Los Angeles, CA—When person is found dead from either a gunshot wound, cutting, hanging or from a toxic substance the question of foul play must always be thoroughly examined and ruled out.
All police departments and medical examiners are not created equal. Some do great work and some are not up to the task. Wealth of a community often times is a hindrance rather than a help to finding the truth.
Homicides are very rare in affluent jurisdictions and that too often means inexperienced investigators are in control of these cases. A really well-known example of unqualified cops botching an investigation was the 1996, Boulder, CO murder of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey.
The Bolder cops had little more than police academy training that at the most included only one field trip to a medical examiner’s office. The so-called Boulder detectives were barely qualified to provide security at some shopping mall. They were arrogant as they jealously protected their turf from outside assistance. They loved the spotlight until their gross incompetence gained worldwide attention.
Because of the mess the Boulder cops made, the case will never be solved and justice was denied. The sub-standard evidence collection and preservation rendered physical evidence as unreliable because of contamination. The total lack interview and interrogation skills of these cops prevented them from doing more than bullying the parents until they called their lawyers and refused more questions.
On the other hand big city cops working crime-infested ghettos see lots of murders every day and quickly gain needed skills to solve murders. When the crime-free affluent areas have murders they really have no choice but to immediately bring in outside help. Foolish pride and inflated egos will derail quality investigations more often than not.
On the subject of suicide I must caution loved ones that denial and guilt too often cloud otherwise good judgment in evaluation of an unnatural death. This is especially true of deaths of young men and boys due to auto-erotic asphyxiation. It is very rare that a case for murder can me made after a reasonable death investigation indicates suicide.
Quality photographs must be taken by, experienced forensic photographers. Video is also important. Death scenes are not weddings and certain things need solid documentation.
Any and all signs of a struggle must be documented. A messy residence will sometimes create confusion. Looking for blood and bodily fluids must be exhaustive and may have come from the killer/s rather than the victim.
The victim’s fingernails hands and forearms must be painstakingly photographed for any defense signs or wounds. Broken or cracked fingernails, are a sure sign of a struggle especially when a well-groomed victim is involved. DNA unseen by the human eye can be found under fingernails, collected and matched with a suspected donor.
Here is where solid interviews are important. If your suspect denies ever being at the crime scene or touching the victim his fingerprints, DNA or clothing fibers being found on or near the victim would become damning evidence.
Mental status and intoxication:
When there is the slightest hint of suicide, a psychological autopsy should be conducted by a qualified physician. Drugs legal or otherwise along with alcohol and the victim’s known history need examination. Past bouts of depression, financial difficulties or health worries are not small issues and must be factored into these investigations. Of course disputes, litigation and other business issues need the attention of investigators.
Failed or unrealized relationships sometimes end in suicide for some really educated and otherwise well-adjusted people. Broken hearts do kill. On the other hand broken hearts and bruised egos become the motive for murder.
Investigators must get inside the heads of their victims to find the truth. If the police jurisdiction shows any signs like Boulder, CO in 1996 you need to bring in a well-qualified expert. I suspect today, a murder in Boulder would be handled differently and include some experienced outside investigators.