Writing Homicide Sequences


I recently attended a seminar for crime writers outlining the procedures for homicides and murders. It was lead by Sargeant Derek Pacifico and his dark sense of humor. He had us watching gruesome slides of gunshot wound victims, while we determined probable cause of death.

Homicides are defined as one person dying at the hands of another and include self-defense, assisted suicide and accidents. Murders are pre-meditated actions.

Here are some scenarios useful to writers of such material:

FIRST RESPONSE

Depending on the nature of the crime, the crew comprises a mix of sargeants and detectives. Their first job is to investigate for unusual activity or condition of the crime site. Detectives arrive first to secure the site and clear a path to the victim. They photograph the scene and take notes such as switched on lights, damage, forced entry, open/closed doors, appliances running and such like. They contain the crime scene to minimize the destruction of evidence. They can’t touch anything unnecessarily, use bathrooms or move anything.

PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE

Since this is the only chance detectives get to gather evidence and piece together the crime, 500 – 1000 photos are common. Photos are taken with tape measures to determine actual measurements of objects and spaces later on. They include overall shots of the scene, mid range shots, closeups and try to capture a 360 photographic record of the scene.

RIGOR MORTIS

This is a tightening of the body muscles followed by release. The signs are observed in the first 8-12 hours, they diminish within 18-36 hours and are gone within 48-60 hours.

POST MORTEM LIVIDITY

In the absence of a heart pumping blood around the body, lividity refers to the settling of blood after death due to gravity. This commences within 1-2 hours of death and can help determine if the body was moved. Deoxygenated blood curdles and turns a blackish red color.

DECOMPOSITION/PUTREFACTION

This one’s self explanatory. Human bodies are a haven for bacteria; especially the intestinal region. Once the body’s natural defense systems are shut down, they take over and cause quite a whiff.

GUNSHOT WOUNDS

CONTACT WOUNDS occur when the gun is pressed against the victim’s skin and the hot metal barrel shape burns its imprint on the skin.

CLOSE PROXIMITY ENTRY WOUNDS occur around 2-18 inches from the victim.

– SMUDGING Speckled blood  forms from the smoke and gunpowder soot around the wound.
– TATTOOING formed from gunpowder residue and molten metal.

EXIT WOUNDS are messier and larger.

Now that you have some insight you can begin to write more authentic crime scenes even if you don’t have a police adviser on hand.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. redcarol57 says:

    I’ll be writing a homicide in my current book – so some of this is timely and helpful – thanks!

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