Tromp, forensic scientist Kimberly Kobojek and students in 'Murder Most Foul' crack baffling murder case from 1862 using combination of scientific and social aspects
Outgoing ASU West campus Dean Marlene Tromp is handing over a strong legacy. Under her guidance, the campus has added an interdisciplinary forensics major, launched a cybersecurity initiative and created mentoring programs to serve first-generation college students.
Her successor, Todd Sandrin, is looking forward to building on Tromp’s accomplishments, even as there’s one role he probably won’t be able to fill: international, Victorian-era sleuth.
Tromp, forensic scientist Kimberly KobojekKimberly Kobojek is a clinical associate professor in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences’ School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. and students in a class called “Murder Most Foul” cracked a murder case three years ago that had baffled investigators for decades in the late 1800s after a maid was accused of hacking her friend to death with a hatchet.
“Basically,” Tromp said, “they threw up their arms like, ‘We don’t know who did this crime. We just don’t know.’”
The case, Tromp says, shows how social bias can muddle criminal justice, making it practical even today, and it features prominently in her latest book, “Intimate Murderer,” which is under review.
Tromp, currently vice provost and head of ASU’s Glendale-based New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, will step into her role as campus provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, on June 1. She’ll take her expertise in Victorian England and belief in interdisciplinary studies along with her.
“A big part of the idea” behind the “Murder Most Foul” course, which involved English history, forensic science and cultural studies, “was how do we help people be better critical thinkers?” she said.
“And that’s actually what an interdisciplinary college does so beautifully, because what we’re saying is you really can’t understand the science unless you understand social sciences, and humanities, and arts. You have to understand all these things together … because that’s what people are failing to do in a lot of these cases.”
Tromp referenced the trials involving Jodi Arias, Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson as similar to the 150-year-old Sandyford case in which Jessie McLachlan was accused, in that the public had a hard time processing cultural expectations together with evidence.