This year's academy, held in and around the Chief Logan Conference Center near Chapmanville, attracted 40 students from 16 states. Six of the students were West Virginia Natural Resources Police officers.
Lt. Tim Coleman, the Natural Resources Police's training officer, said his agency has sent officers to the academy since it began in 1993.
"We usually send two a year," he said. "This year, since we were hosting it, we got to send six -- one from each of our districts. These officers will go back to their districts and share what they learned with the rest of the officers in their detachment."
West Virginia is the sixth state to host the school.
"It was held in Missouri the first few years," Van Durme said. "After a while, we began moving it around -- to Iowa, Georgia, Florida, Connecticut and now to West Virginia."
West Virginia proved an attractive option because the Chief Logan facility offered lodging, meeting rooms and an adjacent wildlife management area that could be used for role-playing field exercises.
Those exercises, held Wednesday in a deep hollow near the park's rifle range, featured volunteers playing the parts of victims, hunters, bystanders and media members. Trainers designed the scenarios to test the investigators' ability to analyze evidence they gathered, reconcile witnesses' often-conflicting stories, ignore red herrings planted by trainers, and deal with media trying to crash the scene.
Glenn Jones, president of the West Virginia Hunter Education Association, played the role of a witness in one of the exercises. As he sat through the training sessions and watched the field exercises, he became more and more impressed.
"This training would help any officer be more effective at investigating crime scenes in the woods," he said.
"There used to be a saying here in West Virginia: 'If you want to kill someone, take them hunting.' That's no longer the case. Officers now have the training and expertise to figure out exactly what happened."Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.