As the first civilian crime laboratory technician ever hired by the Baltimore Police Department, Donald R. Haubert Sr. has spent 20 years amid corpses and criminals, bearing witness to real-life tragedy on a daily basis.
Not surprisingly, he's seen enough.
After two decades of bagging bullet fragments, conducting fingerprint searches and photographing crime scenes, the 63-year-old Haubert is calling it quits, retiring to the serenity of his Carroll County home.
"If you are a caring kind of person it has to have an effect on you. It's all so sad. After a while you begin to lose your faith in people," said Mr. Haubert, who was the first civilian hired to replace police officers in the department's crime laboratory, which examines physical evidence obtained by police at crime scenes and in investigations.
Mr. Haubert says he's seen more than his share of violence to weaken his faith in humanity and the criminal justice system. There have been charred bodies of men, women and little children, stabbings and shootings, suicides, rapes and cases of child abuse. The list goes on -- and all of it so senselessly tragic, Mr. Haubert says.
In one case recalled by the technician, a woman charged with killing her 9-month-old baby by baking him in the oven was hospitalized for three months and then released by doctors. In another, a judge acquitted a man of murder after ruling that the suspect's fingerprints on a key piece of evidence were not enough to place him at the murder scene.
Crimes like these have made the former technician wonder about the equality of justice: "It just gets to you after a while," Mr. Haubert said. "I've seen some really good police officers quit because they got fed up with the system."
Although he was called to process the scenes of thousands of crimes, Mr. Haubert said that he never knew what to expect. Even holidays offered little relief.
On a recent Thanksgiving, Mr. Haubert was confronted with the bloody scene left by a crazed man who had stabbed a dinner guest just before the turkey was about to be served. Then there was the Christmas Eve when a man shot his wife while arguing over how to put together their child's bicycle.
"That was an eerie scene," recounted Mr. Haubert. "When we arrived the children were still upstairs asleep waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. The woman was lying dead in the Christmas tree with all these flashing lights circling her," he recalled.
But Mr. Haubert's career was not without its lighter moments, too.
He once had to grab a 13-foot-long Burmese boa by the tail after it mysteriously crawled into a yard in Northeast Baltimore. Two other people eventually helped him wrestle the snake, which had coiled itself around a telephone pole.
Another time, Mr Haubert said he gathered evidence that forced a CIA agent to confess to being robbed by two transvestites at an East Baltimore motel.
The agent originally reported that someone had broken into the motel room and taken his clearance papers, weapon and some $8,000 in cash. At the time he was reportedly headed to Latin America on a mission involving the Nicaraguan Contras, Mr. Haubert recalled.
The technician was able to recover some hairs from the pillow, as well as other additional evidence in the room. The agent then made his confession about picking up the transvestites who robbed him.
At his retirement earlier this year, Mr. Haubert was lauded for meritorious service that included 11 letters of commendation and two departmental citations.
He also received a blank plaque from his supervisors for solving the CIA caper. They assured him that the citation had been written in invisible ink for reasons of national security.