A Guide To Homicide Investigation

By: Tim Cushing

Good morning. I’m Detective James Morniwheg, Homicide.

As you know, your homicide team has suffered its share of “black eyes” recently thanks to some botched investigations and Officer Hisel himself. As a favor to your recently dismissed chief, I have agreed to speak to you briefly on the techniques of proper homicide investigation.

The First 24 Hours
You may have heard it stated that 90% of homicides are solved in the first 24 hours. Whether or not this is true doesn’t matter. Everyone already believes it is, so act accordingly.

This would seem to indicate that you will have a hectic day (and night) beginning with the homicide call. Try looking at it this way: you will only have to look busy for 24 hours before you can return to your normal schedule of playing computer solitaire and ticketing your ex-wife’s vehicle.

If you can make it past these critical hours, you are out of the woods, even if the victim’s body still isn’t. Label the paperwork “Cold Case” and throw it in the precinct fridge for some cheap laughs.

Your Homicide Toolkit
Here’s a list of items you should have on you at all times:

Evidence bags
Ballpoint pen (for picking up empty casings; occasional writing)
World-weary cynicism
Desire to help people (rookies only)


Unlit cigar
Pet theories
Desire to hurt people

Arriving on the Scene
Your average beat cop will most likely be the first responder to a homicide call. They are usually unimpressed with your position and will undercut your authority at every opportunity. Send them out to “knock on doors.” This will keep them away from the crime scene and thus unable to show you up with their “attention to detail” and “logical conclusions.” Also, their street smarts will clash badly with your world-weary cynicism/desire to help people.

Securing the Scene
I’m touching briefly on this because improper police tape usage continues to be a problem in this department. Your tape has both an inside and an outside. Failure to keep your tape “right side out” while cordoning off a scene will result in you being “taped out” and unable to further pursue your investigation. It will also leave you exposed to the mocking laughter of the returning beat cops.

Identifying and Collecting Evidence
Expect to collect some form of “evidence” at every crime scene. Some criminals, especially drug dealers, will have thoughtfully pre-bagged some evidence for you. Mark any evidence with something distinctive, like “Party in a Bag,” “Retirement Fund” or “To Be Planted.”

You will also be charged with maintaining the proper “chain of custody,” which is easily accomplished by keeping the evidence in your possession at all times. Larger amounts may be stored in your house, storage unit or bus station locker. It’s also a good idea to have a stack of custody forms and ample amounts of Whiteout, in order to accurately reflect your rapidly dwindling stash of evidence.

Occasionally, you’ll find yourself with a surplus of evidence, especially during Internal Affairs’ investigations. Feel free to ditch the excess at any current crime scene. The other responding officers will appreciate your generosity and it will often take the case in surprising new directions.

The Smoking Gun
As the most famous form of evidence, the “smoking gun” can often refer to other things metaphorically. We will be dealing only with the literal interpretation.

If you find a gun on the scene, pick it up and sniff the barrel thoughtfully. Has it been fired recently?

If it hasn’t or is still “undetermined,” go ahead and fire a few shots into the wall or available corpse. Try out some creative angles to confuse the boys in forensics. Mark gun as “recently fired.” Place in evidence bag. (Allow time to cool.)

Be sure to indicate, when asked, that the gun was fired “circa the time of death,” rather than “shortly after I got here.”

Shell Casings and the Importance of Pen Selection
A homicide detective is only as good as his pen. Don’t scrimp on costs here, as you will have no other way to properly collect empty shells. Look for something thin with a low center of gravity.

Picking up shells is not as easy as it looks. You’ll want to practice at home, using one of the “evidence” guns you’ve secured. Fire a few rounds into the wall or available corpse. (This will also help you get the sense for the “recently fired” smell.) With enough practice you should be able to pick up casings in one smooth move.

(Important note: never use your hands to pick up shells, gloved or not. It is considered a crime scene “faux pas” and will probably “tamper” the evidence.)

Dealing with the Forensic Pathologist
As someone who deals intimately with death, your average forensic will often be a pasty, emotionless, wise-cracking weirdo who will insist on eating something no matter how gruesome the homicide.

He will often use phrases and ask questions full of words you won’t understand. Just nod and ask occasional leading questions, such as:

“Any signs of foul play?”
“What’s your guess on the time of death?”
“Would this ‘recently fired’ gun have anything to do with it?”

If stuck for words, you can always defer to the responding officer. A second tactic is to remove your sunglasses and chew on them thoughtfully while gazing over the scene, perhaps guesstimating the wholesale price of the now ruined Persian rug. I know this tactic sounds ridiculous, but do it in front of a mirror a few times and you’ll see how “thoughtful” it can make you appear.

I hope these tips will help you out in future investigations and bring a sense of competency back to this force, which has been hit hard by wrongful arrest suits and Officer Hisel himself, who seems to be “externalizing” his frustrated emotions through a series of well-placed left jabs.

Thank you for your time.


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