Intimate partner homicide

Intimate partner homicide is the 7th leading cause of premature death for women in the United States. It’s the number one cause of premature death among African American women between the ages of 15-45. Are those numbers not scary enough? How about this: Of all the women murdered in this country each year, half of them are killed by their intimate partners. And those figures do not include ex-boyfriends.

Is there a means to prevent these deaths? Should a woman be able to see this coming? Are there indicators that her partner is approaching the point of no return? Well, possibly.

Several risk factors have been associated with the murders of  battered women. However, many of the women who were killed by their domestic partner never realized the severity of the abuse. Sure, they knew they’d been beaten, had bones broken, etc., but they never actually thought they’d be killed. They suffered from the, “He’d never really do it because I know he loves me…” syndrome. And that’s not a bad thing, wanting to believe the best in your partner. But denying a problem is harmful, especially when it comes to abuse.

So what are some of the indicators that a partner’s violence may be escalating to the point of no return?

Studies have found a direct correlation between gun ownership and intimate partner homicide. In fact, women who are threatened with a gun are more likely than other women to be murdered—20 times more likely. Just the mere presence of a gun in the house causes an abused woman’s chance of being murdered to be 6 times higher than a woman living in a gun-free home.

Other risk factors include:

Serious alcohol and drug abuse, where the abuser is high or drunk on a daily basis.

Threats to kill



Forced sex

Partner controls all activity (when to leave the house, etc.)

Woman is beaten while pregnant

Partner beats the children

Partner is violent outside the home as well

Partner has threatened suicide

Abused victim has thoughts that her partner will attempt to kill her at some point during their relationship

Abused victim has thoughts of suicide to escape the violence

Has your partner ever done or caused any of these things? If so, you are at risk. Please seek help immediately.

– Slapping, pushing; no injuries and/or lasting pain

– Punching, kicking; bruises, cuts, and/or continuing pain

– “Beating up”; severe contusions, burns, broken bones

– Threat to use weapon; head injury, internal injury, permanent injury

– Use of weapon; wounds from weapon

Ask yourself the following questions. If your answer to any of the questions is yes, you are at risk. Please seek help immediately. Do not wait!

– Has the physical violence increased in frequency over the past year?

– Does he ever try to choke you?

– Does he keep a gun in the house? In his vehicle?

– Has he ever forced you to have sex?

– Does he use drugs? Any drugs?

– Does he threaten to kill you?

– Is he drunk every every day?

– Does he control most or all of your daily activities, like who you can be friends with, how much money you can have, or when you can take the car, when can use the phone, etc.) Does he always have to be with you when you visit family, or go shopping? Does he tell what clothing you can and cannot wear?

– Have you ever been beaten by him while you were pregnant?

-Is he extremely jealous?

– Have you ever threatened or tried to commit suicide?

– Has he ever threatened or tried to commit suicide?

– Is he violent toward your children?

– Is he violent outside of the home? Does he fight with others?

Laci Peterson – murdered by her husband, Scott.

In 2008, 14% of all homicides were committed by intimate partners (70% of the victims were female).

Scott Peterson is currently awaiting his appointment with San Quentin’s executioner. He was sentenced to death for murdering his wife and unborn child, and tossing them in the San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve of 2002. It is believed that Peterson fabricated homemade anchors from blocks of concrete and them fastened them to Laci’s body, hoping she’d remain on the bottom of the sea, forever.

Now, Peterson spends his days playing basketball and cards with other murderers. He also writes a blog. Oh, perhaps I should mention all the letters and money he receives from female admirers from all over the world. He deposits the cash into his inmate account, spending up to $180 per month on frilly things, like soda, cookies, and deodorant.

*NIJ statistics





Test Your DNA Knowledge

DNA is known as the blueprint of life, and it’s everywhere. Well everywhere except in your red blood cells. And we all know that law enforcement uses DNA testing to help solve crimes. To do so, scientists and technicians normally look at 13 specific DNA markers. Why 13? Because the odds that any two people have the exact same 13 loci (location) profile is approximately one in one billion. Now that’s pretty darn accurate.

Who knew that cops would someday turn to the human genome to help find the “who” in the whodunits? And speaking of the very complex human genome…Do you know how long it would take to type the human genome (on your laptop or computer)? Get this… It would take a person typing 8 hours per day at a rate of 60 words per minute, around 50 years to complete the task! And according to my wife, that’s about how long it’s taking me to write the thriller I’ve been working on. But, there’s daylight at the end of the tunnel. The rewrites will soon be in my agent’s hands. Anyway…

So what else do you know, or not know about DNA? How about…

– If you stacked all the letters in the human genome (3 billion of them) end to end and one millimeter apart, they would reach a height of something like 7,000 times the height of the Empire State Building. Oh, somewhere in the middle of the Empire State Building is the office of a well-known literary agent who represents one of mystery’s most beloved authors. Well, I guess he still has an office there.

– DNA testing is used to authenticate foods such as fine wines. It’s also used to test the purity of farm crops.

– Identical twins have the same DNA.

– Changes in a DNA sequence are called mutations. Many things, such as drug abuse and UV radiation can cause mutations.

– DNA mutations can be associated with a higher risk of certain diseases.

– Paternity DNA testing compares segments of the potential father’s DNA with the DNA of the child.

– Genes are made of DNA.

– Want to travel to the moon? Well, if you unwrapped all the DNA in your body you could reach the moon…6,000 times!

– If you unwound and knotted together the strands of DNA in a single cell, it would be approximately 6 feet tall, but only 50 trillionths of an inch wide. Now you know how they make supermodels.

– Your entire DNA sequence would fill 200 NYC phone books.

– There are 3 billion DNA bases in your genome.

I said genome, not gnome…

– The DNA ladder normally twists to the right.

– The sides of the DNA ladder are made of sugars and phosphate atoms.

– Hydrogen bonds hold the ladders together.

– The rungs of the ladder are made up of bases.

Adenine (A) is a base.

Thymine (T) is a base.

Cytosine (C) is a base

Guanine (G) is a base.

– The police do not have instant DNA test kits. It can take weeks and even months receive results from the lab.

– Every case is not solved by DNA. In fact, most are not.

– Lanie Parish is not a real medical examiner.


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Want to know more about DNA? Then you’ll certainly want to attend the Writers’ Police Academy. This year we’ve added workshops on DNA and bioterrorism.


Have you reserved your spot for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy?

Ride-a-longs with sheriff’s deputies, jail tours, firearms and driver training are only a part of the fun!

Train with the pros.

Sign up now at:

Space is limited!




School violence: Signs

Violence in schools seems to be on the rise, and to help combat the danger professionals are paying close attention to early warning signs—behavioral and emotional signals. The signs, while important indicators of potential trouble, do not always signal impending serious violence. Instead, the signs could point to a child in need of help. Either way, the gathering of this information could provide an otherwise overlooked opportunity to act on a child’s needs. However, in some instances, the early warning signs do point toward violence against others or to self.

It’s important that professionals act on the early signals appropriately, using them to help, not punish the child. Normally, children who are prone to this type of violence exhibit more than one sign. These behaviors also increase in intensity over time, escalating to an eventual act of violence. Therefore, it is important to look at the situation as a whole, and not immediately act on a child who displays only one sign.

There is no perfect “road map” or flashing neon sign that points to which child may soon commit an act of violence. But these signs certainly guide authorities in the right direction.

Early Warning Signs of Potential School Violence

1. A gradual withdrawal from friends and social contacts – an excellent indicator that the child may be feeling depressed or rejected.

2. A feeling of isolation – Children who are without friends tend to behave aggressively toward others.

3. Rejection – Children who feel rejected by family and friends sometimes have a tendency to hang out with new, aggressive friends. This behavior actually brings out aggressiveness in the rejected child, which could eventually lead to violent behavior.

4. Drug abuse (including alcohol) – A child’s self-control may disappear, or reduce, when using drugs, which could lead to an escalation in violent behavior that would have normally been held in check.

5. Bullied – Children who are bullied may eventually become violent, seeking revenge on those who’ve taunted them in the past.

6. Bully – A child, who himself is a bully may escalate into extremely violent behavior.

7. Anger – Uncontrollable fits of anger and rage are clear signs of a violent behavior.

8. Victim of violence. A child who’s been a victim of violence may have tendencies toward becoming violent. This includes violence to themselves.

9 . Gang involvement and other peer pressure – Children often do as they see others do.

10, Firearms and other weapons – Sometimes, children already prone to violent behavior have those feelings enhanced when they have access to firearms and other weapons.

Remember, it is a culmination of these signs that indicate the possibility of serious violence, not a single trait. However, intervention is the key. The goal should be to help the child before things reach the tipping point. Negative emotions should be addressed as soon as they are recognized. The child needs support from everyone—school officials and family members.

Each school system should have a plan in place that deals with both intervention and the proper responses. And that plan should include getting the parents involved as soon as possible.

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Have you reserved your spot for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy?

Ride-a-longs with sheriff’s deputies, jail tours, firearms and driver training are only a part of the fun!

Train with the pros.

Sign up now at:


Have I Told You Lately

The day has finally arrived when most of us step up the affection game by sending flowers, cards, candy, cute and cuddly stuffed animals, and other gifts to the people we adore. We dress up, go out to dinner, drink some really good wine, toast to many more years together, and, well, we simply enjoy the company of our significant others. I know I do.

But on this day of making goo-goo eyes at our soul mates, we should also remember those folks whose day isn’t going as well as ours. For example:

1. One in four women have experienced some form of domestic violence.

2. 600,000 to 6 million women are victims of domestic violence each year.

3. One in five high school females reports abuse by a dating partner.

4. Date rape accounts for 70% of reported sexual assaults by adolescent and college age women.

5. 50% of men who regularly assault their wives also frequently abused their children.

6. 3.3 – 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year.

7. 40% of high school girls report at least one friend who has been beaten or hit by a boyfriend.

8. 80% of women who are stalked by their former husbands are physically assaulted by that partner. 30% are sexually assaulted by that partner.

9. Three women and one man are killed by their intimate partners every day in this country.

10. 76% of female homicide victims were stalked prior to their death.

* Stats – Domestic Violence Resource Center

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And now, for that special someone in my life…Happy Valentines Day, Denene.

* Don’t forget to stop by tomorrow when Melanie Atkins and I join forces again to review tonight’s episode of Castle.

Salvia Divinorum: Hannah Montana's Drug Of Choice?

But Mom, salvia’s got to be safe. Hannah Montana smokes it!

Actually, salvia, a common plant found in many gardens across the country, is in the mint family and produces lovely purplish-blue flowers. It’s great for borders and as an accent plant. It’s also great for producing extremely intense hallucinations. Therefore, smoking it has become an extremely popular way to get high. Don’t believe it? Ask Miley Cyrus.

Salvia smoking is not new to young people. In fact, it’s been around for years. But Billy Ray’s not-so-innocent little girl, Miley, recently brought salvia to center stage when a video surfaced of her “hitting a bong” filled with the plant.

Mazatec Indians smoked salvia to induce “visions.” Mazatec shamans in Mexico use it to explore a person’s illnesses in the supernatural world.  Kids today use it to get high. And the high they experience is like no other.

Salvia, unlike heroin and other drugs, does not produce a euphoric effect. Someone who smokes salvia can expect a very personal hallucinogenic experience that is often quite unpleasant. When smoked, a salvia high is rather short-lived, reaching its peak in under 30 minutes and tapering off rapidly thereafter. The effects are astounding. Users have described their experiences as:

– Becoming an inanimate object, such as a chair or tree

– A sense of total madness

– Being a part of multiple realities

– A total loss of control

– Time travel

– A feeling of being underground, or immersed in deep water

One salvia researcher, Daniel Siebert, devised a scale for the various levels of a salvia experience.

* S – SUBTLE effects, Relaxation and increased sensual appreciation may be noted. This mild level is useful for meditation and may facilitate sexual pleasure.

* A – ALTERED perception, colors and textures are paid attention to. Thinking becomes less logical, and more playful.

* L – LIGHT visionary state. Closed eye visuals (clear imagery with eyes closed).

* V – VIVID visionary state. Complex three dimensional realistic appearing scenes occur. With eyes closed you experience fantasies. So long as your eyes are closed you may believe they are really occurring.

* I – IMMATERIAL existence. Individuality may be lost; one experiences merging with the Divine.

* A – AMNESIC effects. Loss of consciousness. The individual may fall, or remain immobile or thrash around. Dangerous!

To date, several states have already banned salvia possession and its use. Many of those states have classified salvia as a dangerous drug and placed it in the same category as heroin.

Legal status of Salvia divinorum in the United States (Wikipedia image)

Red – Banned by law

Brown – Ban being considered

Yellow – Sale to minors prohibited

HOWEVER, research is currently underway for salvia use for diseases that produce hallucinations, such as schizophrenia and dementia. It has also been suggested as a potential treatment for stimulant abuse. And it may help to alleviate depression.

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Jeffery Deaver, Chris Roerden, and Lee Lofland

Saturday, writers from all over the east coast gathered at the High Point Public Library in High Point, N.C. for the May Skill Build Conference presented by the library and the local chapter of Sisters in Crime. International bestselling author Jeffery Deaver was the headliner for the sold out event.

It was as if the skies knew the master of the dark, twisted ending was approaching. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought Deaver wrote his own setting for the day.

Jeffery Deaver taking notes during my presentation of CS I Don’t Think So.

The event opened with my two-hour presentation of CS I Don’t Think So. I talked about which TV shows get it right, and which do a horrible job of portraying police and forensics. Of course, I mentioned cordite, pistol safeties, Miranda, and The Andy Griffith Show.

I went a step further and talked about just how well Jeffery Deaver researches his material before writing the first word. The example I used was when my computer crashed and I feared losing all my material – years and years of material. Well, when I read Deaver’s book, Roadside Crosses, one of the detectives in the story recovered a laptop that had been submerged in salt water. He turned the device over to a computer expert who removed the hard drive, dried it out, and then placed it into a hard drive enclosure where he was able to easily retrieve the data. Well, knowing how accurate Jeff Deaver is when conducting research I immediately Googled “Hard Drive Enclosure.” Long story short – I ordered one and was able to save my data, all for around $40.

Hard drive enclosure

Captivated by Jeffery Deaver’s 1.5 hour lecture—“People Don’t Read to Get to the Middle: Writing a Page-turning Thriller”

Deaver offered excellent advice for writers. Here are a dozen key points from his workshop.

1 – Writer for the reader, not for yourself.

2 – Write what you enjoy reading.

3 – Two most important aspects of writing—plot and character.

4 – Locale – make it interesting and get it right.

5 – Write what comes from your soul.

6 – Know your craft – grammar, syntax, etc.

7 – Grab your reader by the lapels and pull them until they reach the last page.

8 – Keep your reader turning the pages by promising something, but don’t deliver (unresolved anticipation).

9 – Violence – LESS IS MORE.

10 – Villains should be smart, credible, and maybe have more resources than the hero.

11 – Toss your ego out the door.

12 – Resolve all the conflicts.

Chris Roerden rounded out the trio of presentations with her workshop “Showing vs Telling: When to Use and How the Writer’s Voice Affects Publication.”

Chris offered some of her own writing secrets, such as:

1 – Dramatize scenes that are important to the story.

2 – Show conflict and tension.

3 – Show, Don’t Tell. Disguise facts as part of a dramatized scene.

4 – Lower tension to prepare the reader for the next burst of action.

The three of us signed books and answered questions after each presentation.

The last event of the day was a panel discussion where the three of us answered questions that ranged from “How do I get an agent,” to “Mr. Deaver. How do you come up with such interesting characters?”

Jeffery Deaver and I will be at Killer Nashville in August, and at the Writers’ Police Academy in September. Jeffery Deaver is the guest of honor at both events.

Jeffery Deaver is the award-winning author of 25 novels that sell in 150 countries, are translated into 25 languages, and appear on bestseller lists around the world. Two of those novels became films: The Bone Collector, a Universal feature film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie; and A Maiden’s Grave, an HBO movie starring James Garner.

The Main Event

At the 13th Southeast “Writer’s One Day, Low Pay, No Frills Skill Build” in High Point, NC, Saturday, May 1, 2010, Deaver will present a fascinating workshop “People Don’t Read to Get to the Middle: Writing a Page-turning Thriller.” (The Sampson Independent)

The Opening Act

I’ll be kicking off the Saturday program with an all new presentation of CSI Don’t Think So, a fun look at the errors in police procedure and forensics on popular TV shows such as Castle, CSI, and one of my all-time favorites, The Andy Griffith Show. Yes, I will be discussing cordite and three-hour DNA testing.


Chris Roerden, author of of award-winners Don’t Sabotage Your Submission and Don’t Murder Your Mystery rounds out this mysterious trio with “Showing vs. Telling: When To Use, and How the Writer’s Voice Affects Publication.”

The three of us will end the day with a panel where we’ll answer audience questions.

This is an event you won’t want to miss!

Books will be available for sale and autographing. Doors open at 8:30 AM, close at 6:00 PM. Cost is $28 for the entire day. The program is co-sponsored by the High Point Public Library and the Sisters in Crime Murder We Write Triad Chapter. For details and to receive a registration form, please email (and put “May 1” in subject line).

This action-packed event takes place at the High Point N.C. Public Library, 901 N. Main St., where registration forms may also be picked up—but if advance reservations exceed capacity, attendees whose registrations are received before April 26 will be informed of an alternate High Point location. Registration, with the form and a check for $28 payable to Market Savvy Books, may be mailed to P. O. Box 16265, High Point, NC, 27265.

Rebecca Williams

My fascination with reading and writing began with detective magazines, The Hardy Boys, and Poe. I even read Nancy Drew when Frank and Joe Hardy weren’t available. In fact, I practically read everything I could get my hands on – Archie, Superman, Batman, Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird…well, you get the idea. I absolutely love the written word. Therefore, it was a real honor last year when I was asked to be a judge for the Golden Pen Award, a writing contest for young people.

The Golden Pen is awarded to the student who crafts the best essay about an assigned topic. This year the essay title was:

Life was easier for teenagers 50 years ago than it is for teenagers

Rebecca Williams penned this year’s top story. Her words obviously came from the heart, and those sentiments really stood out on the page. Rebecca’s story took me back to my own youth, when life was good – to the days when my parents were still around. I read the winning story over and over again, and each time I did a different memory presented itself to me. So I thank you, Rebecca, for writing something that allowed me a visit to my younger days. It was wonderful, even though it only lasted for a moment.

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FYI – We are finally at our new destination. Hopefully, I’ll be able to respond to emails and comments later today (I’ve had very little, or no internet access for days). However, I’m flying back to Boston on Wednesday to meet the movers. If I haven’t responded to your emails by Saturday please write again.  I apologize for any inconvenience. Everything should be back to normal soon.

Police officers have one of the highest suicide rate in the country. The number of divorced officers is staggering – possibly the second highest divorce rate overall. Cops are second when it comes to problem drinking.  A law enforcement career is the most stressful career in the United States according to Hans Selye, the leading researcher in stress in the world.

What is it about police work that’s so unique? Chronic stress seems to be a major culprit, because, like anything else in excess, the body becomes used to it, building a sort of tolerance which can cause the officer to regress. This regression causes the officer to become more childish and immature. Spouses often report that their officer husband or wife becomes more self-centered, irritable, and even whiny, like a spoiled child. These are all signs of repressed stress in a police officer.

Chronic stress also causes officers to become insensitive. They’ve grown tired of seeing other people hurt, so they begin to stop feeling, or caring, about other people. In fact, they may even begin to care less about hurting other people, and do, without remorse.

Repeatedly answering stressful calls, day in and day out, one after another, wears on an officers strength – their ability to remain strong in high-tension situations. This loss of mental strength can make an officer much more vulnerable to even the normal pressures of life – a sick child, bills, etc.

Police officers are in a constant Catch-22, a damned if you do, damned if you don’t, world. They’re expected to make split-second, life-changing decisions (and I mean that literally), but at the same time they’re forced with the worry of being disciplined for that very action. And they must also fear public reaction to their decisions, which could also lead to career-ending civil actions where the officer loses everything.

All this for a whopping $40,000 or so per year. Well, unless you’re in Boston where it’s been reported that, with overtime, some officers rake in approximately $200,000 each year.

Have you seen signs of stress in a police officer? If so, what?

Today marks the one year anniversary of The Graveyard Shift. Our first post received 68 hits. Today we’ll see thousands from all over the world. It’s overwhelming.

Please click the play button above and then scroll down for a peek at some of the experts who’ve helped make the blog such a huge success. Of course, you guys, the readers, make it all worthwhile!

Thanks to you all.


* If you’d like to be a guest on The Graveyard Shift please contact me at All blog posts must relate to police, forensics, or CSI. Exceptions are made for agents and editors. Please, no profanity, sexual content, or any other topics that may be offensive to others.