Staged Crime Scene Is Uncovered By Investigators

In this case the careful inspection of the victim and the crime scene by the firearms examiner and the latent print examiner revealed that the crime scene had been staged. Such observations are the product of training, experience, and individual skills of perception. Training and experience can be had by anyone; perceptive skills are another matter. Analogous to athletic ability, either you have it or you do not. Basic innate abilities can be honed and developed, but that can only go so far. Thus, top-notch crime scene investigators are born, not made.

A call came in to 911 by a woman stating that she had just shot her husband as he attacked her with a knife. Officers arrived to find a

Staged Crime Scene Photos
The body (Courtesy of the author)

man lying face down in a pool of blood in a hallway, a knife clutched in his right hand. The man, as it turned out, had moved out several weeks earlier after his wife announced that she had a lesbian lover. The couple had a 12-year-old daughter who had continued to live at the home with the mother and her new companion, much to the father's dismay.

The father reportedly grew so distraught over his daughter being in what he considered to be an unacceptable environment that he showed up that day demanding that his daughter leave with him. According to the wife, a heated argument had ensued in which the husband came into her bedroom armed with a butcher knife and attacked her. She said that she grabbed a pistol from the nightstand and shot him in the chest just as he lunged for her. Upon being shot, she said, he "clutched his chest with both hands, turned and staggered out into the hallway where he collapsed." She said that she had not touched the body.

The crime scene investigation was carried out with the assistance of a firearms examiner and a latent print examiner. The crime scene

Firearms Examiner
The victim's hand (Courtesy of the author)

investigator had asked for their assistance shortly after arriving at the scene and making an initial evaluation. The crime scene investigator had become suspicious of the woman's story after viewing the husband's body and the area around it. In particular, the fact that the knife was still in the husband's right hand raised a big question in the investigator's mind. The woman had said that he grabbed his chest with both hands after she shot him. How could he do that and still have the knife in his hand? Also, why would he continue to hold the knife as he moved out of the bedroom and into the hall, and how could he have fallen to the floor and never let go of the knife?

The answers to these questions were provided by the latent print examiner after an examination of the husband's right hand and an examination of the knife was conducted. It can be seen in the accompanying photographs that the palm of the husband's right hand was covered with blood such that blood should have been transferred to the handle of the knife. But an examination of the knife handle showed almost no blood, as can be seen in the other photograph.

Pictures Kitchen Crime Scene
The knife (Courtesy of the author)

Another look at the palm of the husband's right hand revealed specks of blood that could only have landed on the palm if the knife were not present. Clearly the woman was lying about the knife. A check of the kitchen revealed that there was a butcher-block holder with similar knives. Looking again at the area between the wall and the husband's right arm, investigators could see that the bloodstains indicated that the man's right arm had been back near his body with his hands together against the wall.

Putting all this together, it became clear that the woman had pulled the man's right arm away from his body as he lay on the floor after dying and placed the knife in his hand. Since the blood had not been transferred to the knife handle from the palm of his hand, there had been sufficient passage of time for the blood to dry. This indicated that she must have decided to stage the crime scene a half-hour or so after she had shot him. When confronted with this evidence, she continued to deny it; however, her daughter admitted the ruse. The woman was convicted of murder. Her attempt to cover up the crime weighed heavily against her at trial.

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