Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Fredericksburg’s Finest on Fridays – Detective Patrick Lamb
Position/Rank: Detective/Fingerprint Examiner
Years of Service: 13
From galloping racehorses as a teenager to teaching chemistry to college students, Detective Patrick Lamb followed an unusual path to get to his current vocation as the expert Fingerprint Examiner for the Fredericksburg Police Department. Lamb was born in Richmond and grew up on his family’s farm, the historic Sycamore Hall (circa 1790) in Hanover County, where his parents raised and trained Thoroughbred horses for the racetrack.
Since he was small and light enough as a young teen, Lamb rode many of the horses at home to help prepare them for a racing career.
As an only child, it would have been natural for Lamb to follow in his father’s footsteps and make his living with horses. But Lamb had a strong interest in science and a passion for learning. He attended the University of Richmond and earned a degree in chemistry, graduating in 1987. He followed up with post-graduate education at Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in enzyme research, and for over ten years he worked as a professor in chemistry at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College while he continued his doctoral studies.
A fellow professor at Reynolds volunteered as a reserve deputy at the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and he encouraged Lamb to go on a ride-along and give it a try. Lamb did just that and was hooked immediately. “There just aren’t that many jobs out there where each and every day you have a different opportunity to help somebody in a real and tangible way,” Lamb says, describing the appeal of law enforcement. He took his oath as a reserve deputy with Hanover County in 2001 and soon transferred to a full-time career assignment in his hometown Sheriff’s Office.
After extensive training with the FBI and other law enforcement technical specialists, Lamb became an expert in forensics and crime scene analysis. For almost ten years, he was the primary investigator for all suspicious deaths in Hanover County. This pursuit made perfect sense considering his background in science and chemistry.
Lamb explains, “In working a crime scene, we follow the same scientific method of observation, measurement, and documentation, followed by analysis of data – the clues – to reach a conclusion.”
In 2010, the Fredericksburg Police Department was awarded funding through the federal JAG grant program for our own Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) terminal and a qualified Fingerprint Examiner. AFIS is an automated technology to search multiple fingerprint databanks for possible matches to unknown fingerprints collected at crime scenes. Once AFIS identifies possible matches, it is the job of the Fingerprint Examiner to visually inspect and verify the corresponding prints as positive.
In January 2011, Detective Patrick Lamb began wearing the badge for the City of Fredericksburg as our new Fingerprint Examiner. Within just weeks of the installation of the new system, AFIS scored its first positive hit in the city after a resident reported a burglary at her home. In the early morning hours of May 24, 2011, a homeowner discovered that her keys were missing from the house and her purse and GPS were stolen from her vehicle. The forensic evidence showed that the offender had entered the home through an unlocked door and taken the keys to all three of the residents’ vehicles. The offender rummaged through all of the vehicles but only stole property from one of them. The offender then placed the keys belonging to two of the vehicles back inside the house before leaving the scene.
Detective Lamb collected fingerprint evidence at the crime scene and within 90 minutes, the suspect was identified as a known local offender whose prints were stored in the AFIS system. At 3:00 p.m. on the same day, Timothy Tolson, 20, of Fredericksburg was arrested at a friend’s apartment and charged with burglary, grand larceny, and three counts of tampering with a vehicle. Tolson was incarcerated and later pleaded guilty to four felony charges.
In 2012, AFIS flagged fingerprints collected at a burglary in the city as a match against prints from another unsolved burglary in 2010, and Lamb was able to definitively ID the prints as belonging to the same individual. While the evidence connected the two crimes, they were not matched to any offenders already in the database. But that later changed when city police picked up the then 23-year-old Jonathan Matthew Shepherd for questioning in another case, and Detective Lamb obtained Shepherd’s palm print during the subsequent interview. That palm print linked the 2010 and 2012 burglaries back to Shepherd, along with a long list of other crimes. Shepherd was eventually charged in 27 different cases involving burglary, breaking and entering, and larceny.
Patrick Lamb still lives in Hanover County and commutes to Fredericksburg every workday. His family home, Sycamore Hall, was sold in 2005 as his parents’ health declined, and his father died not long after the farm was auctioned. Although it’s been a long time since he sat on a horse or tossed any bales of hay, Lamb can often be found in the Police Department’s weight room as he is an avid lifter who works out six days per week. He is also still passionate about teaching and he continues in this role as an instructor both in-house and at the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy, leading law enforcement students in the Forensic Field Technician course and other investigative topics.
Beyond the dispassionate aspect of forensics, Lamb believes that working as an investigator, especially one involved in suspicious or criminal deaths, brings with it a profound responsibility to victims and their families. The detective strives to deliver closure and comfort to survivors by helping them understand how a loved one died.
He remembers being asked by one family, who were fellow worshippers at Lamb’s lifelong spiritual home of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Ashland, to assist in the delivery of last rites to a young man who was inexplicably found dead in his room. Lamb not only helped the family through the grief of that moment by intoning the sacred ritual, he was able to later provide them with medical evidence that gave a logical explanation for their son’s accidental overdose.
“It gave them a measure of peace.”
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