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'A job that's not for everybody': An inside look at crime scene cleanup

It is a career that is challenging both mentally and physically, but one that relieves a burden off a grieving family.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — When there is a homicide, suicide or undiscovered death, George Atwood and Jamie Trasciatti are on the job. 

"Most times, people are like, 'I had no idea a company like yours existed,'" said Trasciatti, "My thing is, yeah, most people don’t. Most people don’t need our services."

Trasciatti owns Bio-One West Michigan. They do a number of biohazardous cleanups including crime, trauma, suicide, hoarding and medical waste cleanup.

"I prayed about it a lot, and I was like, this is what we’re supposed to do in life," said Trasciatti, "Help others in their darkest times of needs, whether a family members have taken their life or whatever the case may be."

Atwood, the general manager, go goes out on every cleanup. He says every day and every job is something different. However, it can be a sad experience from time to time. 

"Its gratifying, it really is," said Atwood, "watching the transformation from beginning to end."

In the actual cleanups, Atwood and his crew do a very thorough job. From the moment they arrive on scene, they even begin disinfecting the outside of the door. They typically have a team of at least three people on each job, and one person is always supervising. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Atwood dresses in his biohazard suit for a demonstration of how they do their cleanup.

They are dressed head-to-toe in biohazard suit. They enclose their double-layered gloves and booties with tape and wear masks, goggles and a hood so no part of their body is exposed to potentially dangerous biohazardous waste. 

"First thing is personal safety," said Atwood, "It gets extremely hot in these suits extremely fast." 

Atwood said porous material, like mattresses, clothing, and couches, are some of the most difficult to clean. These are often thrown away. The room is sorted through slowly and thoroughly, using chemical cleaning sprays and many, many paper towels to avoid cross-contamination. 

"The last thing you want is for them to come into a situation where a spot got missed," said Atwood, "And they look at it, and it’s an instant memory for them."

The way Atwood treats a normal blood cleanup is completely different than a decomposition. Often, that will take more tools and could even require removing flooring. 

Atwood said it's not a job for everyone, but he has experience in the field. He said while it takes a strong stomach, now the scenes he sees are "another day." 

"I was an Army medic," said Atwood, "So, I’ve seen a lot already. So, it doesn’t really affect me."

However, the things they see in this career can be emotionally scarring as well. It takes a toll on the family, but also on those doing the cleanup. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Atwood sprays down the outside of the door before even entering the cleanup scene.

"I always knew I was helping other people in their toughest time in life," said Trasciatti, "But when you come across a situation where a child has been bullied, and he comes home from school, and takes his own life with his dad's hunting rifle… that doesn’t go away."

Trasciatti said after that incident he "stopped answering the phone" for a while. He was more picky about the calls he received. 

Bio-One West Michigan does not get a lot of calls for crime scene cleanup, thankfully. Trasciatti said they are about two or three times a month. The majority of their business is hoarding cleanups, sewage backups and animal feces removal. 

With the sensitive nature of their job, discretion is an important part of what they do. None of their work vehicles are marked with any company logo, so neighbors do not automatically know why they are at someone's home. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Atwood uses pig's blood to demonstrate and train how to do a blood cleanup. Pig's blood is similar to human's in the way it coagulates.

Trasciatti views his job as helping others. 

"You’re taking that away from a family member," said Trasciatti, "A lot of times, we hear, 'We would just clean this up ourselves.' And that’s the last thing they should do."

Most times, home owners insurance covers Bio-One West Michigan's services. However, for special circumstances where it does not, Trasciatti said they do pro-bono work. 

"Shake their hand, give them a hug, and be on your way," said Trasciatti.

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