Tag Archive for: CSI

“Hey, Sarge,” said Officer Trevor “Curly” Barnes. “Would you do me a favor and see if you can get a clear set of prints from this guy? I’ve tried three times and all I get are smudges. I must be out of practice, or something.”

“You rookies are all alike,” said Sergeant Imin Charge. “Always wantin’ somebody to do the dirty work for you.”


Sgt. Charge dropped his fat, leaky ballpoint pen on a mound of open file folders. “But nothing,” he said. “All you “boots” want to do is bust up fights and harass the whores.”

The portly “three-striper” pushed his lopsided rolling chair away from his desk and placed a bear-paw-size hand on each knee. Then with a push and a grunt, he stood. The sounds of bone-on-bone poppings and cracklings coming from his arthritic knees were louder than the Buck Owens song—I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail-–that spewed from the portable radio on his desk.

“Well,” said the sergeant. “Paperwork and processing evidence, including fingerprinting people, comes with the job too. You might as well get it in your head right now that police work is not all about flashy blue lights, driving fast cars, and chasing after badge bunnies.

“I’m serious, Sarge. I can’t get a good print. I think the guy’s messing with me, or something.”

Charge sighed and rolled his deep-set piggy eyes. Everyone in he department knew the eye roll as Charge’s trademark “I don’t want to, but will” expression.

“All right,” said Charge. “Go finish up the paperwork and I’ll take care of the prints and mugshot. But hurry up and get your ass back down to booking. I get off in thirty minutes and I’ve got plans. There’s a documentary on tonight about how they made the Smoky and the Bandit movies, and I don’t aim to miss it.”

“That’s right, it’s Thursday night, huh?” said Officer Barnes. “What was it last week, The Best of Swamp People?”

“Real funny, you are. No, it was the last part of that series about those beavers that suddenly showed up over in England after being extinct for over 400 years. It was real interesting, it was. Me and Betty Lou never miss those specials. You should check it out. Never hurts to learn something new. Yep, every Thursday nights at 8:00, a pan of peanut butter fudge, and our behinds planted on the sofa. You can set your watch by it. Now, get to working on those reports if you ever want to see day shift again, and you’d better be back here in fifteen minutes to take this slimeball off my hands.”

The sergeant reached over and grabbed the suspect’s right hand, pulling it toward the ten-print card. “Relax, fella’, and let me do the work,” he said while pressing the pad of the man’s index finger onto the ink pad and then rolling it from left to right in the appropriate box on the card.

Twenty minutes later, Sergeant Charge was on the phone with Captain Gruffntuff, the shift commander. “That’s right, Captain. The guy doesn’t have any prints. Not a single ridge or whorl. Nothing.”

A pause while Charge listened. Officer Barnes, back from completing the incident report, leaned toward his boss, trying to hear the other side of the conversation. The sergeant waved him away as if swatting away an annoying fly or mosquito. “No, sir. Not even as much as a pimple.”

Another pause.

“Nope, not on either finger.” Charge leaned back in his chair. “All as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Beats everything I’ve ever seen.”

“Yes, sir. I checked his toes, too. Nothing there either. Slick as a freshly buffed hospital floor.”

Sergeant Charge opened a pouch of Redman and dug out a golfball-size hunk of shredded black tobacco leaves.

“Nope. He’s not from around here. Says he’s from Sweden. Says his whole family’s like that. Not a one of them has any prints. Says it’s a condition called adermatoglyphia. I had him spell it for me.”

Charge shoved the “chew” inside of his mouth, maneuvering it with his tongue until it came to rest between his teeth and cheek.

“Looks like a hamster with a mouth full of sunflower seeds,” Barnes mumbled to himself.

“Yes, sir. Beats everything I’ve ever seen,” Sergeant Charge said into the phone’s mouthpiece. “Will do, sir.

A beat passed, then he said, “Yes, sir. I’ll stay to see it through.”

Another beat.

“Right, sir.”

Sergeant Charge placed the phone receiver back in its cradle without saying goodbye. His typical pinkish cheeks were the color of a shiny new fire truck. He sat silent for a second, thinking.

“Won’t be watching the television tonight, I guess,” he said.

The man from Switzerland, the prisoner, sighed, knowing it was going to be a long night. He’d been through this many times.

“Better call the little woman,” said Sergeant Imin Charge as he reached for the phone to give her the bad news. “And she ain’t going to be happy. No, sir. I’d bet a dollar to a doughnut that she’s already made a dozen or so of those little meatball sandwiches that I like so much. Probably has an ice cold can of Blue Ribbon waiting for me too. And the fudge, well, it’ll have to wait.”

After a few “Sorry, dears,” Charge returned the receiver back to its resting spot and then turned to the prisoner who sat handcuffed to a wooden bench with the back of his head against the mint green wall. Another grease stain added to the collection, thought Charge.

“Okay,” he said to the man who’d been arrested for breaking into home of an Hazel Lucas, an elderly woman who’d whacked the intruder with a rolling pin as he climbed through a kitchen window. “Lemme see those fingers, again.”

The burglar held up his hands and said to the sergeant, “Good luck.”

Photo Credit: Nousbeck et al., The American Journal of Human Genetics (2011)

Adermatoglyphia, or “immigration delay disease” as it’s also known, is an extremely rare and unique condition found in members of only four Swiss families. What’s so unique about the condition? For starters, people with adermatoglyphia produce far less hand sweat than the average person. But, perhaps the most startling characteristic is that people with adermatoglyphia do not have fingerprints.

In one instance, a female member of one of the affected families traveled to the U.S. but was delayed by border agents because they couldn’t confirm her identity. Why? No prints to compare.

The cause of adermatoglyphia has, until recently, been a mystery. Now, however, scientists have learned that the affected members of the Swiss families all had a mutation in the gene called Smarcad1. And this mutation is in a version of the gene that is only expressed in skin.

So yes, for that added twist to your tales, there are people who do not have fingerprints.

By the way, no one knows how or why that family of beavers mysteriously showed up in the the Otter River in Devon, southwest England. They’re doing well, though, and they are the only beavers in England after being hunted to extinction 400 years ago.

The name of the river where they live is a bit ironic since no otters live there.

See, like Sergeant Charge and his wife Betty Lou, some of you learned something new.


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Writing a realistic murder scene can and should be a bit difficult for most authors since they haven’t killed anyone, I hope. So, if realism is the goal, as it should be at times, then research is of the utmost importance.

I’m not in any way suggesting that a book should feature the bloodiest murder scene ever written. Instead, I’m merely pointing out things that can and are sometimes a factor in actual cases. So pick what you like and toss the rest. Just please remember that whatever you add to a scene must contribute to the story’s forward motion. If it doesn’t do that, well, the unused bits of information must go back inside your brain for storage until time to write the next book.

To help achieve the desired results, here are a few pointers for making a murder scene ring true. Warning, some of this is not for those of you with a weak of stomach.

Believe me, this is a convoluted post.

Dead People Have a Story to Tell

Relying on the advice of people with experience is a good thing, and this includes research for all areas of cop and forensics information. The best material comes from people who’re in the field. The same is also true for other areas of expertise. For example, should I need information about colonoscopies I turn to medical professionals not police officers. Although, cops do to tend to deal with more than their fair share of “a**holes.”

A dead body is, simply and sadly put, a piece of evidence found at crime scenes. But the body is different than other evidentiary items in that it has a unique story to tell that’s full of intricate details waiting to be discovered.

Solving a homicide case, as I’ve said many times, is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle contained in a box without a picture of the final product on its cover. Inside the plainly-wrapped box are irregularly-shaped pieces, the clues and evidence needed to piece together the identity—the face—of the killer. All the parts are there, scattered about, and it’s a detective’s skills, thought processes, creativity, and experience that brings them all together.

Using Music to Solve a Murder

As a musician who enjoyed music theory classes, studying about how music is made, I sometimes approached evidence in a murder case much like a composer uses chords to enrich and deepen a piece of music.

A chord is two or more notes played simultaneously. Chords are often designed to be played in harmony (a pleasing arrangement of simultaneously played notes). Discord occurs when one or more notes played don’t fit. They’re out of place and their combined sounds are harsh and unpleasant.

When determining which items were essential parts of a case (true and necessary evidence, the chord), I first searched for the note(s) that were out of place—the discord—the pieces that didn’t fit the chord/puzzle. Those out of tune/disharmonious bits and pieces and non-clues were set aside, leaving only the things needed to advance the case. It’a a way to pave the way and avoid the waste of precious time examining things of little or no evidentiary value.

For example, here’s how a C chord looks on paper.

Music scale

As seen in the image below, the C scale starts at C and then progresses through D, E, F, G, A, B, and finally to C at an octave higher than the initial C note.

To make a C major chord the musician simultaneously plays the first, the third, and the fifth note of the scale. In the scale above, the first, third, and fifth note of the C scale are C, E, and G. The result is a chord, a harmonious and pleasing sound to the ear. The remaining notes, if played at the same time, would result in discord, or an unpleasant sound. Although, like bits of evidence that don’t seem to have a role in the beginning stages of a case, it’s possible those off-standard notes (evidence) could play a role down the road.

C major chord

Guitar strings are tuned to individual notes

FYI – The strings on a guitar are tuned to individual notes – first string (the skinniest string that’s located at the bottom) is tuned to an E. The next on the way up toward the largest string is the B string, or second string. The third string is tuned to G. The fourth to D. The fifth to A. And the fattest and heaviest sixth string is also tuned to E.

Playing a C Major Chord on Guitar

Finger positioning for a C major chord.

To play a C major chord on the guitar, use your first finger, the index finger, to press the the second string in the first fret. The second finger (the middle finger) presses the 4th string in the second fret. And the third finger (ring finger) presses the fifth string in the third fret. Strings one and three remain open (not pressed) and are strummed/played along with strings 2, 4, and 5. The sixth string in not played/strummed.

The same is true when searching for items of evidentiary value—the Ds, Fs, and As were placed in the “later” file, were the b-flats as a maybe. As the saying goes, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Eliminate unnecessary items, but always keep them in mind in case they may somehow fit into the puzzle at a later time. There’s music theory for this scenario, the added B-flat note, but we’ll “tune” it out for now.

My life experiences differ from that of many writers. I’ve seen dead bodies mangled and torn apart by impact with fast-moving moving trains and automobiles. I’ve witnessed gruesome crimes scenes, places where reddish-brown coagulating and crusty blood and splotches of gray brain matter spattered living room walls like macabre floor-to-ceiling  abstract artwork.

Some murder scenes are messy. Others are not. Your tales are fictional so you can pick the type of scene that best suits your style and your audience. Gore is not for everyone.

However …

Slip and Slide

When blood and avulsed flesh and bits of brain and entrails first make contact with polished marble, tile, and even hardwood, those surfaces immediately become slimy and slippery like freshly waxed and still-wet floors. As a result, a killer could experience difficulty walking in a normal manner. Their footprints will reflect those awkward steps by the smearing and streaking left behind in the body fluids and other matter.

Bloody drag marks through rapidly coagulating blood are evidence a killer removed a heavy object by pulling it along the floor. The further from the kill site the thinner the trail becomes until it disappears entirely.

Swipes (Wipes)Caused by a bloody object being wiped across another surface (these stains are the reason from changing the name from bloodspatter to bloodstain).

When striking surfaces at an angle, blood spatter points to the position of both the victim and the murder weapon when the act was committed. Each droplet is practically a flashing neon sigh that says, “OVER THERE!”

Directionality – indicates the direction blood was moving at the time it struck a surface. The shape of the drops are good indicators of direction of travel.

Suicides can be extremely gruesome

I’ve seen suicide victims whose lives ended by shotgun blasts that absolutely disintegrated large portions of their faces and skulls. An eye here or there. Teeth over there. A chunk of bone and hair clinging and hanging to the ceiling by a wet and oozy and drippy stringlike spooze of slimy human something or other.

Suicide scenes are often eerie and depressing for cops. Writing about them could affect someone in the same manner. Use caution when doing so, especially if you’re drawing on real-life experiences about friends and/or loved ones.

Characteristics of a blood drop

  • blood drops are formed by gravity
  • blood drops cannot break apart unless contacted by an outside force
  • larger drops travel further than smaller drops (due to mass, not size)
  • blood drops always travel in an arcing path (impact injuries)
  • size ranges from a few millimeters to few centimeters
  • volume of a drop of blood is in direct proportion to whatever it’s dropping from (ax, stick, arm, leg, etc)

Crime scene investigators typically measure bloodstains that hit surfaces on the way up, not stains made by blood that’s on its way back down. Stains made when traveling upward are much more accurate for use as evidence because gravity is not as much of a factor in the pattern’s formation.

I’ve sat across a table or desk from murderers who told of the fear they experienced both before and after the slashing, cutting, stabbing, hacking, strangling, choking, chopping, bludgeoning, shooting, or beating they’d delivered to their victims. They told of a second of satisfaction they’d felt the moment their knife poked through the skin of their victim, feeling sort of like the popping-through of the clear covering of supermarket-packaged meats.

They explained the wait leading up to the time of the actual act. All the thoughts zipping through their minds. The anger and rage. The deep sadness. The overwhelming “knowing” they were about to kill another human.

Some told of a brief sense of relief after the deed was done. They explained that overall, for a brief split second, the feeling was that of relief, a heavy weight lifted from their shoulders and from deep inside their core.

Others spoke of tremendous remorse and grief, of self-pity and heartache. They worried about family, theirs and the victim’s.

Many were relieved that the killing was all said and done, something that was necessary.

A few simply didn’t care one way or another.

The thought of prison frightens many killers, especially those who’d ended someone’s life during “the heat of the moment,” with no forethought/premeditation.

A handful welcomed the idea of spending a few years in prison, no longer having to worry about the daily grind of day-to-day life and the responsibilities facing them on the outside. Many had served time in the past and knew the ins and outs. Life doesn’t mean much to those folks and it’s obvious. They’re callous and numb to emotion.

Unlike the uncaring murderer, your readers have emotions. It’s your job to stimulate those senses with images painted into the minds of your fans, using words generated from yours.

So make each and every letter count. It’s a responsibility that comes with the territory.

WPA and Graveyard Shift Merch

It’s that time of the year, when we all begin to think of holiday gift-giving. It’s also the time of year when planning for the annual Writers’ Police Academy is well underway and, in fact, is nearing completion for the all new and super exciting 2022 event. Therefore, while you’re in the shopping mood, please consider browsing the WPA’s Zazzle store, where you can find WPA merch as well as items featuring a few of the wacky characters from this blog. Proceeds go toward the funding of the Writers’ Police Academy.

As always, we appreciate your support!

Here’s a sample of the items for offer. And yes, the quirky drawings are my goofy creations.







For more items, please visit the Official WPA Merch page.

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 voids. If there’s evidence out there, find it. If it’s not, then know the reason(s) why it’s unavailable. If details are left open-ended, a good defense attorney will use untidy loose ends as a means to indicate their client’s innocence. “If the detective had simply gone one step further they’d have discovered that my client could not be guilty of the crime!” 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 female clerk lying on the floor. She’s dead from what appears to be a gunshot wound to the head. There is no other entrance or exit from the room. The customer 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 her head. Blood, or what appears to be blood, is on the floor around the head of the victim.

Above image is from the Writers’ Police Academy’s “Treating the Trauma Patient” workshop. It is a staged photo and no one was harmed. The smile on the “victim’s face, however, was very real. She enjoyed teaching writers.

*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 of angles to defend their client, such as … It’s possible the clerk had tried to kill the bald man who managed to grab the gun, which accidentally discharged during a struggle. Or, the bald man, fearing for his life, fled from the business while still clutching the pistol. Suppose the bald man had witnessed the clerk shoot herself as an attempted suicide, so he panicked, grabbed the gun, and ran to get help? Was there a romantic tie between the two that could’ve resulted in a “heat of the moment” act of violence?

These are puzzle pieces that must be located in order to prove the “maybe this, maybe that” 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.

Through our investigation, we’ve learned there was no connection between the victim and her killer. Security video shows no one else entered the store other than Bald Man and the witness.

By proving the potential defense theories wrong, we’ve now bolstered our murder case against the bald man.

4. MOM – Motive, Opportunity, and Means

Now that we’ve definitely set our sights on Bald Man as the probable killer, it’s time to dig deep into the box to begin pulling out the puzzle pieces featuring specific details. So let’s call on MOM to help.

M = Motive. At this point, we don’t know the motive so we have to begin a search of the suspect’s personal history (gambling debt, robbery, infidelity, etc.). Detectives will attempt to learn the motive as the investigation progresses.

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 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. Did he try to hire someone to commit the murder for him? Get his affairs in order in case he’s caught and goes to jail.

All of these details will be revealed during a thorough investigation.

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. 


In case you’re still concerned about the “victim” in the above photo, here she is again enjoying a bite to eat between classes at the Writers’ Police Academy.


The makeup used in these workshops is extremely realistic.

Some crime scenes, such as labs used for manufacturing methamphetamine, contain hazardous materials—flammable and toxic chemicals and fumes. When searching those dangerous crime scenes investigators must wear protective gear and clothing. The same precaution is followed when it’s time to destroy drug evidence, such as the found methamphetamine.


A detective wearing a hazmat suit gathers evidence from a meth lab.

Drug Evidence and Storage

Narcotics officers spend a great deal of time conducting surveillance in some of the worst places imaginable, and they do it while enduring some pretty rough conditions. After all, it’s not pleasant sitting in a patch of poison ivy during a rainstorm while watching a bad guy conducting his business. And, the narcotics officers never know if they’ll be discovered, which could lead to a violent confrontation, possibly even a shootout.

Once the surveillance is over, and officers have established the necessary probable cause for obtaining a search warrant, it’s time to locate and seize the evidence. Tactical teams rehearse for this moment over and over again.

Entry team serving a search warrant


Bale (or brick) of marijuana discovered during a search.


Twenty-five pounds of freshly harvested marijuana (more in bags and boxes off screen).


Yes, that’s me in the photo above, and yes, that was my messy desk. In my defense, it had been a long week of day and night surveillance that led to a very long day of writing and serving search warrants.

Part of the long day included searching a wooded area where I’d previously discovered a fairly large grow operation.

Again, that’s me in the photo above. The “plant” I’m standing behind was one of over 100 marijuana plants I found as a result of the surveillance and subsequent op. The plant above was a mere baby compared to the majority. The young ones were contained in plastic five gallon buckets. The larger plants were in the ground and had reached heights of 14 feet or more.

Remember, this was a while back when marijuana restrictions were much tougher. Still, an illegal operation of well over 100 plants would most likely be sternly frowned upon even today.

Property Room/Storing Drug Evidence


Above – A property room supervisor seen weighing a bag of marijuana.

No one has access to the evidence except the officers who work inside. If officers need a piece of evidence, they must sign for it, sort of like checking out a library book.


Scales for weighing narcotics evidence. The weight is recorded on the yellow evidence tag along with other pertinent case information.

Evidence waiting to be cataloged

In some police departments above securely packaging and labeling items, officers deposit the evidence into an evidence safe. Once the items have been placed into the opening on the top of the safe they cannot be removed except by the property room supervisor.

Safes, like the one pictured below, are used during the nighttime hours when the property room officers are off duty. Once the items have been placed into the opening on the top of the safe they cannot be removed except by the property room supervisor.


Evidence safe

Each morning property room officers remove the items, catalog them, and then place the evidence into the property room or warehouse, or other secure storage facility. Some large agency evidence rooms are huge, like mini versions of the warehouses that supply big retail outlets such as Amazon, Costco, Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes.

After a drug case has made its way though the courts the evidence is destroyed, often by incineration.


Device used for destroying (burning) narcotics

INCINER8 is an example of a portable narcotics incinerator.

It goes without saying that it would not be safe to bring a quantity of a controlled substance into a courtroom. Nor would it be possible, for example, for officer to attempt to bring 5 tons of cocaine they’d seized from a ship or a tractor trailer. Therefore, a laboratory analysis indicating the type of drug, its weight, and level of purity, along with photos/video of the drugs and packaging and how they were transported, are most often presented as evidence in lieu off the actual drug, etc. The laboratory scientist or tech who conducted the analysis is often called upon to testify about the testing and procedure used to certify their findings and conclusions.

As stated above, incineration is a common method used to destroy seized drugs. Large quantities of illegal drugs are often incinerated by private contractors who destroy the narcotics/drugs. The DEA, for example, destroys large quantities of seized marijuana at EPA-approved incinerators.

Before incinerators, back in the day, we hauled hundreds upon hundreds of marijuana plants, some as tall as 12-18 feet, to a landfill where a group of us narcotics agents set the massive piles ablaze after soaking them with kerosene. Then a bulldozer was used to bury the ashes among the other garbage and debris—food waste, trash, old furniture and appliances, etc.

Then, for some odd reason, after the burn was complete, we always had the urge to stop at a local 7-11 to pick up a few bags of Doritos and M&Ms, and maybe a bit of chocolate ice cream, doughnuts, Pringles, onion dip, and maybe a pickled pigs foot or two. I don’t know why …


Join renowned instructor Sergeant James Yowell in his fascinating MurderCon class called Narcan By Noon.

Class Description – Drugs and death are deeply intertwined. Recent trends in drugs have led to an epidemic of deaths due to overdose, and created a compelling way to conceal a crime. Not all drug deaths are self-induced, and even when they are, they may be related to extraordinary activities by the user. This session will explore drug trends and mortality of drug users, and how can they determine overdose versus foul play.

Sergeant James Yowell is a twenty year veteran of the Fayetteville, North Carolina, Police Department. He was a counter drug investigator for 17 years, and he served as a Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration for 9 years. As an undercover officer, Sergeant Yowell investigated international drug trafficking cases targeting Mexican organized crime, including street level drug “buys/sales” to a case agent.


There’s still time to attend MurderCon, a unique event featuring hands-on workshops that are typically for law enforcement eyes ONLY!












To view MurderCon classes and workshops click HERE.

To sign up to attend this unique event for writers, readers, fans, and anyone who’s interested in attending actual hands-on law enforcement training at a renowned facility,  click HERE. 

Think back to your first public speaking engagement, or to an important job interview. Perhaps even to the time when you were to meet the future in-laws. Oh, and that time when the lovely Cross-Eyed Mary murdered her husband. What a day that was.

She’d thought about doing “the deed” for weeks. Then came the Saturday when she bought the pistol from the shady guy selling ice cream in the park. A quick glance at the cheap drugstore watch on her wrist indicated it was either twenty-five, or six, to four (Hey, does anybody really know what time it is?). Anyway, she knew the time had come.

The decision to end the life of another human was a heartbreaker, of course, and thinking about it often left Ms. Mary dazed, and confused. Yet, despite the good times, bad times, and a whole lotta love, what is and what never should be, finally happened. It was down by the seaside, where she figured to “do it.” And do it she did, right there in the tiny beach cottage just off Penny Lane, the place Mr. Mary fondly called his little yellow submarine. The prime piece of real estate at the end of a long and winding road. He loved that place.

Yep, that’s where it happened.

It was a scorcher that evening, with the mercury bumping 97 on the old RC Cola thermometer hanging from a bent, rusty nail hammered into one the front porch posts. The a/c unit was out of service and the repair service wasn’t scheduled to arrive until the following week.

Cross-Eyed Mary – She signs no contract

But she always plays the game …

Cross-Eyed Mary, with her sweat-soaked “I Luv Paul” t-shirt clinging to her back and pudgy belly, climbed the steps and used her key to open the door. He didn’t expect to see her there. Nor did his teenage girlfriend, Eleanor Rigby, the best friend of the Mary’s eldest daughter Michelle.

Using the back of her left hand to quickly mop away the sweat from your forehead, brows, and eyes, Miss Mary used the right to push open the door. And, just as she stepped inside she heard the creep say to his young lover, “Hold me tight, baby, and please, please me.”

The bucktoothed girl with a spattering of tiny freckles across her cheeks and nose, replied, “Baby, we’re gonna twist and shout! Wait, why don’t we do it in the road!”

That’s the line that sent Cross-Eyed Mary over the edge, according to the prosecutor. But it was the one she spoke that convinced the jury to send her away for life, and she said it after taking the stand in her own defense. She leapt to her feet and stood straight as an arrow to boldly claim that, “True happiness is a warm gun.”

She’d thought she might sway the female jurors by crying and shouting coffin-nailers such as, “I’ve been cheated!” and “I saw her standing there with the devil in her heart,” and, “I told him, ‘You’re going to lose that girl!”

What most surprised Ms. Mary during the entire experience was the moment police detectives arrived to haul her to jail for the murder of her unfaithful husband and that disgusting “little child.”

How on earth did they find out? She was so careful. Wiped away all the prints. Vacuumed. Dusted. Swept away the tire tracks. Established an airtight alibi. Tossed the gun into the ocean. Picked up the brass and tossed it behind the pistol.

No one saw her on Penny Lane and there were no cars in either of the driveways on the intersecting street, Blue Jay Way. The ice cream vendor didn’t know her. Of that she was certain. So, what? How?

Well, let’s see …

First, what do we know about the crime scene that could implicate our murderer, Ms. Mary?

The temperature displayed on the RC Cola thermometer. Remember it?The thermometer hung from a post on the front porch at the murder scene and indicated it was an extremely hot day. To make matters worse, the a/c unit was inoperable meaning the inside temperature was even hotter, in more ways than one. Ms. Mary was sweating, profusely, as people do when it’s hot, and when they’re scared or anxious.

We know why people perspire when it’s hot (to help cool down our bodies), but why so when we’re under emotional stress?

Our skin has two main types of sweat glands—eccrine glands and apocrine glands. Eccrine glands occur over most of your body and they open directly onto the surface of the skin. Apocrine glands develop in areas around hair follicles in places where hair is typically most abundant, such as the armpits and groin. This is the “stinky” sweat.

Apocrine glands empty into the hair follicle just prior to release onto the skin surface. Apocrine glands are found in the armpits and genital area, and release secretions (sweat) when we’re under emotional stress.

When the temperature of our bodies rise, eccrine glands secrete fluid (sweat that’s composed of mostly water and salt). The salty fluid is released onto the surface of our skin.

Okay, with that said, let’s shorten this long story.

When we’re hot we sweat. When we’re nervous we sweat. When it’s hot in a house at the beach, on Penny Lane, and a very nervous and anxious Ms. Mary goes inside that super-hot home to kill her husband and his girlfriend, well, it’s certainly safe to say she was sweating … a lot.

When sweating profusely inside a crime scene, as with skin and muscle suffering from old age and over-eating, gravity is definitely not a friend. Not at all. It pulls that body fluid downward, away from its source. Sure, some that salty liquid is absorbed by clothing, and some evaporates (this is the part of the process that cools our skin), but some of the mixture drops or is cast away from the body, landing on whichever surface that happens to be in its path.

And, since our bodies contain approximately 650 sweat glands per square inch, we also leave a bit of perspiration on everything we touch. Everything.

Within those secretions are three components that are attractive to scientists who’re hoping to use sweat to solve crimes. Those three components are: Urea, Lactate, and Glutamate.

Urea – the breakdown product of protein metabolism in the body.

Lactate – a substance produced by cells when the body turns food into energy.

Glutamate – an amino acid found in the body. Used to make proteins.

Here’s the part where science meets law enforcement. The chances of any two people having the same amounts/levels of all three—urea, lactate, and glutamate—is fundamentally zilch. Zero.

Therefore, experts now believe that they can accurately pinpoint the number of suspects and/or others who were present at the location where a crime occurred.

This process cannot identify a specific person, though. But it does provide investigators with another tool for their toolbox. Knowing how many culprits to search for is a valuable bit of information.

Testing Our Sweat

Sweat testing is not new. In fact, it’s used in many areas, such as testing for and monitoring cystic fibrosis, monitoring nutritional deficiencies, elevated glucose levels, inflammation experienced by industrial workers, and even if our medications are working properly, or not.

A sweat chloride test is used to diagnose cystic fibrosis. The testing procedure stimulates sweat production and then measures the amount of chloride.

Cystic Fibrosis

Speaking of cystic fibrosis, here’s  something you may not know:

As a former biotech company director, Dr. Denene Lofland (my wonderful wife and one of your WPA instructors) managed successful clinical projects that resulted in regulatory filings of four compounds and FDA approval for two new antimicrobial drugs for the treatment of pneumonia and cystic fibrosis. She also supervised several projects, including government-sponsored research which required her to maintain a secret security clearance.

In other words, Denene and her team developed new drugs for the treatment of both cystic fibrosis and pneumonia. She then traveled to the FDA to present the drugs for approval. The FDA approved both and each are available for prescription by physicians. Denene managed clinical trial both in the U.S. and Australia. And that last one … it’s a secret. Yep, she’s the smart one. I just carry her books, do the shopping, and cook …


Okay, how many of you noticed the references to song titles and lyrics in today’s article? Hmmm … perhaps you should take a peek because the first person to correctly identify each reference wins a special Writers’ Police Academy collectible patch!

To enter, first comment here on the blog stating that you plan to enter, and then send the list of song references/titles/lyrics to lofland32@msn.com. And please type Cross-Eyed Mary in the subject line of your email. Hint. that was a clue to song title included within the blog post. Thanks, and good luck!

WPA patch pictured here with other patches, and roles of evidence and crime scene tape.


Police officers in large cities become highly specialized in their areas of expertise. Patrol officers there are often assigned to section of the city, a precinct, and they know that area like the back of their hand.  They’re on a first name basis with every drug dealer, hooker, and numbers runner. Detectives in those areas are normally assigned to a particular duty, such as homicide investigations, narcotics cases, and cyber crimes. There are full-time units in place to handle CSI, cold cases, SWAT, canines, bicycle patrol, and community policing, to name just a few.

However, in less-populated jurisdictions—mid-size to small—where manpower and funding are precious commodities, officers sometimes have to serve double, or even triple duty. They wear many hats.

Patrol officers everywhere are the front line defense against crime. They’re the men and women who answer the never-ending stream of calls, ranging from homicides to people who think aliens have just landed in their back yard.

In small agencies, though, a patrol officer may also be a member of the SWAT team. That officer would probably keep his/her SWAT gear in the trunk of their patrol car, ready to suit-up in a flash. They may also serve as a member of the high-risk entry team, or as a bike patrol officer, swapping a cruiser for a bicycle to finish out the remainder of their shift.

Some detectives also serve as members of scuba dive teams. Many do their own evidence collection and crime scene photography. There are no CSI units in many, many departments across the country. In fact, many departments don’t have detectives. Patrol officers in those departments investigate criminal cases from beginning to end. Needless to say, this stretches manpower to the breaking point.

In even smaller police departments, where there are three or four officers (maybe the chief is the only officer) duties may branch out further still. For example, a tiny town of a few hundred citizens may expect their officer(s) to read the town water meters as part of their regular patrol. Yes, I do know of a town where this system was and may still be in place.

Another town police chief has an office inside a country store. His “office” is actually nothing more than a metal desk positioned in the corner near the lottery ticket machine, and the town’s highest ranking law enforcement officer only has access to his work space during the store’s normal business hours. He is also required to handle the town’s animal control duties. Once each week, this town’s top and only cop swaps his patrol car for a pickup truck and utility trailer so that he can collect the garbage set out on the curbs by the town’s residents.

So if you’re ever worried that your story seems a little off where police procedures are concerned, well, fear not because the truth about law enforcement is much more farfetched. In fact, the only thing consistent about police work is its inconsistencies.

To Preserve and Collect

To Protect and Collect

The first hours of a murder investigation are crucial to solving the crime. I say this because  as time passes memories fade, evidence can become lost or destroyed, people have the opportunity to develop excuses, stories, and alibis, and the bad guys have the time to escape arrest.

Here’s a handy list to keep on hand that could help solve the cases investigated by the detectives in your stories. Keep in mind that time is of the utmost importance! So, in no real order, off we go …

Serving a search warrant. Knock, knock!

Investigators start the search at the scene and then extend the search area as needed.

Police Public Information Officers (PIO) are the direct line of communication between departments and the public.

It’s important to keep the bosses informed. They do not like to be blindsided with questions they can’t answer.

And then it’s time for …

*Remember, no list is all inclusive since no two crimes are exactly the same. And, no two detectives operate in the exact same manner.





AAFS – American Academy of Forensic Science

Abandonment:  Knowingly giving up one’s right to property without further intending to reclaim or gain possession. Abandoned property can be searched by police officers without a search warrant. Most states deem it illegal to abandon motor vehicles, and the owner may be summoned to civil court to answer charges, pay fines, or to receive notice of vehicle impoundment and disposal.

Abduction:  The criminal act of taking someone away by force, depriving that person of liberty or freedom. A person who has been kidnapped against their will has been abducted. This definition does not apply to a law-enforcement officer in the performance of his duties.

*FYI writers – Local police agencies can and do investigate kidnapping/abduction cases. I’ve worked and solved several. The FBI does NOT have to be called for abduction cases.

Abscond:  To covertly leave the jurisdiction of the court or hide to avoid prosecution or arrest. A suspect who “jumps bail” or hides from police, while knowing a warrant has been issued for her arrest, has absconded from justice. Film director/producer Roman Polanski absconded to France before he could be sentenced for having unlawful sex with a minor.

Adipocere – Waxy substance found on decomposing bodies (consisting of fatty tissue). Also known as grave wax.

Affidavit – Written statement of facts given under oath.

ALS (Alternate Light Source): Lighting equipment used to enhance/visualize potential evidence.

APIS – Automated Palmprint Identification System.

Armed Robbery:  Robbery is the act of taking, or seizing, someone’s property by using force, fear, or intimidation. Using a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, to carry out the same robbery constitutes an armed robbery. You have NOT been robbed when someone breaks into your home while you’re away and steals your TV.



Badge Bunny:  Nickname given by police officers to females who prefer to date only police officers and firemen. Many of these badge bunnies actively pursue recent police academy graduates to the point of actually stalking the officers. Some have even committed minor offenses and made false police complaints to be near the officers they desire. Many police academies mention badge bunnies near the end of the officer’s academy training to prepare them for the possible situation.

BDU – Battle dress uniform (often worn by crime scene investigators, SWAT, canine officers, and entry teams).

BioFoam – A substance used to make impressions.

Bond – Money or other security posted with the court to guarantee an appearance.



Case File: Collection of documents pertaining to a specific investigation. The case file specific to a particular homicide investigation is sometimes called the “murder book.”

Case Identifiers: Specific numbers or alphabetic characters assigned to a specific case for the purpose of identification. For example – Case #ABC-123 or #987ZYX

Chalk Outline – This is a myth. Police DO NOT outline the bodies of murder victims. Why not? Because doing so would contaminate the scene. Tracing around the body could also move vital evidence. Crime scenes are photographed, not color-in with fingerprints or pastels.

Chase: Empty space inside a wall, floor, or ceiling that’s used for plumbing, electrical, and/or HVAC ductwork. A chase is a common hiding spot for illegal contraband and/or evidence (murder weapons, narcotics, stolen items, etc.).

CI – Confidential informant.

CSM – Crime scene management.

Complaint – Statement given under oath where someone accuses another person of a crime. Officers may also refer to a call as a complaint. “Man, I caught two loud music complaints in one hour last night.”

Complainant – Person who accuses another. Or, someone who called the police. “Go to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. The complainant’s name is Herman Munster.”

Cook – Make crack cocaine or methamphetamine.



Dying Declaration: Statement about a crime made by a person who is about to die.



EDTA – Anticoagulating agent (tubes containing EDTA have purple tops).

Electrostatic Dust Lifter: Device that electrically charges a piece of plastic film that’s placed over a print made in dust (a shoe or palm print, for example), which in turn causes the dust to adhere to the film. The result is a perfectly captured print that’s ready for photographing.

Fire triangle – Three must-haves for a fire to burn—heat, fuel, and oxygen.



Floater – Body found in water.



Hit – Outstanding warrant, or stolen. “We got a hit on that car.”

Hook ’em Up – To handcuff a prrisoner.

Hot – Stolen.



IABPA – International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis.

Information – Paperwork (document) filed by a prosecutor that accuses someone of a crime.



Knock and announce – Requirement that officers knock on the door and announce their presence when serving a search warrant. “Police. Search warrant!”



Latent Print: Print that’s not readily visible to the human eye.



OIC – Officer in charge.



PC – Probable cause. “Do you have enough PC to get a warrant?”

Patent Print: A fingerprint that’s easily seen/visible with the naked eye, without the use of powders and/or chemical or other enhancements.

Plastic – Credit card.

Priors – Previous arrests.

PPE – Personal protective equipment.

Projectile Trajectory Analysis: The process used to determine the path traveled by a high-speed object (bullets, arrows, etc.).



Ride the chair – Die by electrocution.

Ride the needle – Die by lethal injection.

Roll up – Arrest someone.



Stripes – A sergeant’s patch or insignia.



Tache noire – Drying of the eye that results in a black line across the cornea.

T-Bone – Broadsided in an crash.

Trace Evidence: Small bits of evidence, such as fibers, hairs, glass fragments, gunshot residue, etc.



UC – Undercover officer.



V Pattern – Pattern formed by fire burning on or against a wall. Usually the fire’s point of origin is at the peak of the V.

Verbal – A warning. “I gave him a verbal, but next time his butt’s going to jail.”

VIN – Vehicle Identification number. (“Run the VIN on that car to see if you get a hit.”)

Visual – Able to see something or someone. “Have you got a visual?”



Walk – To get off a charge. Released without a record.

Write – Issue a summons.

“Did you write him?”

“Yep. 87 in a 55.”

Cast of Characters:

Detective N. Terrogator

CSI C. Lue

CSI Evie Dense

The Body, as himself

Bill and Betty Victim, the homeowners


Fade In:

  1. Crime Scene. Single-story ranch home.

Detective N. Terrogator sips coffee. Studies bloody footprints on walkway. Camera pans/follows the prints to the front door where a female officer stands holding a clipboard. She’s chewing gum. Interrogator reminds her to not spit it on the ground. He turns to CSIs Evie Dense and C. Lue.



I think this scene is perfect for you guys. It has the blood and guts you enjoy, Evie. And for you, C. Lue, there’s a wonderful cozy study overlooking the rear garden area, and it is loaded with various types of fingerprints and DNA.


  1. Terrogator opens the door and the three enter the house. No one inside, other than the star of the show, The Body.


  1. The Body is seated in a back room, in an arm chair. Obvious bullet wound to the forehead. Camera follows bloody tracks down a hallway and into the room with the body. It zooms closer.



Oh, wow!



I know, this place is perfect for entertaining. Move that wall and it’s an instant open concept. Much easier for evidence collection, too. And, we could then easily get the body outside through the front door, because the opening in the wall, that excuse for a doorway, is much too small to slip that porker through. He must weigh close to six-hundred pounds.


  1. Terrogator enters kitchen. Calls Dense and Lou to join him.



Dust everything in here. Bad guys often search kitchens, looking for weapons and, believe it or not, they sometimes have a snack while inside a victim’s home.


Clue turns to Dense

He acts like this is our first flip.



I was flipping crime scenes when he was still writing traffic tickets out on the bypass.


I know what you mean. He’s a real hotshot. Thinks his fingerprint powders don’t stain.


Let’s get busy. We’ve got more scenes waiting to be flipped.


  1. The two CSIs begin evidence collection, dusting for prints, swabbing for DNA, and taking photos … lots of photos.


  1. Terrogator questions witnesses.



Did you see the shiplap in the master? It’s to die for.


I know, and the rain shower head. O.M.G.


  1. Terrogator enters the room with the two CSIs



Looks like we’ve got trouble.


  1. Lou and Dense look worried.



The wall in the living room is load-bearing. I called in a structural engineer from the state police. I’m afraid it has to stay. We’ll have to move the body out the back door. We’ll get the camera crew and a couple of the demo guys to help.


  1. Tense music plays while Terrogator calls a construction team to enlarge the backdoor opening.


  1. Hammering, sawing, and lots of workers moving throughout. Dead body still seated in armchair. Workers pass by, tracking sawdust throughout the house. An electrician takes his lunch break beside The Body. Leaves DNA evidence EVERYWHERE.



Let’s wrap this up, folks. The homeowners are waiting outside. They say the stiff is a stranger so I want them to come in to be sure. But I want you guys to straighten up a bit. No need for them to see all the mess we’ve made. After all, this is the big reveal.


Ext: – Bill and Betty Victim pace nervously on the sidewalk. A large rolling sign prevents them from seeing the house.



I told you we should’ve left the dog here instead of boarding him.


Bill, that mutt is scared of his own tail.


Do I need to remind you that he once bit the mailman so hard he had to go to the ER?



He went to the ER because he tripped over an empty liquor bottle. A bottle you left there when you came home at one-o-freakin’-clock in the morning.


I wouldn’t have to stay out so late if you paid even the slightest bit of attention to me.



Just like you. Make this all about yourself. Well, smarty pants. While you’re out drinking, I’m “entertaining.”


I know, you slut. That’s why I slipped in last night and killed your lover.


Bill, I went out last night with my mother. We went to the movies and then stopped at Rudy’s Fried Pig Ear Palace for a late dinner. I don’t have a clue who was here, or for that matter, who you killed. Bill, you’ve murdered a common burglar, not my lover, Abs O. Steel. Oops, I’ve spilled the beans.



Why, you … you … I ought to divorce you. But, life goes on. Come on, honey. Let’s go see about the dead guy. Not a word to the detective, now. Okay?


Sure, Bill, but about that Mercedes I’ve been wanting …


  1. Terrogator emerges from the front door. Lue and Dense also come outside and stand beside him. Camera zooms in on their smiling faces.



Victims, are you ready to see your house!!


  1. The Victims jump up and down and giggle and ooh and ah and clap their hands wildly. They appear oddly goofy but the TV audience will love their phony and giddy scripted stupidity.


C. Lue and Dense pull the two sign sections apart to reveal the home. Terrogator opens the front door wide and uses a hand in a gesture meant to invite the couple inside.

Flip that Crime Scene!


We were hoping for an open concept once you were done, but I love how the furniture’s been moved and damaged. It’s like there’s no rhyme or reason as to where anything’s placed. The overturned pieces look great, too.


And the bloodstains on the walls. I absolutely love how they brighten up the place. Almost looks like a Piccasso painting. And the way someone emptied the contents of the drawers onto the floor. Such an eye for style. I’m impressed.



Oh, wow, Betty. Look at the kitchen. They’ve carried the bloody theme in there as well. And I simply adore the scattering of bone and brain on the ceiling and on the light fixture. Really ties it all together. Just … wow.


  1. Betty turns to Terrogator



What about the body? Can we keep him? He’s such a great focal point. I’m thinking of arranging the furniture around him, and maybe some accent lighting to showcase the forehead wound.


Betty, I’ll leave those details to you, the funeral director, the medical examiner, and The Body’s immediate family. Right now, the three of us must move on. There are more crime scene flips out there, and it’s up to us to do the flipping.


  1. The camera follows Terrogator, Lue, and Dense to their vehicles. Terrogator hitches up his pants and climbs into his unmarked car—the other two into a police department van. They drive off into the sunset. The slight sound of chatter from a police radio plays in the background.

15. Scenes from inside the house roll across the screen. The Victim couple stand arm and arm as they gaze longingly and lovingly at the dead body.



I love you, Betty


  1. Betty lays her head on Bill’s shoulder


I love you, too, Bill Victim.


Fade Out