When Estates residents Alice Jackson and Tracy Gunn are asked that common question, "What do you do for a living?" their answer shocks most people.
That's because these best friends are the owners and operators of Scene Clean, a crime and trauma scene cleanup service.
Although their service deals primarily with murder and unattended death, Jackson and Gunn handle any clean-up that involves bio-hazardous materials from suicides to homeless camps.
The two established Scene Clean three years ago. They both worked in the cleaning industry and shared an interest in forensics. The business caters to crime scenes from Orlando to the Florida Keys.
"Families tend to think that the police handle crime scene clean up but that's not the case," Gunn explains, "Most families do not know where to turn and are left to handle the cleanup themselves, which can be very traumatizing when dealing with grief." In fact, all calls received by Scene Clean come from family members or friends of the deceased. The police only aid them by giving the families a reference list of local cleaning companies who specialize in bio-hazard disposal. For most situations, Gunn says Scene Clean is at the top of the list.
"We are meeting these families on the worst day of their lives, so when we communicate with them we chose our words very carefully," says Gunn. Even in introductions, she says she's hesitant to give her full name because hearing the word, "gun" can arouse an emotional response.
In most cases, she uses her maiden name.
On occasion, the women aid sheriff and police officials in their investigations by finding forensic evidence that could have been overlooked. To this date however, they haven't found anything that was considered vital evidence in an investigation.
When asked about the worst scene they've worked, Jackson and Gunn recalled a case involving an elderly man.
"He had passed away and was not found for a month," says Jackson. "He had about 25 to 30 cats and most of the cats had died as well from starvation. The remaining cats were feasting on the deceased cats when we arrived. Needless to say it was a mess, and the smell of decomposition had attached itself to everything in the residence." The two say the most rewarding part of their unusual job is aiding families at the worst possible time.
"They don't make a bio-hazard suit to protect you from the emotions that come with this job," Gunn says, "but knowing we are bringing relief to the families is a reward in itself." She says trauma clean-up is not something anyone thinks of until they are dealing with the loss of a loved one.
For Jackson this is something that hits close to home.
"I can sympathize with the victims because I lost both of my parents," she says. "I can see their grief and I can relate." According to Gunn, Scene Clean is the only locally-owned trauma cleanup company. She says they also work with insurance companies and offer discounted rates to uninsured customers in need.