Students collaborate to solve mystery disappearances


A crime scene is being investigated. Students used this board to determine how 3 people disappeared from Hawthorn Junction.

Whole Class, Reporters

Carson Jenkin

Mora Stevenson

Daniel Burton

These are the names of the characters missing from the fictional town called Hawthorn Junction, and Lauren Hetrick’s Honors Law II class members are the ones responsible for solving this mysterious case. With no prep time, students were thrown into this case on the first day of class, using only the clues given to them in the box set of the Hunt a Killer mystery game. The goal:  to find the person responsible for the disappearance of these three individuals.

This way of starting a class, might be different for some, but Hetrick came up with the idea when she was scrolling on Facebook.  “I thought, this would be a really good way to get to know my class, and how they work together.” she said. She was impressed by the way students jumped in with “both feet” to complete the assignment, and she mentioned even being out at a conference for a few days, students still worked hard at finding the answer.

They were able to predict their suspect by looking inside the clue box , where they found items like a local menu, a crossword puzzle, some interesting artwork, a map of the town, a hat, and police evidence including a picture of a bathroom stall.  Linking these clues together was the only way for them to find the responsible parties.  “We had to dig through a whole bunch of evidence to find out what was important.” said class member, Hunter Bilger.  At first, it was difficult for them to decide which clues were leading them in the right direction, but another class member, Macey Davis, said, “It took a lot of work, but we worked together really well.”

In the end, students held a press conference last Thursday to reveal their results.  According to the press release, students said this about the missing people and where their investigation has ended up: “All three were in the area of Hawthorn Junction at the time they went missing.  The town has multiple tourist attractions, with  well-known historical sites.  This small town’s attractions allow visitors to see and partake in the observation of a conspiracy.  Over the past couple of weeks, we have been investigating various pieces of evidence in relation to the case.” The actual suspect cannot be named at this time in the chance that the case be reopened by another class.

Maddie Hoffman, student in the class, said, “Over the 2 weeks of looking at evidence and pulling out the strange poster that matched handwriting with a letter, we found our suspect.” The correct answer was determined when a group of teachers and students watched a video to reveal whether or not the original assumption was correct, and it turns out they hit the nail on the head.

Student Resource office, Brian Grzyboski, was one of the observers during the press conference.  As a deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office, Gryzboski has seen his share of crime investigation.  He said, “The primary tools for police crimes are interviews, interrogations, and collecting physical evidence.  We use that information collected to piece together what happened.” Just like the students, police. will take all of their collected information and try to match that to a suspect.  Gryzboski thought the students did a great job with the limited amount of information they received.  He said, “Keep in mind this was a game, so students were limited in how they could conduct their investigation.”

Students will use what they learned during this experience and apply it to  the rest of their law class. Hoffman said, “It taught us how to work and solve a case in a group setting, and it helped with our background knowledge since we do not have much experience in criminal justice.”