Tag Archive for: Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Registration for the 2023 Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) is scheduled to open February 1, 2023, at noon EST. This, our 15th year of delivering hands-on training classes and sessions taught by leading law enforcement and forensics experts, scientists, and other industry professionals, is likely the most exciting event we’ve produced to date.

We’ve added a special focus on homicide investigations that includes classes taught by top homicide and crime scene investigators, a coroner who’s also a flight nurse and author, evidence experts, SWAT team members, narcotics experts, behavioral health professionals, use of force and tactical response experts, The Operational K9 Medical Team of Wisconsin, and much more!

Our cadre of academy instructors are current or former officers who are also certified law enforcement academy instructors. WPA instructors train both new and veteran law enforcement officers, and several are instructor-trainers who are state DOJ qualified to certify new instructors in various fields. So yes, Writers’ Police Academy attendees receive the same training taught to law enforcement, at the same law enforcement training academy they attend, using the same equipment, firearms, and vehicles used by law enforcement. The Writers’ Police Academy is indeed actual law enforcement training. It is exciting. It is unique. And it is FUN!

2023 Guest of Honor

In addition to the core classes offered at the WPA, we’re extremely pleased to announce that our 2023 guest of honor is the fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan. Hank is not only a wonderful and talented writer, she’s also an on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, winning 37 EMMYs for her ground-breaking reports.

2023 Special Guest Presenters

Each year, we feature high-profile special guest speakers who have special knowledge, experience, and background, and insight into crime, criminals, and crime-solving. These are experts who provide behind-the-scenes information that could help writers add detail that will activate the senses of their readers.

This year I’m thrilled to introduce our three special guest presenters—Photojournalist Mike De Sisti, Steven Spingola, homicide detective/TV personality (Cold Justice, a popular Oxygen Channel true crime program), and renowned serial killer expert Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

So, without further ado, please meet the Writers’ Police Academy’s outstanding 2023 lineup.

2023 Guest of Honor

Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of 14 psychological thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, five Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also the on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. Book critics call her “a master of suspense,” “a superb and gifted storyteller”; she’s the only author to have won the Agatha in four categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story and Best Non-Fiction. Her newest is HER PERFECT LIFE, a chilling psychological standalone about fame, family, and revenge. It received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, calling it “a superlative thriller.” B.A. Paris says, “Shocking, suspenseful… kept me guessing until the end.” and Julie Clark says, “You will read this in one sitting!” It is now nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. Her next is THE HOUSE GUEST, coming February 2023.  

Hank is a founder of MWA University, host of CRIME TIME on A Mighty Blaze, and co-host of First Chapter Fun and The Back Room. She is a past president of National Sisters in Crime.

Hank’s first novel, the bestselling PRIME TIME (which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel in 2007) is actually not her first encounter with publishing. That was in 1969, when she got a summer job as a proofreader, and read the entire Indiana Code of Laws out loud.

Hank began her TV career in 1975, anchoring and reporting the news for TV stations in Indianapolis and then Atlanta. She’s battled her way through hurricanes, floods and blizzards, wired herself with hidden cameras, chased down criminals and confronted corrupt politicians. With ground-breaking reports including revealing mistakes in the 911 system that sent emergency responders to the wrong addresses, a failing jury selection system, firefighters given outmoded and failing equipment, corruption in the mortgage industry and unfair practices by powerful contractors, her hard-hitting journalism has changed laws and changed lives. She has also covered national political conventions, the NBA playoffs and the Super Bowl, and has interviewed newsmakers from Prince Charles to President Carter to Muhammad Ali.

Hank grew up in the Indianapolis area and went to Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, where she majored in Shakespeare (and, she says, “minored” in “independent reading and listening to rock and roll records”). She also studied abroad at the International School in Hamburg, Germany.

Outside Channel 7, Hank has also been on the advisory board of the Lyric Stage of Boston, a professional theater company. There, Hank founded the Lyric’s “First Curtain” program, which provides the full theater experience for underprivileged students with free tickets and theater education scholarships.

Hank lives in the Boston area with her husband, a nationally renowned civil rights and criminal defense attorney.

Visit Hank at HankPhillippiRyan.com, Twitter @HankPRyan, Instagram @hankpryan and Facebook at HankPhillippiRyanAuthor.

Special Guest Presenters

Mike De Sisti has been a photojournalist with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel since 2008. He covers everything from breaking news, professional sporting events including the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks and Brewers to features, and business assignments. His work has allowed him to travel to China for a story on paper production, Prague for Harley Davidson’s (a Milwaukee based company) 115th anniversary celebration) and to the Super Bowl. He teaches a news photography class at Marquette University in Milwaukee.  

A native of the northwest suburb of Chicago, Crystal Lake, IL., De Sisti graduated in 1996 from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a fine art photography degree. His passion for photojournalism started in college while working at the school newspaper, the Daily Egyptian. He also worked at the Post-Crescent in Appleton, WI from 1998-2008. Besides photography, his other hobby is running. Mike has run 11 marathons since 2006.  

He’s married with two daughters, ages 10 and 13. 


The Story In Photos Of The Darrell Brooks Trial And Waukesha Parade Attack

When Darrell Brooks drove his red Ford Escape SUV through the Waukesha Christmas Parade on Nov. 21, 2021, killing 6 people and injuring dozens of others, it shook the city of 70,000 and the entire state of Wisconsin.  Less than a year after the attack, Brooks would be charged and prosecuted in a Waukesha County Court. The four-week long trial was replete with disruptions and delays from Brooks, who decided just days before the proceedings began that he would defend himself. 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photojournalist Mike De Sisti spent a majority of the time as the sole pool photographer in the court. He’ll show you in images what that process was like. De Sisti also responded to the scene of the parade attack the night of Nov. 21, and covered the aftermath the days following. 

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Dr. Ramsland consults on death investigations, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist.


Dr. Katherine Ramsland: The Candy Man’s Handyman … And Killer

Some youthful offenders have been lured onto criminal teams and carefully groomed to participate in murder. Their experience of killing is different from that of a primary predator, as is their post-murder response. For over a year, I’ve worked with Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr., one of the two accomplices to “Candy Man” Dean Corll, who killed at least 27 boys during the 1970s in Houston, Texas.

Henley reveals the mechanism of manipulation and describes where it went wrong as he resisted, then killed his murder mentor. Henley does not excuse his crimes, but he does wonder how he could ever have been involved. Through him, we learn how predators like Corll bait their potential partners and control their behavior.    

Known to his colleagues as “the sleuth with the proof,” Steven Spingola is an investigator for Cold Justice, a popular Oxygen Channel true crime program. During a 2014 episode in Vigo County, Indiana, Spingola and another investigator obtained a confession in a decades-old cold case. During an intense interrogation, suspect Clint Mackey broke down and stated, “I went back, grabbed the knife and killed her.

Steven Spingola is an investigator with a national reputation for excellence. He is a 2001 graduate of the FBI National Academy, and he holds two master’s degrees. Steven is a death investigation expert, a police-related shooting reconstruction specialist, and is formally trained as a criminal investigative analyst (profiling).

Prior to his retirement as a lieutenant of detectives with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), Spingola supervised all major categories of criminal investigations, including stints in the Homicide Unit, Vice Control Division, Sensitive Crimes Unit, and Violent Crimes Division. He further served as the lead investigator for the Critical Incident Unit, a group that probes police related shootings, use-of-force incidents, and other significant events. As a detective, Spingola spent several years conducting death investigations for a homicide unit with one of the highest clearance rates in the country. He was heavily involved in the high-profile case of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Steve has authored several books: Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes 1 & 2; Predators of the Parkway: A Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders,and Staggered Paths: Strange Deaths in the Badger State.


An Evening With Steven Spingola: The Spingola Files

A captivating session presented by author Steven Spingola, a nationally renowned death investigator who was heavily involved in the high-profile case of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Known to his colleagues as “the sleuth with the proof,” Spingola is an investigator and on-air personality for Cold Justice, a popular Oxygen Channel true crime program.

2023 Writers’ Police Academy Instructors and Classes

A Coroner’s Life

An often-unseen part of a homicide investigation, the coroner’s office investigates sudden, unnatural, and unexplained deaths. This course takes you from the scene of the crime to the autopsy table!


Jon HaganCoroner, RN, Flight Nurse, Author

Cold Cases. What Are They And How Are They Investigated?

Looking to add cold case investigations to your mystery writing canon? Join Bruce Robert Coffin, Retired Detective Sergeant and award-winning mystery author as he discusses cold case murder investigation police procedures, and more. You’ll learn the who, what, why, when, where, and how of cold case investigations and how to apply that knowledge to your writing.


Bruce Robert CoffinRetired Detective Sergeant and Award-Winning Mystery Author

Crime Scene Investigation

Investigating a crime scene, whether it is a burglary or a homicide, is a process that involves a wide range of skills and knowledge. Sure, it’s a bit easier to solve a crime when the found evidence is a warehouse filled with stolen goods, but when the clues are as small as a single fiber or human hair, speck of glass, a partial fingerprint, or DNA collected from shed skin cells, well, the situation becomes far more complex. After all, evidence collected today could also prove beneficial years later, making the role of crime scene investigators more crucial than ever before.

In this session, Crime Scene Analyst/Investigator Holly Maas guides participants into the world of evidence collection, detailing various procedures and methods, from lifting fingerprints to collecting DNA to interpreting blood spatter.


Holly Maas, Certified Crime Scene Analyst and Property and Evidence Specialist

Death By Powders And Pills

Over 107,000 overdose deaths were reported in the United States in 2021. Through persistent efforts of investigators, many of these deaths resulted in homicide charges. This course is an in-depth look into the latest emerging drug trends in the United States, including the current fentanyl crisis.

Instructor – TBA

Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVOC)

Many murder suspects flee the scene of the crime in a vehicle. Savvy law enforcement officers often spot the absconding suspect’s car and initiates a chase. During this exciting session, WPA attendees get behind the wheel of an actual patrol vehicle to pursue a suspect throughout a 26-acre closed Emergency Vehicle Operator road course.


Andrew Opperman, Professional Standards Division Lieutenant, Wisconsin Department of Justice Certified instructor in EVOC, firearms, and OWI/SFST.

Nicole Crocker, Detective, Wisconsin Department of Justice Certified instructor in Vehicle Contacts (Master Instructor), EVOC, Tactical Emergency and Casualty Care, Officer Wellness, OWI/SFST, Professional Communications, and Scenarios.


Law enforcement officers must be prepared for risks of all types, including gunfire and other threats of serious bodily harm or death. To prepare for the worst, they regularly train with various types of weapons. Hopefully, they’ll never face a situation where deadly force is required. Unfortunately, officers often encounter criminal suspects who are armed and extremely dangerous, such as a homicide suspect who’s determined to escape custody even if it means shooting responding officers.

In this hands-on session, attendees learn about, handle, and shoot firearms that law enforcement officers carry in the course of their duties, such as the Glock pistol and AR15 rifle. Participants become familiar with sight picture, sight alignment, stance, grip, and trigger control, and gain the hands-on knowledge of what it’s like to look down the barrel and over the sights. Experience the feel of the weapon, the pull of the trigger, the movements and action of the gun, and sound of the instructor’s voice when they give the command to “FIRE!


Ian Nishimoto, Certified Master Instructor—Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Firearms/Tactical Rifle, Scenario Assessment, and Tactical Response.

Ryan Peterson, Law Enforcement Academy/Criminal Justice Associate Degree Program Instructor, Former Officer in Charge, Field Training Officer, Evidence Technician, Firearms Instructor, Tactical Emergency Care Instructor, Threat Assessment Officer (Special Investigations Unit), SWAT Team Member, Task Force Officer—US Marshals Fugitive Apprehension, Patrol Lieutenant.

Forced Entry – The Search For, And Capture, Of An Armed Suspect

You and your team are dispatched to a location (our full-scale forced entry structure) where potentially armed and dangerous suspects are hiding. Upon arrival, you and your partners must enter to clear the building and apprehend the offenders. This course will have you ‘slice the pie’ as you make entry into an unknown building to begin your search.

Participants experience first-hand the heart-pounding, adrenaline rush of “going in.” What if the armed suspect is around the next corner? How many suspects are inside? What type of weapons do they possess? What if they’re a wanted person who’s threatened to kill all police officers who try to capture them?

*Explosive devices are used during this session; therefore, participants may be required to wear protective gear during this thrilling hands-on exercise.


Jon Nejedlo, Behavioral Health Officer, Field Training Officer, Training Unit Member, SWAT Team Member, Certified Instructor—Emergency Vehicle Operation and Control (EVOC), Vehicle Contacts, Firearms, Defense and Arrest Tactics (DAAT), Scenario Instructor, and Tactical Response.

Brian Jordan, Patrol Sergeant, Field Training Officer, and Training Unit Member, Unified Tactical Instructor (Professional Communications), Certified Instructor—Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Handgun, Tac Rifle, Tactical Response, Emergency Vehicle Operations, and Vehicle Contacts.


Finally, you’ve caught the suspect and now it’s time for you to “slap on” the cuffs.

This hands-on course details the different methods of securing the perpetrator.  Attendees handle and apply chain cuffs, hinged cuffs, flex cuffs, and leg shackles. Discover how quickly you can get them cuffed & stuffed.


Angel Van Noie, Wisconsin Department of Justice Certified Instructor—Officer Wellness, Constitutional Law, Defensive and Arrest Tactics (DAAT), Physical Fitness, Hazardous Materials, OWI/SFST, Tactical Response, EVOC, Scenario, Vehicle Contacts, Firearms, and Professional Communications.

Neil Dorner, 21-year law enforcement veteran, Entry and SWAT Team Member, Evidence Technician, School Resource Officer, NWTC Academy Instructor.

Homicide 101—The Basics Of Homicide Investigation

Everybody loves watching TV shows like CSI Las Vegas, but how authentic is it really? This class, taught by a veteran police officer, gives you the real story on the basics of homicide investigation, and break down what cop shows most often get wrong. The instructor is also a published author of over 45 books and will give you tips on how to make your fiction more realistic and believable.


Michael A. Black, Award-Winning Author, Retired Chicago Area Police Officer (Patrol, Homicide, SWAT).

K9 Emergency Aid

From missing persons to drug investigations to fleeing suspects, and even emotional support—K-9s have been a very important part of public safety for over 50 years! Unfortunately, there are times when K-9s have been attacked and suffered injuries. This course details how responding emergency rescue personnel and K9 handlers apply immediate medical aid to these valuable partners.


Lyn Schuh and The Operational K9 Medical Team of Wisconsin – Educators of K9 Handlers (Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Military K9 Teams, EMS Personnel and Firefighters) for Prehospital Emergency Medical Care for their K9 partners.

TI Training – Interactive Use Of Force Simulator

Police officers, as part of their regular duties, are faced with difficult decisions, decisions that offer no time for detailed scrutiny before reacting to the problem at hand. Often, when confronted with a potential deadly force situation, officers must perceive/identify the threat, evaluate the situation, develop a plan of action, and then set that plan in motion, all within a timeframe of less than one second. To put this scenario into perspective, a police officer’s reaction time (based on a study of 46 trained officers), when they already know the threat is there, AND, with their finger already on the trigger, is 0.365 seconds.

Still, decisions made by officers have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. This applies to not only to deadly force situations, but the apprehension of suspects, and even the decision to enter a building.

This gripping session places you, the “officer,”  in a variety of interactive situations where you will have to think  and react quickly to save lives and catch the suspects.


Jason Feucht Investigations Lieutenant. Fun Fact About Jason—Aside from his career in law enforcement, Jason had an on-screen role in the Public Enemies film starring Johnny Depp!

Vehicle Contacts

Law enforcement officers stop more than 32 million people per year. Traffic stops involve lots of moving parts, thoughts, tactics, and crimes. They can be, and often are, one of the most dangerous aspects of police work. This session will take you beyond the basics. Be prepared for … well, anything!


Mike Knetzger Certified Use of Force Analyst (Force Science Research Center) Patrol Sergeant (ret.), Certified by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Training & Standards Board to teach Victims, Defensive & Arrest Tactics, Firearms, Vehicle Contacts, Professional Communications Skills.

Jeff Steeber, Police Officer, Criminal Justice instructor at NWTC Certified by the Wisconsin Department of Justice to Teach Instructor Development (Master Instructor), Vehicle Contacts, Officer Wellness, EVOC, Firearms, Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Scenario, Tactical Response, and Constitutional Law.

Virtual Reality Police Training Simulator

The sheer unpredictability of calls and situations that an officer faces sets their job far apart from any other occupation—the person you believe to be a witness to a homicide may, in fact, be the suspect; encounters with individuals can quickly change from dealing with someone who’s calm and cooperative, to a person who’s combative with deadly intentions. To better handle all types of situations, from peaceful to life-threatening, academies use real-time scenario-based training, including virtual reality.

Participants in this heart-pounding hyper-realistic session use a state-of-the-art Apex Officer VR system that places them (virtually) into numerous environments and circumstances where they will have to think quickly to make the right decisions! This is the same training system used by law enforcement officers around the world.


Erik Walters, Public Safety Training Complex Specialist, Former Patrol Sergeant, Wisconsin Department of Justice Certified Instructor in Defensive and Arrest Tactics, Vehicle Contacts, Scenario, EVOC, Tactical Response, Physical Fitness, and Firearms.

2023 Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) registration is scheduled to open February 1, 2023. In the meantime, please visit us at www.writerspoliceacademy.com to view the schedule of events, a complete list of classes and instructor bios and photos, hotel information, the special Thursday afternoon session—Touch a Truck and Ask the Experts, and other details.

Reserve Your Room Early!

Hilton Appleton Hotel Paper Valley
333 W College Ave, Appleton, Wi. 54911

For reservations, call 1-800-774-1500 and Ask for the Hilton Appleton Paper Valley Hotel and the Writers Police Academy Block.

Click here for Online Reservations

The event begins at noon on Thursday June 8, 2023. It is highly recommended that you reserve your room from Wednesday June 7 – Sunday June 11 to take full advantage of the exciting activities.

Questions? Please contact Lee Lofland at lofland32@msn.com


Writers’ Police Academy Online is officially open, with a brand new June 25, 2022 class, new website, new design, new server, and exciting new, user-friendly live/online and on-demand courses currently in development. Class formats are video, audio, and/or text, or a combination of one or more. Details about the June class are below.

In the meantime, here are a few tidbits of information.

Why do law enforcement officers train by repetition – over and over again?

Each time an officer draws their weapon they perform a series of movements—place hand on the pistol, grip the pistol, release retention devices that prevent someone from taking the officer’s sidearm, remove pistol from holster, aim the gun toward the threat, insert finger into trigger guard, place finger on trigger, and finally, fire the gun.

Because officers train repetively, performing those same actions at the firing range, over and over again, the brain builds heavy-duty motor neural conduits

At the same time, myelin, a fatty substance, forms a layer of insulation that surrounds nerve cell axons. Myelin also escalates the rate at which electrical impulses move along the axon

As a result of repetitive firearms training, shooters build a high- speed connection that provides the ability to perform the “grip, release, aim, shoot” sequence without having to direct thought resources toward the details of the movement.

Instead of losing precious fractions of a second to analyzing “what’s step one, two, three, and four” the officer reacts instinctively to a threat.

WPA Scholarships Available for Writers’ Organizations

As a way of giving back to the many writers and writers organizations within the crime-writing community who’ve supported the Writers’ Police Academy over the years, we’re pleased to offer your organization a free registration/scholarship to the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy.

For details, please ask a board member of your group to contact Lee Lofland at lofland32@msn.com. The process is simple, request a scholarship and it will be yours to award to a member of your organization.

*Scholarship covers registration fee only. Hotel, travel, and banquet are not included.

Interactive 3D Police Lineups Improve Witness Accuracy

The capability of eyewitnesses to correctly recognize a guilty suspect from someone who’s totally innocent of a crime is known as discrimination accuracy.

Since misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions in the U.S., it is paramount to develop better discrimination accuracy when it comes to police lineups.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology developed new interactive police lineup software that allows witnesses to view lineup faces in 3D. Using the program, witnesses can rotate and maneuver the faces of potential suspects to various angles that most likely correspond to the orientation of the face they remember from the crime scene.

During the experimental study where over 3,000 test witnesses observed a video of a crime in progress, results were astounding. Without a doubt, accuracy improved significantly when the witnesses viewed the lineup from the same angle at which they had seen the offender commit the crime. The results were better still when witnesses rotated the lineup faces to match the angle of the culprit’s face in relation to how they saw it while the crime was in progress.

15 Survival Tips for Real and Fictional Officers

  1. Remember these three words. You will survive! Never give up no matter how many times you’ve been shot, stabbed, or battered.
  2. Carry a good, well-maintained weapon. You can’t win a gun fight if your weapon won’t fire.
  3. Carry plenty of ammunition. There’s no such thing as having too many bullets.
  4. Treat every situation as a potential ambush. You never know when or where it could happen. This is why cops don’t like to sit with their backs to a door.
  5. Practice shooting skills in every possible situation—at night, lying down, with your weak hand, etc.
  6. Wear your body armor.
  7. Always expect the unexpected.
  8. Everyone is a potential threat until it’s proven they’re not. Bad people can have attractive faces and warm smiles and say nice things, but all that can change in the blink of an eye.
  9. Know when to retreat.
  10. Stay in shape! Eat healthy. Exercise.
  11. Train, train, and train.
  12. Use common sense.
  13. Make no judgements based on a person’s lifestyle, personality, politics, race, or religion. Treat everyone fairly and equally. However, remain alert and cautious at all times.
  14. Talk to people. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. After all, it’s often a bit tougher to hurt an officer they know and trust.
  15. Talk to people. Get to know them. Let them get to know you. After all, it’s often a bit tougher to hurt an officer they know and trust.

Presented by Writers’ Police Academy Online – “Behavioral Clues at Crime Scenes”

June 26, 2022

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST

Registration is OPEN for this fascinating live, online seminar taught by Dr. Katherine Ramsland. Session covers staging, profiling, character development, and more!

Sign up today at writerspoliceacademy.online

While you’re there, please take a moment to sign up for the latest updates, news, tips, tactics, and announcements of upcoming courses and classes.

About Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 Dr. Katherine Ramslandcrime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Dr. Ramsland consults on death investigations, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist.

In addition to the Writers’ Police Academy Online website moving to a new server, The Graveyard Shift is officially and finally up and running on the same server. Its new look is underway. The Writers’ Police
Academy is next to make the move and to receive an overhaul.

By the way, there’s still time to sign up for the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy!

Click here to view 2022 WPA hands-on sessions

If you’ve already registered please reserve your hotel rooms asap!

Reserve Your Room

Hilton Appleton Hotel Paper Valley
333 W College Ave, Appleton, Wi. 54911 – Phone: 920-733-8000
When calling, request reservations for the Writers Police Academy Block or, if reserving online, select dates of stay and enter group code 0622WRPA.

Online Reservations

Writers’ Police Academy Merch

Writers’ Police Academy merchandise is available through our Zazzle store, including the 2022 t-shirts in a variety of colors.

Click here to view the selections. 

Together we can better the world of crime fiction, one scene at a time.

Putrefaction is the destruction of the soft tissue caused by two things, bacteria and enzymes.

As bacteria and enzymes do their jobs, the body immediately begins to discolor, and it slowly transform into liquids and gases. The odd thing about the bacteria that destroys the tissue at death is that much of it has been living in the respiratory and intestinal tracts all along. Of course, if the deceased had contracted a bacterial infection prior to death, bacteria, such as septicemia (blood poisoning), would aid in increasing the rate of decomposition.

Temperature also plays an important part in decomposition. 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal range for bacteria and enzymes to do what they do best, while lower temperatures slow the process. Therefore, and obviously, a body will decompose faster during the sweltering days of summertime.

A blood-filled circulatory system acts as a super-highway for those organisms that destroy the body after death. Without blood the process of putrefaction is slowed.

Therefore, a murder victim whose body bled out will decompose at a slower rate than someone who died of natural causes.

People who were overweight at the time of their deaths decompose faster than skinny people. People who suffered from excessive fluid build up decompose faster than those who were dehydrated. And people with massive infections and congestive heart failure will also decompose at a more rapid rate than those without those conditions.

Bodies adorned in thick, heavy clothing (the material retains heat) decompose more rapidly than the norm. Electric blankets also speed up decomposition.

A body that’s buried in warm soil may decompose faster than one that’s buried during the dead of winter.

The type of soil that surrounds the body also has an effect on the rate of decomposition. For example, the soil in North Carolina is normally a reddish type of clay. Its density can greatly retard the decomposition process because it reduces the circulation of air that’s found in a less compacted, more sandy-type of earth.

Adult bodies buried in a well drained soil will typically become skeletonized in approximately 10 years. A child’s body in about five years.

The rule of thumb for the decomposition of a body is, (if at the same temperature) 8 weeks in well-drained soil equals two weeks in the water, or one week exposed to the air.

Now, hold on to your breakfast…

The first sign of decomposition under average conditions is a greenish discoloration of the skin at the abdomen. This is apparent at 36-72 hours.

Next – Small vessels in the skin become visible (marbling).

Marbling is followed by glistening skin, skin slippage, purplish skin, blisters, distended abdomen (after one week—caused by gases), blood-stained fluid oozing from body openings (nose, mouth, etc.), swelling of tissue and the presence of foul gaseous odor, greenish-purple face, swollen eyelids and pouting lips, swollen face, protruding tongue, hair pulls out easily, fingernails come off easily, skin from hands pulls off (gloving), body swells and appears greatly obese.

Internally, the body is decomposing and breaking down. The heart has become flabby and soft. The liver has honeycombed, and the kidneys are like wet sponges. The brain is nearly liquid, and the lungs may be a bit brittle.

Hmm … Flabby hearts and liquid brains. Sounds like a couple of my former employers.

Are you registered or plan to register to attend the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy? If so, you could receive an exciting offer from Writers’ Police Academy – a $50 rebate and FREE registration to a special live Writers’ Police Academy Online seminar taught by renowned expert Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

Dr. Ramsland’s Writers’ Police Academy Online session, “Behavioral Clues at Crime Scenes.”
Class description – Crime scenes always tell a story, which shows up most clearly in behavioral clues. This can mean anything from signatures that link crimes to indicators of staged crimes to predictors of dangerous future behavior. This session shows writers how to spot and interpret behavioral clues during criminal profiling, crime reconstruction, or psychological autopsy. 

To qualify for this amazing deal, you must register or already be registered to attend the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy. That’s step one. Step two – have a friend sign up to attend. It’s that easy! If your friend brings a friend then they, too, receive the same bonus opportunity.

Of course, you and your friend must attend the Writers’ Police Academy event in June to receive the rebate and free seminar registration. There is no limit as to how many rebates you may receive. If you refer ten friends and they each attend the WPA, well, you’ll receive $50 for each one. Twenty friends equal a rebate of $1,000! And so on.

Participants must notify Lee Lofland at lofland32@msn.com when referring a friend. The person you refer must be.a new registrant, not someone whose already signed up to attend. Rebates to be mailed in mid-June, after the conclusion of the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy. The date of Dr. Ramsland’s “Behavioral Clues at Crime Scenes” seminar is June 25, 2022. Session time – 11:00-12:30 EST.


We can’t wait to see you at the WPA in June!

Register to attend at the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy at www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Click here to see the list and descriptions of the 2022 classes.

Click here to read about the 2022 WPA instructors and presenters.

About Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Katherine Ramsland

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Dr. Ramsland consults on death investigations, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist.

Dr. Ramsland is a Special Guest Speaker at the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy, where she’ll present “Conversations with the B.T.K. Killer, Dennis Rader.” The class focuses on the immersive process of interviewing a serial killer, the challenges of the prison system for such work, and the experience of co-producing the documentary. After hundreds of hours spent inside the mind of this serial killer, the B.T.K. Killer, Dennis Rader, in the context of many other killers Dr. Ramsland studied, she offers multiple insights for crime and mystery writing.


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Below are excerpts From Katherine Ramsland’s Writers’ Police Academy Online presentation – “Sleuthing the Clues in Staged Homicides.”

Pettler’s Staging Typology

The Cleaner: This is more alteration than staging, because this person cleans the scene to remove evidence

The Concealer: Hides or destroys items related to the incident to prevent discovery

The Creator: Adds items to the scene, or rearranges for a specific effect

The Fabricator: Relies on ability to verbally deceive as a means of deflection

The Inflictor: Might include self in incident, with self-wounding, or might claim self-defense

The Planner: spends considerable time preparing the incident to appear as something else instead of reacting, post-incident.

*Laura Pettler, PhD, CSCSA (Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst) is the owner of Carolina Forensics, vice president of the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases, and was co-founder/director of North Carolina Prosecutorial District 20-A’s 2006-2010 Crime Scene Reconstruction and Behavioral Analysis Program, its Cold Case Task Force, and its 2009 International Forensic Institute. Pettler is a scholar-practitioner focusing on cold case homicide, crime scene staging, intimate partner homicide, and crime reconstruction. ~ bio, Evidence Technology Magazine.

Tips from The Psychology of Death Investigations, by Katherine Ramsland


Tips for Investigators to Evaluate for Staging

  • Beware of personal assumptions, especially those that attract investigative shortcuts.
  • Remember that the majority of stagers (except for suicides) had a relationship with the decedent.
  • The relationship is most likely intimate, past or present.
  • Stagers often discover the body or report the person missing.
  • The reason a body discoverer is at the scene should be legitimate.
  • Stagers might inject themselves into an investigation to “be helpful.”
  • Stagers often “find” a suicide note or other evidence they want police to see.
  • 911 calls from stagers will have unique elements common to “guilty” vs. “innocent” callers.
  • Besides manipulating the scene, stagers will reinforce it with verbal manipulation.
  • Their efforts to deflect might include an explanation for the incident.
  • The staging will probably feature mistaken notions about how such incidents occur, such as suicide notes that have more non-genuine indicators than genuine.
  • Learn the items that characterize genuine notes, rather than make assumptions.
  • Look for items that copy media reports or narratives.
  • Look for scene behavior uncharacteristic of decedent.
  • If a suicide note mentions a close associate, consider them a person of interest.
  • Stagers are most likely to be male.
  • Staging a suicide most often involves firearms.
  • Suspicious indicators are weapons positioned too perfectly, or positions do not match where blood spatter or shell casings are found.
  • Staged scenes are most often in a place familiar to the decedent, such as their home.
  • Watch for unexpected behaviors during interviews.
  • Match narratives about the incident against evidence.
  • Develop competing hypothesis to help highlight issues of concern.


Ellis, T. M. (2008, July 18). CSI-like suicide ruled in death of Red Lobster exec Thomas Hickman. Dallas Morning News.

Ferguson, C. E. (2014). Staged crime scenes: Literature and types. In W. Petherick (Ed.), Serial crime: Theoretical and Practical Issues in Behavioural Profiling, 3rd ed., (pp. 141-164). Boston, MA: Andersen.

Ferguson, C. E., & Petherick, W. (2016). Getting away with murder: An examination of detected homicides stages as suicides. Homicide Studies, 20(1), 3-24.

Geberth, V. (1996). The staged crime scene. Law and Order Magazine, 44(2), 45-49.

Geberth, V. Practical Homicide Investigation. CRC Press.

Geberth, V. Sex-related Homicide and Death Investigations. CRC Press.

Greenwood, E. (2016). Playing dead: A journey through the world of death fraud. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Harpster, T., & Adams, S. (2016). Analyzing 911 homicide calls: Practical aspects and applications. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Harpster, T., Adams, S., & Jarvis, J. P. (2009). Analyzing 911 homicide calls for indicators of guilt or innocence: An exploratory analysis. Homicide Studies, 13(1), 69-93.

Pettler, L. (2016). Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Schlesinger, L., Gardenier, A., Jarvis, J., & Sheehan-Cook, J. (2014). Crime scene staging in homicide. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 29(1), 44-51.

Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,000 articles and 68 books, including How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and The Mind of a Murderer, she spent five years working with Dennis Rader on his autobiography, Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer. Dr. Ramsland currently pens the “Shadow-boxing” blog at Psychology Today and teaches seminars to law enforcement.