La! Crime Investigation Unit:

Where Did Tony Drown? Was it an Accident?


Rachel Lytle

F.H. LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and Performing Arts, Manhattan


Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2007



-          Students will use their understanding of boiling point elevation to determine if the water found in a victims lungs is fresh or salt water.

-          Students will use their understanding of cells and osmosis to determine if tissue from a victim’s lungs contained salt or fresh water. 

-          Students will conduct a set of controlled experiments to determine if a crime has been committed.  J

        -       Students with gather, organize, and analyze data from multiple sources to develop a scientific conclusion. 

Background Information: What’s so special about water?

Notorious ex-mobster Tony LaGuardia was found drowned in the Atlantic Ocean off of Coney Island at 7 o’clock this morning.  The death of Tony came as a shock to the entire community.  It seemed everyone knew that the ex-mobster had been working very hard to turn his life and his neighborhood around.  The coroner determined that the cause of death is drowning.  Tony’s son, Maria is in disbelief.  Mario tells police that his father was a good swimmer and there is no way his father could have drowned by accident.  Mario suspects fowl play and it is your team’s job to determine, where did Tony drown?  Did Tony really drown in the ocean or was he drowned someplace else and dumped in the ocean?  If Tony’s death was not an accident then who killed him? 

The coroner had supplied you with evidence to help you reach your conclusion.  Your team has been given a sample of Tony’s lung tissue, a sample of the water inside Tony’s lung, and a sample of white powder found embedded under Tony’s fingernails.  It is your job to investigate, put the puzzle pieces together, and determined if criminal charges should be filed for the death of Tony LaGuardia. 

You do some investigating and you learn that Tony is not loved by everyone in the community.  Based on the white powders you narrow the focus of your investigation down to four possible suspects. 


·         Suspect #1- Johnny “Sack” Sacramonti, Tony’s former organized crime partner.  Sack is upset that Tony has left the mob where they trafficked illegal drugs.  Sack is afraid that Tony’s will expose the mob to the federal government.  The white powder could be illegal drugs trafficked by the mob.  Sack lives next to the Far Rockaway Beach where there is obviously salt water. 


·     Suspect #2- Kris David, an artist Tony hired to make a plaster fresco in his dining room.  Kris was heard by nosey neighbors fighting with Tony over payment for the work he completed.  Kris was overheard threatening Tony “if your don’t pay up old man, you’ll be sorry”.  Kris uses distilled water to make the plaster for his artistic masterpieces. 


·     Suspect #3- Jennifer Melfi, Tony’s ex-mistress.  Jennifer is a sultry woman with extremely smelly feet.  She is known for taking long baths in salt water containing twice the amount of salt then the Atlantic Ocen then generously powdering her feet with foot powder.  Jennifer is upset at Tony for breaking off their relationship and returning to his wife Carmela.  Without Tony’s financial support she will have to return to her depressing job of being a psychoanalyst. 


·     Suspect #4- Tony’s business partner, Paulie Walnuts.  Paulie and Tony were operating a car repair shop together.  Tony was in charge of the bookkeeping and Paulie was in charge of the day-to-day operations of the store.  Paul has been overheard complaining that Tony was cheating her out of her share of the business profits.  Paulie and Tony’s shop is next to Central Park where there are fresh water ponds.  Paulie is known for her love of donuts covered in white powdered sugar.   


Your team will complete 3 tests on the evidence provided for you.  During each test a member of the team should be assigned the following tasks

-          Shipping and Receiving - the person who gathers the materials and brings them back to the group. This person also ensures that each team member completes all data tables,

           diagrams, and graphs.  

-          Recorder - the person who records all experimental steps and measurements. This person also keeps track of time. 

-          Reporter - the person who shares information and results with the rest of the class. Person also reads all instructions aloud to the group. 

      -          Principal Investigator - the person who assigns and runs the experimentation as well as keeping everyone in the group involved and interested. Keep the group organized. 


The three tests you will perform are:

§         Test 1- Boiling Point Analysis of the water found in Tony’s lungs


§         Test 2- Analysis of Tony’s lung tissue by osmosis



(per group)

-          250 mL beaker

-          Hot plate

-          Graduated cylinder

-          Container of liquid found in Tony’s lungs

-          Sample of Tony’s lung tissue

-          Container of foot powder

-          Container of drugs

-          Container of powdered sugar

-          Container of plaster dust

-          Container of Acetic Acid

-          Sample of unknown powder under Tony’s nails

-          Container to make salt water

-          Plastic Spoons

For the Class to Share

Thermometers or laptops with Vernier Log Pro Temperature Probes




LCD Projector




Test #1:

You will use principles of boiling point elevation to determine where Tony drowned.  First you need to understand how adding salt to water effects its boiling point.


1.        Make a prediction about the relationship between the amount of salt added and the boiling point temperature of water by filling in the blanks. 

     We predict that if salt added to water then the boiling point of water will (circle one) INCREASE/DECREASE because ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2.        Make your standard solution of known concentration.  (check each task as it is completed)

____ Using the balance weight out ___________ g of salt

____ Measure 100-mL of distilled water. 

____ Place water in clean 250- mL beaker

____ Cover beaker with foil

____ Poke a small hole in the center of the foil with your pen.  (this is for the thermometer)

____ Gently heat beaker on hot plate until boiling

3.       Make a data chart to record your data.  The class will be analyzing the boiling point of pure water, water containing 15g salt per 100 mL (Atlantic Ocean), and water containing 30 g salt

          per 100 mL.  Place your chart in the box provided for Data Table 1

4.       Once your standard (known) boils measure the boiling point using the Logger Pro temperature probe.  Record this value in Data Table 1

5.       Turn your hot plate OFF and allow your beaker to cool.  Meanwhile collect the values for the boiling points of other standards from other groups.  Record these values in

          Data Table 1.  Graph your data on the graph in Data Table 1.  Be sure to give your graph a title, a x-axis label, and y axis label and an appropriate scale.  Make a best fit line for your


      6.       Once your beaker has cooled empty out the known solution, rinse and dry your beaker.

      7.       Fill your beaker with the unknown liquid found in Tony’s lungs.  Cover your beaker with the foil you used earlier and gently heat the solution to boiling.

8.       Using the Logger Pro Temperature probe to record the boiling point temperature of the unknown solution found in Tony’s lungs.  Place this value in Data Table 2.  Graph this value

          using a “*” to on your graph.  Record this information and preliminary conclusions on the evidence report sheet. 

9.       Turn OFF your hot plate and allow your beaker to cool before cleaning up.  Move on to Test #2 while your beaker cools. 




National Science Standards Addressed:


§         Content Standard AAs a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understanding about scientific inquiry

§         Content Standard B:  As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of the structure and properties of matter, chemical reactions, motions and forces, and interactions of matter and energy

§         Content Standard C:  As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of the molecular basis of heredity, and matter, energy, and organization in living systems

§         Content Standard E:  As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop abilities of technological design and understandings about science and technology

§         Content Standard  G:  As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge