into a very big endeavor. There can be odor and insect infestation because of the blood.

Q: What procedures do you follow?
A: We are on call 24 /7. When a call comes in, we have an hour to respond and be at the shop in North Attleboro. We’ll start contacting the family involved and get them up to speed so they know what to expect, and we’ll help them with the insurance paperwork. Upon arrival, the scene will be quarantined; plastic sheeting is erected and air scrubbers pump out the dirty air. The task could take four hours or three to four days. All surfaces are disinfected, sanitized and deodorized in a procedure called a biowash.

Q: What was it like when you saw your first crime scene?
A: I was nervous and I wasn’t sure how I would react. It was a bad decomposition on the Cape. An older woman who lived alone had passed away and was left unattended for 2-3 weeks in the summer time.

Q: How did you get involved in this line of work?
A: It suits me well because I have a background in construction, which is helpful because some clean-ups require that floorboards and walls be removed. My experience with the mortgage industry helped deal with the insurance paperwork. In many cases, homeowner’s insurance will cover the costs to clean up after a trauma.

Q: How do you keep emotionally detached from the scene you are encountering?
A: I don’t think I always am able to remain detached. There are times when I have a very difficult time staying professional. You’re dealing with people who have had the worst day of their life. Sometimes it really hits you and it’s hard to understand why things happen. I don’t have any answers. It shows you no one is far from tragedy. It could hit any of us at any time.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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