Now that everyone has had the opportunity to catch their breath and decompress from an action-packed and extremely exhausting weekend at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy, let’s take a brief moment to examine one of the sessions—PIT.

PIT (Pursuit Immobilization Technique or Precision Immobilization Technique, among other titles used) is a method used by police to end pursuits before a fleeing driver causes a crash or escapes custody. The technique is quite simple in theory—a pursuing car (the police) forces a fleeing car (the bad guy) to loose traction, spin, and then come to a stop. Officers are then typically able to take the driver and passengers into custody.

To help bring better realism to fiction, WPA/NWTC instructor Colleen Belongea first explained the technique to writers.

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“There’s a very short window of opportunity here for the “sweet spot.” ~ Colleen Belongea, WPA/NWTC instructor speaking of the location on the target vehicle where contact should be made during the PIT.

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Once the tactic was thoroughly explained, Colleen had the writers take turns behind the wheel on a closed course to test their driving skills. The end result for bestselling author and WPA keynote speaker Tami Hoag was, well, see for yourself …

* Top photo – Tami Hoag about to experience a thrilling ride with instructor Colleen Belongea.

 

It’s no secret and no doubt that the Writers’ Police Academy is the best in the business at doing what we do—providing top-notch workshops featuring realism that’s, well, so doggone realistic you’d think you were on the scenes of actual car crashes, homicides, shootouts, mass murder, bombings, and other events typically seen and experienced by only by first responders and other insiders.

The Writers’ Police Academy is all about YOU! Your needs are our first priority. We aren’t trying to sell you anything. We do not promote ourselves. In short, our goal is to serve writers by seeing to it that they receive the material and experiences needed to accurately portray the world of law enforcement, EMS, firefighting, and the court system.

Our reward for a year of planning and a weekend of thrills and heart-pounding excitement is, well, the joy we see on the faces of our WPA family members. Such as …

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To get to the smiles and laughter, though, came the extreme realism, the things we do to activate emotions and stimulate the senses, the same sensations experienced by those who go through these events as part of their daily routines.

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By the way, we sincerely apologize for our tiny and dimly lit classrooms!

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* Top photo by Terry Odell. Copy and paste the link below to read her recap of Day 1 at the WPA.

www.terryodell.com

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It’s official. The 2016 Writers’ Police Academy was a HUGE success and throughout the week I’ll be recapping the event. For now, though, until I have time to sort through the hundreds of photos and other details, let’s take a brief peek at the beginning of the fabulously  thrilling weekend experienced by writers who traveled from all over the world (nearly every state in the U.S., China, the UK, Germany, Holland, Canada, etc.) to attend.

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This is how we started the party!! And it was only the tip of an extremely heart-pounding weekend …

 

The Writers’ Police Academy is extremely pleased to announce that we’ve partnered with the renowned Homicide Training Seminar to offer a free registration to their absolutely fabulous and intensive “law enforcement only” 23rd annual conference titled “The Places of Murder.”

You would be the only writer/outsider in attendance. This is actual specialized police training!

This exciting and rare opportunity is available by sealed bid only and the bidding is open to everyone.

Here’s how it works.

Each year at the WPA banquet we feature a super fun raffle and silent auction, but many people who, for whatever reasons, haven’t been able to attend the event and they expressed disappointment because … One – they weren’t able to attend the thrilling WPA. Two – they weren’t able to participate in the raffle and auction.

So … we’re bringing a portion of the fun to you.

This year we’re making available for sealed bid, three fantastic items. They are:

Available for Sealed Bid

1. A Baby Taylor guitar signed by country music superstar Tim McGraw.

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2. Free registration to the absolutely fabulous and intensive “law enforcement only” 23rd annual Homicide Training Seminar – “The Places of Murder.” You would be the only writer/outsider in attendance. This is actual specialized police training!

A rare and unheard of opportunity!!

*Full registration, hotel reservation, and breakfasts and lunches are included in the prize. Travel not included.

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3. A FULL manuscript review and analysis by renowned literary agent Victoria Sanders. Not just a mere 10 or 20 pages. We’re talking a FULL manuscript analysis and review!! Victoria represents internationally and New York Times bestselling thriller writer, Karin Slaughter, who has been translated into thirty-five languages, the long-running New York Times bestselling author Denene Millner, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist/author Nick Chiles, the American Book Award winning journalist/author Jeff Chang, among many superb authors.

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Here’s how it works – Bids on these special items are open to WPA attendees & folks who aren’t able to join us this year. Non-attendees may send confidential bids to [email protected] and put either Manuscript Bid, Guitar Bid, or Homicide Seminar Bid as the subject heading.

Remember, these opportunities are extremely rare, so reach high and dig deep!!

At the posting of this message, bidding is officially OPEN! Good luck, and thanks for your support!

*Winners will be announced shortly after the conclusion of the August 13th WPA banquet.

2016 WPA attendees may submit their sealed bids at the Saturday night banquet.

Auction proceeds benefit writers by contributing to WPA expenses, academy tools and equipment, supplies, etc.

As always, we thank each of you for your support. And please, please, please share this information with everyone you know!!

 

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Many of you have sent questions regarding what to expect at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy. I hope the following addresses at least most of your concerns and will also alleviate any anxiety you may be experiencing at attending THE most exciting event (on this planet) for writers.

Here goes:

  1. Wear comfortable clothing (see top photo for one example of what NOT to wear). After all, it is nearly impossible to duck live ammunition, crawl under loops of barbed wire, and defend yourself against twelve knife-wielding attackers while wearing heels and a skintight sequined ball gown.
  2. Bring only the things you need to the academy grounds. It’s tough to kick in doors and fight fires with a mini-fridge, desktop computer, and your three small kids strapped around your midsection.
  3. Speaking of kids, there are no childcare options at the WPA. We only have room in the timeout corner for misbehaving adults (those of you who insist upon breaking our ABSOLUTELY NO VIDEO rule).
  4. Camping is not allowed at the academy. Why not? Because we need the open spaces for helicopter landings and for hiding explosives. Yeah, you might not want to stray away from the group. I’m just saying.
  5. Please bring a photo ID and keep it with you at all times while at the police academy. Police officers are used to arresting people who have several aliases, so it’s best for them to know upfront who you really are instead of thumbing through a list of pen names and “writing as” monikers. Book covers/dust jackets do not count as official ID.
  6. When participating in the emergency driving workshops, please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times. And no mooning your fellow recruits as your car passes by them while spinning wildly out of control.
  7. If you plan to drive to the academy, please remain inside your cars until the buses arrive and your fellow recruits begin to exit. There’s a very good reason for this rule and I think it has something to do with the armed tower guards who’re trained to pick off anyone moving around outside the academy.
  8. Thursday night orientation is where and when we provide details about the event—where to go, when to go there, what to expect when you arrive, receive your instructions regarding what to do and say if captured, and …
  9. The hotel bars and casino are well-stocked with alcohol, so pace yourselves. They will not run out of your favorite beverage. Keep in mind, too, that the next morning will indeed arrive and it will include lots of loud gunfire, sirens, and barking, snarling police dogs.
  10. We are currently seeking volunteers for the following:
  • someone to wear a Kevlar vest in the class that demonstrates how well those vests and trauma plates stand up to gunfire.
  • someone who’s willing to run away from a snarling police K-9 who’s hellbent on biting someone.
  • someone to be on the receiving end of multiple TASER deployments.

If we don’t get enough volunteers for these assignments we’ll simply pick people at random, without prior notice.

11. Those of you who’re scheduled to tour the prison. Good luck. We’ll see you back at the hotel … maybe.

12. Brings lots of smiles and be prepared to have the time of your lives. We’ve always presented a thrilling and action-packed event, but the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy is absolutely a heart-pounder. My goodness we’ve outdone ourselves, from a stunning hotel experience complete with an in-house casino and delicious meals, to an international police academy that trains elite law enforcement professionals from all over the world. We feature top experts and instructors, modern equipment, and the best attendees of any event anywhere!

You guys are indeed the best and you deserve first-class all the way, which is why we do what we do. The WPA is all about YOU!

*The WPA event hotel is completely sold out. However, we, along with the hotel staff, are working toward securing a nearby spillover/overflow hotel. We should have those details later today.

 

It’s Q&A time at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy. Here are a few housekeeping items you may want to remember.

  • Dress comfortably for the daily activities. Attendees typically wear jeans, shorts, BDU’s, t-shirts, loose fitting tops, and tennis shoes, for example. Sandals are not recommended. But please, no revealing clothing. This is, after all, a public safety training academy, not a nightclub.
  • Always be prepared for rain – umbrellas, ponchos, etc. Our outdoor activities take place rain or shine.
  • No video recordings of any type at any time in any location. No exceptions!
  • No weapons of any type are allowed on the college and/or police academy grounds. Weapons include firearms, edged weapons (knives, axes, swords, pepper spray, etc., and this includes pocketknives no matter how small the blade).
  • Lunches at the academy are included in your registration fee.
  • We provide transportation to all workshops and classes that are a part of the WPA program. You will not be permitted to drive personal cars to and from on-campus/academy sessions. Again, for safety reasons (live gunfire and fast-moving police vehicles) you must use the transportation we provide (buses and vans). You are, however, permitted to drive to the academy and then park in the designated parking lot. BUT, you must remain in your car until the buses arrive and we’ve given the all-clear to exit your vehicle. We have an important reason for this rule!
  • We will be providing campus maps to help you easily find your desired workshops. Volunteers and ample signage will also be positioned throughout the campus to help you with directions.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Remember, this is a working police, fire, and EMS academy where new and veteran officers and other first responders participate in live-action training. There will be gunshots and sirens.
  • Please ask before taking photos. We often feature instructors who are currently working undercover assignments and to have their images appear on social media could be very dangerous for them and their families.
  • Coffee and water will be available at the police academy. Vending machines are also available so please be sure to bring change.
  • It’s best that you attend the Thursday evening orientation session where we’ll go over numerous important details and schedule updates. You’ll also meet the key players and organizers who will be more than happy to answer your questions. Remember, our instructors are often active-duty law enforcement officials who may be called away to their various communities at the last minute. There is a special Thursday night session on drones, taught by a world-renowned expert. This is a workshop you’ll not want to miss.
  • The WPA is extremely fast-paced and exciting, and you’ll be moving about quite a bit. Think about that before you decide to bring along everything you own—desktop computer, 5-gallon water bottle, portable TV, kitchen sink, etc. What you bring with you to the academy grounds is what you’ll be lugging around all day.
  • You’ll be required to sign a liability waiver at registration. Basically, it releases us from harm due to the goofy things you might do should you decide to not follow our directions. This is nothing new. You’ve all signed them each year.
  • A book-signing featuring Tami Hoag, Lee Goldberg, John Gilstrap, David Corbett, Robin Burcell, Katherine Ramsland, Marco Conelli, Rick McMahan, Lee Lofland, and other WPA presenters will immediately follow the Saturday night banquet (I hope I didn’t forget anyone’s name). The campus bookstore will have their books available for purchase on both Friday and Saturday nights at the hotel. Please show your support for these authors!
  • Our extremely popular raffle/silent auction takes place Saturday night during the banquet festivities. So please bring cash…lots of it! Profits from the WPA raffle are used to secure the many supplies and material used during the event. If you’ve already sent something for the raffle or auction, well, thanks! If not, we’d appreciate anything you have to offer, from signed books to anything you think someone would love to own.
  • Please listen to your instructors. Pay attention to and carefully follow their directives and safety instructions. You are attending an actual police, fire, and EMS academy. Yes, there will be live ammunition and firearms. Yes, there will be fire (lots of it, actually,). Yes, there will be fast-moving police vehicles. Yes, those fast-moving police cars will, at times, be spinning out of control. Yes, there will be biting, barking, and snarling dogs. Yes, there will be BANGS, BOOMS, sirens, screams, and yes, there will be tons of squeals and laughter. Yes, you will have one of the most exciting times of your life. But PAY ATTENTION to your surroundings at all times.
  • Sure, you’re attending the WPA to better your craft. But please do let your hair down and have fun. This is an event you’ll remember for a long time to come.

Now, there have been recent questions regarding our cancellation and transfer policies. When you signed up at our website, the following is the first thing you saw, even before typing in the first letter. Remember? Please have a look at the lines stating – April 1, 2016 is the last day to cancel and receive a full refund (less $35 cancellation fee). Registrations can NOT be transferred to another individual. There will be NO refunds after 11:59 p.m., April 1, 2016. No exceptions.

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Anyway, I’d like to explain that particular policy and why it’s necessary. First, our cancellation policy is not really any different than other large writer events.

For example:

Bouchercon’s cancellation policy:

Bouchercon Registration Fee Refund Policy:

The cancellation fee is $25 on or before July 15, 2016.

From July 16 through August 15, 2016, the cancellation fee is $100.

After August 15, 2016, there is no refund.

Now, Sleuthfest

Cancellation policy: If you cancel no later than December 15, 2015, you will receive a full refund less any processing costs we may have incurred.

You will only be entitled to a 50% refund, less processing costs, for cancellations between December 16, 2015 and January 15, 2016. Due to the commitment we must make to the hotel, there are no refunds after January 15th.

The WPA cancellation policy, like the many other writer events, is in place because once we reach the cancellation date we lock in our many contracts and financial obligations – hotel, banquet, reception, academy and classroom spaces, equipment and supplies, buses, speaker fees and lodging and travel expenses, etc. At this point, our bills and obligations must be met and the funds we use to pay those obligations are the funds generated from registrations.

To add to the need for our cancel deadline is that we are not a typical writer event where attendees sit in hotel meeting rooms to listen to speakers, where event staff pays the hotel a fee for the use of a few rooms.

The WPA is a massive event. It takes place in various buildings, venues, facilities, and acres upon acres of grounds, etc. We employ top experts from across the country and our sessions include millions of dollars worth of equipment, including first responder and police specialty vehicles of all types, firearms, and training supplies. In addition to hotel meeting spaces we also rent an entire police academy and much of its administrative and training staff. We hire bus companies to transport everyone. And there are many, many more expenses not mentioned.

Once the cancellation deadline has passed we tally the number of people attending, the funds collected, and then, if necessary, add additional programing to suit the needs of the group. We absolutely do this for writers and we do what we do to provide the best of the best experience possible, and we do indeed deliver that one-of-a-kind and unbelievably exciting experience. Therefore, if we were to offer refunds at any time past that point we’d be losing money.

Believe me, we do the best we can but we simply cannot operate at a loss. I’m hoping you’ll now see/understand why we cannot offer refunds to anyone once the April 1st deadline has passed.

Now, the reasons we do not allow transfers of registration. Again, we’re not a typical writer event (I named just a few of the reasons above), and we are a staff of three people with two of the three being volunteers who help in their spare time. I’m the third.

As I’m sure you now see, there is a massive amount of work involved in producing the WPA, far more than taking names, making name tags, and assigning rooms to various sessions. Actually, we could use a couple of full-time employees, but we make do with what we have.

Linda Lovely and Howard Lewis, the two volunteers, put in a huge amount of time and energy to make sure the WPA runs smoothly, and they do so for free and always with smiles on their faces.

But we’re also faced with tough and strict rules and regulations from our host academies. We can’t spring last minute changes on a police facility where security concerns (background checks, etc.) take precedent over our wants and desires. We have to always be mindful that the WPA takes place at a working police academy, a place where the people who work and train there are often absolutely hated by many people who’d love the opportunity to slip inside through an event such as ours to do harm. I know most of the people who sign up, but the academy does not. (Keep in mind, please, that our event takes place at a facility that keeps on hand – live explosives and ammunition, firearms of all types, etc. An outsider with ill-intentions could do a lot of damage).

So, again, we’re not a typical hotel-based event where last minute changes are sometimes easily made. Even if we were allowed to make changes to some academy-type things, and we’re not, we’re a team of three with two who do most of the paperwork and organization of registrations, background checks, planning, etc. So to pile even more work on an already overtaxed group of two who work for free is not something I’d be willing to do. I wholeheartedly need Howard and Linda again in the coming years. 🙂

Regarding transferring a registration from one year to another – As far as next year … the money we take in covers current year expenses. Plain and simple. There is nothing to carry over. Your 2016 registration fees are applied to 2016 expenses. If we see there’s a bit more income than we expected we add more workshops, and we do so to further enhance the experience. So no, we do not permit the carrying over of a registration from one year to another.

Also, even if we had the man/womanpower to help with juggling registration transfers from one year to the next, and we don’t, and even if we had plenty of cash in reserve, we wouldn’t/couldn’t allow year-to-year transfers of registrations because we operate on a year-to-year contract with the academies. They can’t commit to us that far in advance. Likewise, we can’t commit to them that far in advance. We keep the registration fees at just enough to cover the cost of the event, so we don’t know from one year to the next what that fee will be until we’ve negotiated with the various vendors, speakers, the academy, hotel, etc.

The Writers’ Police Academy is a huge event with tons of moving parts. We’re not some fly-by-night wannabe outfit operating from deep inside a mosquito- and Palmetto bug-infested swamp. We’re the real deal. First class all the way, from luxurious sleeping rooms, exquisite food, an onsite casino, top instructors from all across the country, an international training facility, top equipment, and much, much more.

We do what we do for you. Always have, and always will!

 

 

Ray Minor is the sales director for ATS Armor, a premier company whose mission is to defend life through the design, manufacturing, and application of the most advanced body armor in the world. In short, they’re in the business of saving lives.

As an expert on Force on Force instruction and on body armor, Ray’s workshop is about ballistic vests and shock plates, as well as shooting a variety of rounds at them to give WPA recruits a first-hand, hands-on experience of live rounds striking an officer’s vest. Ray will also be discussing terminal ballistics and the materials involved. We are extremely grateful that Ray is joining us for the most exciting Writers’ Police Academy we’re ever produced. And when I say exciting, well, be prepared to be BLOWN AWAY!! Well, perhaps that’s a poor choice of words since we do have several live-fire sessions going on throughout the weekend.

Still … you can indeed expect to experience the world of law enforcement at its best and its worst. We’ve added some heart-pounding sessions to the schedule that you’ll not find anywhere else in the world. Yes, writers, we’re taking you even deeper into a cop’s world, to places civilians do not see.

We have helicopters, guns, police cars, K-9’s, handcuffing, explosives, PI’s, TASER training, bloodstain pattern investigations, fire and FIREFIGHTERS, homicide investigation, courtroom testimony, and much, much more.

And thanks to instructors like Ray Minor, you are about to embark on the experience of a lifetime. It is THE writer event of the year!

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Ray with the TASER/Mossberg X12 which shoots the TASER XREP- eXtended Range Electronic Projectile. 

By the way, we now have a couple of spots available, so hurry to sign up before they, too, are gone.

Finally, tonight is the deadline for the Golden Donut Short Story Contest. HURRY! The grand prize is a free registration to the 2017 WPA and the coveted Golden Donut Award.

 

Is it the captain’s quarters on a ghost ship? Did zombies take over a university causing all students to flee? Perhaps it’s the bomb shelter where an author, the lone survivor of a world war, chronicled civilization’s final moments. Could it be the hideout for a band of serial-killing writers?

Yes, use your imaginations to write a KILLER story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words and you could win a FREE registration to the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy, along with the Golden Donut Award!

Superstar author Tami Hoag is our contest judge!

Hurry, the contest deadline is July 1st. That’s only 10 words per day to win a spot at THE most exciting, action-packed, and fun event for writers anywhere on the planet!

The Golden Donut contest is open to everyone of all genres and you do not have to be present at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy to win.

 Click the link below to enter and for contest details and submission requirements!

Click here > >>  2016 Golden Donut Short Story Contest

The contest winner receives the prestigious Golden Donut Award AND and free registration to the 2017 WPA!

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Vinnie Hansen, the winner of the 2015 Golden Donut contest, will be attending the 2016 WPA, for free, as a result of her first-place entry!

 

 

A homicide case is a puzzle, and it’s the job of the investigator to put the pieces together until they see a picture emerge. They may not always complete an entire image, but there should be enough there to clearly know that a crime was indeed committed and that the face that emerged from the puzzle is definitely that of the suspect.

Here are some of the major points/puzzle pieces to consider when investigating a murder.

1. When conducting a homicide investigation always take time to look at the case from the point of view of the defense attorney. What holes are in the case? What does your case lack? What’s missing? What areas could a defense attorney attack? Find those things and then locate the evidence needed to fill the void. It’s out there. If not, know the reason(s) why it’s not. Besides, the things you discover while approaching the case from this angle will almost always help build a better and stronger case.

2. Direct Evidence and Circumstantial Evidence.

A woman is standing at the counter of a dry cleaning store waiting for the clerk to come from the back room. She’s startled by a loud bang. The door to the room opens and a bald man holding a gun in hand runs out and then continues running outside through the open front door. The woman goes into the back room and sees the clerk lying on the floor. He’s dead from what appears to be a gunshot wound to the head. There is no other entrance or exit from the room. She calls the police.

Direct Evidence is something actually observed by the witness, or clear evidence of fact. In the case above the direct evidence is:

a) The sound of the gunshot. The customer actually heard the sound.

b) The customer saw a bald man emerge from the room and he was holding a gun in his hand.

c) The clerk is lying on the floor with what appears to be a gunshot wound to his head. Blood, or what appears to be blood, is on the floor around the head of the victim.

*Officers may not testify that the reddish-brownish liquid substance on the carpet was blood because at the time the material had not been tested and identified by laboratory experts. They may only testify to what they actually know, not what they think.

Circumstantial Evidence relates to fact or a series of facts that infers, but does not implicitly prove, another fact. In the case above we can infer, circumstantially, that the bald man who ran out of the room was indeed the killer because no one else was there, and there was no way anyone could have escaped other than by exiting the front door.

Now let’s revisit the case of the Washed Up Dry Cleaner, but from the defense attorney’s point of view. We, as investigators, know this – The clerk was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. A customer saw a bald man holding a gun run out of the back and then escape out into the street.

The defense attorney is already thinking this – It’s possible the clerk had tried to kill the bald man who managed to grab the gun, which accidentally discharged. Or, the bald man, fearing for his life, ran while still clutching the pistol. Suppose the bald man had witnessed the clerk shoot himself as an attempted suicide, so he grabbed the gun and ran to get help, or to find a police officer?

These are puzzle pieces that must be located in order to prove those theories wrong and that the bald man indeed killed the clerk, or not.

3. Proving Fact. 

We have the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, so how to we prove the bald man killed the clerk, or that he did not commit the crime? Let’s start by proving the defense theories wrong. Suicide? We’ll check for close contact powder burns and/or stippling, and gunshot residue on the hands of the victim. None there, so suicide is most likely not an option. The same is true for a struggle over the weapon (the self defense claim). No signs of a struggle—defensive wounds, items in the room overturned. Again, no close contact powder burns and/or stippling.

It’s safe to conclude the shooting took place from a distance, not at close range. No suicide and no accidental discharge during a struggle.

By proving the potential defense theories wrong, we’ve now bolstered our murder case against the bald man. Had we found evidence of a close contact shot and gunshot residue on the hands of the victim, we’d have considered suicide as a strong possibility.

4. MOM – Motive, Opportunity, and Means.

Now that we’ve definitely set our sights on Bald Man as our killer it’s time to dig deep into the box to begin pulling out the puzzle pieces featuring specific details. So let’s refer to our rule of thumb checklist.

M = Motive. At this point, we don’t know the motive so we have to begin digging into personal history (gambling debt, robbery, infidelity, etc.). For now, this line is blank.

O = Opportunity. Check. We know that Bald Man was there at the scene of the crime.

M = Means. Check. Bald Man definitely had a gun.

In the large, overall picture, the only puzzle piece we’re missing is MOTIVE. But when this puzzle piece is found and then added to Opportunity and Means, well,  we’ll almost certainly know the name of the killer, or at least a few names we can investigate.

In addition to MOM, there are a few other considerations on our handy checklist, such as:

Intent – did Bald Man intend to kill the clerk? Ties to motive.

Plan – did Bald Man plan to kill the clerk? Was this a premeditated act? If so, why? Ties to motive.

Preparation – did Bald Man take steps to carry out his plan? Did he stockpile ammunition. Try to hire someone to commit the murder for him? Get his affairs in order in case he’s caught and goes to jail.

5. First Responders.

It’s important to alert, train, and beg first responders—patrol officers, EMS, fire, etc. to not muddy up the crime scene by moving, tainting, disrupting, contaminating, or handling evidence.

6. The Crime Scene.

The back room of the dry cleaners is where the shooting took place, therefore it is the primary crime scene, or scene of the crime.

Suppose Bald Man hides the pistol in a dumpster down the street and it’s found by garbage collectors who alert police to their discovery. The dumpster is then a secondary crime scene, or simply a crime scene. Anyplace where evidence of a crime is found is considered to be a crime scene or secondary crime scene. Investigators should label each of those locations appropriately and orderly (Secondary Crime Scene A – dumpster at corner of Main and Killer, Secondary Crime Scene B – top dresser drawer in master bedroom of Bald Man’s residence at 666 Manson Lane, etc.).

7. Sometimes it’s best to work a case in reverse by ruling out potential suspects who couldn’t have committed the crime. Then, when all is said and done, the last man standing, so to speak, is the killer.

So there you have it, a few of the basic steps to solving a murder puzzle.

Finally, click the link for a detailed list of Homicide Investigation Do’s and Don’t’s. 

~

*The top photo was taken at the Writers’ Police Academy workshop on EMS response and treatment of patients suffering gunshot wounds. The “victim” survived her wounds and had a bite to eat between sessions.

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Killers often hide the bodies of their victims in dense, wooded areas. To further conceal the remains, they often cover them with brush, leaves, dirt, and other handy material and debris. They use leafy tree branches to erase their footsteps and tire tracks. They drive stolen cars with stolen license plates attached to mask their identities while delivering the bodies of their victims to their hidden grave sites. And, of course, they sometimes wear masks while committing their crimes.

However, no matter how well-hidden those bodies may be, they’re often discovered by hunters, hikers, and even kids playing in the woods. A quick phone call to the police brings out the detectives, the medical examiner, and a gaggle of crime scene investigators. Soon the names of suspects begin to float among the officials and, as a result of intensive clue-gathering, the list is narrowed down and the key players are questioned.

Sometimes, investigators have a difficult time connecting a suspect to the place where the victim’s body was discovered, which, of course, is the final piece to the puzzle. The piece that nails the door shut for a conviction.

Here’s where “Detective Pine Tree” enters the picture.

Obviously a pine tree cannot become an actual police detective. For starters, they have no hands for holding donuts and coffee cups. Nor will their size allow them inside a Denny’s restaurant for a half-price meal of Moons Over My Hammy.

So here’s how it works.

1. Suspect kills someone and takes the body out to a wooded area to hide it.

2. He digs a shallow grave, covers it with soil, branches, and leaves.

3. The killer covers all traces of having been there—brush away tracks, etc.

4. He goes home, changes clothes, and returns to his job as a meat cutter at the local Piggly Wiggly.

5. Police investigators are called to the scene after the body was discovered by a group of tie-dyed-shirt-wearing mushroom hunters. Two members of the group, a Mr. Cheech and a Mr. Chong, drove directly to the police station to report their discovery. Before heading to the PD the pair instructed their friend Tim Leary to stand guard and to not eat any mushrooms within a 20-foot radius of the body.

6. Investigators arrived and went about the usual business of evidence collection. One detective, however, noticed two pine trees in the immediate area. Aha, she thought, and set about the task of collecting pine pollen (the yellow dusty stuff found in the male cones, aka catkins). The savvy detective sent the pollen samples to the lab for DNA testing.

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7. As the investigation progressed, detectives narrowed their suspect list down to one individual, a meat cutter who worked at the local Piggly Wiggly. They were able to obtain a search warrant for his home where they collected various items of potentially-related evidence, including a few articles of dirty clothing.

8. Our super-sharp detective sent the clothing to the lab for DNA testing. One particular item, a cotton shirt, was of particular interest.

9. A few days later the detective’s hunch was proven to be correct. Pine pollen was found on the cotton shirt and its DNA was a perfect match to the pollen collected from the pine tree at the spot where the victim’s body was discovered.

10. Case solved.

Yes, researchers have indeed developed a testing procedure that makes it possible to use pine pollen to place bad guys at a particular location, such as the one in a fictional tale above. Pine pollen, according to Dr. David Gangitano, one of the researchers and author of the study report, remains testable, comparable, and stable on cotton clothing for up to 14 days. Therefore, it is indeed possible to link a suspect’s clothing to a particular geographical area, such as a clandestine burial site near a particular pine tree.

In a similar study conducted by the same researchers, pollen from marijuana can be tested (DNA) to match samples that could link across several cases. In other words, the test could prove that I.M. High’s bag of pot came from the plants grown by Mr. Carter Cartel in the mountains of western Mexico.

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* Regarding the evil pair of villains pictured in the top photo. Well, that’s Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame and Marcia Clark (yes, that Marcia Clark) at the Writers’ Police Academy. They did not kill the poor non-human victim, nor did they bury the faux body. And they’re certainly not evil. They did, however, have  fantastic time at the WPA while learning about shallow graves and other extremely detailed and exciting hands-on workshops.

Now, here’s some wonderful news. You, too, can have a fantastic time at the 2016 Writers’ Police Academy because we have squeezed out a bit more room. Therefore, registration is open so hurry and grab the few remaining spots before they’re gone!