I've seen a lot of suicides. Men, women, transgender. As young as ten and as old as 92. It is debatable whether one who commits suicide is a "victim" or not. But for the sake of clarity, that is how I will refer to them in this post.
The first suicide I went on was a young man, probably 20-years-old. He was found by his roommate when the roommate returned from a late night of partying. Roommate said he walked in and went straight to bed. In the morning, he noticed that the victim's bedroom door was wide open. He looked in and saw the man lying back on his bed, a shotgun on the comforter next to his left arm and blood everywhere.
Now, there has been some professional debate in the past as to whether it's even possible to shoot yourself with a shotgun, the barrel being so long. Believe me, it is possible. I've seen it several times.
This scene was my first experience with a gunshot wound. Mind you, I'd worked doing GSW analysis with skeletal remains many, many times before. But "in the flesh" was quite a different thing. There was no removing yourself from seeing what a gun can really do to a person.
I walk into the bedroom and note the blood and brain spatter, as well as pockmarks from bird shot, spreading about 3 feet square across the back wall. At least it was't buck shot or he probably wouldn't even have a head anymore.
I look down at the victim. He's on his back. His left arm is still loosely clutching the shotgun. His right arm is splayed out at his side. Both arms and hands are covered in splashback. This is important in determining suicides from homicides made to look like suicides. No splashback means the body has been staged.
He shot himself through the mouth. I stare in morbid fascination at his tongue, which has bloomed like a flower in his gaping jaw. His eyes are wide open in a permanent expression of shock. I look around. For anything. Something to focus on other than the body. The lead detective, Det. Grizzly, is standing next to me. "Are you okay?" he asks. He knows I'm green. He's a big, cozy, teddy bear kind of guy and I appreciate his concern. I give him a bit of a forced smile and say, "I didn't realize his face would be so messed up." Det. Grizzly nods. He tells me that he used to really feel sorry for the people that committed suicide. He said that ended real quick, though, when he saw how their actions destroyed the lives of those around them. He showed me the young man's suicide note. It was written to his mother. He told her he was sorry and that he loved her. That poor woman. I imagine giving birth to a child. Cradling him in my arms and looking down on him...wishing for him all the joy and promise that life can give. How completely devastating it must be to know that this child you loved and nurtured would be so unhappy and hopeless that they would choose to take their own life.
I turn my attention back to the body because otherwise I will cry. Focus on the puzzle. Don't think about the rest. I am afraid to roll the body, knowing that shot spreads as it travels and the back of his head is likely not going to be there.
Dwight comes in and we carefully roll the young man onto his side. Blood pours from his mouth and I have to look away. As I'd feared, the back of his skull has collapsed. The bone and brain have blown out in pieces no bigger than a dime. Skin does not behave in the same manner, however. It merely tears. So I see a deformed drapery of skin and hair covering the gaping hole where the victim's brain..the back of his head...used to be.
The mother drives up on the scene and is prevented from entering the apartment. She is not crying. She is not screaming. She is just staring off in front of her as an officer escorts her to a bench. My heart is breaking.
I have her son's personal effects and I have to give them to her. If I don't do it now she will have to come to the morgue later and that could be even more traumatic.
I look at the bag. A wallet. A ring. A gold chain with an Irish knot on it. The necklace is covered in blood. I put some gloves back on and remove the necklace and ring. I grab a cloth from the Explorer and clean them up as much as I can. Then I replace them and the suicide note in the bag. I hate giving her the note knowing the pain it will inflict. But it is hers. It is her son's last message to her. "I'm sorry, Mom." "I love you."