Criminal Investigation, 8/e
Injury and Death Investigations
I. THE LAW (See Slide 9-2)
A. The various state statutes contain different names for felonious assaults,
such as aggravated assault, assault with intent to commit murder, felonious
battery, and so forth, but all have certain common legal elements, namely that
the assault was committed for the purpose of inflicting sever bodily harm or
B. Nonfelonious Homicides
Nonfelonious homicides may be justifiable or excusable.
1. Justifiable homicide is the necessary killing of another person in performance
of a legal duty or the exercise of a legal right when the slayer was not at
2. Excusable homicide differs from justifiable homicide in that one who
commits an excusable homicide is to some degree at fault but the degree of fault
is not enough to constitute a criminal homicide.
C. Felonious Homicides
Felonious homicides are treated and punished as crimes and typically fall into
1. Murder is defined by common law as the killing of any human being by
another with malice aforethought.
2. Manslaughter is a criminal homicide committed under circumstances not
severe enough to constitute murder, yet it cannot be classified as either justifiable
or excusable homicide.
II. MOTIVATIONAL MODELS FOR CLASSIFICATION OF HOMICIDE (See Slide 9-3)
A. Criminal Enterprise Homicide
Criminal enterprise homicide entails murder committed for material gain.
B. Personal-Cause Homicide
Personal-cause homicide is motivated by a personal cause and ensues from interpersonal
aggression; the slayer and the victim(s) may not be known to each other.
C. Sexual Homicide
In sexual homicide, a sexual element (activity) is the basis for the sequence
of acts leading to death.
D. Group-Cause Homicide
In group-cause homicide, two or more people with a common ideology sanction
as act, committed by one or more of the group’s members, that results in death.
III. RESPONDING TO THE SCENE (See Slide 9-4)
A. In responding to the scene of a suspected homicide or assault, fundamental
rules must be followed.
IV. ARRIVAL AT THAT SCENE OF A HOMICIDE (See Slide 9-5)
A. Scene Safety
Determining scene safety for all investigative personnel is essential to the
B. Confirm or Pronounce Death
Appropriate medically trained personnel must make a determination of death
prior to the initiation of the death investigation.
C. Participate in Scene Briefing with Attending Agency Representatives
Scene investigators must recognize the varying jurisdictional and statutory
responsibilities that apply to individual agency representatives (e.g., law
enforcement, fire, EMT, judicial, legal).
D. Conduct a Scene Walk-Through
Conducting a scene "walk-through" provides the investigator with
an overview of the entire scene.
V. ESTABLISHING A CHAIN OF CUSTODY
A. Ensuring the integrity of the evidence by establishing and maintaining
a chain of custody is vital to the investigation.
B. A properly maintained chain of custody and prompt transport of the evidence
will reduce the likelihood of a challenge to the integrity of the evidence.
VI. INVESTIGATIVE TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
A. Some examples of the tools and equipment necessary for conducting an
appropriate crime scene investigation in homicide cases: gloves; writing implements
(pens, pencils, markers); body bags; communication equipment (cell phone, pager,
radio); flashlight; body ID tags; camera (35-millimeter camera, video camera,
VII. THE MEDICAL LEGAL EXAMINATION
A. The medico-legal examination brings medical skill to bear upon injury
and death investigations.
B. The medical specialist frequently called upon to assist in such cases
is the forensic pathologist.
1. Forensic pathology, a subspecialty of pathology, is the study of how
and why people die.
VIII. THE AUTOPSY
A. All violent and suspicious death require an autopsy to determine the
time and precise cause of death.
B. Examples of questions the autopsy may answer include but are not limited
1. What type of weapon was employed?
2. If multiple wounds were inflicted, which wound was fatal?
3. How long did the victim live after the injury?
4. What position was the victim in at the time of the assault?
C. Answers to all or even some of these questions increase the possibility
of bringing the death investigation to a successful conclusion.
IX. IDENTIFICATION OF THE DEAD PERSON (See Slide 9-6)
Personal identification is one of the most important functions of an investigation.
A. Personality Reconstruction from Unidentified Remains
The identification of deceased persons takes on additional difficulty when
the body is badly decomposed.
1. However, remarkable work has been done in recent years by scientists
in identifying such victims.
X. THE SEARCH FOR BURIED BODIES (See Slides 9-7, 9-8, 9-9 and 9-10)
One important facet of major case investigations is administrative preplanning,
an area that is frequently and unfortunately neglected.
Many buried bodies come to light accidentally. Occasionally, information is
received that a body is buried at a particular location; these cases will be
The surface of the grave should now be carefully cleared of extraneous material
with a flat-bladed spade or hand trowel so that the boundary of the actual grave
may be visible.
D. The Body
When the body is uncovered and has tissue remaining on it, the forensic pathologist
may make an on-scene cursory examination.
E. Search for a Buried Body
In some cases, information is received through an informant, a citizen, or
a confession that a body has been buried, and an approximate location is given.
F. Use of Cadaver Dogs
Dogs have been used in a variety of forensic contexts because of their superior
sense of smell.
XI. ESTIMATING TIME OF DEATH (See Slide 9-11)
A. Body Cooling (Algor Mortis)
After death, the body cools from its normal internal temperature of 98.6°
F to the surrounding environmental temperature.
B. Rigor Mortis
After death the muscles of the body initially become flaccid. Within 1 to 3
hours they become increasingly rigid and the joints freeze by a process called
rigor mortis (or postmortem rigidity or rigor).
C. Livor Mortis
A purplish color that appears under the skin on those portions of the body
closest to the ground denotes livor mortis.
D. Cadaveric Spasm
Although firm statements are frequently made concerning the instantaneous tightening
of an extremity or other part of the body at the time of death (commonly called
a "death grip"), there seems to be a general failure to explain its
The different rates and types of decompositoin a body undergoes depends upon
F. Determination of Time of Death by Means of Carrion Insects
The forensic entomologist can help in estimating the time of death by examining
the various carrion insects, because different carrion insects successfully
attack the body at various stages of decomposition and under certain environmental
1. Collection of carrion insects from a clothes and decomposing body. Collection
of the insects should begin in the facial area of the decomposing body, because
it is the first to undergo degradation by insects.
2. Collection of carrion insects from human skeletal remains. Close examination
of the cavities of a skeleton (before it is removed from the crime scene) usually
produces numerous insect remains.
G. Use of Aquatic Insects in Determining Submersion Interval
Although potentially valuable, the use of aquatic insects in determining submersion
intervals at death scene investigations has not been exploited.
XII. EVIDENCE FROM WOUNDS (See Slides 9-12, 9-13, 9-14, 9-15 and 9-16)
A. Firearm Wounds
When a bullet strikes a body, the skin is first pushed in and then perforated
while in the stretched state. After the bullet has passed, the skin partially
returns to its original position, and the entry opening is drawn together and
is thus smaller than the diameter of the bullet.
1. Close and distant shots. It is very important to be able to estimate
the distance from which a shot was fired.
2. Shotgun wounds. A shotgun is a smoothbore, shoulder-fired firearm and
is usually used to fire multiple pellets, rather than a single slug.
a. Entrance wounds. From contact to 12 inches, there is a single round entrance
0.75 to 1 inch in diameter.
b. The wad. At close ranges, the wad will be propelled into the body through
the large single entrance wound.
c. Range determination. Range determinations can be made later if the size
of the shotgun pattern is described at autopsy and duplicated on paper.
d. Exit wounds. Shotgun pellets very rarely exit except when used as instruments
of suicide in the region of the head.
3. Firearm residues. Detecting firearm residues on the hands of an individual
may be of great importance in evaluating deaths due to gunshot wounds.
a. Atomic absorption analysis and neutron activation analysis. The two methods
for the detection of firearm discharge residue that have received the greatest
attention in recent years are atomic absorption analysis and neutron activation
b. Removal of gunshot residue. Whatever the system of analysis to which
the pathologist has access, the procedures for removal of firearm discharge
residues from the hand are the same. The solution most commonly used is of dilute
B. Incised and Stab Wounds
The incised wound—more commonly referred to as the "cutting wound"—is
inflicted with a sharp-edged instrument such as a knife or razor.
C. Puncture Wounds
The weapon most frequently used in assaults resulting in puncture wounds once
was the ice pick. Today leather punches and screwdrivers are more commonly used.
When used in an assault, clubs, pipes, pistols, or other such blunt objects
can produce open, irregularly shaped wounds termed lacerations.
E. Defense Wounds
Defense wound are suffered by victims attempting to protect themselves from
an assault, often by a knife or club.
F. Strangulation Wounds
1. Ligature strangulation. In ligature strangulation, the pressure on the
neck is applied by a constricting band that is tightened by a force other than
2. Manual strangulation. Manual strangulation is produced by pressure of
the hand, forearm, or other limb against the neck, compressing the internal
structures of the neck.
XIII. THE UNCOOPERATIVE VICTIM
A. Officers sometimes find victims uncooperative in identifying assailants
and in providing details about offenses.
B. The uncooperative victim creates both legal and investigative difficulties.
XIV. SUICIDE (See Slides 9-17 and 9-18)
A. Methods and Evidence of Suicide
1. Gunshot wounds. Handguns and shotguns are often used.
2. Hanging. Certain misconceptions associated with suicidal hangings can
lead to erroneous conclusions.
3. Sleeping pills and other pharmaceuticals. Sleeping pills and other pharmaceuticals
have for many years been a common means of committing suicide.
4. Drowning. The majority of drowning incidents are either accidental or
suicidal, but some are homicidal.
5. Cutting and piercing instruments. The instruments ordinarily employed
in suicides by cutting are razor blades, knives, and occasionally glass.
6. Poisons. The ingestion of liquid poisons is sometimes clear from outward
signs on the body.
7. Gasses. The gas most frequently involved in medico-legal investigations
is carbon monoxide.
8. Jumping from high places. The major question to be answered in death
resulting from jumping is whether the victim voluntarily leaped or was thrown
9. Vehicle suicide. The motor vehicle as a means of suicide, although not
as common as the means previously discussed, is one that police officers should
be sensitive to. Usually a vehicle suicide entails a single occupant speeding
into an off-road obstacle.
B. The Suicide Note
Research indicates that suicide notes are not left in most suicides.
C. Gender Differences in Suicidal Behavior
Studies of suicide in the United States indicate that the suicide rate is higher
for men than for women, whereas the attempted suicide rate is higher for women
D. Suicide-Insurance Schemes
Sometimes individuals take their own lives and try to convey the impression
that the death was accidental or even homicidal.
XV. VEHICLE HOMICIDES (See Slide 9-19)
A. Physical Evidence from Hit-and-Run Accidents
The physical evidence created by hit-and-run accidents is located at the scene,
on the victim’s body, and on the hit-and-run vehicle.
B. Search for the Vehicle
The steps to be taken in searching for a hit-and-run vehicle depend mainly
on information provided by witnesses and victim and by physical evidence located
at the scene.
XVI. FIRE DEATHS (See Slice 9-20)
A. Coordination and Cooperation
Coordination of and cooperation between police and fire investigators are of
paramount importance in the successful investigation of any questioned fire.
B. Degrees of Burning
Burns are medically classified into four types. The extent of burns may provide
information about the proximity of the body to the point of origin of the fire,
the length of time the body was exposed to the fire, and the intensity of the
C. Identification of Remains
Because fire destroys human tissue, identification of the remains may be especially
1. Fingerprints. Although considered the best means of identification because
of centralized files of fingerprints, fingerprint identification may not be
possible in fire death cases due to the destruction of the skin.
2. Dentition. Being the hardest substance in the human body, teeth are frequently
the best form of identification for the fire victim.
3. DNA printing. Following recent advances, identification using DNA printing
has emerged as a viable tool in identifying fire death victims.
4. Scars, marks, or tattoos on the exterior of the body. These abnormalities
on the skin, like fingerprints, are frequently obscured or destroyed by the
5. Scars, marks, abnormalities, or appliances inside the body. Bone abnormalities,
surgical appliances, or operative scars may be helpful, but the investigator
must have some idea of who the victim was so that appropriate medical records
may be examined.
6. Identification, jewelry, and clothing on the body. The least desirable
method is a last resort due to the possibility of substitution.
D. Scene Considerations
As with any physical evidence, burned bodies must be sketched, measured, and
photographed in place and in relation to other evidence at the scene of the
E. Examination of the External Body
The body of the deceased should be examined in detail both at the scene and
again at the morgue.
1. Signs of trauma. Any sign of injury to the external body should be carefully
noted, sketched, and photographed.
2. Skull fracture. Another factor that may be misconstrued is the discovery
that the victim’s skull is fractured.
3. Blistering and splitting skin. The inexperienced investigator may be
somewhat apprehensive in attempting to evaluate the effects of heat and flame
on the skin of the victim.
4. Noncranial fractures. If enough heat is applied, bones shrink, warp,
5. Pugilistic attitude. The so-called pugilistic attitude of the body is
a natural result of the dehydrating effect caused by the heat from the fire
and is not related to the cause or manner of death.
F. Examination of the Internal Body
1. Soot, other debris, or burning in the air passages. These findings may
indicate that the decedent was breathing while the fire was burning.
2. Pulmonary edema. Frothy substance in the lungs may result from irritants
breathed in during a fire.
3. Epidural hemorrhages. Hemorrhages above the tough membrane covering the
brain (the dura mater) and under the skull may occur at the rear of the head
due to heat.
4. Internal injuries. All internal injuries should be closely examined,
measured, and photographed.
5. Foreign objects. Any foreign objects found in the body, such as bullets,
should be recovered as evidence by the investigator.
G. Toxicology Examination
The pathologist should take samples for later examination by a toxicologist.
1. Alcohol. Alcohol in blood indicates whether the decedent was incapacitated
at the time of the fire and thus unable to escape.
2. Other drugs. Indicates of other possibly incapacitating drugs may provide
3. Carboxyhemoglobin. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas
present at hazardous levels in all structural fires.
4. Presence of other chemicals. Chemicals given off by burning materials
may indicate the accelerant of the fire and that the decedent was breathing
them in at the time of the fire.
H. Histologic Examination
Microscopic examination of tissues is also an important part of the postmortem
examination and is carried out by the pathologist after selected tissues from
the victim have been placed in a fixative, usually for 10 to 14 days.
I. "Flash" Fires
Concentrated burns in one area of a body may indicate the nature and cause
J. Motives of Fire Deaths
In fire deaths, various motives should be kept in mind by investigators.
K. Recording the Scene
Photographs of the body in its original position and of the room or area in
which it is found will prove to be very valuable later in the investigation.
XVII. FAMILY/DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
A. This type of violence is unquestionably underreported, even by victimization
B. It often happens in private, and many victims are reluctant to report
it because they are ashamed, they are afraid of reprisals if they do speak out,
they suffer from such low self-esteem that they think they "deserve what
they got," or they were raised in violent families where abuse was "normal".
XVIII. STALKING (See Slides 9-21 and 9-22)
A. Stalking is harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages
in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place
of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects,
or vandalizing a person’s property.
B. Legal definitions of stalking vary widely from state to state.
C. The definition of stalking used in the National Violence Against Women
(NVAW) survey closely resembles the definition used in the model antistalking
code developed for states by the National Institute of Justice.
D. Who are Stalkers?
1. Demographically. Stalking is a gender neutral crime, with both male and
female perpetrators and victims. However, most stalkers are men.
2. Common categories of stalkers. The following represent the most common
categories of stalkers and stalking behavior.
a. Love Obsession Stalkers. This category is characterized by stalkers who
develop a love obsession or fixation on another person with whom they have no
b. Simple Obsession Stalkers.
This category represents 70 - 80 percent of stalking cases and is distinguished
by the fact that some previous personal or romantic relationship existed between
the stalker and the victim before the stalking behavior began.
c. Cyberstalking. The term cyberstalking refers to those individuals who
harass their victims on the internet using various modes of transmission such
as electronic mail (e-mail), chat rooms, newsgroups, and the World Wide Web.
3. Stalking behavior patterns and cycles.
a. Stalking behavior is as diverse as the stalkers themselves. Yet behavioral
experts are beginning to identify patterns in the cycle of violence displayed
by simple obsession stalkers.
b. Stalking behavior patterns closely mirror those common in many domestic
c. Stalkers, unable to establish or re-establish a relationship
of power and control over their victims, turn to violence as a means of reasserting
their domination over the victim.
d. As difficult as it is to predict what a stalker might do, it is at least
as difficult to predict when he or she might do it.
E. Protective Orders
Most states have laws authorizing civil orders of protection in domestic abuse
1. Protective orders can serve as the first line of defense against stalkers.
2. To be effective, protective orders must be rigorously enforced and violators
dealt with in a manner that ensures their strict accountability.
F. Psychological and Social Consequences of Stalking
The NVAW survey produced strong confirmation of the negative mental health
impact of stalking.
XIX. SERIAL MURDER
A. Serial murder was originally described, in early 1980, as "lust
murder" The term "serial murder" was first used sometime in 1982
B. For the law enforcement community, "serial murder" usually
refers to sexual attacks and the resulting death of young women, men, or children,
committed by a killer who tends to follow a distinct physical or psychological
C. Many social science researchers have found trauma, abuse, and neglect
in the childhood of serial killers. The social and psychological deprivation
consistently identified in the childhood of serial killers would certainly indicate
a strong correlation between such a childhood and serial killing.
D. Research on serial murder has focused on finding similarities among murders.
The victims of serial killers have largely been ignored.
XX. SERIAL MURDER AND NCAVC (See Slide 9-23)
A. But because many serial murderers cover many miles in a short period
of time, the FBI has developed the National Center for the Analysis of Violent
B. VI-CAP Crime Report
When a violent crime remains unsolved for a period of time, the local law enforcement
agency provides details about it on a special violent-criminal apprehension
program (VI-CAP) reporting form.
C. Flow of Information
Information flow in the VI-CAP process is outlined in the text.
XXI. CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE ANALYSIS (See Slide 9-24)
A. Criminal investigative analysis, formerly referred to as psychological
profiling, is the analysis of crime scene patterns in order to identify the
personality and behavioral characteristics of offenders who commit serial crimes
of rape and homicide.
B. The concept of criminal investigative analysis works in tandem with the
search for physical evidence.
C. Psychological evidence, like physical evidence, varies, and so the profile
may also vary.
D. Profilers need wide exposure to crime scenes to discern patterns and
some exposure to criminals who have committed similar crimes.