Detective Sarah Foley’s unique background in forensic anthropology makes her an asset at the Asheville Police Department.
“When remains are discovered I have the ability to go on-scene and determine whether remains are from a human or animal, rather than having to send them to a lab and have them tested,” said Foley.
Just earlier this month Detective Foley was called out to inspect a tree with the letters “R-I-P” carved into the trunk, signifying a possible tombstone. She worked to carefully excavate the area and was quickly able to determine that the location was not a burial site.
Foley has a B.S. in Forensic Anthropology and Criminal Justice from Western Carolina University. Her fascination with anatomy started in high school when she took an advanced anatomy and physiology course. She applied to Western specifically for the forensic anthropology degree. While there she started doing research on a degree to pair with it and discovered a lot of uses within the criminal justice field, specifically for field recovery.
“I have always enjoyed meticulous work,” Foley said. “I like the intricacies of carefully sifting through remains and piecing them back together.”
Her interests in the field didn’t stop when she joined the Asheville Police Department. Detective Foley is currently enrolled in two classes at WCU. The first, Field Recovery of Human Remains, focuses on identifying patterns within remains in order to determine whether they are human or animal. The second course, Surface Recovery of Human Skeletal Remains, allows participants to work with real human remains and teaches techniques for excavating remains in the field.
Detective Foley wants to extend the knowledge of in-field recovery to her peers throughout the law enforcement community. She is working with Dr. Cheryl Johnston at WCU to offer additional training for law enforcement, and in the beginning stages of creating a certification program for distinguishing between human and non-human remains in the field. For additional information on courses that are being offered through Western Carolina please visit bones.wcu.edu.
Foley has been with the Asheville Police Department since 2007. She is currently works as a Detective in the Criminal Investigations Divisions (CID) and is assigned as a General Assignment Detective for the Central and South Asheville areas.