Spilled Blood

Kansas City, Missouri’s dedicated police force is so good at tallying stats on homicides — how many there have been and how the number compares with those of previous years — that pretty much anyone on the street can tell you the city’s murder count. Solving them? Well, they’re still working on that.

But while we overload on homicides, on any given day there’s a great deal of other gross shit going down: meth-lab busts full of noxious chemicals, old people dying on mattresses and silently decomposing for weeks, people who hoard old copies of Reader’s Digest and animal waste until the landlord discovers them dead among the mess. This beefsteak’s gut would do cartwheels at the thought — if this beefsteak had a stomach.

Usually, cops investigate such scenes, remove bodies, pick through goop for clues and, with a tip of the cap, take their leave. So if a co-worker decides to off himself in the next cubicle, who’s gonna clean it up? You? You’re lucky to get health insurance, let alone trauma pay for scooping skull shards off the office coffeepot.

That’s why Olathe police officer Laura Spaulding recently launched Aftermath Cleaners LLC, the metro’s third crime-scene cleaning company. Spaulding has been a cop for seven years and apparently doesn’t see enough carnage at her day job; she wants to assist victims’ families by helping to scrape it up as well. And aside from a couple of on-call employees, Spaulding says she will do as much of the dirty work herself as she can.

Spaulding was trained by Michael Tillman, who runs Amdecon, a Dallas company that handles and teaches crime-scene decontamination. He runs a gory Web site (www.bloody shame.com) dedicated to pushing for legislation that would require crime-scene cleanup companies to be licensed and regulated; otherwise, any group with Windex and a squeegee can pass itself off as a qualified cleaning crew.

Tillman’s five-day, $2,495 program is more thorough than the police academy, Spaulding says. Two of the days are spent in a simulated crime scene splattered with deer blood and brains. “Then you had to go through what you were taught and decontaminate the area,” Spaulding recalls fondly. “It was really great training.”

Deer brains? Great training? If the crime-scene-decontamination thing doesn’t work out, perhaps there’d be an opening for Spaulding to help with the production of the next Evil Dead movie.

But as it turns out, Spaulding isn’t quite through decontaminating the scene at her former employer, the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department.

Spaulding’s problems began when she allegedly targeted a former housemate in an “unwarranted drug investigation,” according to court documents. Spaulding was suspended without pay while the department investigated her. Eventually, she cut a deal: the KCPD reinstated Spaulding as an officer on January 15, 2002, so she could resign in good standing. As part of the deal, the KCPD was supposed to keep quiet about the mess.

Looking to move on, Spaulding applied for a job in 2003 at the Drug Enforcement Administration, where her father worked for three decades. During the background check, the feds turned up a couple of stains on her record.

Special Agent William Renton Jr. , from the St. Louis DEA office, found that in March 2002, while Spaulding was off-duty, she called a black guy “boy” while telling him to stop loitering. She received a reprimand from the KCPD. He also discovered that in November 1995, when Spaulding was 21, she stole a $15 purse from J.C. Penney. She pleaded guilty to theft and was sentenced to 50 hours of community service, which she served at a homeless shelter. In a summary of his background check, Renton wrote: “Engaging in criminal conduct at the age of 21 is not considered a youthful indiscretion and is unacceptable conduct for a DEA Special Agent applicant.”

But what really sunk Spaulding was an anonymous phone call tipping the DEA off to the reason why Spaulding resigned. It seems the cops aren’t as good at keeping a secret as the metro’s murder witnesses.

The tip and the two blemishes in her past were enough for the DEA to put Spaulding’s application in the shredder. Spaulding instead got a job with the equally ass-kicking Olathe Police Department.

She filed a $3 million lawsuit in March 2004 against the KCPD, claiming breach of contract. Her attorney, Ronna Holloman-Hughes, says records obtained from the DEA prove that the anonymous tip came from within the KCPD. Spaulding is still waiting for the case to go to trial; in the meantime, the lawsuit made public the whole affair.

This meat patty pressed Spaulding about her spotty past. She said, “It really has nothing to do with Aftermath Cleaners.”

So it’s good to see Spaulding back on her feet with a gutsy new company. Despite her being a fellow cop, Spaulding says her buddies on the force are forbidden from endorsing any company and can do no more than hand out a list of all gore-removal companies.

Still, if the business takes off, Spaulding stands to make a bit more than the average flatfoot. Crime-scene cleaning costs about $2,500 on average, Tillman says. “Costs vary, depending on the circumstances. As you can imagine, someone slashing their wrists in the bathtub requires much less time and supplies than a scene where the completer” — that’s right, a completer is the term used in suicidology — “shot themselves in the head with a shotgun with a slug and then didn’t get found for three weeks.”

Well, this cut-o’-meat hopes she’s better at cleaning up crime scenes than she is covering up her past.

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