Reconstructing a Crime Scene 2
In order to determine characteristics of an offender through the method of behavioral evidence analysis (BEA), there is one important step that must be completed before being able to do so, and it is one that is often missed (Turvey, 2011). This important step is the combination of processing evidence, investigating the crime, and analysis of physical evidence, also known as crime scene reconstruction (Turvey, 2011). In order for most profilers to actually be able to start building a profile on an offender and therefore begin to find the suspect, they rely heavily on the masterminds behind crime reconstruction, which makes reconstructing a crime very important (Turvey, 2011). According to Dr. John Thronton, a criminalist and forensic science professor, “By recognizing, documenting, and examining the nature and extent of evidentiary traces and exchanges in a crime scene, criminals could be traced and later associated with particular locations, items of evidence, and victims” (Turvey, 2011, p. 255). In order to have a crime scene be accurately reconstructed, it is very important for the reconstructionist to be able to operate with critical thinking, as they are connecting clues and deciphering speculation from fact (Turvey, 2011).
A crime takes place in a quiet neighborhood with few cars and few houses. On the road, there has been an accident where a woman in her late 20s has been struck by a car. The car remains on the street, unoccupied, after the girl is found. At the scene, the following evidence can be observed: Multiple shoe imprints from the pool of blood under the woman’s head, leading off the road into the grass before the woods. This is sequential and directional evidence, because it shows that the offender walked near the body after she had already been struck, and it is clear that the offender was moving towards the woods at some point. Broken plastic from the broken
Reconstructing a Crime Scene 3
car headlight is found on top of the blood. This is more sequential evidence because it shows that the plastic from the window had broken after the woman was already bleeding.
The blood is found in a pool around the woman’s body, and the only other blood stains were found in a dripping pattern from the vehicle’s trunk to where the body is found. This is also directional evidence because it shows that the body was likely moved from inside the trunk to where the body is found. Lastly, there is ownership evidence left in the car, as the driver left their debit card on the floor of the vehicle. All of these pieces of evidence can be put together in order to reconstruct what happened at the crime scene. At first glance it may seem like a hit and run, but with the analysis of the reconstruction it becomes clear that it was far from a hit and run.
This crime scene is both a vehicle crime scene and an outdoor crime scene. The scene took place partially in the vehicle and partially outside where the body was exposed to natural elements. The location of the crime scene is on a road, which is mostly used for commuting. The crime scene that was analyzed was the disposal site, since the woman was not killed at the scene but she was left there after the altercation occurred. The intermediate crime scene would be the vehicle, which was used to transport the body from the initial contact spot to the disposal site. In this scenario the offender used lethal force, and this is known because the victim was bleeding from her head area. Time is also a characteristic evident at the crime scene, considering the woman had fresh wounds that were still bleeding a very large amount. This implies that she was injured soon before she was left on the street. Staging is the major characteristic involved, since it seems that the entire scene is staged.
In conclusion, it can be assumed that the crime scene was staged for multiple reasons. Footprints were found walking though the blood which means that the offender did not flee the scene directly after the body was placed there, possibly because they were positioning the body
Reconstructing a Crime Scene 4
to make it look as though it had been struck by the car. Broken plastic was found on top of the blood which means the woman was bleeding before the plastic broke, and the offender broke the headlight himself in order to make it seem as though he had struck her with the vehicle. A single lethal wound is found on the woman’s head with no other injuries to the body, which implies that she was struck once in the head with an object as opposed to being hit by a vehicle. Lastly, there are blood drops leading from the trunk of the vehicle to where the body is found, which implies that the body was in the trunk before it was on the street, which means that the altercation occurred before the victim’s body was placed on the street.
Suicide or Murder? Crime reconstruction is an intricate process. Imprecise results may ensue due to the
environment, actions of the suspects, or different prospects. Physical evidence can be easily intentionally or accidentally hampered with, so it is important to understand that it is not always as reliable as others may think. Even through the most ideal circumstances, physical evidence must be understood through tiers of essential and uncontrollable influences. The main purpose of crime reconstruction is to attempt to recreate the original crime in hopes of gaining better knowledge of the situation. Crime reconstructions are often built on the assumption of integrity, which ultimately means that officials interpret the evidence at the scene as being untouched and consistent with the initial crime scene. Although reconstruction is made easier with this assumption, it does not mean the results will be accurate. Reconstructionists must understand that the physical evidence will go through changes due to the environment (heat, cold, wind, rain), time (decomposing bodies), and even alterations from the personnel at the crime scene.
Image 1: Victim of the crime scene
The crime scene presented was originally called in as a suicide. The wife of a multi-millionaire called 911 and stated that she arrived home to her husband who had a gunshot wound to the head. The crime scene
is an indoor scene because it took place inside someone’s office, which was in their home. The location of the house was secluded due to its long driveway into the forest. Access to the home requires going through a secured gate as well as communicating with security officials. The office where the victim was deceased was accessible through a door down the main hallway. Upon entering the scene, the victim lay motionless on the floor, next to what seems to be his office desk.
A fresh cup of coffee was noted at the desk. There was also a computer opened with bank statements from the previous months showing. The entry wound was on the left temporal lobe and the exit wound was on the right temporal lobe. Blood splatter was consistent with the exit wound. On the desk, there was blood spatter with an outline consistent with a piece of paper that was implied to be missing. The hands of the victim were placed in a strange way. The gun was placed in the wrong hand. Knowing that the entry wound was on the left side of the victim’s head, respectively, the gun should have been in his left hand, rather than his right. After further investigation, it is discovered that the household has security cameras. Upon request, the wife showed the security camera footage, only for it to be off during the time of death of the victim.
In a separate room at the home, drops of blood were noticed on a curtain. Next to the curtain lay a trashcan. In the trashcan was a paper, titled “Petition for Divorce”, that was signed by the victim, but not his wife.
The primary crime scene is where the victim was found dead because it is where the majority of the crime scene occurred. The location of the divorce papers is a tertiary crime scene because there is physical evidence present, but no reference to possible victim-offender interaction. Inferred evidence is anything that reconstructionist may think was at a crime scene but was not present. In this case, it is the assumed missing paper due to the blood spatter outline. If the divorce paper had not been discovered in another room, crime reconstruction would have been missing a key piece of information that ties the scene together. Temporal evidence is anything that is capable of expressing a timeframe that is relative to the crime scene, which the fresh cup of coffee as well as the disturbance of the security camera footage are.
After reviewing the evidence, it seems like the crime scene was staged to look like a suicide and the wife actually murdered her husband. Since the initial call ruled the death of the victim a suicide, that means all evidence of the scene should be in one room, but that was not the case. Papers were found unaccounted for and were later uncovered in the trash, formulating a reason to believe the wife, who was the only other person in the house, had more to do with her husband’s death than she let on. Considering the paper found in the trash was for a divorce, it seems as though the wife used lethal force out of anger in response to the impending divorce. Psychological evidence, also known as motivational evidence, is an act perpetrated by the suspect to fulfill a need or motive. The staged crime scene designed by the wife to make it look like her husband committed suicide is considered psychological evidence. After reviewing the evidence, the motive in this crime scene is profit. If the divorce ensued in a substantial sum of money loss for the wife, the death of her husband, the victim, would be exceedingly valuable because if she had gotten away with the murder, she would have kept her wealth.
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