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20 years of CSI: How crime scene investigators get their man

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(New York)  Twenty years ago–on February 26th, 1993–a truck bomb blew up in the parking garage of World Trade Center # 1, killing six, terrorizing thousands of others, and leaving behind a huge crater six stories deep.  FBI agents and NYPD bomb experts descended on the scene–and recovered the undercarriage of a Ryder rental truck, complete with a vehicle identification number.

Within a week, the FBI made four arrests in the bombing, after tracing the Ryder truck to a rental office in Jersey City.  That’s where accused terrorist, Mohammed Salameh, had gone back to pick up his deposit money!

The undercarriage was a huge piece of evidence in the 1993 bombing, just like the surveillance footage from a sidewalk in Boston promises to lead investigators to two men wanted in connection with Monday’s deadly Marathon explosions.

John Cutter, a retired NYPD deputy chief who helped create the Criminal Intelligence section, noted “Any time you can capture footage from the scene before it happens–and then after it happens–you can get a myriad of clues.”

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The FBI has been reconstructing crime scenes for many years–and did a massive “re-building” of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.

Cutter pointed out how crucial “closed circuit” television footage proved to be in London, in July 2005.  Four “suicide bombers” with backpacks were ultimately picked up on surveillance, entering an “underground” station.  Three of them detonated bombs on the trains, while the fourth set off a bomb on a “double decker ” bus.  More than 50 people were killed and 700-plus injured.

Now, in 2013, two men of interest have been isolated on multiple cameras, wanted for questioning in the Boston Marathon blasts.  One of them is wearing a black hat and the other is wearing white; both carry backpacks.  The suspect in white lays down the second backpack, seconds before the bag explodes.

Boston investigators are already reconstructing the bombs, sending the remains of a pressure cooker and the battery to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

The FBI has been reconstructing crime scenes for many years–and did a massive “re-building” of TWA Flight 800 in 1996.  The jet exploded and crashed twelve minutes after take-off in July of that year, off the coast of East Moriches, Long Island.  But no crime was ever proven.  The National Transportation Safety Board ruled four years later the explosion was likely an accident, caused by an over-heating of the TWA jet’s central fuel tank.