The Case of the Stolen Fundraising Money: Uncovered by Forensics and Criminal Justice Classes


Ms. Mackanin’s Forensics class is completing their annual Forensics case project! Each year, Mackanin creates a different story for each class to participate in. “It literally takes me months to put together a storyline, create the characters, and create the evidence for the students to discover,” she commented. Mackanin prepares her volunteer characters for their parts, which also takes a lot of time.

This year, the case was about stolen fundraising money from the main office. The teachers involved with the project this year were Mrs. Tabaka, Mrs. DeSantis, Mr. Caputo, Mr. Matos, Mrs. O’Neil, Ms. O’Driscoll, Ms. Felten, and Ms. Skeahan. This project is the Forensics class end-of-the-year project that has been taking place since 2016. “I imagined that if I was a student and had the choice to take this course, I would want to do something like this,” Mackanin said. She had mentioned that she had become interested in true crime stories when she was a teenager and wanted to be a detective! Student Grace Padvano notes, “This project was my favorite project that I have gotten to do this year.”

Though this project takes months of preparation and a lot of hard work, Mackanin said that “as long as the students have fun, it’s all worth it!”

The official trial for the People of Becton v. Thomas McGuire was set in place on May 25, 2023, in the Media Center. The objective of the trial was to determine if the defendant is innocent or guilty based on only the facts of the case. The process of the trial began with the Judge Keliah Gonzalez entering the courtroom. The Jury was comprised of a group of students who were randomly selected. All Jury members were sworn by taking an oath by the Bailiff.  Throughout the process, the Defense was actively maintaining the position that McGuire remained innocent. The Prosecution called their first witness to the stand, Alexa Felten, who works in the Office. She was cross-examined and argued about who conspired to the crime of theft. 

Next, Joan O’Neill was the second witness, who was sworn in. She works as a Custodian and Bus Driver. There was a claim that she was the one helping McGuire with the fundraising box from Track and Field. She has a key to the office, but not the box and at the time of the crime, she was driving the school bus. There was an objection in the court, and it was sustained. Those watching were hanging at the edge of their seats trying to see how the defendant would react.

The third witness, O’Driscoll, recalled the day of the crime by stating that she was in the office. However, she was not paying too much attention. There was evidence of bank statements that placed her near the crime scene, but O’Driscoll ruled that she was innocent. She made an interesting point that Sheahan become quieter around O’Driscoll and said it was “possible jealousy and that Skeahan was pointing fingers at her because the bank statement was found by the laminator.” This shook up the courtroom and the witness was called to step down. 

The fourth witness called to testify was De Santis, one of Becton’s Guidance Counselors, for roughly 21 years. She recounts the events of the crime. Showing up at 6:00 a.m. for work.  She noticed McGuire and O’Neill in the parking lot. Haliey Bulger and Angelyna LaPelusa, Forensic experts from Ms. Mack’s class showed evidence of handwriting samples, fingerprints, and hair. Ms. O’Neill is a match due to her distinct fingerprint lines. The defense team makes the point that McGuire is deemed financially stable and would not have any motives to steal the funds. Evidence is presented to the jury for further analysis. 

After a brief intermission, the Defense presents their findings. They call in Sheahan, who has known the defendant for 2 years, and knew him at the beginning of this school year. Little to no contact since the crime. Apparently, O’ Driscoll has had an attitude and is now snarky towards Skeahan. Skeahan says she “is not jealous, perhaps, Ms. O is the one that is jealous.”

As the trial comes to an end, the final remarks are made. The Defense has Gianna Slater make their closing statement by stating, “He’s not perfect and neither are you and I.” As for the rebuttal, the Prosecution brings out Jayden Alvizo and argues that it was “highly unreasonable.” The Jury is sent to think about the verdict and the sentencing but ultimately decide on a retrial because they could not reach a unanimous verdict for the crime that was committed. Thus, McGuire goes free… for now. 

Great job to the Forensics and Criminal Justice Classes, Mrs. Deperi and Mrs. Mackanin for hosting this interesting and exciting mock trial!