RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After approximately six years as an officer with the Richmond Police Department (RPD), David Woods started working to help families grieving the loss of a loved one by stepping in after first responders have left the scene.
Now a King William County resident, Woods started Eminent Forensic Cleaning just over a year ago, focusing on the biohazard left behind in the wake of homicides, suicides, fatal overdoses and other crimes throughout the Commonwealth.
“Working in the City, I responded to a lot of homicides and other death investigations, and after we’d leave the scene, I noticed that the family was held responsible for what was left behind from the deceased, and I noticed that they weren’t getting the help that they need,” Woods said. “Families were being held responsible for cleaning up this biohazard of loved ones. Not only for them, it’s a health risk, but it can also be very traumatizing.”
Since starting his forensic cleaning business, Woods said he has seen a notable increase in calls for service, more than doubling from last summer. While he attributed some of the awareness to the quality of his business and the work he provides, he also speculated that the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted Virginia residents adversely in more ways than one.
“We respond all over Virginia, mostly in big cities where you expect there to be crime. But now, there’s also an increase in areas where you really don’t hear much about gun violence,” Woods said. “In this type of work, we see a variety of different scenes: probably mostly homicides, suicides and, unfortunately, there’s been a lot of domestic-related homicides, and we also respond to fatal drug overdoses.”
Woods noted that most of the suicides his business responds to happen around the holiday season and that drug dealing and gang activity have yielded frequent calls to the greater Richmond area for overdoses.
“Once the police are finished up with the scene and they leave, they have no other involvement, other than the investigation part,” he said. “Even when I was a police officer, I didn’t even think about that until I started to realize, you know, seeing what was going on in these situations.”
For Woods, he said everything changed back in 2017 after Virginia State Police (VSP) Special Agent Michael Walter was shot and killed in Richmond’s Mosby Court. Woods said he was one of the authorities who responded to that scene, right around the time that he was becoming a father.
“Another officer got shot, and my son was born, so I decided to do something different,” he said. “The thing that affects me the most doing this is when it involved kids, especially domestic-related, because now this kid no longer has their father or their mother.”
In addition to not necessarily thinking about what’s left behind for families to clean up after the death of a loved one, Woods said that many don’t know that forensic cleaning services can be covered by homeowners’ insurance.
“If you’re the family, the property manager, the business owners, et cetera, that has to deal with a situation like this, just knowing that you’re not alone,” he said. “There’s other resources out there that can help you.”