State death investigators and coroners practice finding hidden b - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

State death investigators and coroners practice finding hidden bones in annual training

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WALLA WALLA, WA. -- The people getting off this bus are here to solve a brutal crime. A family of four, murdered. Their bones buried on this empty patch of land. But you may already know the criminals. At least, if you watch NBC Right Now regularly you could.

Back in October, 3 of our local coroners buried the family of four here. A plastic family. All in preparation for this day.

"We've got four adults, a baby and we've got some loose bones that we've buried too," Dan Blasdel, Franklin County Coroner said. "And then there's some evidence in there. We buried a 5th of vodka with them and it's going to be interesting to see how they process that scene and shift that dirt."

Around 50 people, a group filled with coroners, death investigators and troopers from Washington State Patrol are combing the area in search for evidence during annual training. They're all learning important skills to handle real life scenarios.  

"If you don't know what you're doing and you mess something up, you could potentially jeopardize prosecution," State Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Kathy Taylor. "So it's really important that they know how to approach it, how to process it and how to recover it."

They're training in everything from how to track footprints to marking off a crime scene and finding bones of the dead. The goal is to make it as realistic as possible, including having a real nagging reporter on scene.

Haylee Mills is a Deputy Coroner for Pacific County in Southwest Washington. She says she's learning important skills to bring back to her job.

"I think everything that we're learning is good review for some things and then some things are new and new ways of doing things," Mills said. "I think it will be helpful to bring back."

The annual training wraps up on Wednesday, after which the coroners, death investigators and members of Washington State Patrol will head back to their jobs a little bit more prepared to handle a terrible scenario like this one.