Crimes against Persons Defined
A crime against a person is a crime that involves violence or the threat of violence against a human. These crimes are more serious than crimes against property and will be handled with a greater priority. According to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, the following are the definitions relating to crimes against persons.
Assault Offenses: An unlawful attack by one person upon another.
Aggravated Assault: An unlawful attack by one person upon another wherein the offender uses a weapon or displays it in a threatening manner, or the victim suffers obvious severe or aggravated bodily injury involving apparent broken bones, loss of teeth, possible internal injury, severe lacerations, or loss of consciousness.
Simple Assault: An unlawful physical attack by one person upon another where neither the offender displays a weapon, nor the victim suffers obvious severe or aggravated bodily injury involving apparent broken bones, loss of teeth, possible internal injury, severe laceration, or loss of consciousness.
Intimidation: To unlawfully place another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm through the use of threatening words and/or other conduct, but without displaying a weapon or subjecting the victim to actual physical attack.
Homicide Offenses: The killing of one human being by another.
Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter: The willful (non-negligent) killing of one human being by another.
Negligent Manslaughter: The killing of another person through negligence.
Justifiable Homicide: The killing of a perpetrator of a serious criminal offense by a peace officer in the line of duty; or the killing, during the commission of a serious criminal offense, of the perpetrator by a private individual.
Kidnapping/Abduction: The unlawful seizure, transportation, and/or detention of a person against his/her will, and of a minor without the consent of his/her custodial parent(s) or legal guardian.
Sex Offenses, Forcible: Any sexual act directed against another person, forcibly and/or against that person’s will, or not forcibly, or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent.
Forcible Rape: The carnal knowledge of a person, forcibly and/or against the person’s will; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity (or because of his/her youth).
Forcible Sodomy: Oral or Anal sexual intercourse with another person, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her youth or because of his/her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity.
Sexual Assault with an Object: To use an object or instrument to unlawfully penetrate, however slightly, the genital or anal opening of the body of another person, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her youth or because of his/her temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity.
Forcible Fondling: The touching of the private body parts of another person for the purpose of sexual gratification, forcibly and/or against that person’s will; or not forcibly or against that person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent because of his/her youth or because of his/her temporary or permanent mental incapacity.
Sex Offenses, Non-forcible: Unlawful, non-forcible sexual intercourse.
Incest: Non-forcible sexual intercourse between persons who are related to each other within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law.
Statutory Rape: Non-forcible sexual intercourse with a person who is under the statutory age of consent (FBI: UCR, 2011).
As a police officer, it is common for a person to call and say, “I’ve been robbed,” when they were actually a victim of theft or a burglary. The victims are often unfamiliar with the way that crimes are coded. They are not always aware of the elements needed for each crime.
The Elements of Robbery
The penal codes of each state define robbery in different ways, but the definitions contain the same essential elements. Robbery generally consists of:
¥ The taking, with the intent to steal, of;
¥ the personal property of another;
¥ from his or her person or in their presence;
¥ against his or her will;
¥ by violence, intimidation or the threat of force (FindLaw, 2016).
Many others think of only Bank Robberies when they hear the term “robbery.” Bank robberies are not the only type of robberies that occur. There are several different styles of robberies, but the below list should give you a broader understanding.
Types of Robberies
A. Visible Street Robberies (mugging)
Approximately five of every ten robberies happen on the street.
1. Prior to 1990, if an offender used a weapon to confront owners and steal their cars, it was simply classified as a robbery.
2. In Detroit that year the term carjacking was coined to describe the growing numbers of these potentially violent confrontations between offenders and victims.
C. Home Invasion Robberies
Robberies in which one or more perpetrators enter the home make up about 12 percent of reported robberies.
D. Automatic Teller Machine Robberies
At one point robberies at these locations were so publicized that critics referred to ATMs as “magnets for crime.”
1. However, though during the 1990s the ATM robbery rate dropped from one robbery per million transactions during the 1990s to its present one per 3.5 million transactions.
2. The ATM robbery victim is typically a lone woman who is using the machine between 8:00 p.m. and midnight.
E. Taxi Cab Robberies
Taxi cab drivers are easy targets because they work alone, are available at all times of the day and night, do business on a cash basis, and can be called or directed to locations which favor the aims of offenders.
F. Convenience Store Robberies
Convenience stores account for about six percent of all reported robberies.
When robbers are picking a store to rob, the things which are most important to them are:
1) amount of money they can get,
2) a good escape route,
3) inadequate police coverage,
4) an unarmed clerk,
5) lone employees,
6) no video surveillance cameras, and
7) the absence of customers.
G. Truck Hijacking Robberies
In this country, cargo theft may be responsible for losses of a $10 to $12 billion a year.
1. Truck hijacking is committed by experienced armed robbers acting on inside information.
2. Many truck hijackings happen in or near major cities because it is easy to dispose of the goods there.
3. Hijackers take what is valuable, with a preference with cargos that are easy to dispose of and hard to trace (Swanson, Chamelin, & Territo, 2016).
F. Bank Robberies
Banks are easy targets due to the tellers being trained to give the robber money even if they do not display or infer a weapon.
Street robberies, or as some call them muggings, involve extreme violence and complete lack of respect for people, society and our laws. Many people fear walking down the street, even in broad daylight. Many people choose not to work, shop or go out to eat in urban areas. Some
blame the police. Some blame the politicians. Some correctly blame the thugs that are spreading this type of crime. These street robbers only care about themselves. They want a quick, easy buck so they can buy drugs. There are some that commit these acts as part of a gang initiation, but then later continue those actions. Some enjoy the fury of their vicious and reckless acts that they bring about on their helpless victims. Regardless of their reasoning, criminals who commit his type of crime are a menace to society and need to be stopped. And that job gets passed onto you, the law enforcement community.
Decoys in robbery prevention
Some departments have developed a better way to catch street robbers in areas where robberies are common. They do this by dressing up as potential victims, such as the elderly and homeless, while uniformed and undercover officers are nearby watching out in case they get mugged.
“The goal is to get the robber without anybody getting hurt.” They’re not prepared for it. They’re almost shocked (Lawson, 2003).”
Before they started the sting operation, the police department consulted with the prosecutor’s office to get explicit instruction, so there would be no chance of an accusation of entrapment.
They tested different costumes and actions and at first did not look vulnerable enough. In one instance, a suspect approached their decoy and when he saw that his socks were clean he moved on. Apparently, the mugger could tell that the victim was not homeless since he had on clean socks. The next night, the same decoy wore dirty socks, and this time, the same suspect mugged him (Lawson, 2003).”
Carjacking is another very serious, violent and sometimes deadly crime. Rather than just steal cars that are unattended, these malicious hoodlums attack the car owner. They threaten them, beat them, kidnap them and sometimes kill them, so that they can take a joyride. Often carjackers take a car that is still occupied by an infant or child in a car seat. Sometimes they later dump the car in an abandoned area, leaving the young victims to fend for themselves.
In one case in Knoxville, Tennessee, a couple named Christopher Newsom and Channon Christian went to meet some friends, but never made it there. Instead, they were carjacked by five assailants. Newsom was bound, gagged and brutally beaten and raped with an object. He was then forced to walk barefoot to a set of railroad tracks where he was shot in the neck and back. The shots only paralyzed him, but they then executed him with a final shot to the head, poured gasoline on him and set him on fire.
Newsome’s girlfriend was then hog-tied and brutally beaten and raped for several hours with multiple objects, including the leg of a broken chair. At one point, the attackers tried to conceal their DNA by emptying a container of bleach down her throat and pouring it on her body. While she was still alive, they wrapped her body in garbage bags, her head in a plastic grocery bag and stuffed her in a garbage can. She was still alive during this time before succumbing to suffocation. All five assailants were later apprehended and sent to prison (Howerton, 2013).
Three explanations for the increase in carjacking’s
¥ Improved security devices on cars make it harder to steal a car, so carjacking becomes the easy alternative.
¥ To rapidly escape the scene of a crime.
¥ To steal an expensive or specific make of vehicle to sell in another country or for parts in a chop shop (Citizen Defense Training, 2013).
Home Invasion Robbery
The Home Invasion Robbery is one of the most dangerous types of robbery. In a street robbery, the suspect wants to hurry to avoid detection. In a home invasion, once the robber is inside your house, they have more control and can be more violent. They can continue their crime for longer periods of time. In a home invasion, the robber has access to all of your personal and sentimental items. They can put your entire family in harm’s way. These robbers have also raped and killed in the past. “In one incident, robbers immersed an elderly victim’s face in boiling water and in another they sodomized a victim to death with a broken table leg (Heinonen & Eck, 2016).”
Automatic Teller Machine Robberies
These machines help make our lives more convenient. Many times you need to access money from your account, but the bank is already closed. Or you may be on vacation, and your bank has no branch in that area. The ATM is not only convenient for the customer, but it is also convenient for the criminal.
A few studies, although they are becoming dated, have provided some data on common ATM robbery patterns.
The general conclusions are as follows:
¥ Most robberies are committed by a lone offender–using some weapon–against a lone victim.
¥ Most occur at night, with the highest risk between midnight and 4 a.m.
¥ Most involve robbing people of cash after they have made a withdrawal.
¥ Robberies are somewhat more likely to occur at walk-up ATMs than at drive-through ATMs.
¥ About 15 percent of victims are injured.
¥ The average loss is between $100 and $200 (Scott, 2002).
Taxicab robberies are similar to street robberies except the criminal has a higher level of secrecy. In some large cities like Chicago, taxi cabs are required to have a bullet-proof shield for protection between the customer and the driver. Many police agencies have a policy agreement with the cab companies that the customer has to pay at the beginning of the trip, rather than at the end. This policy helps guarantee that the driver gets paid for the fare, but it also helps prevent robbers from targeting them. For the obvious reason, most thieves are looking for quick cash and are not currently carrying cash on them.
Convenience Store Robberies
Convenience store and gas station robberies are also a problem. They are sometimes located near a highway, and this makes it easy for criminals to make a quick get away if they are using a vehicle. These are very similar to a street robbery in that they occur in the public view. As a police officer, you should get to know the clerks at gas stations so they feel comfortable calling the police when they feel threatened. Many times, after a robbery, the clerk will say something like, “I felt that they were up to something, but I did not want to bother the police.” Building community-oriented police methods can greatly help gain the public’s trust. This trust could have been the difference in the clerk calling earlier and maybe preventing the crime.
Truck Hijacking Robberies
“The National Safety Council warns that some commercial vehicles (such as pickup and delivery trucks, tractors and trailers, armored vehicles, mail and package delivery vehicles, etc.) may be especially vulnerable to hijacking attempts (TDI, n.d.).” Some hijackers target the truck for the cargo. Some target the truck itself, to be used in the commission of other crimes, such as warehouse burglary, transporting drugs and contraband or even more daunting, using it for terroristic crimes such as hauling explosives or other weapons of mass destruction.
According to the Texas Department of Insurance, drivers should be trained to adhere to strict security measures to prevent hijacking:
¥ Keep fixed driving routes.
¥ Know alternative routes.
¥ Designate predetermined checkpoints.
¥ Be aware of safe areas in case they believe they are being targeted.
¥ Do not assume technology like the global positioning system will not fail.
¥ Park in secure areas with ample lighting.
¥ Carry a 24-hour emergency telephone number at all times.
¥ Know or learn the route, especially if it is a new one or has a drop-off location never visited before.
¥ Know the cargo, especially when carrying a potentially hazardous or high-value load.
¥ Check the load as it is loaded to make sure that what is in the vehicle is what is supposed to be there.
¥ Inform the dispatcher of the route and then follow it. If the route changes the driver should inform someone.
¥ Remember, there is safety in motion. Be cautious when moving, but know the most dangerous times for hijacking are when a vehicle is stopped.
¥ Lock the vehicle every time you make a stop.
¥ Keep the trailer unit locked securely from the moment the vehicle is loaded. Lock the cab and roll up the windows when parked or in slow moving traffic.
¥ Unlock the truck for as short a time as possible when stopped to rest, eat, or make a delivery.
¥ Only stop in designated rest areas where there are other trucks parked.
¥ Avoid stopping at the same places every trip.
¥ Do not stop to help motorists in trouble, but call.
¥ Be aware of surroundings. Watch for suspicious vehicles at the pickup point, cars, or vans that follow the vehicle on the highway or anything that seems out of line.
¥ Never pick up hitchhikers.
¥ Don’t leave a vehicle at the customer’s dock.
¥ When making a delivery, don’t leave cargo on the street even for a minute or two.
¥ Keep the vehicle, license plate and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) numbers of the vehicle on their person at all times for both the tractor and trailer. They will be valuable information to provide to law enforcement should the vehicle be hijacked.
¥ If a driver starts to feel uncomfortable, they should lock up and get out if it is safe to do so, or call for help if feeling threatened by being in the vehicle.
¥ Remember, there is safety in motion. Be cautious when moving, but know the most dangerous times for hijacking are when a vehicle is stopped.
Preventing bank robbery is nearly impossible. The goal would be to make the robbery go smoothly with little or no violence. Although we cannot predict the level of violence that the robber may dispense, it is a smart choice to properly educate the bank employees and tellers on how to best handle the situation. The Portland Police Bureau recommends the that bank employees do the following:
During the Robbery
¥ Remain calm. Most robbers do not wish to harm their victims. They are only interested in getting money or property. The calmer you are, the less chance there is of the robber becoming agitated or dangerous. This also increases your chances of getting a more accurate description of the robber and being of greater assistance in the robber’s apprehension.
¥ Do not argue, fight, surprise or attempt to use weapons against a robber. He has already taken a major risk by entering your store and is usually as frightened as you are. Because of this, additional provocation on your part could make the situation worse. Therefore, give the robber exactly what he or she wants and do it quickly. Don’t take unnecessary chances with your life.
¥ While you should cooperate with robbers, don’t volunteer any assistance. Don’t give all the money if the robber only asks for $10’s. Don’t give checks voluntarily.
¥ Activate silent alarms or other security devices if you can do this without detection.
¥ Watch the robber’s hands. If the robber is not wearing any gloves, anything he touches might leave fingerprints.
¥ Give the robber your “bait” money. Be sure to inform the investigating officer that you did so.
¥ Be systematic in your observations. Look the robber over carefully. Mentally note as many details as possible until you can write them down. Compare the robber with yourself. Is he taller, heavier, older…and so on?
¥ Notice the type and description of any weapons used. Glance at the weapon only long enough to identify it. Look at the robber from then on. Make no sudden moves and don’t be heroic.
¥ If it can be done safely, observe the direction the thief takes in leaving the scene. Where a vehicle is involved, concentrate on the make, model, year, color, license plate number and issuing state.
After the Robbery
¥ Telephone police immediately. If you act quickly, police might be able to catch the suspect and recover your money. When you dial 9-1-1, the procedure is always the same. You will be asked if your emergency involves police, fire or medical. Request police. Then briefly indicate to the call taker what the problem is, when it happened, where you are, who did it, who needs help and whether there were injuries or weapons involved. Remember to stay on the phone with the emergency call taker. After calling the police, keep your telephone line clear until the police arrive. The officers may need to call you.
¥ Lock all doors and allow no one in. Ask witnesses to remain on the premises until police arrive. Do not touch anything the robber may have touched.
¥ Do not discuss what happened with any other witnesses. Your impressions should be kept untainted until you have talked with authorities.
¥ Complete your incident-suspect-vehicle description form while waiting for police to arrive. The responding officer will want this information immediately to broadcast to other police cars in the area. Be as complete as possible. Consider keeping a portable tape recorder nearby to
preserve your first impressions. Sometimes you will be trembling too much to write quickly or may feel more comfortable verbalizing the episode than writing about it.
¥ Finally, remember that robbery response strategies require planning and coordination between employees and management. Give some thought to how you might react in a robbery situation and discuss your concerns with co-workers and employers. Common sense, caution and adherence to established policies and procedures can reduce the amount of money stolen and minimize the chance of injury and loss of life (Portland Police Bureau. (n.d.).
Police responded to the robbery scene and tactical situations at the scene
After a bank alarm is activated, the dispatcher will call the bank and ask them a predetermined question. Depending upon how the bank employee answers that question, will determine the next step of the response.
If the response indicates that they are safe and there is no robbery, then the police officers are notified over the police radio. When the police arrive, they will maintain a perimeter and conduct surveillance on those exiting the bank. They will then wait for a bank employee to leave the building, approach the police and confirm that there is no robbery in progress and there are no suspects inside.
If the response is sketchy or it confirms that a robbery is taking place, then dispatch will notify responding officers and they will take appropriate action. In either case, officers responding will not activate their sirens and will turn off their emergency lights a block before they are in sight of the bank. On arrival, officers will maintain perimeter positions, conduct surveillance and try to prevent anyone else from entering the bank. The officers will watch for any get-a-way vehicles or look-outs and also for fleeing suspects.
Once the suspects are gone from the bank, dispatch will confirm this with a phone call and send out one of the bank employees to meet with officers. Once the bank employee confirms that all suspects are gone, the officers can then enter the bank and double check that all suspects are
gone. The investigation then begins, along with the careful relaying of any suspect and vehicle descriptions. The main goal of these procedures is to prevent a hostage situation and to keep the bank employees and citizens safe (PBPD, 2008).
(Bank Alarm policy from Pine Bluff PD)
Action, physical, and situational stereotyping
In these days of micromanagement and criticism of police officers, some of the current talking points are that police officers need to be retrained in various areas of their profession. This curriculum is not created to argue that point, but it does bring about the need for officers to do their best at all times. Some analysts have come up with three categories of stereotyping (action, physical and situational) that officers are sometimes guilty of while enroute to a robbery in progress call or a call of a similar nature. According to Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, the definitions of the three types of stereotyping are listed below:
Based on typical actions, stereotyping in which an officer expects that a certain type of event will unfold in a particular way; can result in the officer’s failure to see the event the way it actually occurs.
Based on typical appearances, stereotyping in which an officer expects that a certain type of person will fit a particular description; can result in the escape of a suspect or harm to the officer.
Based on past situations, stereotyping in which an officer expects that the situation at a particular location will always be the same; increases the officer’s vulnerability
Follow-up Investigative Procedures for Robbery
“The investigation of robbery poses many of the problems inherent in person-to-person crime. When victims and witnesses are confronted by an armed suspect, their perceptive abilities are diminished. The presence of a weapon further limits perception, as will any violent action. Since the typical robbery involves a dangerous weapon and an emotionally disturbing atmosphere, the inquiry cannot rely on descriptions as the primary tracing means (Gilbert, 2007).”
Method of Operation (Modus Operandi)
In most instances, the robber’s identity is unknown. So the investigative process begins. One technique to help discover the robber’s identity is to consider their method of operation. Many criminals will display the same sort of behavior over and over.
If you have had prior robberies that matched the suspect’s modus operandi, then use those methods to build your case. If you have not had similar incidents, then use this case to begin to develop the robber’s methods.
“Regardless of the specific category of the robbery, certain method-of-operation traits prevail. The great majority of robberies involve the following elements:
1. selection procedure,
2. entry method,
3. initial actions prior to the display of force,
4. display of force,
5. method of acquiring the object of the robbery,
6. actions prior to escape, and
7. escape method (Gilbert, 2007).”
Try to determine how the suspect chose that victim or that business as a target. How did the suspect make entry and announce his intentions? Many times a bank robber will wait at the center table in the bank lobby and pretend to fill out a withdrawal slip. Did they just rush in wearing a mask and conduct a takeover robbery? Did they use force or pass a robbery note? Do they pass a bag around and order the tellers to fill it up or do they jump the counter and take the money themselves? Do they order victims on the floor before leaving? How do they get away (Gilbert, 2007)?” These are questions that the investigators need to ask themselves while conducting the preliminary investigation.
A Team Approach to Robbery Investigations
When dealing with a serious felony investigation such as robbery, it is necessary to have a team that works well together. Each detective may specialize in a certain skill set. One may be better at taking photographs, and one may excel at latent fingerprint collection. Another may be a more skilled interviewer, so the lead detective should be aware of the teams’ strengths and weaknesses, to get the job done in a quick and efficient manner. Solving a crime is not about who gets the credit, but rather how well your team works together to get the bad guy.
Robbery preventative measures
If it was possible to prevent all robberies, that feat would have already been reached. Some preventative methods are listed below:
¥ Surveillance cameras with clear views of all teller stations, entrances and exits with prominent signs announcing their presence.
¥ Bullet resistant glass and counters at all teller stations. This method has shown to be an excellent deterrent.
¥ Routine collaboration with police officers to monitor area crime behaviors.
¥ Hiring off-duty police officers who have the proper training to handle robbery attempts.
¥ A security employee who welcomes patrons at the entrance. This deters offenders who are trying to conceal their faces.
¥ A “No Hats” policy with a sign requesting removal of all headgear.
¥ Height indicators at all exits to help eyewitnesses in judging the culprit’s height.
¥ A holdup alarm system with secreted trip devices at teller stations
¥ An unobstructed view of all teller stations from the majority of locations within the premises
¥ Repeated removal of surplus money from teller drawers
¥ Tellers trained to remain composed, obey the robber’s demands, trip the holdup alarm and keep any demand note. Since most offenders are “amateurs” who are usually very unstable, keeping them calm and complying with their demands is vital
¥ Dye packs and serialized currency in limited sums of $50 and $100 to relinquish to the offender
¥ Police contact through the local police department
Opening and Closing
Another significant robbery prevention tool is the formation of a safe opening and closing procedure. The “Morning Glory” type robbery where perpetrators will assault employees as they open up the premises for the day, take them inside and demand money, or they may have hidden within the building during the night. This type of robbery can usually be avoided by using a few safeguards.
¥ Assign at least two employees to the assignment
¥ Have one employee stay in a locked vehicle with the engine running while the second employee opens up the building
¥ Each day, the two employees create an “all clear” gesture that the employee who enters gives to the other employee in the car after the premises has been thoroughly checked. It is important that they not use the same signal every day as this can be spotted beforehand and ordered by a hidden offender
¥ If the employee in the car smells trouble, they should loop around the building and call the police immediately, while waiting in the car
¥ The opposite closing process can take place with an employee waiting in a locked car until both are securely underway in individual cars (Berkley, 2014)
Missing Persons / Abductions / Kidnappings Missing Persons
Missing person cases are one of the most challenging calls to deal with as a police officer.
In most situations, the reason for the disappearance is unknown. The variables seem to be endless at first, especially when there were no eyewitnesses to the event. There are no longer any 24 hour waiting periods for reporting missing persons, even if it involves an adult.
Gather as much information about the missing person as possible and then pass it on to area law enforcement. Below is a list of required information that needs to be gathered:
o Verify the accuracy of the complaint
o Physical description (age, sex, height, weight, skin color, hair color and style)
o Clothing description (hat, glasses, shirt, pants, shoes and other articles such as backpacks, etc.)
o Clear and recent photos (full view head to toe and close-up full view of face)
o Last known location
o Last known person that accompanied them
o Closest friends or relatives that they may be with and their contact info (addresses, phones, Facebook, social media contacts, etc.)
o Regular routes and activities of the missing
o History of disappearing
o Similar incidents in the area (e.g. abductions, suspicious vehicles or persons) These photos should be sent out digitally to local police officer’s email accounts or other means, so they can view the photos on their work phones, or their in-car computers. The best place to start the investigation is from the missing person’s last known location. Another area to start searching is from the victim’s bedroom. There have been many cases where the young child was playing hide and seek in their bedroom and they fell asleep in their hiding place (e.g. under their bed or inside their toy box). So start there by yelling and calling their name. This would also be an excellent opportunity to check to see if there are any obvious signs of struggle or foul play.
If there are no signs of foul play and the missing person is not in the house, then the search will need to be expanded out from there. You need some officers on foot and some officers searching in vehicles to expand the search. Illicit the help of neighbors, family and friends to perform a coordinated search of the neighborhood. Consider a vehicle roadblock canvass. At least one person needs to start calling the close friends and relatives of the missing person to check to see if they are with someone.
If there are signs of foul play or evidence of an abduction, seal off the area for a Crime Scene Technician, a supervisor and additional investigators, and request a canine officer to respond. The officer and the canine will begin the search from there. Instruct others not to trample on the search path, so that the dog will have a better chance of staying on the scent trail.
If the victim is a child, then the appropriate Amber Alert protocol needs to be followed.
∞ Confirmation that an abduction has occurred (e.g., witness verification, alternative explanations for a child’s absence eliminated, etc.).
∞ The victim is 17 years of age or younger, or has a proven mental or physical disability.
∞ The victim is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
∞ There is information available that, if disseminated to the public, could assist in the safe recovery of the victim (POST, 2011).
Once the child is entered as missing into NCIC, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will contact your department and ask if they can assist you in the case. They are professionals and are a great source for getting information out to the public and for supporting you in the case. If they do not contact you, give them a call and they will be happy to help you.
The handling law enforcement agency will prepare an initial press release that includes all available information. The press release should be immediately forwarded to their media services.
The press release will include:
1. The child’s identity, age, and description
2. Suspect’s identity, age, and description
3. Vehicle description
4. Location of incident, direction of travel, potential destinations
5. A media liaison or press information officer, and a telephone number for the media to call for additional information and/or updates
6. A telephone number for the public to call with leads/information
7. A photo or digital image of the missing person
The reporting agency should consider transmitting the information over their local and regional radio communications systems, i.e., transit systems, local area hospitals, public works, fire/EMS, animal control, lifeguards, ham radio associations, etc. (POST, 2011).
The AMBER Alert should be activated only in those child abduction cases meeting the necessary AMBER Alert criteria. AMBER Alerts should not be used for cases involving:
∞ Where no abduction is confirmed or occurred
∞ Missing children in which there is no evidence of foul play or the child is not in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death
∞ Custody disputes where the child’s life or physical health is not reasonably believed to be in imminent danger
“It is important to remember that an AMBER Alert is effective only if activated when appropriate. If AMBER Alerts are misused or employed in cases that do not meet the criteria, the program’s credibility and integrity can be diminished. For cases that do not meet these criteria, agencies should continue to exercise discretion in determining which of the many following available resources would be the most appropriate for transmitting information to other law enforcement agencies, the media, and the public (POST, 2011).”
The below hyperlink is a necessary manual to use during a Child Abduction incident.
(FBI Child Abduction Response Plan)
“The FBI, historically and today, responds to ransom or financial gain kidnappings. A kidnapping will usually involve the FBI either as the lead agency or as an assisting agency. There is no need, benefit, or legal obligation to wait in notifying or requesting assistance from the FBI. Ideally, notification and/or request for assistance should be made as soon as possible. Any requests for assistance which can be predicted, or arise, should be acted upon as soon as possible. The less catch-up there is, the better the efficiency and effect of the assistance. This applies to all assisting agencies (POST, 2011).”
The classifications of sex offenses
Every state has different laws covering sexually related offenses. They each have different names and explanations. Refer to your local state laws for clarification.
Sexual Abuse / Assault
Sexual abuse is generally the unwanted touching of the victim’s body without penetration.
Sexual assault includes abuse but there is some sort of threat or force being used. If there is penetration (oral, anal or vaginal) then the force is already assumed.
Child Sexual Abuse / Assault / Statutory Rape
Child sexual abuse involves any sexual touching of the child’s body.
Child Sexual Assault is any such abuse but with force or the threat of force. If there is penetration (oral, anal or vaginal) then the force is already assumed.
Statutory rape is when a person under the age of consent gives unlawful consent to another. This is a non-forced sexual act.
Possession and Creation of Child Pornography
Possessing child pornography is a crime against children. This crime increases the demand for children to be abused and exploited. In some cases, this type of offense causes the offenders to act out on new child victims. Of course, the creation of child pornography also creates new victims of sexual crimes.
Sex Offender Registration and other violations
Sex offenders often fail to register their whereabouts. This type of crime also can lead to the re-victimization of past child victims and new victims. Many sexual offenders are predators that are always seeking out new victims.
Prostitution / Solicitation
These sex crimes are as old as human history. This crime involves the offering or solicitation of sexual acts for money or other items of value.
In some states, it is not illegal for a person to be completely nude. In other states, it is a crime. But in most states, if a person is pleasuring themselves in public view or doing some other lewd act, then they can be arrested.
Four types of sexual murder
The above table lists the four types of sexual murder (McGraw-Hill, 2003)
“Generally, murder classifications have failed to be useful for investigators in identifying perpetrators of murders. Based on the experience of the authors, this article extends the definitions of four previously recognized rape-offender typologies (power-assertive, power- reassurance, anger-retaliatory, and anger-excitation) into classifications for sexually oriented killers. These types of murderers and their crime scenes are described through the dynamics of their behaviors, homicidal patterns, and suspect profiles. Each typology is followed by an actual case example that fits that particular type of killer. By identifying crime scene and behavioral factors of these killers, the homicide investigator will be more equipped to process murder scenes, prioritize leads, and apprehend killers. Unlike earlier efforts at crime scene classification, the present work addresses the behaviors, motivational continuum, and the effects of experiential learning by the perpetrators. The relative frequency of the four types within a population of murderers at the Michigan State Penitentiary is revealed (Keppel & Walter, 2016).”
“Ressler, Burgess, and Douglas (1988) consider a murder sexual if at least one of the following is involved: the victim is found totally or partially naked; the genitals are exposed; the body is found in a sexually explicit position; an object has been inserted into a body cavity; there is evidence of sexual contact; or there is evidence of substitutive sexual activity or of sadistic sexual fantasies (NCJRS, 2005).”
Interview procedures and investigative questions for sexual assault cases Preliminary Victim Interview
The IACP National Law Enforcement Policy Center developed the following protocol to assist officers in dealing with this sensitive subject.
Notify a victim advocate as soon as possible as part of your response to the call. Give the victim the choice to have the victim advocate present during the preliminary and follow-up interviews. “A spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or parent may not be the most appropriate support person
to have present during an interview because the victim may hesitate to reveal all the details of the assault in front of someone with whom they are close (IACP, 2005).”
Initially, the first responding officer must ascertain if a crime has been committed. Once that is confirmed, then the officer needs to get enough information to determine the location of the crime scene and any evidence so that they can be secured. Remember the victim is also a crime scene, so her clothing needs to be seized as evidence. This needs to be accomplished in a discreet manner and access to another change of clothes should be arranged. Also the officer needs to identify any possible witnesses and suspects so that other officers can assist in locating them. If the suspect(s) are located, they are also a crime scene.
Preliminary Interview Protocol
It is important that the officer’s demeanor and word choices are appropriate for the interaction with the victim. The officer needs to gain the victim’s confidence and let the victim know that a significant part of the officer’s role is to provide assistance and protection. Although it is appropriate for the officer to express sympathy for the victim, and to show concern for the victim’s well-being, it would not be appropriate to be touching or patting the victim. This action may scare the victim or it may be received in the wrong manner. Showing compassion will help contribute to the victim’s overall welfare and my help in the future as the case moves forward.
The officer needs to explain to the victim that in order for the investigation to be thorough, there will be assistance from other team members. The Sexual Assault nurses and medical personnel will perform a rape kit to gather necessary evidence from the victim. After this examination, the officer will need to speak with the victim in greater detail at the police station in order to be more private and free of distractions.
While interviewing the victim, use common terminology (such as penis, vagina, oral and anal) to describe intimate body parts and actions. Explain to the victim, that phrases such as “down there” are not descriptive enough to hold up in court. Letting the victim know ahead of time what is expected, may help them and cause them to be more comfortable in having simple terms in which to communicate. “When documenting the victim interview, it is especially important for investigating officers to preserve the victim’s statements as they are first spoken. They should not be sanitized out of concern that the victim will be misunderstood or misrepresented (IACP 2005).”
Writing the Report
The investigating officer must complete a written report in all cases of sexual assault, even if an arrest is not made. The officer should clearly document all the facts and observations, including the physical and emotional condition of the victim. “For example, the report should indicate that the victim was “tearful and trembling,” rather than just “upset.” Similarly, the officer should report that the victim’s shirt was torn and a shoe was missing, rather than just describing the victim’s appearance as “disheveled” This report should contain a copy of the forensic examination (if available), including diagrams specifying the nature and location of all injuries, complaint of pain or tenderness, and photographs of non-genital injuries (IACP, 2005).”
Protecting Victim Rights
Victims feel uncomfortable enough since they have been victimized. It is a further concern to them that they are revealing intimate details about themselves to the police and the court system. In some cases, confidential information has been released that which had an adverse impact on the prosecution of the case. These actions also cause some victims to no longer cooperate with the investigation or refuse to testify in the trial. Confidentiality is of utmost importance in these cases and if that trust is broken it can be cause for civil liability and disciplinary action.
“The investigator must ensure that victims are notified of their rights as a crime victim under state law, which may include the right to have their name withheld from public record; be notified of arrests, court dates, and parole or release dates; be present and to make a statement at proceedings; apply for crime victim compensation; and seek an emergency protection order.
The victim also has a right to be free from harassment and intimidation by the suspect, and the investigator should explain the process for contacting law enforcement if those laws are violated (IACP, 2005).”
Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
If the victim was under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the attack, this does not nullify their ability to pursue the case. The victim needs to informed that any substance abuse does not justify a sexual assault. In this case, question the victim about any loss of memory, disorientation, hallucinations or other issues that may have been drug induced.
Arrest and Prosecution Decisions
In most situations, a sexual assault victim should not be asked whether or not they want to prosecute the suspect. These choices of prosecution should be made only after an investigation is completed and there is ample probable cause for an arrest. If the case results in an immediate arrest, the prosecuting attorney may have as little as 24-48 hours to present satisfactory evidence to keep the offender in custody. The victim’s account of the incident is usually critical in presenting this case.
“Officers should be discouraged from making an immediate arrest unless there is a reason to believe that the offender may flee the jurisdiction, destroy evidence, or is posing a danger to the victim or other members of the community. This allows the officer time to locate and interview any potential witnesses and to use investigative techniques such as pretext phone calls (where allowed by law). The rationale for the decision regarding arrest should be explained to the victim and any support people present (IACP, 2005).” A safety plan should be created and discussed with the victim in case the suspect is not yet in custody or for when the suspect makes bond and gets released from jail.
Many victims of sexual assault wait to report the incident to the police.
The below list, according to the IACP, gives some potential reasons why a rape victim may postpone reporting the incident:
∞ feelings of shame
∞ uncertainty whether the event constitutes a sexual assault
∞ fear of not being believed
∞ concern regarding family members and friends finding out what happened
∞ fear of the criminal justice system
∞ fear of the consequences and how they will affect the victim’s life.
Because of these many reservations and concerns, officers must be patient with any hesitancy on the part of the victim during the initial interview. Officers must continue to be sensitive to the fact that inquiries about the delayed statement may cause victims to feel that the officer doubts their story or partially blames the victim for the assault. The officer should explain to the victim that delayed reporting is not uncommon, but those reasons need to be added to the report.
While the reasons for a delayed report need to be documented, a delay in reporting should be considered normal and not seen as an indication that the victim is untruthful about the assault. In fact, many state laws allow the victim to pursue the case many years after the assault.
“This is determined by the statute of limitations for the specific crime classification and the age of the victim at the time of the assault. Even when the statute of limitations has expired, a prosecutor can use the (previous) victim as a witness to corroborate another case still within the statute of limitations involving the same suspect. A delayed report should, therefore, never deter a thorough investigation (IACP, 2005).”
Why women do not report rape to the police
Some survivors cite the following reasons for not reporting a sexual assault:
¥ Fear of reprisal
¥ Personal matter
¥ Reported to a different official
¥ Not important enough to respondent
¥ Belief that the police would not do anything to help
¥ Belief that the police could not do anything to help
¥ Did not want to get offender in trouble with law
¥ Did not want family to know
¥ Did not want others to know
¥ Not enough proof
¥ Fear of the justice system
¥ Did not know how
¥ Feel the crime was not “serious enough”
¥ Fear of lack of evidence
¥ Unsure about perpetrator’s intent (MCASA, n.d.)
Motivation for false rape allegations
The topic of false rape allegations is very controversial. The purpose of this manual is not to prove how high are how low the statistics are for false allegations of sexual assault. But to be fair, false rape claims are real. They do happen. This portion of the manual will discuss some of the reasons given for making up the accusations. The following are two real-life examples. The names of those involved have been withheld.
Example 1 – A husband brings his wife to the police station. He demands that the police find the suspects responsible for raping her. His wife is hesitant to make the report, but she agrees to give a statement. The officer wisely interviews the woman alone. Her first statement to the police is that she was raped by three Hispanics on a dark road near an abandoned lumber storage area. The initial report was made. Later, in a follow-up interview, the wife confessed that she was never raped. She then admitted that she was having an affair with a police officer. She stated that her husband caught her coming home late, so she made up the story to try and save her marriage.
Example 2 – A mother brings her adult daughter to the police station to report a rape. The daughter claims that she was raped in the back seat of her car and held hostage during the night by multiple black male subjects. After telling conflicting stories about the incident, the daughter finally recanted and explained that she has a drug problem and lives with her mother. She said that she also has a young child in kindergarten and she stays out all night using drugs and comes home late in the morning. She admits that she is frequently late in taking her kindergartener to school. She said that her daughter is getting in trouble at school for being tardy. The adult daughter explained that her mother gave her the ultimatum that if she was late in getting her
granddaughter to school, one more time, she was going to kick her out of the house. The woman made up the story to prevent herself from getting kicked out.
Example 3 – “In mid-February 2014 Alexandria Westover, a Florida woman told police she had been assaulted on the Florida Turnpike after getting a flat tire. She claimed that a man pulled over to help her but eventually raped her. After police spent over 100 man-hours of investigation in a fruitless search for evidence, Westover eventually admitted to having fabricated the story because she didn’t want to get in trouble for missing work (Radford, 2014).”
Example 4 – On January 22, 2014, a twelve-year-old girl reported that she was accosted by a white male as she was coming home from school; she said the man grabbed her and jerked down her pants before she was able to escape. Police combed the area but found no evidence that anything occurred; the following day the girl admitted that she had not been assaulted at all; she had made up the story because she didn’t want to get into trouble for missing her school bus. She is lucky that an innocent man who happened to be in the area and who matched her broad description was not stopped and arrested (Radford, 2014).
Example 5 – “Then there’s the tragic case of Darrell Roberson, a Texas man who arrived at his home to find his wife Tracy underneath another man in the back of a pickup truck in their driveway. Tracy Roberson cried that she was being raped, upon which Mr. Roberson pulled out a gun and killed the other man with a shot to the head. It was soon determined that Tracy Roberson and the dead man, Devin LaSalle, had been caught in the middle of a consensual sexual affair.
Though most cases do not result in anyone’s death, false accusations of sexual assault often stem from an attempt to hide sexual infidelity from a partner (Radford, 2014).”
According to one study by Dr. Eugene Kanin, the following are three reasons that complainants gave for making a false sexual assault report:
∞ providing an alibi
∞ a means of gaining revenge
∞ a platform for seeking attention/sympathy.
This study of a city of 70,000 people, showed that in a nine-year period there were 109 forcible rape cases reports. It was later discovered that 45 of the rape allegations were false. This study identified that feminists and police are at odds when it comes to false rape claims.
Kanin’s study showed that the cases were only determined to be false when the victim admitted that no rape occurred. “After the recant, the complainant is informed that she will be charged with filing a false complaint, punishable by a substantial fine and a jail sentence. In no case, has an effort been made on the part of the complainant to retract the recantation. Although we certainly do not deny the possibility of false recantations, no evidence supports such an interpretation for these cases (Harbison, 2010).”
Every police department should have a policy in place, that allows anyone to report a sexual assault. That report should be taken even if it sounds suspicious at first. It is better to play it safe and take the report rather than try to interrogate them at the onset. After completing the report, taking to witnesses and gathering evidence, the report should be turned over to an investigator that specializes in sexual assault.
If during the investigation, it is determined that there are significant inconsistencies, then the victim will need to be re-interviewed to determine if those discrepancies are acceptable to continue pursuing the case. The victim may have been distraught during the initial interview and may have said things from a distorted perspective. Due to the sensitive nature of these cases, be patient with the victim. It would be an injustice if a sexual assault occurred and it somehow was mishandled by police or the police officer jumped to a wrong conclusion causing the victim to no longer cooperate with the investigation.
Types of physical evidence collected in rape and sexual assault cases
One of the most common forms of evidence in a sexual assault case is the Rape Kit. This term is commonly used by police officers to refer to the sexual assault forensic exam kit. This container includes materials to collect and package evidence that is gathered during the examination (RAINN, 2016). This kit usually contains the following items:
∞ Bags and paper sheets for evidence collection
∞ Documentation forms
∞ Materials for blood samples
What happens during the exam?
The length of the exam may take a few hours, but the actual time will vary based on several different factors. Below is an outline of the exam process:
Immediate care – The medical staff will first take care of the victim’s injuries.
History – They will then ask questions about current medications, medical history, and pre-existing conditions. They will ask them about recent consensual sexual activity in order to determine the source of potential DNA and other evidence gathered from the victim’s body. The nurse will also ask questions about the incident so that the staff can accurately locate any evidence.
Head-to-toe examination – This assessment “may include a full body examination, including internal examinations of the mouth, vagina, and/or anus. It may also include taking samples of blood, urine, swabs of body surface areas, and sometimes hair samples (RAINN, 2016).” Photos of the victim’s body will be taken to document injuries and the examination.
Other forms of evidence that are discovered, such as a torn piece of the perpetrator’s clothing, a stray hair, or debris will also be taken and packaged as evidence for future analysis (RAINN, 2016).
The evidence handover – The sexual assault nurse will then turn over the rape kit directly to the police officer. Include the nurses’ name in your report so as not to break the chain of custody.
The officer should also seize the victim’s clothing as it may also contain evidence. The standard procedure, for privacy issues, would be to have a female nurse gather the clothes of a female victim. “In the majority of cases, a search of the victim’s clothing for crime evidence is done at the hospital. This is often a better setting in which to ask the victim to disrobe, take photographs of any injuries to her body and place each article of clothing in a separate container for later lab analysis (Jetmore, 2016).” The hospital should have a gown for the victim to wear once out of her clothes. Arrangements should be made for someone to bring a fresh change of clothes for the victim.
Other Evidence Identification and Collection
Not only is the evidence from the victim crucial to the case, but also evidence from the crime scene needs to be collected. Once the crime scene has been identified, it should be secured, examined and processed. Investigators should take photo and video evidence of the crime scene and of any signs of a struggle.
“Preserve the bedding or any other object on which the rape took place, and send it to the crime lab for analysis. The contact between the victim and the perpetrator may have resulted in the transfer of physical evidence in the form of semen, blood, hairs, skin fibers or other trace evidence, which will prove vital in identifying the assailant and/or prosecuting the case (Jetmore, 2016).” When collecting the bedding, start from the edges and roll or fold towards the middle in order to trap or contain any evidence or debris. Also, remember that when the suspect is found, he will also be a potential source of transfer evidence.
Importance of condom trace evidence
In this day and age, fatal sexually transmitted diseases, are becoming more and more common, so many people now practice safe sex. Even rapists have begun to wear condoms. Just as a thief wears gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, sexual offenders now wear condoms to avoid leaving seminal fluids behind. Forensic experts frequently detect sexual assault offenders by examining seminal fluid deposits for sperm, proteins, blood grouping factors, and DNA profile. When sexual assailants use condoms, however, assuming no leaks or spills, this valuable evidence gets confined inside the condom, which investigators may never retrieve. The same can be said for any traces from the victim–including vaginal cells, blood, and saliva–that otherwise might have been transmitted to the attacker’s penis.
However, when rapists use condoms, they leave behind other valuable evidence. Manufacturers make condoms using an assortment of materials, both natural and synthetic. Each company has its own formula, which may vary even among its various brands. Some condoms are made from lamb membranes, and one manufacturer recently introduced a model made from polyurethane plastic. Still, latex rubber condoms have, by far, the biggest share of the market, perhaps because they cost significantly less. In addition to the basic ingredients they use to make condoms, manufacturers also add other substances, known as exchangeable traces, which contain particulates, lubricants, and spermicide (Blackledge, 1996).
Identify the use and effects of Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine
Drug-induced rape is when the rapist uses an anesthetic-type drug to render the victim helpless or incapacitated in order to limit or stop any resistance to the sexual advances. Other than alcohol, the two most common substances used as date rape drugs are Rohypnol and GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyrate) (K-state, 2003). Ketamine is also becoming a more widely used drug in this type of crime. A major problem with these sexual assaults is that the victims do not sense any risk to their wellbeing when the attacker is incapacitating them. The weapon is not a knife or a gun, but rather some small pill that was concealed inside their drink. Although. this weapon is so small in size and often undetectable, its effects are powerful and debilitating (Fitzgerald & Riley, 2000).
Rohypnol or Flunitrazepam
According to drugs.com, “rohypnol is an intermediate-acting benzodiazepine with general properties similar to those of Valium (diazepam). It is used in the short-term treatment of insomnia, as a pre-medication in surgical procedures and for inducing anesthesia.”
Common or street names: forget me drug, roches, roofies, ruffles; other names include date rape drug, la roche, R2, rib, roach, roofenol, rope, rophies, the forget pill, getting roached, lunch money drug, Mexican Valium, pingus, Reynolds, Robutal, wolfies.
“The effects of Rohypnol can be felt within 30 minutes of being drugged and can last for several hours. If you are drugged, you might look and act like someone who is drunk. You might have trouble standing. Your speech might be slurred. Or you might pass out. Rohypnol can cause these problems:
∞ Muscle relaxation or loss of muscle control
∞ Difficulty with motor movements
∞ Drunk feeling
∞ Problems talking
∞ Can’t remember what happened while drugged
∞ Loss of consciousness (black out)
∞ Problems seeing
∞ Lower blood pressure
∞ Stomach problems
∞ Death (OWH, 2012)”
Gamma hydroxybutyrate – GHB
“GHB or Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (C4H8O3) is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that is commonly referred to as a “club drug” or “date rape” drug. GHB is abused by teens and young adults at bars, parties, clubs and “raves” (all night dance parties), and is often placed in alcoholic beverages. Euphoria, increased sex drive, and tranquility are reported positive effects of GHB abuse. Negative effects may include sweating, loss of consciousness (reported by 69
percent of users), nausea, hallucinations, amnesia, and coma, among other adverse effects (drugs.com).”
Common or street names: Liquid X, Liquid ecstasy, Georgia home boy, Oop, Gamma-oh, Grievous bodily harm, Mils, G, Liquid G, Fantasy.
“GHB takes effect in about 15 minutes and can last 3 or 4 hours. It is very potent: A very small amount can have a big effect. So it’s easy to overdose on GHB. Most GHB is made by people in home or street “labs.” So, you don’t know what’s in it or how it will affect you. GHB can cause these problems:
∞ Problems seeing
∞ Loss of consciousness (black out)
∞ Can’t remember what happened while drugged
∞ Problems breathing
∞ Slow heart rate
∞ Dream-like feeling
∞ Death (OWH, 2012)”
Ketamine is another drug used for these purposes. It is fast acting and causes memory loss. The subject under the influence may be able to see, hear and feel what is going on around them, but
they are unable to move. Some victims are able to later recall what happened to them while they were drugged.
Ketamine can cause these problems:
∞ Distorted perceptions of sight and sound
∞ Lost sense of time and identity
∞ Out of body experiences
∞ Dream-like feeling
∞ Feeling out of control
∞ Impaired motor function
∞ Problems breathing
∞ Memory problems
∞ Loss of coordination
∞ Aggressive or violent behavior
∞ High blood pressure
∞ Slurred speech (OWH, 2012)
Assess investigative and evidence collection techniques for drug-facilitated sexual assaults
A huge obstacle for victims and law enforcement in rape drugs cases is that many victims do not seek help right after the incident because they are not even sure what has happened to them. The drugs have impaired their memory, and by the time they realize that they have been violated, the drug evidence may have already dissipated. “Even when victims do suspect a drug-facilitated rape and seek help immediately, law enforcement agencies may not know how to collect evidence appropriately or how to test urine using the sensitive method required (Fitzgerald & Riley, 2000).”
Importance of a Urine Specimen
Rape drugs are better detected in urine than in blood. If rape drugs are suspected, a urine specimen must be collected right away. This should be done before the police interview and before the sexual assault exam. “Appropriate measures should be implemented to ensure that other potential evidence, such as sperm or semen, is protected when urine specimens are collected (Fitzgerald & Riley, 2000).”
Crime Scene Evidence
When the crime scene is identified, it should be secured, and potential evidence should immediately be collected. Preserving the evidence in a timely manner is crucial in these cases. In addition to looking for normal evidence, investigators should also look for items that could have been used to administer the drug. Items such as drinking glasses that the victim may have used, or containers that the suspect may have used to mix the drinks. Investigators should always check trash cans for potentially discarded evidence. GHB is often administered via eye droppers. “In one case, traces of GHB were found in the box of salt that was used to make margaritas (Fitzgerald & Riley, 2000).” GHB recipes may be found in the search history of a suspect’s computer, smartphone or other electronic devices. In some cases of drug-facilitated sexual assaults, the offender took photos and videos of their victims. The photo and video evidence later proved to be invaluable by helping to identify other victims of the same assailant (Fitzgerald & Riley, 2000).
Using Hair in drug rape cases
GHB is a natural chemical found in the brain and other areas of the human body. But when is it is taken as a drug, it can have debilitating effects. Since the window of detection of GHB is very short in blood and urine, scientists sought out another way of detecting this drug. Their solution was to test hair. This method determined that “a single exposure to GHB in a case of sexual assault can be documented by hair analysis when collected about one month after the crime
(NCBI, 2003).” Even though this method of testing has been around for some time, it is still often overlooked.
Common characteristics of sexual asphyxia or autoerotic death
Some people knowingly use drugs to enhance their sexual pleasure. They are willing participants and attempt to enhance their overall experience. Some use other methods instead of drugs, in an effort to increase their gratification. Although the act is extremely dangerous, some choose methods which can lead to sexual asphyxia or autoerotic death.
Accidental strangulation by ligature that occurs in an attempt to induce mild cerebral hypoxia during sexual activity for the purpose of enhancing orgasmic pleasure (Mosby, 2009).
A form of sexual masochism in which oxygen flow to the brain is reduced, as by controlled strangulation or suffocation, to enhance the pleasure of masturbation (Medical Dictionary, n.d.).
1. “Death from self-strangulation related asphyxia or electrical self-stimulation as part of a paraphilic masturbatory ritual in which a ligature of some type is placed around the neck.
2. Death from asphyxiation or electrocution, as a miscalculation in a paraphilic sexuoerotic ritual involving self-strangulation or self-applied electric current (McGraw-Hill, 2002).”
Autoerotic deaths can be a predicament for law enforcement investigators, forensic medicine experts, and coroners. The problem is that it is difficult to determine if the case is a homicide, suicide or accident. “Interpretation of autoerotic asphyxia in death scenes has been particularly problematic for law enforcement and other death scene investigators for several reasons. First of all, there is a lack of information and training on the topic. Secondly, the scene is sometimes altered by well-meaning relatives or significant others who remove pornography or female clothing from a male victim or otherwise alter the scene out of personal embarrassment or the wish to preserve the dignity of the deceased (Law Officer, 2009).”
Identify the characteristics of strangulation wounds
According to the Wisconsin Medical Journal, the following is a list of signs and symptoms of strangulation:
“The specific injury will depend on the method of strangulation, the force, and duration of the strangulation episode.
¥ Voice Changes—May occur in up to 50% of victims, may be as minimal as simple hoarseness (dysphonia)or as severe as complete loss of voice (aphonia).
¥ Swallowing Changes—Due to the injury of the larynx and/or hyoid bone. Swallowing may be difficult but not painful (dysphagia) or painful (odynophagia).
¥ Breathing Changes—May be due to hyperventilation or may be secondary to the underlying neck and airway injury. The victim may complain of dyspnea. Breathing changes may initially appear mild, but underlying injuries may kill the victim up to 36 hours later.
¥ Mental Status Changes—Early symptoms may include restlessness and combativeness due to temporary brain anoxia and/or severe stress reaction. Changes can also be long- term, resulting in amnesia and psychosis.
¥ Involuntary Urination and Defecation
¥ Swelling of the Neck—Edema may be caused by any of the following: internal hemorrhage, injury of any of the underlying neck structures, or fracture of the larynx causing subcutaneous emphysema.
¥ Lung Injury—Aspiration pneumonitis may develop due to the vomit that the patient inhaled during strangulation. Milder cases of pneumonia may also occur hours or days later. Pulmonary edema symptoms may also develop.
¥ Visible Injuries to the Neck—These may include scratches, abrasions, and scrapes. These may be from the victim’s own fingernails as a defensive maneuver but commonly are a combination of lesions caused by both the victim and the assailant’s fingernails. Erythema on the neck may be fleeting, but may demonstrate a detectable pattern. Ecchymosis may not appear for hours or even days. Fingertip bruises are circular and oval, and often faint. A single bruise on the victim’s neck is most frequently caused by the assailant’s thumb.
¥ Chin abrasions—May occur as the victim brings their chin down to their chest, to protect the neck.
¥ Ligature Marks—May be very subtle, resembling the natural folds of the neck. They may also be more apparent, reflecting the type of ligature used. Ligature marks are a clue that the hyoid bone may be fractured.
¥ Petechiae—May be found under the eyelids, periorbital region, face, scalp, and on the neck. Petechiae may occur at and above the area of constriction.
¥ Subconjunctival Hemorrhage—This may occur when there is an unusually vigorous struggle between the victim and assailant.
¥ Neurological Findings—These may include ptosis, facial droop, unilateral weakness, paralysis or loss of sensation.
¥ Psychiatric Symptoms—including memory problems, depression, suicidal ideation, insomnia, nightmares, and anxiety.
¥ Other Symptoms—Dizziness, tinnitus, and acid reflux.”
There are four types of strangulation:
¥ Manual (also called throttling)–The use of bare hands
¥ Chokehold (also called sleeper hold)—Elbow bend compression
¥ Ligature (also known as garroting)—Use of a cord-like object, clothing, rope, or belt (Funk & Schuppel, 2003)
Death Scene Characteristics Medical and Legal Aspects
When investigating a death involving suspicious sexual activity, it is important to understand the vital components to establish an autoerotic fatality. If these key points can be identified from both medical and legal standpoints, it will be easier for investigators to differentiate autoerotic death scenes from other associated types of death scenes such as suicides and sexual murders.
Ignored or Overlooked findings
This section will deal with some of the overlooked issues in these sorts of cases. It is thought that these components are not disregarded deliberately, but more due to lack of training and understanding about the behavior and fantasies of those involved in these practices. It is also due in part that auto-erotic deaths share certain characteristics with both suicides and sexual homicides.
Behavioral characteristics of autoerotic death scenes
Keep in mind that it is not necessary that all twelve of these components be present to decide an autoerotic fatality. This is a guide to assist the investigator and not an exhaustive or absolute list. The search for this type of evidence should guide the detective in asking the proper questions to discover if an autoerotic fatality occurred. This guide was provided by the what-when-how of autoerotic death.
¥ Location: a secluded area with a reasonable expectation of privacy, i.e. a locked bedroom, bathroom, basement, attic, garage, workshop, motel room, or wooded area etc.
¥ Body position: in hanging deaths, the victim’s body may be partially supported by the ground, or the victim may even appear to have simply been able to stand up to avoid strangulation.
¥ High-risk elements: these are items that are brought into the autoerotic activity which enhances physical or psychological pleasure. They increase the risk of autoerotic death.
Device or apparatus
¥ Asphyxial ligature (rope, belt, cord, etc.)
¥ Complex ligature
¥ Duct tape for mummification
¥ Electrical wires attached to the body
¥ Fire (sexual immolation)
¥ Immersion in a bathtub
¥ Plastic bag over the head
¥ Power hydraulics
¥ Restrictive bondage Props
¥ Sharp, oversized or unclean fetishized objects inserted into orifices (bolts, large cucumbers, oversized dildos)
¥ Vacuum cleaner attached to or inserted into the body
¥ Amyl nitrate
¥ Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
¥ MDMA (Ecstasy)
¥ Nitrous Oxide
¥ Self-rescue mechanism: this is any provision that allows the victim to voluntarily stop the effect of the high-risk element. For example:
∞ Literature dealing with escape mechanisms,
∞ A slip knot in a ligature around the victim’s neck,
∞ The freedom to punch a hole in a plastic bag sealed over the victim’s face,
∞ A remote safety button on a power hydraulic in or near the victim’s reach,
∞ Keys for locks, or
∞ The ability to simply stand up and avoid asphyxiation altogether.
¥ Bondage: this refers to the use of unique materials or devices that physically restrain the victim. These items have a psychological/fantasy significance to the victim. The presence of this characteristic can lead investigators to believe that the death was homicidal when it was not. In
cases of autoerotic death, it is important to establish that a victim could have placed the restraints on themselves, without assistance, i.e. literature dealing with bondage, items such as handcuffs, leather harnesses, wrist manacles, elaborate ligature configuration, etc.
¥ Masochistic behavior: inflicting physical or psychological (humiliation) pain on sexual areas of the body or other body parts. It is important not only to look for indicators of current use but of healed injuries suggesting a history of behavior when appropriate, i.e. literature dealing with sadomasochism, items such as a spreader bar between the ankles, genital restraints, ball-gag, nipple clips, cross-dressing, suspension, etc.
¥ Clothing: the victim may be dressed in fetishistic attire, or they may be dressed in one or more articles of female clothing. However, cross-dressing or fetishistic attire may be absent. Clothing is not always a useful indicator in cases of autoerotic death. It is possible for victims of autoerotic fatalities to be fully dressed, nude, or in a state of partial undress.
¥ Protective measures: the victim often will not want injuries sustained during regularly occurring autoerotic behaviors to be visible to others.
∞ Injuries may be inflicted only to areas that are covered by clothing, or
∞ they may place soft protective material between their skin and restraining devices and/or
∞ ligatures to prevent abrasions and bruising, i.e. a towel placed around the victim’s neck, beneath a hanging ligature, wrist restraints placed over the victim’s clothing, etc.
¥ Sexual paraphernalia and props: items found on or near the victim that assist in sexual fantasy, i.e. vibrators, dildos, mirrors, erotica, diaries, photos, films, female undergarments, a method for recording the event (positioned audiotape, videotape, camera), etc.
¥ Masturbatory activity: the absence of semen from the scene is not a conclusive indicator of autoerotic death. The victim may or may not have been manually masturbating at the time of death. Evidence of masturbation strongly supports a determination of autoerotic death, however, and may be suggested by the presence of semen, tissues, towels and lubricant on hands and sexual areas.
¥ Evidence of prior autoerotic activity: this includes evidence of behavior similar to that found in scene that pre-dates the fatality, i.e.
∞ permanently affixed protective padding,
∞ plastic bags with repaired ‘escape’ holes,
∞ pornography from many different dates,
∞ an extensive collection of erotica,
∞ complex high-risk elements (very complex ligature configurations),
∞ complex escape mechanisms,
∞ healed injuries,
∞ grooves are worn in a beam from repeated ligature placement,
∞ a homemade videotape of prior autoerotic activity,
∞ witness accounts of previous autoerotic behavior, etc.
¥ No apparent suicidal intent: the victim plans for future events in their life. The absence of a suicide note is not an indication of an autoerotic event. If a note is present, it must be determined that it was written around the time of death, and is not a prop (part of a victim’s masochistic fantasy). Some examples to help would be:
∞ if the victim made plans to see close friends or
∞ go on trips in the near future,
∞ has no history of depression,
∞ recently paid monthly bills,
∞ spoke to friends about looking forward to a specific event, etc.
As stated, not all of the above characteristics need be present. The characteristics are at the very least:
¥ Reasonable expectation of privacy;
¥ Evidence of solo sexual activity;
¥ Evidence of prior high-risk autoerotic practice;
¥ No apparent suicidal intent.
Regarding victim sex, the autoerotic death scenes of males tend to be quite different from the autoerotic death scenes of females. In male and female cases alike the occurrence of autoerotic behavior has been found to be both secretive and repetitive.
It has been found, however, that male victims tend to use a far greater range of elaborate devices and props during autoerotic behavior. These props are often designed to cause real or simulated pain. There is also a greater occurrence of cross-dressing and use of pornographic material.
Female victims, on the other hand, tend to be found naked, often using only a single device, with no excessive or elaborate apparatus or props. It has been suggested repeatedly that these death scene differences may account for the high level of underreporting and/or mislabeling of female autoerotic deaths. This is especially true when female victims of autoerotic fatalities are deeply involved with self-binding and other sadomasochistic behavior. This scenario can readily appear to investigators as a sexual homicide, perhaps the work of a sexual predator.
Other factors that tend to influence the characteristics found at an autoerotic death scene include the friends and family of the victim. When friends or family members discover a loved one that has been the victim of an autoerotic fatality, very often their first impulse is to clean up the scene. They remove and dispose of potentially embarrassing items (i.e. pornography, articles of female clothing, sexual devices), and act to preserve their loved one’s dignity before notifying authorities. This is not criminal behavior done with criminal intent, and should not be treated as such. However, investigators must be aware that this type of intervention can and does happen, and they must anticipate dealing with it (what-when-how.com, n.d.).
There are many cases where the cause of death is not immediately recognizable. It is up to the investigators to discover the reason and technique for the person’s demise. Data must be collected to determine the pre-mortem mental and emotional state of the deceased. Some call
this method of investigation a psychological autopsy. This psychological autopsy method pursues all the associated evidence, witness statements and historical and medical background of the deceased to determine what sort of mental state the deceased was in before their death.
“The question that most commonly arises in cases involving a person who was alone at the time of death is whether or not death was an accident or suicide. It is believed that by making a very thorough examination of the victim’s lifestyle and history (victimology), a more accurate determination can be made as to whether a death was an accident or a suicide. The question is not always answerable, but it most certainly cannot be answered without detailed information about both the death scene and the victim’s history (what-when-how.com, n.d.).”
There are three major areas of investigative consideration when performing a psychological autopsy:
(1) wound pattern analysis;
(2) victim state of mind; and
(3) victim mental health history.
Wound pattern analysis
The victim’s injuries need to be analyzed according to the crime scene environment to properly determine their source. The autopsy should also be used to help in determining the exact cause. “Key questions that are asked of the wounds include whether or not there are hesitation marks, whether or not the deceased could have caused the injuries, where any weapons that were used were found, and the precise causes of death (what-when-how.com, n.d.).” Do the wounds appear to be self-inflicted? Is that weapon still within arm’s reach?
Victim’s state of mind
Extensive interviews with friends, family, colleagues and neighbors should be performed to discover any factors that may have contributed to the person’s death. This victimology research should also include the subject’s past intimate partners. Are there obvious signs of suicidal behavior? Did the subject suddenly start giving away belongings or prized possessions? Was the subject depressed and then became unusually cheerful or peaceful? Were there recent deaths among their friends or family? Has there been a buildup of stressful situations? Was there a suicide note? Did it match the victim’s handwriting or manner of speech?
Obtain a subpoena for the victim’s medical records and mental health history. Determine what medication that the subject was taking and if they had attempted suicide in the past. Also, check the family history to see if family members had attempted or committed suicide. If these steps are not taken, the death may be mislabeled or listed as undetermined.
“When confronted with a potential sexual fatality, it is requisite that investigators understand and appreciate the characteristics of autoerotic fatalities, and that they employ the use of psychological autopsies to understand and evaluate the behavioral evidence in the case (what- when-how, n.d.).”
The Four Motivational Models for Classification of Homicide
In the Criminal Investigation manual written by Swanson, Chamelin and Territo, they outline the four motivational models for classifying homicide as follows:
I. THE LAW
A. The various state statutes contain different names for felonious assaults, such as aggravated assault, assault with intent to commit murder, felonious battery, and so forth, but all have certain common legal elements, namely that the assault was committed for the purpose of inflicting sever bodily harm or death.
B. Non-felonious Homicides
Non-felonious homicides may be justifiable or excusable.
1. Justifiable homicide is the necessary killing of another person in the performance of a legal duty or the exercise of a legal right when the slayer was not at fault.
2. Excusable homicide differs from justifiable homicide in that one who commits an excusable homicide is to some degree at fault, but the degree of fault is not enough to constitute a criminal homicide.
C. Felonious Homicides
Felonious homicides are treated and punished as crimes and typically fall into two categories:
1. Murder is defined by common law as the killing of any human being by another with malice aforethought.
2. Manslaughter is a criminal homicide committed under circumstances not severe enough to constitute murder, yet it cannot be classified as either justifiable or excusable homicide.
II. MOTIVATIONAL MODELS FOR CLASSIFICATION OF HOMICIDE
A. Criminal Enterprise Homicide
Criminal enterprise homicide entails murder committed for material gain.
B. Personal-Cause Homicide
Personal-cause homicide is motivated by a personal cause and ensues from interpersonal aggression; the slayer and the victim(s) may not be known to each other.
C. Sexual Homicide
In sexual homicide, a sexual element (activity) is the basis for the sequence of acts leading to death.
D. Group-Cause Homicide
In group-cause homicide, two or more people with a common ideology sanction as an act, committed by one or more of the group’s members, that results in death (Swanson, Chamelin & Territo, 2016).
Investigator’s responsibilities when responding to the scene of a suspected homicide
When a death investigator first arrives at the crime scene, the investigator must confirm that the victim is deceased and then conduct a scene walkthrough. He or she should follow these steps provided by the National Institute of Justice:
¥ Introduce and Identify Self and Role
¥ Exercise Scene Safety and Security
¥ Confirm or Pronounce Death
¥ Participate in Scene Briefing (With Attending Agency Representatives)
¥ Conduct Scene “Walk Through”
¥ Establish Chain of Custody
¥ Follow Laws (Related to the Collection of Evidence)
Once the death investigators have arrived at the scene, confirmed the death and performed initial processing, they must evaluate the scene. They should follow these steps:
¥ Photograph Scene
¥ Develop Descriptive Documentation of the Scene
¥ Establish Probable Location of Injury or Illness
¥ Collect, Inventory and Safeguard Property and Evidence
¥ Interview Witnesses at the Scene
After an investigator has documented, evaluated, and processed the body, he or she must record the decedent’s profile information. He or she should follow these steps:
¥ Document the Discovery History
o The investigator must produce clear, concise, documented information concerning who discovered the body, what the circumstances of discovery were, where the discovery occurred, when the discovery was made and how the discovery was made.
¥ Determine Terminal Episode History
o Obtaining records of pre-terminal circumstances and medical history distinguish medical treatment from trauma. The history, relevant ante-mortem specimens, and electronic data collected and/or transmitted may assist the medical examiner/coroner in determining cause and manner of death.
¥ Document Decedent Medical History
o Obtaining a thorough medical history focuses the investigation, aids in the disposition of the case, and helps determine the need for a post-mortem examination or other laboratory tests or studies. Potential sources of medical information should include but are not limited to nursing homes, hospice agencies, intermediate care and assisted living facilities. Electronic media can be a valuable source of information for obtaining a decedent’s medical history.
¥ Document Decedent Mental Health History
o Knowledge of the mental health history allows the investigator to properly evaluate the decedent’s state of mind and contributes to the determination of cause, manner, and circumstances of death.
¥ Document Social History
When collecting relevant social history information, the investigator should document:
o Marital/domestic history.
o Family history (similar deaths, significant dates).
o Sexual history.
o Employment history.
o Financial history.
o Daily routines, habits, activities, hobbies and unusual behavioral patterns.
o Internet activity (e.g., social media sites).
o Relationships, friends, caregivers, and associates.
o Religious, ethnic or other pertinent information (e.g., religious objection to autopsy).
o Educational background.
o Criminal history and obtain relevant records.
Once the investigator has documented information about the decedent’s death, and the decedent’s medical, social, and mental health, he or she should complete the investigation. He or she should follow these steps:
¥ Maintain Jurisdiction over the Body
¥ Release Jurisdiction of the Body
¥ Perform Exit Procedures
¥ Assist the Family or Authorized Individual(s) (NIJ, 2009)”
Investigative tools and equipment necessary to process a homicide crime scene
The following list was provided by the National Institute of Justice:
1. Alternate Light Source
2. Barrier Sheeting or Tent (to shield body/area from public view).
3. Biohazard Plastic Trash Bags
4. Blood Collection Tubes
5. Body Bags with Locks
6. Body ID Tags
7. Business Cards
8. Camera Equipment
9. Clean Body Cover (Sheet/Drape)
10. Communication Equipment
11. Crime Scene Tape
12. Departmental Scene Forms
13. Disposable Protective Suit
14. Evidence Identification Markers
15. Evidence Seal/Tape
16. Face and Eye Protection
17. First Aid Kit
19. Hair Cover
20. Hand Tools (e.g., bolt cutter, hammer, metal detector, paint brushes pocketknife, rope, shovel, etc.)
21. Investigative Notebooks
22. Latent Print Kit
23. Latex Gloves
24. Maps, Compass, and/or GPS
26. Measurement Instruments
27. Official Identification
28. Packing Material (e.g., clean unused paper bags, envelopes, metal cans, tape, rubber bands, etc.)
29. Personal Supplies (e.g., insect spray, sunscreen, hat, raincoat, umbrella, boots (for wet conditions and constructions sites) etc.).
30. Photo Identifier (e.g., header frame, placards).
31. Phone Lists and Contact Information
32. Portable Lighting
33. Recording Device
34. Reenactment Doll(s)
35. Resource Material (e.g., death scene clean-up, grief support, organ procurement, etc.)
36. Scene Safety Equipment (e.g., biological/chemical/industrial, fire, hardhat, reflective vest, etc.)
37. Sharps Container
38. Shoe/Boot Covers
39. Specimen Containers
40. Thermometer (ambient and body temperature)
41. Trace Evidence Recovery Equipment (e.g., blades, cotton-tipped swabs, disposable syringe, forceps, GSR and hand lens (magnifying glass), large gauge needles, presumptive blood test kit, scalpel handle, tweezers, etc.)
43. Waterless Hand Wash/Disinfectant
44. Writing Instruments (NIJ, 2009)
Various stages of the medical/legal examination including the autopsy
The knowledge and skills of medical examiners and forensic pathologists are essential in death investigations. The primary goal is to deliver unbiased evidence to the cause, timing, and manner of death as a formal pronouncement of the criminal justice system. This procedure begins with an examination of the body while it is still on the scene. In a homicide case, it would be ideal for the forensic examiner to respond to the scene (Demirci &Dogan, 2011), but this may not be the usual protocol. In most agencies, a deputy coroner arrives on the scene to determine the time of death and to assist in determining the cause. After the deputy coroner conducts their investigation, they arrange for the body to be removed from the scene and taken to the morgue, where the pathologist will later perform the autopsy. The autopsy is attended by the same deputy coroner that was on scene and the lead investigator in the case who was also at the crime scene.
The photos and sketch of the scene are an important part of documenting the physical characteristics and body posture of the deceased which could be telling of a positional asphyxia case. But without looking at all the findings as a whole, the cause of death could be misinterpreted. “The most meticulous autopsy in all academia will provide only a speculative cause and manner of death in a 30-year-old man with a negative history, negative toxicology, and autopsy findings of visceral congestion. Yet at the scene, a screwdriver is next to an uncovered electrical outlet on a rain-soaked patio at the decedent’s house, which is undergoing renovation. The cause and manner of death are provided by the scene (Demirci &Dogan, 2011).”
The external examination of the body
The autopsy begins with a careful examination of the victim’s clothing and articles. The pathologist looks for wounds that show damage to the clothing that match the wounds on the skin. This could be helpful to determine if the suspect re-dressed the victim after death. After removing the clothing and any other items such as jewelry, the body is further examined and photographed. There may be transfer evidence on the body, such as gunshot residue, paint flakes or other unknown deposits. This foreign evidence needs to be photographed and collected for later analysis. During this time, an X-ray machine may be utilized to determine if there are bullets or other foreign material inside the victim. An ultraviolet light source may also be used looking for bodily fluids and other remaining substances (Gerbis, 2010).
After the external examination is almost complete, the body is then carefully washed off with a water hose to look for wounds. Often there is blood, dirt or other substances present that have potentially covered or masked the skin. These substances may hide the actual wound locations.
After the body is cleaned, new photographs will be taken of the entire body, front, back and sides. Vitreous fluid is then extracted from the eye with a needle. This fluid will later be analyzed for chemical content such as blood alcohol concentrations. This fluid also can help to determine the time of death (Science Daily, 2008).
The internal examination of the body
The skull cap is then cut open and peeled back to reveal the brain. The brain is examined for injuries. It is then removed and weighed. The pathologist then creates a Y-shaped incision in the torso and begins checking for other signs of injury or medical issues. The sternum bone is cut apart and the ribs are separated to reveal the internal organs. After each organ is removed, examined and weighed, they are placed into a large bag, which is then inserted back into the chest cavity. If the organs contained evidence of injury that pertains to the cause of death, then they are set aside and maintained as evidence and for further examination. The cavity is then sewn back up and prepared for the funeral director (Science Daily, 2008).
Sometimes the injuries or the cause of death are not apparent, and further steps need to be taken. The histology is the examination of the body tissues using a microscope. Tissue samples should be taken from at least the heart and lungs. These samples from the areas of the heart could help determine if the death was from a heart attack (Moles, n.d.).
“Forensic toxicology applies analytical toxicology to the purposes of the law, and includes the analysis of a variety of fluids and tissue samples to determine the absence or presence of drugs and poisons. Once the analytical component is complete, the toxicologist has the equally challenging aspects of interpreting the findings (NFSTC, n.d.).” Irrespective of how the subject died, toxicology analysis can establish whether levels of toxic materials may have been a contributing factor in the death. According to Forensic Science Simplified.org, these tests take specimens from the following sources:
¥ Blood, Urine, Liver
¥ Vitreous humor
¥ Stomach contents
¥ Hair and nails
¥ Bone and marrow
Potential evidentiary value of various wounds and injuries Gunshot wounds
In a firearm-related injury, the direction the bullet traveled through the victim may be of no concern to them or their family especially when it results in death. But this bullet trajectory can have a great impact on the medical and legal aspects of a homicide investigation. The gunshot wound can determine the following (Vellema & Scholtz, n.d.):
¥ Type of ammunition
¥ Type of weapon
¥ Distance the gunman was in relationship to the victim
¥ Bullet’s direction and trajectory
In many cases, it is difficult to accurately document gunshot wounds. So it is necessary to take multiple photos of the wounds at various distances. First, take a full body view to identify where the wound is located in relationship to the victim’s body. If you only take a close-up view, the person viewing the wound will not know the difference between an arm or leg, etc. Then move in one-third from there and take another photo. Move in another one-third and take a close-up or macro view of the wound. Taking a side view of the wound is also necessary to show the extent of injury i.e. the skin may have been blown out and lacerated. Depending on the injuries more photos of each wound may need to be taken. It is better to take too many photos than not enough. This documentation of the wound could be a determining factor in deciding whether or not the death was accidental, homicidal, or suicidal in nature. In many homicide cases, the victim is rushed to the hospital while they are still alive so that they can be treated by emergency personnel and physicians. Taking photos during this time may be difficult or impossible because the health and resuscitation of the victim are more important than the documenting of the crime. So the Emergency Room Doctor may be the only one that gets a good view of the wound before it is stitched up. “Emergency physicians are ideally positioned to describe and document gunshot-wound appearances before such wounds are altered by surgical intervention or the healing process (Vellema & Scholtz, n.d.).” After the treatment is finished, talk to the ER doctor to get the proper terminology to describe the wounds in both medical language and laymen’s terms. Then get permission to take photos of the wounds. Make sure that the photos are taken with and without a measuring instrument. It is advised not to mention whether the wound is an entrance or exit wound.
Differentiation between the entrance and exit wounds can be difficult, and information from patients or witnesses may be false or inaccurate. In a study of 271 gunshot-wound fatalities, it was found that trauma specialists had misclassified 37% of single exiting gunshot wounds with respect to
entrance or exit wounds and 73.6% of multiple gunshot wounds had been misinterpreted with respect to the total number of wounds, as well as erroneous identification of entrance or exit wounds (Vellema & Scholtz, n.d.).” If the report properly documents the wounds, this information can be used later by forensic wound ballistic experts to correctly interpret the data.
When a gun is fired, not only does the projectile come out of the gun barrel, but also expelled “is a jet of flame, hot compressed carbon monoxide-rich gases, soot, propellant particles, primer residue, metallic particles stripped from the projectile, and vaporized metal from the projectile and cartridge case (Vellema & Scholtz, n.d.).” These discharges are referred to as gunshot residue (GSR). If the gun is close enough to the victim, these components could cause a bounce back of the victim’s blood and tissue back into the weapon’s barrel, onto the gun and the gunman’s hand and body.
According to How Med, an injury by an instrument or a weapon with a sharp cutting edge is known as incised wound. Other terms used include cuts, slashes, and slices. Objects that cause these wounds are knives, razors, broken glass edge, a paper cut, etc.
¥ Injury varies in sharpness according to the characters of weapon
¥ Margins are clean cut
¥ No bruising of wound edges occurs
¥ Wound is usually linear
¥ Length of wound is greater than its depth
¥ All tissues are clearly divided, and there is no tissue bridging
¥ As the vessels are cut, bleeding is profuse even in small incised wounds
¥ At the commencement, the tissues are more deeply cut and tails off at the end. This indicates the direction of the wound.
¥ If a sharp weapon enters obliquely, one margin of the wound is beveled and the other overhangs, indicating the direction (How Med, 2015).
Stab or Puncture wounds
“A stab wound is produced by thrusting of any pointed (sharp or blunt) object into the body so that the depth is the greatest dimension of the wound (How Med, 2015).”
How Med provided the following examples that include knives, ice pick, dagger, iron bar, scissors, etc.
1. Perforating Stab Wounds
When the stab wound also makes an exit
2. Penetrating Stab Wounds
When a body cavity, like abdomen or thorax, is penetrated
3. Concealed Punctured wounds
Particularly in the cases of infanticide, i.e. by inserting needles in the anterior fontanelle or nape of the neck.
Characteristics of Stab Wounds
1. Entry Wound – Generally, it is bigger than the exit. It may be:
∞ Wedge shaped
Repetition of a stab wound without complete withdrawal may show a different pattern.
2. Margins – Margins may show effects of the hilt.
3. Depth and Direction
4. Exit Wound – If any, it corresponds to the tip of the weapon
5. Scissors stabs – Z-shaped injuries are seen
6. Gaping of Wound – Wound is slightly shorter than the weapon width, only when the wound is inflicted across Langer’s lines.
7. Scrimmage Enlargement – Extension of the injury due to the motion of the weapon or body against the cutting edge.
“Lacerations are the blunt force injuries in which the skin and the underlying tissues are torn apart due to the application of force (How Med, 2015).”
How Med provides the following information and descriptions:
∞ The edges of wound are irregular, ragged and often bruised
∞ Margins are often abraded due to impact of weapon
∞ Strands of the tissues bridge across the deeper parts of a laceration as the blood vessels are usually crushed
∞ External hemorrhages may not be marked
∞ Foreign material may be found as well
Types of Lacerations
1. Split Lacerations – Crushing of the skin and subcutaneous tissues between two hard objects, splits them, producing split tears (perpendicular impact).
An example includes on the face, scalp, hands and lower legs.
2. Stretch Lacerations – Overstretching of the skin may tear it, producing a flap of skin in the direction of injury. It results due to tangential impact.
An example is of a laceration on the scalp when it hits the windshield in an accident or a laceration due to kicks by a hard boot which raises a skin flap.
3. Avulsions – Separation of skin due to some grinding compression of the tissues, e.g. a wheel passing over a limb (de-gloving of skin).
4. Tears – Irregularly directed impact with some blunt object can cause actual tearing of the skin. It is the flaying off, i.e. blows from broken bottles.
5. Chop Lacerations – These are the lacerations produced by a weapon with sharp heavy edge, such as an axe, or a hatchet. Margins show abrasions and bruising; these are usually homicidal.
Forensic Importance of Lacerations
1. Lacerations are generally accidental or homicidal
2. Distribution and shape may help in forensic reconstruction of events
3. Trace matter may be found in lacerations
Defense Wounds Verses Self Inflicted Wounds
According to How Med, defense injuries are the injuries suffered on the parts of the body to ward off an attack. Any part of the body may be injured depending on the method of defense.
∞ Grasping surfaces of hands
∞ Ulnar bone of forearm
∞ Back of the hand (if used to cover and protect head and face)
∞ Lower limbs in sexual assaults in female
Self-Inflicted Wounds (Fabricated, fictitious or forged injuries)
Injuries inflicted by oneself or by some other in agreement with him/her.
1. To support a false charge against somebody
2. To avoid some duty such as in military
3. To avert suspicion by concealing some injury or to show that he acted in defense and thus injured or killed another, or could not prevent robbery, etc.
4. To convert simple injury to grave one
Characteristics of Fabricated Injuries
1. Injury Types
Generally, they are cuts, occasionally stab wounds and rarely firearm injuries
2. Nature of injuries
Seen on parts readily accessible to the individual. The injuries are usually superficial, multiple and not situated on vital areas of the body.
A person rarely injures himself through his clothing and even if the clothes are damaged, they are not compatible with the number, length or direction of the wound.
4. Defense Wounds
Defense wounds are absent
Explanation of injuries regarding the identity of weapon including the number of blows, strokes, the way he tried to defend himself, will be found inconsistent with the observed facts.
6. Opinion of Doctor
Only when the doctor is reasonably sure that the injuries are self-inflicted, he should give his opinion of self-infliction. Otherwise, the advantage of doubt must always go in favor of the injured person and left over for the investigators to solve (How Med, 2015).
The role of the forensic entomologist in determining time of death
According to the Journal of Forensic Dental Sciences, Forensic entomology is the study of insects in a criminal investigation. From the early phases, insects are attracted to a decaying body and may place eggs in it. By examining the insect population and the evolving larval stages, forensic scientists can approximate the number of days that the subject has been deceased.