Tuesday Talk with the Graffs
With over 60 years of combined experience, from the Marine Corps to the FBI and Oklahoma SBI, multiple awards, and thousands of hours of instruction time, Gary and Iris Dalley Graff are a forensic power couple. While they are knowledgeable and enjoy teaching, they also care about their students. The Graffs often continue the relationships developed during training, following their own set of principles to improve the investigation community. They donate many hours assisting and mentoring former students with their investigations. They took time from their busy schedule to share a little about their careers and to offer some insight based on those previously mentioned years of experience.
Q. What led you to law enforcement?
A. In the 1980s, we both saw opportunities in law enforcement to develop our abilities, expand our careers, and provide service to others in more meaningful ways, Iris through the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and Gary through the FBI. Our respective careers were very rewarding and our investigations impacted the lives of hundreds of subjects, victims, families and their communities.
Q. You have both had a wide range of duties in your careers. What did you enjoy most and why?
A. Our careers first crossed paths in 1996 where our assignments covered the same geographical territory. For many years thereafter, we partnered with each other and with other state and local law enforcement agencies in the investigation of a variety of criminal activity. These joint investigations formed bonds of trust, loyalty, and friendship that remain very special. As these partnerships evolved, we recognized the need for regional training focused on the practical skills needed for successful field investigation. Consequently, we donated our time developing and implementing training courses for sister law enforcement agencies in our region. These courses were very well-received, and we realized that we could aid the professional development of law enforcement by providing quality education. These were the beginnings of the Graff-Dalley training team and represented some of our most enjoyable times working together.
Q. What is it like working with your spouse on a daily basis?
A. Short answer: Fantastic! We are very similar in our tireless work ethic, approach to education, and fastidiousness, yet different in our past investigative experience.
Our success in working together full-time dates back to the beginning of our professional relationship. In those days, we each developed a short list of investigators to call when help was needed. The short list included names of professional associates who possessed a servant’s heart – folks you could count on to show up regardless of the hour, do a great job, be easy and flexible to work with, not quit until the job was done, and not care about who received the credit. We tried to instill those qualities of service in ourselves and were on each other’s short list. We formed a great working relationship!
That foundation over the years became an equal partnership, a professional relationship and friendship founded on mutual trust and respect. Such a foundation is also essential to a marriage relationship and, along with unconditional love, is the cornerstone of our success, both in our marriage and in our training program. In short, we love each other, we love what we do, and we have a lot of fun doing it together!
Q. Most memorable case(s)?
A. Many cases come to mind. One which we have presented at conferences involved a killer with voyeuristic tendencies who, dressed in a ghillie suit, stalked a professional couple camping at a remote campsite. As the couple readied for bed, he executed both of them in a volume of gunfire. Forensic evidence included DNA, fibers, footwear impressions, ballistic evidence, bloodstain patterns, and a volume of other evidence which facilitated the reconstruction of the event and underscored the brutality of the crime. The case had many interesting twists and turns as we labored through intensive trial preparation. The subject remains on death row.
A second case regarded an officer-involved shooting. An investigator from another agency and a mutual friend stopped to render assistance to a vehicle burning in the middle of the highway. While the officer went to render assistance, the suspect stole the officer’s patrol vehicle and tried to run him over. The officer fired, injuring the suspect. The patrol unit veered off the highway and down into a ravine and muddy creek bed. By the time Iris and Gary arrived and formulated a plan to process the vehicle, it had grown cold and dark. While working this scene, we failed to notice the many vines all around the vehicle. The next day, we were both covered in poison ivy. Our relationship at the time was still strictly professional, so one can imagine the teasing we received from our associates as to the nature of our activities in the ravine.
Q. Since you travel a great deal, what tips can you offer for getting to your destination as smoothly as possible?
A. Since we often carry a lot of equipment for our classes, we drive to most of our training locations. Some stress reducing tips:
Q. Favorite course to teach and why?
A. We thoroughly enjoy the subject matter of all the material we present. The substance of all our courses ultimately leads to reconstruction of objective evidence. Perhaps the most exciting part of teaching investigation is working with the students to identify those evidentiary relationships which bring meaning to the evidence and understanding to what happened or did not happen during the incident. If the student learns to conduct all investigation with objectivity and a mindset towards methodical reconstruction of events, then we have succeeded. While Iris has special affinity for bloodstain related evidence, Gary particularly enjoys topics relative to things that go bang (firearms related evidence). Our blend of investigative and forensic expertise provides a unique multi-dimensional characteristic to our training program.
Q. Best way to prepare for court testimony?
A. The best way to prepare for court is to start preparation on day one of the investigation. Never assume the direction a case will go. “The call you get ain’t the case you got.” Start organizing case evidence immediately using suitable case management techniques. Proper case organization provides for a much more thorough investigation and comprehensive and meaningful analysis and reconstruction of the evidence. Case management greatly facilitates trial preparation, making evidence understandable, retrievable, and presentable.
For trial preparation, review ALL the evidence. Audit the entire case. Identify evidence not collected or not submitted and be prepared to explain why. Identify scene processing errors or items moved in the scene and be prepared to explain. Identify alternative theories of the evidence and be prepared to address. Insist on Attorney pre-trial consultation to review testimony. Advise the attorney of any problem areas up front.
Q. What qualities are most important for investigators to possess and why?
A. The best investigators:
Q. What should investigators do last at a crime scene?
A. Brainstorm with others to audit all activities to ensure scene investigation was thorough and documentation was accurate and complete.
Q. What helps you keep a sense of humor?
A. We can find humor in almost everything we do if we look for it and are willing to laugh at ourselves. Especially as we get older, mistakes made, tasks overlooked or forgotten become a way of life and provide plenty of fodder for humor.
Q. What is one talent you have that most people don’t know about?
A. Iris’ preferred language is ASL (American Sign Language). She has a very special relationship with many in the deaf community. Gary has some ability on the harmonica with a repertoire of songs from yesteryear.
Gary Graff and Iris Dalley Graff teach a wide range of courses for Tri-Tech Forensics Training, and many of their courses are quickly filled after they are announced. Visit our Upcoming Courses page to see which courses are currently enrolling students.
Interested in bringing the Graffs to your agency? For more information on hosting one of the courses below, contact Phil Sanfilippo.
Ever wonder what other forensic professionals are thinking? Our new interview series will feature men and women making a mark in the world of investigation, from latent prints to DNA collection to crime scene investigations. Once a month, we'll share the thoughts and stories of another expert. Don't miss one; sign up for our newsletter for previews and links to the full interviews. And let us know who you'd like to hear from!