Friday, July 08, 2005

7/8/05a WARNING: GRAPHIC/DISTURBING

Part III: Stabbing...

I arrive on scene a half hour later. As I pull up I can see flood lights set up outside and several Evidence Technicians (ET's) are scouring the exterior of the building and parking lot for evidence. I grab the camera, my clipboard, and some latex gloves.

Detective Blue is the lead on this case. He's well-built and handsome and he knows it. He was a tight end in college football and has a short fuse. He also likes to play pranks. I walk to the door and an ET hands me a pair of paper slippers to put over my shoes. I slip them on and find three detectives in front of the television watching porn. They knew I was coming and I can see on their faces that this little scene was set up for my benefit. I glance at the screen and then back at the detectives. I deadpan. "Was that on when you got here?" Det. Blue seems deflated. I was supposed to look away in disgust or react with shock and surprise, I guess. He grabs the remote, turns it off and grumbles, "No." He tells the other officers to leave and proceeds to give me the details of the case as I take scene photographs.

The walls and ceiling are covered in blood spatter. The floor has drip patterns. I see a steak knife with the blade broken off lying on the floor near the closet. It had been discarded in favor of a pair of scissors, which are also near the closet. Over against the wall by the bathroom I see a full length mirror. Up about 6 feet on that wall is a bloody hand print. I examine it. Detective Blue says, "Yeah. I'm hoping that was made by the perp and not our guy in the closet." Don't count on it, I think.

Reconstructing a scene is like putting a puzzle together. In my mind, I go over what happened based on the placement of furniture, the location of wounds, the pattern of blood spatter. It started on the bed. The strongest arcs of blood are coming off in that area. The most evidence of struggle are near there...broken lamps, moved furniture... I anticipate a lot of defensive wounds on the victim's hands.

The struggle moves to the center of the room. Looks like one of the blankets must have fallen, or been thrown, on the floor soon after the attack began because there is a conspicuously bloodless area. If I were the victim I would have tried to throw the blanket over the killer's head to allow me an opportunity to escape.

The struggle moved toward the bathroom after that. Not much fight left in him. I go toward the handprint on the wall again. I imagine him facing the wall, hands splayed up above him. He was being stabbed in the back. I look down at a small table against the wall. It holds a crockpot full of chili...and blood. It is still on. My stomach turns and I look away.

He fell here by the mirror. I see patterns of blood and creases from clothes on the floor. I imagine it was about this time that the knife broke and the killer moved on to the scissors. I look around and try to imagine where the scissors might have been. There is no obvious reason scissors would be out and accessible. More likely, the victim was already dying and so the killer got up and fished them out of a suitcase or a drawer.

I look in the bathroom. The handles on the faucets are covered in blood. The killer washed his hands at some point after it was over.

Finally, I follow drag marks toward the closet. I open the door wide and see a bloody hand extended from under the blankets. I open the palm and find it slashed repeatedly. Ugly, deep defensive wounds crisscross in every direction on his palm and along the forearms. I look at the pattern and surmise that in the beginning, he was holding his arms up to deflect the knife from hitting his body.

I consider the blankets and pillows and the body being stuffed in a closet. I try to imagine why the killer would do such a thing. Maybe he was panicking after the murder and didn't want to see what he'd done. Cover it up. Make it so it doesn't exist. But then a more sinister idea occurred to me. Maybe the victim was still alive and he wanted to quiet his moaning. I will know for sure once the blankets are removed. If there is evidence of significant blood loss on the floor around the body then he was likely still alive. I hope not.

I have the ET's bring in several evidence bags and then carefully remove the pillows and blankets, placing them each in a bag and sealing them with evidence tape. I finally get the bottom of the pile.

The victim is naked. It does not appear he was undressed by the killer since I examined all the clothes piled on the body and none were bloody or bore tears from the stabbing. I consider if the perp might have undressed the victim and taken the clothes with him, but just as quickly dismiss that idea. There is no pattern on the body indicating blood had been wiped or brushed by clothing.

The body has been contorted in order to make it fit in the 3x3 closet. The victim is lying on his back. His head and neck crowded and bent against the side wall. His legs pulled up to his torso. He's a mess. There are stab wounds on his face and neck. More on his chest. The ET's and I take several photographs before moving the body. I call Dwight in from the parking lot and have him lay a piece of plastic down before moving him.

After the body is on the tarp I am able to get a better idea of what happened. The drying, gelatinous blood obscures many of the wounds, but an initial count puts it at 44 clear points of entry. Most are concentrated around the heart and neck. I imagine the steak knife broke on one of the ribs in that area. I look closer. The punctures made by the scissors were more blunt. Only a few of those. Overkill. This was a crime of passion. Not premeditated. The killer and the victim knew each other. And the force of the injuries indicate that the killer was a man.

I have Dwight roll the body and I examine his back. Seventeen more wounds there, concentrated on the left side of the torso. I imagine that the victim was lying on the bed, naked and on his stomach when he was first stabbed. It was a surprise attack. The killer got two or three good blows in before the victim rolled and the fight moved to the middle of the room.

The body is ghostly pale. Exsanguination. That will be what the ME will put on the death certificate as the cause of death. Bled to death due to multiple stab wounds. Manner: Homicide.

Later the next day I find out that there was an arrest in the case. The killer was the victim's lover. The two men had been meeting at the hotel on a regular basis for sex. Apparently, the victim told the killer he found somebody else shortly before the attack.

12 comments:

Brat said...

Polly,

No criticism intended to you....

I wish English had a better word than lover for situations like this. You meaning is clear, and I hear it used in this context all the time, but no one who LOVES another would do this kind of thing (insanity may be an exception).

The Greek language does a bit better than English.
Eros - romantic love
Philia - friendship
Agape - unconditional
Storge - Natural Affection

I'd vote for eros to characterize the relationship of vic and perp.

Was there a death penalty in that state?

Nancy said...

The thing that bothers me in this whole story is that when you arrived, the other detectives were watching porn. They knew that there was a dead, mangled murder victim in the closet, they knew there was a bowl full of bloody chili, and they knew that someone had just lost a family member. Yet, in their perversion, they think it'd be funny to "get you" by turning on a porno before you arrive.

That is just deplorable and shows a staggering lack of compassion and respect.

Brat said...

Polly,

Regarding Nancy's comment. You've probably encountered the boys' club mentality many times. Sometimes, it seems like this kind of behavior is more a coping mechanism. Kind of a "you'll go nuts if you let the bad stuff through".

Of course they could have picked MANY OTHER kinds of defenses. And NOT picked on our beloved Polly or any other "target of opportunity".

Polly P.I. said...

I love you all for caring.

Nancy, I know it's hard to understand how somebody can step into a scene like that and be able to think of anything other than the horror of it all. I think it's a result of years of being surrounded by death. Many people become complacent to it. And like Brat said, I think part of it is a coping mechanism.

And then sometimes they're just being jerks. Which was the case here.

Nancy said...

You are probably right. My husband is a lawyer, and said that when people go to court -- it's the biggest day of their lives. Sometimes it's shocking for them to see lawyers cutting up and judges being late... for an appearance that could alter the course of their lives forever. However, for the lawyers and judges, it's just life as normal...

Eleanor said...

Exactly nancy - your husband is right. I was a crim.def.atty. and if my clients ever saw me talking to the DA and smiling, they went berserk! And I didn't think anything about Polly's detectives actions, S.O.P. It doesn't lessen the seriousness of the situation or anyone's intensity, IMO!

*hops off CDA podium*

Nurse Nancey said...

You should hear how some doctors and nurses talk about patients.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I know the large majority of murders are still committed by people who know the victim. Do you have an idea of the percentages, Polly?

Polly P.I. said...

Jeff,

I don't know the exact percentages, but I can tell you that random acts of violence were very, very rare when I was a forensic investigator.

The majority of the time it's somebody the victim knows or it is due to the victim's lifestyle... (i.e. crime, drugs, etc...)

Nancy said...

There was a murder in front of my building a few weeks ago -- she was shot execution style in the head and the killer didn't say a word to her and walked off... all caught on video. And the cops were saying it was random and that the lady was a suburban housewife and worked at the hospital, etc.

This "randomness" freaked me out so much, but I kept telling myself there was more to the story.

They still haven't caught the guy, but she was found out to owe a LARGE amount of $$ to drug dealers.

Not that it makes it less tragic, but it helps me leave the house.

k said...

heyish.. i feel so much less of a rat for every break-up sms i've ever sent!

Kaf said...

wow.. thanks Polly.. it's nice to see the "bad guy" get his comeuppance.