Practical Homicide Investigation
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Practical Homicide Investigation

Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fifth Edition

Vernon J. Geberth

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eBook - ePub

Practical Homicide Investigation

Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fifth Edition

Vernon J. Geberth

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About This Book

Renowned for being THE definitive resource for homicide investigators, Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques details the recognized protocols used by investigative divisions of major police departments throughout the world. The text is used in most police academies, including the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.Now in its fifth edition, the book begins with a comprehensive discussion of homicide crime scenes and moves chronologically from initial police notification, the correct police response that follows, and the subsequent steps necessary to conduct an intelligent investigation. It then delves into the more technical aspects of homicide investigation, augmented with numerous pictures and full-color illustrations that involve pertinent case histories.This latest edition includes three new chapters along with fully revised chapters with new case histories and techniques that reflect the latest forensic methods and modern investigative procedures. Highlights of the Fifth Edition Include:

  • Newly revised "Homicide Investigator's Checklist"
  • A new chapter on the latest DNA technology
  • A rewritten chapter on equivocal death investigations that includes staged crime scenes
  • Additional information on modes of death
  • Fully updated chapters on death notifications, sex-related homicide, management for police administrators, suicide investigation, and narcotics-related and homosexually based homicides
  • Over 920 photos and illustrations, 250 new photographs, and several new case histories

Eminent author, lecturer, consultant, and expert witness Vernon J. Geberth incorporates his more than four and a half decades of real-world law enforcement experience in this quintessential reference. This classic and must-have resource provides the most vital information needed by detectives and police investigators responsible for cases in violent and sudden death.

Remember: do it right the first time. You only get one chance.
—Vernon J. Geberth, M.S., M.P.S., Homicide and Forensic Consultant, Author of Practical Homicide Investigation, and Series Editor of The Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations

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Information

Publisher
CRC Press
Year
2020
ISBN
9781000195934
Topic
Law
Subtopic
Criminal Law
Edition
5

1
The Homicide Crime Scene

The homicide crime scene is, without a doubt, the most important crime scene to which a police officer or investigator will be called upon to respond. Because of the nature of the crime (death by violence or unnatural causes), the answer to “What has occurred?” can be determined only after a careful and intelligent examination of the crime scene and after the professional and medical evaluation of the various bits and pieces of evidence gathered by the criminal investigator. These bits and pieces may be in the form of trace evidence found at the scene, statements taken from suspects, direct eyewitness accounts, or autopsy results.
Homicide investigation is a highly professional and specialized undertaking that requires years of practical experience coupled with a process of continual education and training. However, homicide investigation is not the exclusive purview of the investigator, and all homicides are not solved because detectives are “smarter” than patrol officers. In fact, successful homicide investigation often depends on the initial actions taken by patrol officers responding to any given scene. Technically speaking, all police officers have a responsibility to actively and skillfully contribute to the crime-solving process.
Whether it be the dispatcher, who initially takes the call and obtains a crucial piece of information, or the officer in a patrol car, who responds to a “homicide run” and detains a key witness or suspect, the fact is that practical homicide investigation is based on the cooperation of patrol officers and detectives working together toward the common goal of solving the homicide.
The three basic principles involved in the initiation of an effective homicide investigation are as follows:
  1. Rapid response to the homicide crime scene by patrol officers. This is imperative in order to protect evidentiary materials before they are destroyed, altered, or lost.
  2. Anything and everything should be considered as evidence. Whether this evidence is physical or testimonial, it must be preserved, noted, and brought to the attention of the investigators. The only evidence collected at this point of the investigation is eyewitness accounts or spontaneous statements of a suspect at the scene.
  3. After the scene is secured, immediate and appropriate notification must be made to the homicide investigators.

The Five Components of Practical Homicide Investigation®

  1. Teamwork
  2. Documentation
  3. Preservation
  4. Common sense
  5. Flexibility
In my opinion, teamwork is paramount to success. The investigation of sudden and violent death is not a one-person mission. The professional homicide detective must be willing to work as a team player who engenders cooperation by his or her conduct and behavior. Documentation is the hallmark of professionalism. “The facts and just the facts” are the basis of the official reports. Preservation of the crime scene and the integrity of the evidence cannot be overemphasized. The forensic aspects of the investigation and the ability to link the evidence to the suspect depend on effective preservation. Common sense and flexibility are necessary to adapt, improvise, and accomplish each of the previous objectives as you encounter the unexpected coupled with the dynamics of human behavior.
Figure 1.1 PRACTICAL HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION CHECKLIST AND FIELD GUIDE (2ND ED.). The Practical Homicide Investigation Field Guide summarizes and prioritizes the basic fundamentals of homicide and death investigations, and places them in an easy-to-use field guide to ensure that vital and necessary steps at a crime scene are not overlooked. This field guide will allow the user to develop a logical and standard approach to investigating crime scenes.
Figure 1.1 PRACTICAL HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION CHECKLIST AND FIELD GUIDE (2ND ED.). The Practical Homicide Investigation Field Guide summarizes and prioritizes the basic fundamentals of homicide and death investigations, and places them in an easy-to-use field guide to ensure that vital and necessary steps at a crime scene are not overlooked. This field guide will allow the user to develop a logical and standard approach to investigating crime scenes.
The importance of preserving the homicide crime scene and conducting an intelligent examination at the scene cannot be overemphasized. If a murder case ends in failure or an officer is embarrassed in court, the primary reason may very well be an inadequate examination of the homicide scene or a failure to implement good basic crime scene procedures as outlined in this text and the protocols as specified in the Practical Homicide Investigation Checklist and Field Guide (2nd ed.) (see “Selected Reading” at the end of this chapter). Many major police departments with which I have consulted have implemented the checklist and field guide into their patrol and detective operations. Each patrol supervisor’s unit as well as every detective responder has a copy. This puts everyone “on the same page” at the crime scene and assures that a proper and complete investigation is undertaken.

The Crime Scene

The investigation of homicide usually starts at the point where the body is originally found. This location is referred to as the primary crime scene. The term characterizes the significance of this location and the immediate concern of responding police officials to this forensically critical area in death investigations.
The term primary crime scene is sometimes mistakenly used to describe where the original event may have occurred based on the dictionary definition of primary as having occurred first in the development or time of an event. For instance, if the person wasn’t killed at the location where the body was found, then the location might be erroneously referred to as the secondary crime scene. Such an analytical interpretation might very well be appropriate for some speculative concept in the clinical sense; however, it is not investigatively practical.
Figure 1.2 PRIMARY CRIMES SCENE. Victim killed at the scene. (Courtesy of Detective Sergeant Alan Patton, Grand Prairie, Texas, Police Department.)
Figure 1.2 PRIMARY CRIMES SCENE. Victim killed at the scene. (Courtesy of Detective Sergeant Alan Patton, Grand Prairie, Texas, Police Department.)
A more practical strategy is to focus your investigative resources on the location where the body was found. This is where most of the evidence will be retrieved. It would make more sense to ask the investigative question, Was the person killed at the location or was the body transported to this location?
Figure 1.3 PRIMARY CRIMES SCENE. Victim transported to the scene. (Courtesy of retired Detective Roy Douglas, Homicide Section, St. Louis, Missouri, Police Department.)
Figure 1.3 PRIMARY CRIMES SCENE. Victim transported to the scene. (Courtesy of retired Detective Roy Douglas, Homicide Section, St. Louis, Missouri, Police Department.)
According to Practical Homicide Investigation® any location known to contain any evidence or that is possibly related is considered a primary crime scene.
Would some of these alleged experts who propose describing various possible crime scenes as primary and secondary then have you define the next scene as tertiary? And then what? Quaternary for four, quinary for five, senary for six, septenary for 7, octonary for 8, nonary for 9, and denary for 10? This is just plain silly not to mention confusing.
In Practical Homicide Investigation we understand that there may be two or more crime scenes in addition to the location where the body is found. These additional crime scenes are addressed as multiple crime scenes and may include
  • Where the body was moved from
  • Where the actual assault leading to death took place
  • Where any physical or trace evidence connected with the crime is discovered (this may include parts of the body)
  • A vehicle used to transport the body to where it is eventually found
Also according to Practical Homicide Investigation any reference to any location known to contain any evidence or that is possibly related to the homicide is considered a primary crime scene. (See section at end of this chapter titled “A Major Case Investigation Involving Initial Police Error, Offender Manipulation, Sexual Staging, and Multiple Crime Scenes.”)
Still other areas related to the primary crime scene include the point of forced entry, the route of escape, the suspect (clothing, hands, and body), and the suspect’s residence. It is important that responding police officers be aware of this multiple crime scene possibility. Therefore, during the initial receipt of information by the police concerning a possible homicide, the officer should attempt to ascertain the exact location of the situation requiring police investigation and possible additional locations that may need coverage.

At the Crime Scene

Any item can and may constitute physical evidence; therefore, it is imperative that nothing be touched or moved at the scene before the arrival of the investigators. If the need arises that something at the scene be immediately secured or removed before it is destroyed or lost, the officer handling the evidence must document its location, appearance, condition, and any other feature that might affect the investigation. The officer must be sure to inform the homicide detective of the item’s original position so that it does not lose its evidentiary value.
The crime scene, especially in homicide cases, is proof that a crime has been committed. It often contains many or all of the elements of the corpus delicti and provides an abundance of physical evidence that may connect a suspect or suspects to the crime.
Therefore, I stress the importance of protecting and preserving the crime scene.

The Homicide Investigation Starts at the Crime Scene

The reasons the homicide investigation starts at the primary crime scene are twofold:
  1. The police are usually called to this location by the person who discovers the body, a witness to the crime, or, in some instances, the victim.
  2. In homicide cases, the location where the body is discovered yields an abundance of physical evidence and serves as a base of inquiry.
From an investigative point of view, the body and its surroundi...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Practical Homicide Investigation
APA 6 Citation
Geberth, V. (2020). Practical Homicide Investigation (5th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/1516380/practical-homicide-investigation-tactics-procedures-and-forensic-techniques-fifth-edition-pdf (Original work published 2020)
Chicago Citation
Geberth, Vernon. (2020) 2020. Practical Homicide Investigation. 5th ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/1516380/practical-homicide-investigation-tactics-procedures-and-forensic-techniques-fifth-edition-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Geberth, V. (2020) Practical Homicide Investigation. 5th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/1516380/practical-homicide-investigation-tactics-procedures-and-forensic-techniques-fifth-edition-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Geberth, Vernon. Practical Homicide Investigation. 5th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2020. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.