Saturday, September 17, 2011

Was It Murder or Suicide? What Loved ones Need to Know…

Los Angeles, CA—When person is found dead from either a gunshot wound, cutting, hanging or from a toxic substance the question of foul play must always be thoroughly examined and ruled out.

All police departments and medical examiners are not created equal. Some do great work and some are not up to the task. Wealth of a community often times is a hindrance rather than a help to finding the truth.

Homicides are very rare in affluent jurisdictions and that too often means inexperienced investigators are in control of these cases. A really well-known example of unqualified cops botching an investigation was the 1996, Boulder, CO murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey.

The Bolder cops had little more than police academy training that at the most included only one field trip to a medical examiner’s office. The so-called Boulder detectives were barely qualified to provide security at some shopping mall. They were arrogant as they jealously protected their turf from outside assistance. They loved the spotlight until their gross incompetence gained worldwide attention.

Because of the mess the Boulder cops made, the case will never be solved and justice was denied. The sub-standard evidence collection and preservation rendered physical evidence as unreliable because of contamination. The total lack interview and interrogation skills of these cops prevented them from doing more than bullying the parents until they called their lawyers and refused more questions.

On the other hand big city cops working crime-infested ghettos see lots of murders every day and quickly gain needed skills to solve murders. When the crime-free affluent areas have murders they really have no choice but to immediately bring in outside help. Foolish pride and inflated egos will derail quality investigations more often than not.

On the subject of suicide I must caution loved ones that denial and guilt too often cloud otherwise good judgment in evaluation of an unnatural death. This is especially true of deaths of young men and boys due to auto-erotic asphyxiation. It is very rare that a case for murder can me made after a reasonable death investigation indicates suicide.

The scene:

Quality photographs must be taken by, experienced forensic photographers. Video is also important. Death scenes are not weddings and certain things need solid documentation.

Any and all signs of a struggle must be documented. A messy residence will sometimes create confusion. Looking for blood and bodily fluids must be exhaustive and may have come from the killer/s rather than the victim.

The victim’s fingernails hands and forearms must be painstakingly photographed for any defense signs or wounds. Broken or cracked fingernails, are a sure sign of a struggle especially when a well-groomed victim is involved. DNA unseen by the human eye can be found under fingernails, collected and matched with a suspected donor.

Here is where solid interviews are important. If your suspect denies ever being at the crime scene or touching the victim his fingerprints, DNA or clothing fibers being found on or near the victim would become damning evidence.

Mental status and intoxication:

When there is the slightest hint of suicide, a psychological autopsy should be conducted by a qualified physician. Drugs legal or otherwise along with alcohol and the victim’s known history need examination. Past bouts of depression, financial difficulties or health worries are not small issues and must be factored into these investigations. Of course disputes, litigation and other business issues need the attention of investigators.

Failed or unrealized relationships sometimes end in suicide for some really educated and otherwise well-adjusted people. Broken hearts do kill. On the other hand broken hearts and bruised egos become the motive for murder.

Investigators must get inside the heads of their victims to find the truth. If the police jurisdiction shows any signs like Boulder, CO in 1996 you need to bring in a well-qualified expert. I suspect today, a murder in Boulder would be handled differently and include some experienced outside investigators.


Anonymous said...

I agree about the egos of the cops getting in the way. Boulder is not known as a place where murders regularly take place so their detectives don't get much experience. I think any police department that is run by a conscientious chief would have some sort of arrangement with a big city homicide unit to allow his detectives to participate in ride-alongs to learn the intricacies of homicides and death investigations. The academy training is one thing, but nothing beats hands on street knowledge. This topic reminds me of the Alabama teenager who went missing in Aruba and was presumably killed by Joran Vander Sloot. The Aruban cops should have called in seasoned homicide dicks to take over right from the start.

Anonymous said...

Heard decades ago that a female Boulder Coppette arrived and immediately moved and contaminated the crime scene, threw a blanket over the victim, and everything went south from there. I've found that due to big egos, most police depts, especially smaller ones, are reluctant to seek help from big-City Detectives, who do this type investigation EVERY DAY. This is a huge dis-service to the victim and their surviving loved-ones, and is also tied into the politics of the jurisdiction involved. Too bad, there are also many highly skilled retired Detectives who are specialists at various types of crimes, and were REAL Detectives who knew how to work cases, and got results. Nowadays, sadly, the collegiate type young coppers are promoted to investigative positions, which they have no natural skills in, and there they stay, without producing positive results, due to mnay factors, including political affiliation, chronyism, nepotism, etc. I am still astounded that the lackluster retired Detective, Mark Fuhrman, formerly of LAPD, the lead Detective on the Nicole Brown [OJ] Simpson murders is looked at as a highly sought-after Commentator on the once-really good Fox News. Fuhrman and his fellow Detectives totally botched this relatively simple Murder investigation, to the point of amateurism, along with the assigned prosecutors. Anyway, great investigators are worth their weight in Gold, if someone really wants to get to the bottom line, the Truth. Unfortunately, the politically correct story is the one that is all most Agencies and the Media care about anymore, due to politics and such. This case may never be solved via prosecution, due to the insurmountable mess it remains.