It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so this is me with too much time on my hands.

Forensic Terminology

External Ballistics – characteristics and behavior of a bullet after it leaves the muzzle of a firearm, but before it strikes an object/its target.

External Ballistics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacketed bullets – lead bullets that are encased either partially or completely in copper or a similar alloy. The term “full metal jacket” refers to complete jacketing of a bullet.

Jacketed bullets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative Impression – Impression evidence created when contact between two objects results in the removal of material where the contact took place.
A handprint impression made in wet beach sand is a positive impression. A handprint, however, made on a freshly-painted surface is a Negative Impression because the hand removed paint to create the impression.

Negative Impression

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cast-off – occurs when an object is swung in an arc, tossing blood onto nearby surfaces. For example, when a killer swings a bloodstained hammer back and forth above his head while delivering blow after blow to the body of his victim. The blood sent airborne as a result of the hammer’s motion is “Cast-off.”

Cast-off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barefoot Morphology Comparison – A forensic application that uses the impressions of the weight-bearing areas of footprints left at crime scenes to include or exclude suspects in an investigation.

Barefoot Morphology Comparison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forensic Musicologist – experts in music theory who compare pieces of music to determine if something is a copy.
For example, a court determined that former Beatle George Harrison was liable of subconscious (unintentional) plagiarism for the song “My Sweet Lord.” The decision was a no-brainer because the tune was practically a note-for-note copy of the 1962 hit “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons. Forensic musicologists were called upon to examine and compare the two songs for similarities.
Forensic musicology also helped determine that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams plagiarized Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” when they wrote and recorded “Blurred Lines.” The court awarded a hefty sum of over $7 million in damages to be paid by Thicke and Williams to the heirs of Marvin Gaye.

Forensic Musicologist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equivocal Death – “Situations in which the manner of death (i.e. accidental, natural causes, suicide, and homicide) is uncertain or not immediately clear” ~ Knoll 2008
Psychological autopsy, analyzing the psychosocial aspects of a victim’s life leading up to and at the time of their death, can be extremely helpful in equivocal death investigations.

Equivocal Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Welcome to MurderCon

It’s a killer event that features renowned experts who train top homicide investigators from around the world.

Writers, please take advantage of this opportunity to learn from those who are the best in the business of crime scene investigation. I say this because this incredible event may not come your way again.

Sign up today while there’s still time.

*2021 Guest of Honor – Andrew Grant

Register here.

Click the play button below to view the video.


2021 MurderCon Video Teaser

From the lighter side of today’s news … sarin gas, fingerprinting is hard work, and hacking.

Protecting Against Toxic Chemical Attacks

  • Scientists have successfully developed MOFs capable of deactivating toxic nerve agents. MOFs (metal-organic framework) are minuscule, porous structures that have large surface areas that allow for the absorption of gases and other materials. These MOFs also contain zirconium, which acts to neutralize toxic material, such as sarin gas.

A pinpoint-size drop of sarin on the skin is a lethal dose.

Using polypropylene, the stuff used to make plastic bags, along with thin layers of aluminum, titanium or zinc oxide. to make a protective coating for clothing material, researchers found that the treated-cloth successfully deactivated applied toxins. This is fantastic news for first-responders and soldiers. And us, to, if North Korea finally builds a slingshot large and powerful enough to lob a couple of sarin-gas-filled basketballs in our direction.

Perhaps it’s time to purchase and send gift cards for a shopping spree at that popular store, Gas-Masks-R-Us.

Fingerprint Examiners

  • Fingerprint examiners are carefully selected for the job. In fact, it’s a special person who, for hour after hour, unapologetically stares at smudged ink and squiggly lines, all day long. The job is so demanding and specific that potential print examiners often must successfully complete a series of tests to get the first foot in the door. Next comes a certification course. Then, when all the classroom and practical training is said and done … it’s not an easy job.

Curious to know if you have what it takes to become a fingerprint examiner? Well, here’s your chance. Click the link below to see a sample of the test prepared by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology. I think you might be in for a surprise.

 

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Fingerprint Examiner?

Hacking a Router

  • Malware named xLED can infect common routers, a move that enables hackers to leak information, passwords, files, etc., from computers, even those with firewalls and other security measures and systems. This malware bypasses all security measures.

The way this works is nothing short of a Mission Impossible sequel. The malware causes the router’s LEDs (the lights that signal status) to blink and pulse in various ways—codes, if you will. Then, via a hidden remote camera, or by accessing and using the camera on your laptop (also remotely controlled by the hacker), the hackers record and decode the LED flashes. The xLED malware can program the LEDs to flash at lightning-fast speeds – more than 1,000 flickers per second for each LED.

Here’s a handy bit of news that’ll make you feel all warm and fuzzy … Specialized malware can siphon data from from numerous devices, not just cellphones and laptops. For example, it can suck private information from computer speakers, headphone jacks, external and internal hard drives, computer fans, 3D printers, smartphones, and even, as I mentioned above, LED bulbs. Yes, the Russians have all your recipes, cat photos, and vacation pictures. And, of course, writers, the FBI also has your search history. Yes, they know …

Tale Twisters

Hey, did you know …

  1. Doomsday bunkers are all the rage right now. So much so, in fact, that one Texas company has seen a whopping 400% increase in sales in the past two months.
  2. PetPace LLC markets a wearable health monitoring system for pets and working animals, including police canines.
  3. Isopropyl methylphosphonic acid, a chemical which sarin degrades into, was found in the blood and urine samples taken from recent victims of the gas attacks in Syria.
  4. FABIS-Mobile is a facial recognition software that performs real-time identification of individuals using still or video images.
  5. A secure means for protecting and storing fingerprints is in use at U.S. border crossings.
  6. Higher quality fingerprint collection with silicone membranes.
  7. On June 30, 2012, clocks gained an extra second. Why? Because the earth’s rotation is slightly slowing, increasing the length of a solar day.
  8. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) has moved forward with a number of technologies to make software safer against hacking. Gee, I wonder what it was that suddenly brought this action to the front burner …
  9. Scientists have developed a “super sponge” that absorbs mercury from a contaminated body water within seconds. The sponge converts the toxin into a non-toxic material that can be tossed into a landfill. The sponge also kills bacterial and fungal microbes. So yes, it’s a super sponge.
  10. Re-accommodation of paying customers. Let’s examine the definition of this term in the United Airlines policy manual.

united-airlines-reaccommodation

This is why I cut WAY back on speaking at events. I DESPISE air travel.

Crime scene investigation with amateur

Crime scene investigators have a huge assortment of tools at their disposal. And we’ve all seen the TV shows where detectives use fancy lights and magic wands to lead them to the mysterious killer of the week.

But what about the stampers, quilters, dog walkers, and realtors who stumble onto murders during their everyday routine? What about the part time PI’s? How do those civilian investigators go about solving crime? Are there any tips and handy tools of the trade that can be utilized by amateur detectives?

Sure there are, and they’re practical, really cool, and extremely cheap! And our top expert, Ima Figuritout, knows all the tricks. Such as…

Remember the last time the cops dusted your light switches for fingerprints?

What a mess, right? Black powder everywhere! Ima suggests having your sleuth show the boys in blue how to make a wall protector using a piece of cardboard.

Better still, advise the homeowner to make one for each switch in their house and keep them in a nearby drawer for future break-ins. It’s always best to be prepared, right?

Then, the next time your sleuth or the CSI team shows up to investigate, they’re all set. No walls to scrub down.

Next up…keeping floors clear of pesky footprints. But what if your sleuth is too tired to bend over to cover her pumps with shoe covers?

No problem. Have her sidekick place this handy device—the step-n-go—on the floor, and with two quick “steps” she’s all set.

Perfect for the investigator who simply doesn’t have the time to stand still even for a second.

Is the “Ima” in your book flustered because she can’t get to the fingerprint that’s trapped inside a piece of wadded tape? The one piece of evidence she knows will put the dastardly killer away for life?

Well, a quick trip to an electronics store can solve the problem. Simply send Ima’s assistant to the nearest mall to pick up a can of Component Spray.

A quick squirt and…

And there you go—the tape easily comes apart.

The spray freezes the tape to approximately -65 degrees.

Do NOT touch the tape with your bare hands.

Another trick is to place the tape inside a freezer for several hours.

What to do with those old unwanted CD’s? Hmm…

As always, Ima Figuritout is prepared for the rainy day homicide. Yes, Ima knows what a real pain it can be to keep her camera tripod steady on muddy surfaces, and that’s why she keeps a handful of old CD’s in her camera bag. You know, for the times when the weather just doesn’t want to cooperate with murder investigations.

By placing a CD under each of the tripod’s three legs, Ima quickly solves the problem. No more sinking into the goo. Works like a charm.

And that, my friends, is how Ima does it.

 

When thinking of solving a convoluted murder case we often picture highly-trained, highly-skilled scientists releasing DNA from a bloody glove or sock. On TV we see experts hovering over steaming vials, boiling test tubes, and genetic analyzers. We read about the protagonist who magically locates key pieces of DNA in the most improbable locations. Sure, the science of DNA is pretty interesting. But did you know you can actually extract DNA in your own home using everyday household items?

Every living thing has its own unique DNA, including plants. In fact, the last time I was in a DNA lab we extracted DNA from a strawberry. For the purpose of this home experiment we’ll use an onion, because the smelly vegetable produces a really nice strand of DNA that’s easily seen with the naked eye.

New Picture

First of all, you’ll need to collect the ingredients needed to unlock the DNA from the onion—approximately 100ml of finely chopped onion, a pinch of salt, meat tenderizer, rubbing alcohol, dish detergent, and 200ml of ice cold water.

Now place the chopped onion, salt, and ice water into a blender. Blend for approximately fifteen seconds (this separates the onion cells). Repeat the blending for another 20 seconds, or until the mixture becomes foamy, like the beginnings of a meringue.

Pour the foamy mixture into a glass container and add 1/6th of dish washing liquid as there is mixture (yields two tablespoons).

Swirl soap through mixture and then pour into test tubes until each tube is about 1/3 full.

Sprinkle a pinch of meat tenderizer into each tube. The tenderizer acts as an enzyme that cleans proteins away from the DNA.

Tilt the test tubes to one side and slowly pour in rubbing alcohol until the tubes are 2/3 full. The alcohol forms a separate layer at the top of the tubes.

New Picture (2)

Onion DNA – Image by www.csiro.au

Insert small stick or glass rod into the alcohol layer (the DNA will rise to the alcohol layer) and slowly twist in one direction (either clockwise or counter-clockwise). You know, like twirling spaghetti onto a fork.

DO NOT shake the test tubes.

New Picture (4)

Onion DNA – Image by www.csiro.au

The onion DNA wraps itself around the stick, or rod (the DNA slightly resembles a sperm cell).

Remove the DNA from the tubes.

There you have it, your own DNA lab in the comfort of your own home. No back logs and no cross contamination from other scientists and samples. The question is, “Did the onion do it?”

Concealed carry: underwear

Are you having trouble concealing your handguns? Ladies, do you worry that tucking a .45 semi-auto into your unmentionables would leave a serious panty-line? How about it fellows? The elastic in those boxers not strong enough to support your weapon?

Indeed, both of the aforementioned potentially embarrassing problems are serious concerns. After all, there’s nothing worse than slipping on that curve-hugging, made-for-the-Golden-Globes Tom Ford dress only to discover the clear outline of your favorite smooth bore shot-firing pistol.

Well, your mind can now rest easy. Here are a few solutions to insomnia-inducing concealed-carry woes.

First up, is a company called UnderTech Undercover, a firm that manufactures undergarments and other wearing apparel designed especially for the fashion-conscious gun-toter.

Take a peek at UnderTech’s website to view what might prompt you to purchase a new addition to your wardrobe.

http://www.undertechundercover.com/index.php

Next up is the belt buckle gun.

Then there’s a wide assortment of pocket holsters that are tailor-made to fit a variety of tiny handguns. Yes, they’re specially made to fit the pockets of pants or any other clothing hidey-holes.

Above photos – ATF

Here’s a short video about the pocket holster.

Of course, there’s always the briefcase gun and that always popular leather clutch (purse) that features a spot for lipstick and another for your favorite pistol.

*By the way, the pun near the top of the article was a product of my wacky sense of humor.

*     *     *

Registration for the 2014 Writers Police Academy is scheduled to open at 12:00 noon on Sunday, January 26th. That’s this Sunday.

Also, the schedule has been posted on the WPA website. Remember, though, the schedule is a “schedule-in-progress,” meaning parts of it could change, as well as workshops being added throughout the coming months leading up to the event. So please check it often.

See you in September!

 

 

 

Crime scene investigators have a huge assortment of tools at their disposal. Sure, we’ve all seen the TV shows where detectives use fancy lights and magic wands to lead them to the mysterious killer of the week.

But what about the stampers, quilters, dog walkers, and realtors who stumble onto murders during their everyday routine? What about the part time PI’s? How do those civilian investigators go about solving the crime? Are there any tips and handy tools of the trade that can be utilized by amateur crime-solvers?

Sure, and they’re practical, while still pretty cool. And they’re cheap! And our top expert, Ida Figuritout, knows all the tricks. Such as…

Remember the last time the cops dusted your light switches for fingerprints?

What a mess, right? Black powder everywhere! Ida suggests having your sleuth show the boys in blue how to make a wall protector using a piece of cardboard.

Better still, advise the homeowner to make one for each switch in their house and keep them in a nearby drawer.

Then, the next time your sleuth or the CSI team shows up to investigate, they’re all set. No walls to scrub down.

Next up – Is your sleuth too tired to bend over to cover her pumps with shoe covers?

No problem. Have her sidekick place this handy device—the step-n-go—on the floor, and with two quick steps she’s all set.

Perfect for the investigator who simply doesn’t have the time to stand still even for a second.

Is your “Ida” flustered because she can’t get to the fingerprint that’s trapped inside a piece of wadded tape? The one piece of evidence she knows will put the dastardly killer away for life?

Well, a quick trip to Radio Shack can solve that problem. Send the assistant to the nearest mall to pick up a can of Component Spray.

A quick squirt and…

And there you go—the tape easily comes apart.

The spray freezes the tape to approximately -65 degrees.

Do NOT touch the tape with your bare hands.

Another trick is to place the tape inside a freezer for several hours.

 

What do you do with those old unwanted CD’s?

Well, Ida is always prepared for the rainy day homicide. That’s right, she knows what a real pain it can be to keep her camera tripod steady when the ground is muddy. So, she keeps a handful of old CD’s in her camera bag for the times when the weather just doesn’t want to cooperate with murder investigations. Ida knows that placing a CD under each leg quickly solves the problem. No more sinking into the goo. Works like a charm.

And that’s how Ida does it…

8 facts about detectives

 

1. Never use weapon-mounted light for routine searching. Instead, use a handheld flashlight, keeping the weapon holstered or with the barrel pointed downward. Doing so reduces the chance of shooting an unintended target.

 

2. Carry two wallets. One contains the officer’s official I.D. and badge. The other wallet is for situations when officers would rather not be identified as a cop. The second wallet is for police-free documents such as cash, drivers licenses, and credit cards.

 

3. Always handcuff a suspect’s hands behind his back, with the keyholes facing away from his hands. And to make sure he can’t slip his hands under his feet, use a cable tie to fasten the cuffs to a belt loop.

4. Many shooting situations occur at distances of ten feet or less. So, why do all firearms training at long distances? Instead, conduct some training at close range.

5. Avoid accidental discharge of weapons by following the four basic rules of handling firearms.

– Treat all guns as if they’re loaded.

– Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.

– Point the weapon in a safe direction.

– Always know where a bullet will land before firing.

6. Practice shooting from odd, unnatural positions, like lying on the ground, kneeling, and squatting. Also, practice shooting with your weak hand.

7. Always check to make sure a weapon is loaded before leaving for work, especially a weapon that’s been out of the officer’s sight and control. An officer doesn’t have time to do this in the seconds prior to a gun battle.

 

8. Always call for back up if there’s a weapon involved. Being a dead hero isn’t a good thing.

 

Crime Scene Investigations: A Picture Of Death

 

Crime scene investigators have a huge assortment of tools at their disposal. Sure, we’ve all seen the TV shows where detectives use fancy lights and magic wands to lead them to the mysterious killer of the week. But in real life the tools are quite a bit different. Yep, they’re practical, but still pretty cool. And they’re cheap! Such as…

Remember the last time the cops dusted your light switches for fingerprints? What a mess. Black powder everywhere! Next time ask the boys in blue to make a wall protector using a piece of cardboard. Better still, make one for each switch in your house and keep them in a drawer. Then, the next time the CSI team shows up to investigate, you’re all set. No walls to scrub down.

No time to bend over when entering your favorite murder scene? Here’s the answer. This handy device—the step-n-go—allows today’s detective to simply step into a protective shoe covering and keep walking. Perfect for the investigator who simply doesn’t have the time to stand still even for a second.

Can’t get to the pesky fingerprint that’s trapped inside a piece of wadded tape? A quick trip to Radio Shack can solve that problem. Pick up a can of Component Spray and squirt some on the tape.

And there you go—the tape comes apart.

The spray freezes the tape to approximately -65 degrees. Do NOT touch the tape with your bare hands. Another trick is to place the tape inside a freezer for several hours.

 

What do you do with those old unwanted CD’s?

Toss them into your camera bag for the rainy day homicide. That’s right, it can a real pain to keep your camera tripod steady when the ground is muddy. So, place an old cd under each leg and your problem is solved. Works like a charm.