Crime Classification Manual
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- Crime classification manual.pdf
- Crime classification manual.pdf
- Crime Classification Manual
- Preface to the Second Edition
- Part I: Crime Analysis and Investigation
- Chapter 1: Modus Operandi and the Signature Aspects of Violent Crime
- Chapter 2: The Detection of Staging, Undoing, and Personation at the Crime Scene
- Chapter 3: Prescriptive Interviewing
- Chapter 4: Classifying Crimes by Severity
- Chapter 5: VICAP
- Part II: Classifications
- Chapter 6: Homicide
- THE UNIFORM CRIME REPORTING PROGRAM
- HOMICIDE CLASSIFICATION BY VICTIMS, TYPE, AND STYLE
- INVESTIGATIVE PROFILING
- CCM: A MOTIVATIONAL MODEL FOR CLASSIFICATION OF HOMICIDE
- CASE STUDY 101: CONTRACT MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 102: GANG-MOTIVATED MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 103: CRIMINAL COMPETITION
- CASE STUDY: 104: KIDNAP MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 105: PRODUCT TAMPERING
- CASE STUDY: 106: DRUG MURDER (A)
- CASE STUDY: 106: DRUG MURDER (B)
- CASE STUDY: 107.01: INDIVIDUAL PROFIT
- CASE STUDY: 107.02: COMMERCIAL PROFIT
- CASE STUDY: 108.01: INDISCRIMINATE MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 108.02: SITUATIONAL MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 108.02: SITUATIONAL MURDER, ELDER
- CASE STUDY: 121: EROTOMANIA-MOTIVATED MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 122.01: SPONTANEOUS DOMESTIC HOMICIDE
- CASE STUDY: 122.02: STAGED DOMESTIC HOMICIDE
- CASE STUDY: 122.03: NEONATICIDE
- CASE STUDY: 123.01: ARGUMENT MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 123.02: CONFLICT MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 124: AUTHORITY MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 125: REVENGE
- CASE STUDY: 126: NONSPECIFIC MOTIVE MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 127.01: EXTREMIST HOMICIDE, POLITICAL
- CASE STUDY: 127.02: RELIGION-INSPIRED HOMICIDE
- CASE STUDY: 128.01 MERCY HOMICIDE
- CASE STUDY: 128.02: HERO HOMICIDE
- CASE STUDY: 131: SEXUAL HOMICIDE, ORGANIZED
- CASE STUDY: 132: SEXUAL HOMICIDE, DISORGANIZED
- CASE STUDY: 133: SEXUAL HOMICIDE, MIXED
- CASE STUDY: 134: SEXUAL HOMICIDE, SADISTIC
- CASE STUDY: 135: ELDER FEMALE SEXUAL HOMICIDE
- CASE STUDY: 141: GROUP CAUSE HOMICIDE, CULT
- CASE STUDY: 142.01: EXTREMIST HOMICIDE, POLITICAL
- CASE STUDY: 142.02: EXTREMIST HOMICIDE, RELIGIOUS
- CASE STUDY: 143: GROUP EXCITEMENT
- Chapter 7: Arson/Bombing
- ARSON: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS
- CASE STUDY: 201: WILLFUL AND MALICIOUS MISCHIEF
- CASE STUDY: 212: ATTENTION SEEKER
- CASE STUDY: 221: PERSONAL REVENGE
- CASE STUDY: 231: CRIME CONCEALMENT, MURDER
- CASE STUDY: 241.01: INSURANCE FRAUD
- CASE STUDY: 251: EXTREMIST-MOTIVATED ARSON, TERRORISM
- CASE STUDY: 259: EXTREMIST-MOTIVATED ARSON
- CASE STUDY: 260: SERIAL ARSON
- Chapter 8: Rape and Sexual Assault
- CASE STUDY: 301.01: PRIMARY FELONY RAPE
- CASE STUDY: 301.02: SECONDARY FELONY RAPE
- CASE STUDY: 312.01: ADULT DOMESTIC SEXUAL ASSAULT
- CASE STUDY: 312.02: CHILD DOMESTIC SEXUAL ABUSE
- CASE STUDY: 313.01: SOCIAL ACQUAINTANCE RAPE
- GENERAL FORENSIC EVIDENCE COLLECTIONS
- CASE STUDY: 313.02.01: SUBORDINATE RAPE, ADULT
- CASE STUDY: 313.02.03: SUBORDINATE RAPE, CHILD
- CASE STUDY: 313.03.01: POWER-REASSURANCE RAPE, ADULT
- CASE STUDY: 313.03.02: POWER-REASSURANCE RAPE, ADOLESCENT
- CASE STUDY: 313.04.01: EXPLOITATIVE RAPE, ADULT
- CASE STUDY: 314.01: ANGER RAPE, GENDER
- CASE STUDY: 314.02.01: ANGER RAPE, ELDERLY VICTIM
- CASE STUDY: 314.02.02: ANGER RAPE, CHILD VICTIM
- CASE STUDY: 314.03: ANGER RAPE, RACIAL
- CASE STUDY: 314.04: ANGER RAPE, GLOBAL
- CASE STUDY: 315.01: SADISTIC RAPE, ADULT
- CASE STUDY: 315.02: SADISTIC RAPE, ADOLESCENT
- CASE STUDY: 317.01: SOLO CHILD SEX RING
- CASE STUDY: 317.02: TRANSITIONAL CHILD SEX RING
- CASE STUDY: 317.03: SYNDICATED CHILD SEX RING
- CASE STUDY: 319.01 AND 319.03: ABDUCTION RAPE, ADULT AND CHILD
- CASE STUDY: 331.01: FORMAL GANG SEXUAL ASSAULT, SINGLE VICTIM
- CASE STUDY: 332.01: INFORMAL GANG SEXUAL ASSAULT, SINGLE VICTIM
- Chapter 9: Nonlethal Crimes
- Chapter 10: Computer Crimes
- CASE STUDY: 512: COMPUTER DATA AS THE TARGET
- CASE STUDY: 513: DENIAL OF SERVICE
- CASE STUDY: 520: THE COMPUTER USER AS THE TARGET
- CASE STUDY: 521: IDENTITY THEFT
- CASE STUDY: 530: CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE
- CASE STUDY: 533: INTERNET FRAUD
- CASE STUDY: 533: INTERNET FRAUD
- CASE STUDY: 540: THREATS VIA THE INTERNET
- Chapter 11: Cybercrimes
- Chapter 12: Classifying Internet Child Sex Offenders
- Chapter 6: Homicide
- Part III: Methods of Killing
- Chapter 13: Mass, Spree, and Serial Homicide
- Chapter 14: Homicidal Poisoning
- Chapter 15: The Use of Biological Agents as Weapons
- Part IV: Issues in Crime
- About the Editors
- About the Contributors
- Name Index
- Subject Index
- Crime Classification Manual
- Crime classification manual.pdf
A STANDARD SYSTEM FOR INVESTIGATING
AND CLASSIFYING VIOLENT CRIMES
John E. Douglas, Ann W. Burgess,
Allen G. Burgess, and Robert K. Ressler,
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A STANDARD SYSTEM FOR INVESTIGATING
AND CLASSIFYING VIOLENT CRIMES
John E. Douglas, Ann W. Burgess,
Allen G. Burgess, and Robert K. Ressler,
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Copyright © 2006 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Crime classiﬁcation manual : a standard system for investigating and classifying violent crimes /
John E. Douglas . . . [et al.], editors. — 2nd ed.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7879-8501-1 (alk. paper)
ISBN-10: 0-7879-8501-5 (alk. paper)
1. Crime—Classiﬁcation—Handbooks, manuals, etc. 2. Crime—United States—Classiﬁcation—
Handbooks, manuals, etc. I. Douglas, John E.
Printed in the United States of America
PB Printing 10987654321
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Preface to the Second Edition ix
Part I: Crime Analysis and Investigation
1. Modus Operandi and the Signature Aspects of Violent Crime 19
John E. Douglas and Lauren K. Douglas
2. The Detection of Staging, Undoing, and Personation
at the Crime Scene 31
John E. Douglas and Lauren K. Douglas
3. Prescriptive Interviewing: Interfacing the Interview
and Interrogation with Crime Classiﬁcation 45
Gregory M. Cooper
4. Classifying Crimes by Severity: From Aggravators to Depravity 55
5. VICAP: The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program Unit 73
Eric W. Witzig
Part II: Classiﬁcations
6. Homicide 93
7. Arson/Bombing 261
8. Rape and Sexual Assault 293
9. Nonlethal Crimes 353
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10. Computer Crimes 383
Allen G. Burgess
11. Cybercrimes 405
John E. Douglas and Lauren K. Douglas
12. Classifying Internet Child Sex Offenders 425
Eileen M. Alexy, Ann W. Burgess, and Timothy Baker
Part III: Methods of Killing
13. Mass, Spree, and Serial Homicide 437
Ann W. Burgess
14. Homicidal Poisoning 471
Arthur E. Westveer, John P. Jarvis, and Carl J. Jensen III
15. The Use of Biological Agents as Weapons 485
Anne M. Berger
Part IV: Issues in Crime
16. Wrongful Convictions: Causes, Solutions, and Case Studies 495
17. Criminal Confessions: Overcoming the Challenges 509
Michael P. Napier and Susan H. Adams
About the Editors 529
About the Contributors 533
Name Index 535
Subject Index 543
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To the victims of violent crimes and the
men and women who work tirelessly seeking
justice for them. This book is dedicated to them
with respect, with humility, and with compassion.
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Preface to the
This is the second edition of the Crime Classiﬁcation Manual (CCM-II).
The development of this manual over the years has received notice from
FBI investigative proﬁlers, law enforcement ofﬁcers, corrections and parole
staff, mental health staff, and students in forensic studies and criminal jus-
The purpose of this manual is fourfold:
1. To standardize terminology within the criminal justice ﬁeld
2. To facilitate communication within the criminal justice ﬁeld and be-
tween criminal justice and mental health
3. To educate the criminal justice system and the public at large to the
types of crimes being committed
4. To develop a database for investigative research
This book is about classifying crime. Professions develop and advance
their science as they are able to organize and classify their work. The nature
of science began when organisms began to generalize, to see similarities be-
tween themselves and members of their own species or to see differences
and other similarities between other species and themselves. Thus, the na-
ture of science requires that one ﬁrst observe and then attempt to categorize,
compare, and classify observations. Classiﬁcation is a process in data collec-
tion and analysis in which data are grouped according to previously deter-
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The past three decades have witnessed the major advancement in inves-
tigative science. A series of FBI studies conducted in the 1980s on sexual
murderers, rapists, child molesters and abductors, and arsonists described
and identiﬁed critical characteristics of these crimes. These characteristics
were initially used for proﬁling techniques. An additional use of the research
ﬁndings has now been compiled into a crime classiﬁcation manual. The ad-
vances in technology and forensic science have also strengthened the inves-
tigative skills for solving crime.
In the development of this manual, a decision was made to base the clas-
siﬁcation on the primary intent of the criminal: (1) criminal enterprise,
(2) personal cause, (3) sexual intent, and (4) group cause.
Task force groups chaired by supervisory special agents at the FBI’s
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime worked on reﬁning the
crime categories for the ﬁrst edition. The preliminary draft of the manual
was presented to an advisory committee, which provided additional com-
ments and suggestions for reﬁnement of the manual.
This second edition of the CCM contains three new classiﬁcations con-
tributed by experts in their ﬁeld. Michael Welner contributed the classi-
ﬁcation of Religion-Extremist Murder and Neonaticide, Mark Safarik con-
tributed the Elder Female Sexual Homicide classiﬁcation, and Allen G.
Burgess classiﬁed Computer Crimes. In addition to these classiﬁcations, we
have added chapters on nonlethal crimes and cybercrimes.
For the purposes of this book, the crime deﬁnitions are as follows:
•Murder is the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by
another. The classiﬁcation of this offense, as for all other Crime Index of-
fenses, is based solely on police investigation as opposed to the determina-
tion of a court, medical examiner, coroner, jury, or other judicial body. Not
included in this classiﬁcation are deaths caused by negligence, suicide, or
accident; justiﬁable homicides; and attempts to murder or assaults to mur-
der, which are scored as aggravated assaults.
•Sexual assault includes forcible rape, as deﬁned by the FBI’s Crime in
the United States: Uniform Crime Reports (UCR): the carnal knowledge of
a female forcibly and against her will. In addition, assaults and attempts to
commit rape by force or threat of force are included, as well as crimes of
noncontact, commonly called nuisance offenses. Crimes against children
such as fondling and molestation are included.
xPREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
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Preface to the Second Edition xi
•Arson, as deﬁned by UCR, is any willful or malicious burning or at-
tempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public
building, motor vehicle or aircraft, or personal property of another. Bomb-
ing has been added to the classiﬁcation.
•Computer crimes include crimes whereby the computer is the target or
the mechanism for committing the crime or the computer user is the target.
It also includes crimes committed over the Internet or whereby the Internet
plays a role in the commission of the crime.
•Nonlethal crimes include crimes such as burglary, robbery, and assault
in which death does not occur. These crimes may be precursors to crimes of
rape and murder.
ORGANIZATION OF THE MANUAL
This second edition of the Crime Classiﬁcation Manual is divided into four
Part One focuses on crime analysis and practice and presents a review of
the study of crime and the key concepts in the decision process for classify-
ing a crime; modus operandi and the signature aspects of violent crime; the
detection of staging, undoing, and personation at the crime scene; prescrip-
tive interviewing; and classifying crimes by severity and the FBI Academy’s
Violent Criminal Apprehension Program to assist law enforcement in un-
Part Two contains the classiﬁcation categories of Homicide, Arson/
Bombing, Rape and Sexual Assault, Nonlethal Crimes, and Computer
Crimes. It also includes new chapters on cybercrimes and Internet child sex
The chapters in Part Three address the topics of mass, spree, and serial
homicide; homicidal poisoning; and the use of biological agents as weapons.
Part Four contains chapters on wrongful convictions and criminal con-
Our results have implications not only for law enforcement personnel
who are responsible for the investigation of a crime, but for professionals in
other disciplines who address the crime problem: criminal justice profes-
sionals directly involved with the legal aspects of crime; correction insti-
tution administrators and staff personnel, who not only have custody of
criminals but also are responsible for decisions regarding these individuals’
return to society; mental health professionals, both those involved with of-
fender treatment and those assisting victims and families affected by these
crimes; social service personnel working with juveniles, as they detect early
signs and characteristics of violent individuals and seek to divert these in-
dividuals from criminal activity; criminologists who study the problem of
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violent crime; and public policymakers who address the problem through
their decisions. It is our hope that this book will advance the knowledge base
of these professionals as they seek increased understanding of the nature of
crime and of the individuals who commit such crime.
We acknowledge the people who assisted with this second edition: Dona
Petrozzi for her research of crime statistics, Sarah Gregorian for her assis-
tance with the preparation of the manuscript, and the contributors of cases
who are acknowledged with the case. The editors of the book, John E.
Douglas, Ann W. Burgess, Allen G. Burgess, and Robert K. Ressler have all
contributed to this edition. We also wish to thank the following persons who
contributed cases: Emily Dendinger, Danielle Esposito, Kevin Faherty,
Erin Lenahan, Emily Kitts, Emily Lilly, Kendall McLane, Kriten Moore,
Leonard I. Morgenbesser, Robert B. Norberg Jr., Kathryn A. Reboul,
Dan Ryan, Mark Safarik, and Michael Welner.
xii PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
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Violent crime is of increasing concern in our society. Murder, arson, and
sexual assault represent serious interpersonal violent behaviors, and law
enforcement ofﬁcials feel public pressure to apprehend the perpetrators as
quickly as possible.
THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM
The total number of murders in the United States during 2003 was estimated
at 16,503, or 1.2 percent of the violent crimes reported. More persons were
murdered in July, 9.3 percent, of that year than during any other month,
while the fewest were killed during February, 6.9 percent.
Geographically, the South, the most populous region, accounted for 43.6
percent of the murders. The West reported 22.9 percent; the Midwest, 19.5 per-
cent; and the Northeast, 14 percent.
The murder volume increased 1.7 percent nationwide in 2003 over 2002.
The nation’s cities overall experienced an increase of 2.7 percent, with up-
ward trends recorded in all but two city population groupings. Of the cities,
those with populations of 250,000 or more registered the highest increase:
13.2 percent. Suburban counties recorded a rate of 4 murders per 100,000
inhabitants, and rural counties registered 3.4 murders.
With the exception of the Midwest, each of the U.S. regions experienced
more murders during 2003 than during 2002. The number of murders was up
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3 percent in the South, 4.6 percent in the Northeast, and 1.4 percent in
In terms of weapon choice, ﬁrearms accounted for the largest proportion
of weapons used during murder, at a reported rate of 70.9 percent of homi-
cides. In 13.4 percent of murders, a cutting instrument was used; 7 percent
involved personal weapons; 4.8 percent involved a blunt object; and other
weapons, including arson and poison, accounted for 4 percent.
The largest group of murder victims, 77.6 percent, were males, and 90.6
percent were persons eighteen years of age or older. Of victims, 45.7 percent
were between ages twenty and thirty-four. Of victims for whom race was
known, 48.7 percent were white, 48.5 percent were black, and 2.8 percent
were persons of other races.
In murder cases where there was a known offender, it is reported that 90.1
percent of murderers were males and 92.0 percent were over the age of eight-
een. In terms of race 51.3 percent were black, 41.9 percent were white, and
2.8 percent were of other races,
In 77.6 percent of these cases, the offender had a previous relationship
with the victim. Among these cases, 70.9 percent were acquainted with the
victim, and 29.1 percent were related to them. Husbands and boyfriends
accounted for 32.3 percent of murders against female victims.
The clearance rates for murder continued to be higher than for any other
crime index offense. Law enforcement agencies nationwide, as well as in the
cities, were successful in clearing 62.4 percent of the murders occurring in
their jurisdictions during 2003. Of all murder arrestees in 2003, 48.9 percent
were under twenty-ﬁve years of age. The eighteen-to-twenty-four-year age
group accounted for 27.2 percent of the total. Of those arrested, 89.7 percent
were males and 10.3 percent were females. Blacks constituted 48.5 percent
of the total arrestees for murder in 2003. Whites made up 49.1 percent, and
the remainder were of other races.
A total of 64,043 arson offenses were reported in 2003 by 12,776 law
enforcement agencies across the country. The number of arson offenses re-
ported nationally declined 6.3 percent in 2003 as compared to the 2002 total.
Counts for the nation’s cities and metropolitan counties dropped 9.1 percent
and 6.1 percent, respectively, and rural counties registered an 11.8 percent
drop, the largest decline.
The 2003 clearance rate was 16.7 percent. The estimated number of ar-
rests for arson during 2003 totaled 16,163. Of the estimated actual arson
arrests for 2003, 50.8 percent were under eighteen years of age, and 30.2
percent were under age ﬁfteen. Males were 84.4 percent of all arson
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arrestees. Of those arrested, 77.5 percent were white, 20.9 percent were
black, and the remainder were of other races.
During 2003 there were an estimated 93,433 forcible rapes of women in the
United States. Rape offenses made up 6.8 percent of the total violent crimes.
Geographically, the southern states, the region with the largest population,
accounted for 37.6 percent of the forcible rapes reported to law enforcement.
Following were the Midwest, with 25 percent; the West, with 24 percent; and
the Northeast, with 18.7 percent. Compared to the previous year, the 2003
forcible rape volume increased 1.9 percent nationwide.
Nationwide and in the cities, 44 percent of the forcible rapes reported to
law enforcement were cleared by arrest in 2003. Of the forcible rape ar-
restees in 2003, 45.9 percent were persons under the age of twenty-ﬁve, with
30.9 percent of the total being in the eighteen-to-twenty-four-year age
group. Of those arrested, 64.1 percent were white, 33.3 percent were black,
and the remainder was other races.
Understanding behavior and methodology has been a challenge to the civi-
lized world. The term dangerous classes has been used throughout history to
describe individuals who are deemed a threat to law and order. Initially the
term described the environment in which one lived or was found to be living
in versus the type of crime being committed. An example of this occurred in
England at the end of the Hundred Years’War with France. The demobiliza-
tion of thousands of soldiers, coupled with the changing economic trade
market, saw the homeless population increase nationwide with the displace-
ment of farmers (Rennie, 1977). During the reign of England’s Henry VIII,
seventy-two thousand major and minor thieves were hanged. Under his
daughter, Elizabeth I, vagabonds were strung up in rows, as many as three
and four hundred at a time (Rennie, 1977).
Categorizing these individuals began to change in 1838 when the win-
ning entry at the French Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, the
highly competitive academic society, was titled, “The Dangerous Classes of
the Population in the Great Cities, and the Means of Making Them Better”
(Rennie, 1977). The term dangerous class was then used to describe indi-
viduals who were criminals or had such potential. Initially these were the
poor, homeless, and unemployed in the large cities.
Classiﬁcation of offenders began with the work of statistics. This early
work permitted a comparison of the incidence of crime with factors, such as
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race, age, sex, education, and geography (Rennie, 1977). Cesare Lombrosos,
the famed Italian physician, is generally credited with launching the scien-
tiﬁc era in criminology. In 1872 he differentiated ﬁve types of criminals—
the born criminal, the insane criminal, the criminal by passion, the habitual
criminal, and the occasional criminal (Lindesmith & Dunham 1941)—
based on Darwin’s theory of evolution. The operational deﬁnitions for the
ﬁve groups that were developed allowed subsequent investigators to test
Lombrosos’s formulations empirically. A majority of his hypotheses and
theories proved to be invalid, but the fact that they were testable was an ad-
vancement for the science (Megargee & Bohn, 1979).
Englishman Charles Goring refuted the Lombrosian theory of the degen-
erate “criminal man” in 1913, concluding, “The one vital mental constitu-
tional factor in the etiology of crime is defective intelligence” (p. 369). This
concept persisted for several decades. Henry Goodard, who did his early
work on feeblemindness in 1914, reported that 50 percent of all offenders
were defective (Goddard, 1914). V. V. Anderson reported 28 to 50 percent
defective in 1919.
As psychometric techniques improved, the ﬁnding of mental deﬁciency
changed. Murchison in 1928 concluded that those in “the criminal group are
superior in intelligence to the white draft group of WWI” (Bromberg, 1965).
As studies progressed, it became obvious that a disordered personality
organization (including psychoses, neuroses, and personality problems) was
a more signiﬁcant factor in crime than feeblemindedness.
With increasing rapidity, from the late 1930s to the World War II years to
the present, interest has shifted away from insanity and mental defectiveness
to personality disturbances in analyzing the genesis of crime. In the decades
before the report of Bernard Glueck from Sing Sing Prison in New York
State (1918), the focus in crime study was on subnormal mentality.
In 1932 the Psychiatric Clinic of the Court of General Sessions in New
York began to classify each offender according to a personality evaluation,
thus combining the insights of psychoanalysis, descriptive psychiatry, and
behavioral phenomenology. Each convicted offender presented was ana-
lyzed in relation to four categories: (1) presence or absence of psychosis,
(2) intellectual level, (3) presence of psychopathic or neurotic features and/
or personality diagnosis, and (4) physical condition.
Typologies of crime traditionally have been developed addressing the
criminal offense. The psychiatric perspective to understanding crime has
used two approaches: scrutiny of the inner (mental and moral) world of the
criminal offender and examination of the external (social) world in which he
lives (Bromberg, 1965).
A project at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, spanning
1932 to 1965 (Bromberg, 1965), found that the personality patterns of crim-
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inals far outshadowed the signiﬁcance of psychotic or defective diagnoses in
terms of analyzing criminal behavior and in assisting the court and probation
department in estimating the potential or deﬁcits of the individual offender.
Fifteen personality diagnoses were established by this project.
The investigation of the psychological motivations and social stresses that
underlie crime has proved that the behavior patterns involved in criminal
acts are not far removed from those of normal behavior. Studies indicate that
criminal behavior, as is true of all other behavior, is responsive to inner and
outer stresses. The external realities of mental life—social pressures, cul-
tural emphases, physical needs, subcultural patterns of life—precipitate
criminal action. The inner realities of behavior—neurotic reactions, im-
pulses, unconscious motivations, preconscious striving, eruption of infantile
aggressions—represent a precondition to criminal acts. Criminal behavior is
suggested to derive from three behavioral areas: (1) the aggressive tendency,
both destructive and acquisitive; (2) passive, or subverted, aggression; and
(3) psychological needs (Bromberg, 1965).
Several research-based classiﬁcation typologies for offenders have been
developed. Julian Roebuck in 1967 provided rules to classify offenders
based on the frequency and recency of their offenses during their criminal
career. According to this system, an offender can be classiﬁed into a single
offense pattern. The function of his typology was in terms of explanatory
theory rather than in terms of diagnostic systems used in treatment. Investi-
gation into the offender’s arrest history, regardless of length, was the primary
tool used in developing a classiﬁcation system. The total of known arrests,
included with behavior, allowed for the observance of a pattern, if one ex-
isted. One basic assumption used was that the arrest pattern would indicate
a pattern of behavior or criminal career. The most frequent charge or charges
in the history was the basis for classiﬁcation (Roebuck, 1967). An obvious
weakness is that not all criminals have accurate arrest histories.
Classiﬁcation of criminal offenders has been and is an important compo-
nent in correctional facilities throughout the United States. In 1973 the
National Advisory Commission called for criminal classiﬁcation programs
to be initiated throughout the criminal justice system (Megargee & Bohn,
1979). This has not been an easy task. The correctional system is a complex,
expanding, expensive operation that has accountability to society, individual
communities, correctional staff, and the inmates themselves. The current
trend within the correctional system has been growth of the inmate popula-
tion with a modest growth in facilities. As the population within the system
is faced with economic and now medical issues (such as AIDS), classiﬁca-
tion is a cost-effective and efﬁcient management and treatment tool. It pro-
vides common language for the various professional groups to communicate
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Megargee and Bohn (1979) found during their research project that a
comprehensive classiﬁcation system must take into account many different
components of the criminal population. They stressed that an important ele-
ment in any such system is the personality and behavioral pattern of the indi-
In the 1980s, a research team at the Massachusetts Treatment Center in
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, began a research program to classify sexual of-
fenders (Knight, Rosenberg, & Schneider, 1985). Their application of a pro-
grammatic approach to typology construction and validation has produced
taxonomic systems for both child molesters and rapists. The classiﬁcation for
child molesters has demonstrated reasonable reliability and consistent ties to
distinctive developmental antecedents. In addition, preliminary results of a
twenty-ﬁve-year recidivism study of child molesters indicate that aspects of
the model have important prognostic implications (Knight & Prentky, 1990).
Crime Characteristics and Crime Classification Today
The National Crime Survey (NCS) program is based on ﬁndings from a con-
tinuous survey of a representative sample of housing units across the United
States. Approximately forty-six thousand housing units, inhabited by about
ninety-three thousand individuals age twelve or older, take part in the sur-
vey. The participation rate for 1987 was 96 percent of all eligible housing
units (Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1988).
The NCS focuses on certain criminal offenses, completed or attempted,
that are of major concern to the general public and law enforcement author-
ities. These are the personal crimes of rape, robbery, assault, and larceny and
the household crimes of burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. Deﬁni-
tions of the measured crimes generally are compatible with conventional use
and with the deﬁnitions used by the FBI in its annual publication, Crime in
the United States: Uniform Crime Reports. The NCS reports on characteris-
tics of personal crime victims, victim-offender relationships, offender char-
acteristics in personal crimes of violence, and crime characteristics.
The work of investigative analysts at the FBI Academy with the large
number of cases seen weekly has led to an expansion of these traditional
crime categories. The Crime Classiﬁcation Manual (CCM) makes explicit
crime categories that have been used informally.
CRIME CLASSIFICATION: THE DECISION PROCESS
To classify a crime using the CCM, an investigator needs to ask questions
about the victim, the crime scene, and the nature of the victim-offender
exchange. The answers to these questions will guide the investigator toward
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making a decision on how best to classify the offense. However, the opti-
mum use of this manual depends on the quality of information the investiga-
tor has concerning the crime.
The deﬁning characteristics of each offense need to be as comprehensive and
complete as possible. Victimology is an essential step in arriving at a possi-
ble motive. An investigator who fails to obtain complete victim histories
may be overlooking information that could quickly direct the investigation
to a motive and suspects.
As one looks through the classiﬁcation sections in this book, it becomes
apparent a blend of motivations inspires many violent crimes. This is espe-
cially true when multiple offenders are involved. There may be as many dif-
ferent reasons for the crime as there are offenders.
The approach taken in the CCM for multiple motives is to classify the
offense according to the predominant motive. Consider a case in which a
husband kills his wife for insurance money. He then attempts to cover the
murder with a ﬁre. In addition, he was having an affair, and his wife would
not give him a divorce. This homicide has criminal enterprise (ﬁnancial gain)
and personal cause (domestic) motives. It also can be classiﬁed as crime con-
cealment under the arson section. The ﬁnancial considerations should be the
primary criteria for classifying this crime. The other applicable categories
would be subclassiﬁcations. So once classiﬁed, this homicide would appear
as follows. For example, the number 107 refers to the category “insurance-
related death”; the subcategory of 107.01 refers to “individual profit mo-
tive.” The number 122 refers to “domestic murder” and the 122.02 refers
to “staged domestic homicide.” The number 231 refers to the category
“crime concealment, murder.”
107.01 Individual proﬁt motive
122.02 Staged domestic homicide
231.00 Crime concealment, murder
The investigator will now be able to consult the investigative considera-
tions and search warrant suggestions for each of these categories for possi-
ble guidance. Prosecutors will also beneﬁt from having all aspects of the
crime detailed. Later, other investigators working cases with one or more
elements of this offense can use this case or any others with the applicable
heading for reference.
The main rule when several of the categories apply (for example, murder
and sexual assault, or sexual assault and arson) is to lead with the crime of
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highest lethality. Homicide takes precedence. Next comes arson/bombing
and then sexual assault, if applicable.
The following sections describe each of the key elements in categorizing
a crime: victimology, crime scene indicators frequently noted, staging, com-
mon forensic ﬁndings, and investigative considerations.
Victimology is the complete history of the victim. (If the crime is arson, then
victimology includes targeted property.) It is often one of the most beneﬁcial
investigative tools in classifying and solving a violent crime. It is also a cru-
cial part of crime analysis. Through it, the investigator tries to evaluate why
this particular person was targeted for a violent crime. Often, just answering
this question will lead the investigator to the motive, which will lead to the
Was the victim known to the offender? What were the victim’s chances of
becoming a target for violent crime? What risk did the offender take in per-
petrating this crime? These are some of the important questions investigators
should keep in mind as they analyze the crime.
One of the most important aspects of classifying an offense and determin-
ing the motive is a thorough understanding of all offender activity with the
victim (or targeted property). With sexual assault, this exchange between
the victim and offender includes verbal interchange as well as physical and
The tone of the exchange between an offender and a victim of sexual as-
sault is extremely helpful in directing the investigator to an appropriate clas-
siﬁcation. Excessively vulgar or abusive language, scripting, or apologetic
language is common to a certain type of rapist.
A comprehensive victimology should include as much as possible of the
information on the victim listed in Exhibit I.1, the sample worksheet that
appears near the end of this Introduction.
Crime Scene Indicators
Of the many elements that constitute the crime scene, not all will be present
or recognizable with every offense. The following sections describe the ma-
jor points investigators should consider when looking at the crime scene,
especially as it pertains to crime classiﬁcation. The modus operandi as it re-
lates to the crime scene and forensics is covered in Chapter One.
How Many Crime Scenes? How many crime scenes are involved with the
offense? There may be one site, as in group excitement homicide. In con-
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trast, the product tamperer may taint the product at one location and then put
it on shelves in several stores. The victim may consume the product in one
location but die in another location. In this case, there are at least four crime
The use of several locales during the commission of an offense frequently
gives the investigator signiﬁcant insight into the nature of the offender. One
example is the disorganized sexual killer who may confront, assault, kill, and
leave the body all in the same location. In contrast, the organized killer may
abduct, assault, kill, and dispose of the victim using separate locations for
Environment, Place, and Time. The environment of a crime scene refers
to the conditions or circumstances in which the offense occurs. Is it indoors
or outside? Was it during daylight hours or in the middle of the night? Did it
happen on a busy street or a deserted country road? Answering these ques-
tions not only assists in deﬁning the classiﬁcation of an offense but also pro-
vides an assessment of the offender risk. Gauging these risk factors usually
offers insight into an offender’s motivations and behavioral patterns.
With some offenses, location may have more obvious bearing on the mo-
tive and classiﬁcation than others. An example is street gang murder, in
which the homicide is commonly a so-called drive-by in an area of known
gang conﬂict. In other offenses, like arson for excitement, the investigator
may not know that the typical location of this crime scene is residential prop-
erty as opposed to vandalism arson, which usually involves educational
facilities. Adding this information to other characteristics of the arson will
often lead the investigator to the classiﬁcation and, most important, possible
How long did the offender stay at the scene? Generally the amount of time
the offender spends at the scene is proportional to the degree of comfort he
feels committing the offense at that particular location. Evidence of a linger-
ing offender will often assist the investigation by directing it toward a sub-
ject who lives or works near the crime scene, knows the neighborhood, and
consequently feels at ease there.
How Many Offenders? The answer to this question will help the investiga-
tor determine whether to place the offense into the criminal enterprise cate-
gory or the group cause category. The motive in criminal enterprise murders
is for proﬁt. The motive in group cause is based on ideology. The offenses
included in both groupings involve multiple offenders.
Organized or Disorganized, Physical Evidence, and Weapon. The gen-
eral condition of the crime scene is important in classifying a crime. Is it like
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a group excitement killing: spontaneous and disarrayed with a great deal of
physical evidence at the scene? Or does the crime scene reﬂect a methodi-
cal, well-organized subject who did not leave a single print or piece of phys-
ical evidence behind? The latter may be seen with an organized crime hit, as
in the criminal competition category.
The amount of organization or disorganization at the crime scene will
tell much about the offender’s level of criminal sophistication. It will also
demonstrate how well the offender was able to control the victim and how
much premeditation was involved with the crime. It should be emphasized
that the crime scene will rarely be completely organized or disorganized. It
is more likely to be somewhere on a continuum between the two extremes of
the orderly, neat crime scene and the disarrayed, sloppy one.
Another aspect of crime scene examination concerns the weapon. Ques-
tions the investigator needs to answer about the weapon include the follow-
ing: Was it a weapon of choice, brought to the crime scene by the offender?
Or was it a weapon of opportunity acquired at the scene? (With arson, did
the ﬁre start from materials at hand, or did the offender bring accelerants to
the scene?) Is the weapon absent from the crime scene, or has it been left be-
hind? Was there evidence of multiple weapons and ammunition? Multiple
weaponry does not always signify multiple offenders. Authority killing and
nonspeciﬁc motive killing are examples of offenses that often involve the use
of multiple ﬁrearms and ammunition by a lone offender.
Body Disposition. Was the body openly displayed or otherwise placed in
a deliberate manner to ensure discovery? Or was the body concealed or
buried to prevent discovery? Did the offender seem to have no concern as to
whether the body would be discovered? These are some questions whose an-
swers will aid the classiﬁcation of a homicide. Certain homicides (disorgan-
ized sexual homicide, for example) may involve the intentional arranging of
the body in an unnatural or unusual position. In some homicides, like cult
murder or drug murder, the body may be left in a degrading position or in a
location to convey a message.
Items Left or Missing. The addition or absence of items at the crime scene
often assists the investigator in classifying the offense. The presence of un-
usual artifacts, drawings, grafﬁti, or other items may be seen with offenses
such as extremist murder or street gang murder. Offender communication
(such as a ransom demand or extortion note) frequently is associated with
the crime scene of a kidnap murder or product tampering.
Items taken from the scene as a crime scene indicator is found in felony
murder, breaking and entering, arson for crime concealment, and felony sex-
ual assault. A victim’s personal belongings may be taken from the scene of
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a sexual homicide. These so-called souvenirs (photos, a driver’s license, or
costume jewelry, for example, all belonging to victim) often may not be
Other Crime Scene Indicators. There are other crime scene indicators
common to certain offenses that help investigators classify crimes and
motives. Examples are wounded victims, no escape plan, and the probabil-
ity of witnesses. The nature of the confrontation between the victim and of-
fender is also important in determining the motive and classiﬁcation. How
did the offender control the victim? Are restraints present at the scene, or did
the offender immediately blitz and incapacitate the victim?
Staging is the purposeful alteration of a crime scene. For example, clothing
on a victim may be arranged to make it appear to be a sexual assault. The de-
tection and characteristics of staging are covered in Chapter Two.
Forensic ﬁndings are the analysis of physical evidence pertaining to a crime,
evidence that is used toward legal proof that a crime occurred. This evidence
is often called a silent witness, offering objective facts speciﬁc to the com-
mission of a crime. The primary sources of physical evidence are the victim,
the suspect, and the crime scene. Secondary sources include the home or
work environment of a suspect; however, search warrants are necessary for
the collection of such evidence (Moreau, 1987).
Medical reports provide important evidence. These reports include toxi-
cological results, X-ray ﬁlms, and autopsy ﬁndings. In homicide cases, the
forensic pathologist identiﬁes and documents the postmortem ﬁndings pres-
ent and interprets the ﬁndings within the context of the circumstances of
death (Luke, 1988).
Cause of Death. The mechanism of death is often a determining factor
when attempting to classify a homicide. The victim of a street gang murder
almost always dies from gunshot wounds. Explosive trauma is a frequent fo-
rensic ﬁnding with many criminal competition and extremist murders. Stran-
gulation is common to the more personal crimes such as domestic murder
and sexual homicide.
Trauma. The type, extent, and focus of injury sustained by the victim are
additional critical factors the investigator uses when classifying a crime.
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Overkill, facial battery, torture, bite marks, and mutilation are examples of
forensic ﬁndings that will often lead the investigator to a speciﬁc homicide
category and, thus, a possible motive for the offense.
Sexual Assault. Evidence of assault to the victim’s sexual organs or body
cavities has great bearing on motive and classiﬁcation. The type and se-
quence of the assault is important as well as the timing of the assault (before,
during, or after death).
The investigator should remember that the apparent absence of penetra-
tion with the penis does not mean the victim was not sexually assaulted. Sex-
ual assault also includes insertion of foreign objects, regressive necrophilia,
and many activities that target the breasts, buttocks, and genitals.
Investigative Considerations and Search Warrant Suggestions
Once the investigator has classiﬁed the offense (and thus the motive), the
investigative considerations and search warrant suggestions can be used to
give direction and assistance to the investigation. It should be emphasized
that the considerations examined here are general suggestions and not ab-
solutes that apply in every case.
There are ten basic steps to a crime scene search:
1. Approach the scene.
2. Secure and protect the scene.
3. Conduct a preliminary survey.
4. Narratively describe the scene.
5. Photograph the scene.
6. Sketch the scene.
7. Evaluate latent ﬁngerprint evidence and other forms of evidence.
8. Conduct a detailed search for evidence, and collect, preserve, docu-
ment the evidence.
9. Make the ﬁnal survey.
10. Release the scene.
The forensic analysis of physical evidence of hair and ﬁbers, blood, semen,
and saliva can provide the basis for critical testimony in court (Moreau,
CLASSIFICATION BY TYPE, STYLE, AND
NUMBER OF VICTIMS
Crimes may be classiﬁed by type, style, and number of victims. Using the
homicide classiﬁcation as an example, a single homicide is one victim and
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one homicidal event. A double homicide is two victims, one event, and in
one location. A triple homicide has three victims in one location during one
event. Anything beyond three victims is classiﬁed as a mass murder—that is,
a homicide involving four or more victims in one location and within one
Two additional types of multiple murders are spree murder and serial
murder. A spree murder involves killing at two or more locations with no
emotional cooling-off period between murders. The killings are all the result
of a single event, which can be of short or long duration. Serial murders are
involved in three or more separate events with an emotional cooling-off
period between homicides. At a 2005 FBI conference on serial murder, dis-
cussion focused on whether to classify a serial crime with two or more sep-
Exhibit I.1 is a worksheet that outlines the deﬁning characteristics of each
of the categories. Under each characteristic are some of the aspects that will
assist investigators in classifying the offense.
CRIME CLASSIFICATION NUMBERING SYSTEM
The numbering system for classifying crimes uses three digits, with the ﬁrst
digit representing the major crime category. All possible codes are not cur-
rently assigned in anticipation of future editions. There are ﬁve major crime
categories in this edition: homicide, arson/bombing, rape and sexual as-
sault, nonlethal crimes, and computer crime, with the last two new to this
edition. The homicide category is identiﬁed by the number 1 (codes 100 to
199), arson/bombing by the number 2 (codes 200 to 299), rape and sexual
assault by the number 3 (codes 300 to 399), nonlethal crimes by the num-
ber 4 (400–499), and computer crimes by the number 5 (codes 500–599).
As other major crimes categories are classiﬁed, they will be assigned appro-
priate identiﬁcation codes.
The second digit of the code represents further grouping of the major
crimes. Homicides are divided into four groups: criminal enterprise (100 to
109), personal cause (120 to 129), sexual (130 to 139), and group cause (140
to 149). There are unassigned numbers that allow for future editions within
speciﬁc categories and additional groups within a major category. The third
digit of the code represents speciﬁc classiﬁcations within these groups.
Individual classiﬁcations within these groups are further divided into
subgroups using two additional digits following a decimal point after the
code. The division into subgroups occurs when there are unique character-
istics within a factor that clearly identify a major difference with the group.
For example, domestic homicide (code 122) has two subgroups: sponta-
neous domestic homicide (122.01) and staged domestic homicide (122.02).
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Exhibit I.1. Crime Classiﬁcation Worksheet
I. Victimology: Why did this person become the victim of a violent
A. About the victim
Friends (type, number)
Income (amount, source)
Alcohol/drug use or abuse
Reputation, habits, fears
Likes and dislikes
Signiﬁcant events prior to the crime
Activities prior to the crime
B. Sexual Assault: Verbal Interaction
Excessively vulgar or abusive
C. Arson and bombing: targeted property
II. Crime Scene
Environment, time, place
How many offenders?
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Other (for example, witnesses, escape plan, wounded victims)
Criminal activity (i.e., robbery, rape/homicide)
IV. Forensic Findings
A. Forensic analysis
B. Autopsy results
Cause of death
Trauma (type, extent, location on body)
Facial battery (depersonalization)
Sexual assault (when, sequence, to where, insertion,
V. Investigative considerations
A. Search warrants
B. Locating and interviewing witnesses
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Additional codes are added after the subgroup to identify crimes by the type
of victim (child, adolescent, adult ages twenty to ﬁfty-nine, and elder adults
ages sixty and over) if there are unique characteristics associated with the
age of victims.
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Modus Operandi and
the Signature Aspects
of Violent Crime
JOHN E. DOUGLAS
LAUREN K. DOUGLAS
In September 1989, a Shreveport, Louisiana, man named Nathaniel
Code Jr. stood trial for murder. The jury determined Code had mur-
dered eight people between 1984 and 1987. These eight homicides took
place during three different events: one murder in 1984, four in 1985, and
three in 1987. There were several disparities in modus operandi (actions
taken by an offender during the perpetration of a crime in order to perpetrate
that crime) and victimology (characteristics of the victims) among the three
Could one man be linked to the murders at all three scenes? With differ-
ences in modus operandi (MO) and victimology, what could link Code with
each of these eight homicides? MO and victimology are important factors in
an investigation, but they are often somewhat generalized and offer less
about the subtle details about personality and, ultimately, identity that are of-
ten necessary to track down an offender. However, personation, that is, the
offender’s signature, or his “calling card,” is an individualized set of indica-
tors that can point speciﬁcally to an offender’s personality. (See Chapter Two
for more information on personation.) In the case of multiple crimes com-
mitted by the same (or serial) offender, there is often repeated personation.
This was true in the case of Nathaniel Code. He left his signature—gags,
duct tape, and bodies with gunshot wounds and slashed throats—at each of
the three crime scenes. This linked Code with all eight murders.
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No one in contemporary law enforcement would dispute that our society
has far too many Nathaniel Codes. The increase of violent crime has com-
pelled law enforcement to develop new measures to address it. One important
step is the recognition of the serial offender who often crosses jurisdictional
boundaries. Any effective effort among local, state, and federal agencies
depends on early recognition of a serial offender as such; different jurisdic-
tions looking for the same offender need to recognize that they are after the
same person and cooperate with one another. But the common crossing of
multiple jurisdictional lines by offenders makes this a great challenge.
Comprehensive analysis of victimology, crime scene, and forensics, as well
as the careful interview and examination of any living victims to gather
information about the offender’s verbal and nonverbal behavior, can help an
agency discover a serial offender within its own jurisdiction or among sev-
The MO has great signiﬁcance when investigators attempt to link cases.
An appropriate step of crime analysis and correlation is to connect cases due
to similarities in MO. However, an investigator who rejects an offense as the
work of a serial offender solely on the basis of disparities in MO (as in the
Code cases) has made a mistake. What causes an offender to use a certain
MO? What inﬂuences shape it? Is it static or dynamic? The answers to these
questions help investigators avoid the error of attributing too much signiﬁ-
cance to MO when linking crimes.
THE MODUS OPERANDI
Actions taken by an offender during the perpetration of a crime in order to
perpetrate that crime form the MO. MO is a learned set of behaviors that the
offender develops and sticks with it because it works, but it is dynamic and
malleable. In any criminal career, no matter what the circumstances, the MO
will evolve with the criminal. Every criminal makes mistakes, but most learn
from them and try to get better with time, as the following example shows.
Late one night, a novice prowler prepared to enter a house through a base-
ment window to burglarize it. The window was closed and locked, so the
prowler shattered the window to gain access to the house. He had to rush his
search for valuables because he feared the breaking window had awakened
the residents of the home. For his next late-night residential burglary, he
brought tools to force the lock and keep the noise to a minimum. This
allowed him more time to commit the crime and obtain a more proﬁtable
haul. However, he was still nervous about the prospect of waking the resi-
dents of his target home, so he began targeting unoccupied homes and
switched to midmorning break-ins. This also allowed him better light by
which to see the valuables he was after, an added advantage.
20 CRIME CLASSIFICATION MANUAL
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Modus Operandi and the Signature Aspects of Violent Crime 21
This offender’s original MO was to break and enter through the window
of a residence at night, then stealing valuables and escaping. Through expe-
rience, his MO evolved to forcing the lock on windows in unoccupied homes
during the day. He reﬁned his breaking and entering techniques to lower his
risk of apprehension and increase his proﬁt. This is very common among
offenders who repeatedly commit property crimes. He saw challenges to his
enterprise, ﬁgured out how to overcome them, and incorporated the tech-
niques into his MO. He might have found another way to avoid the noise of
a broken window; for example, he might have watched for the location of a
hidden door key and used that to gain entrance or begun targeting unguarded
and unoccupied ofﬁces at night instead of residences.
The offender learns from challenges that trip him up as well. Had that orig-
inal broken window resulted in his arrest and incarceration, he would have
tried not to repeat that mistake if he chose to return to burglary after his release.
In violent crimes, victims’ responses can signiﬁcantly inﬂuence the evo-
lution of an offender’s MO. If a rapist has problems controlling a victim, he
will modify his MO to accommodate and overcome resistance. He may
bring duct tape or other ligatures, he may use a weapon, or he may blitz-
attack the victim and immediately incapacitate her. If such measures are
ineffective, he may resort to greater violence, including killing the victim.
THE SIGNATURE ASPECT
The violent serial offender often exhibits another element of criminal behav-
ior during an offense: his signature, or calling card. This criminal conduct
goes beyond the actions necessary to perpetrate the crime—the MO—and
points to the unique personality of the offender.
Unlike MO, a serial offender’s signature will never change at its core.
Certain details may be reﬁned over time (for example, the lust murderer who
performs greater postmortem mutilation as he progresses from crime to
crime), but the basis of the signature will remain the same (performing post-
mortem mutilations, in this example).
What makes up this signature? Surviving victims or witnesses some-
times attest to the behavioral elements of the signature. For example, a
rapist may demonstrate part of his signature by engaging in acts of domina-
tion, manipulation, or control during the verbal, physical, or sexual phase
of the assault. Exceptionally vulgar or abusive language or scripting is a
verbal signature. When the offender scripts a victim, he demands a particu-
lar verbal response from her (for example, “Tell me how much you enjoy
sex with me” or “Tell me how good I am”). A rapist might also stick to his
own sort of script by engaging in phases or types of sexual activities in a set
order with different victims.
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The crime scene can include aspects of an offender’s signature in, for
instance, evidence of excessive force. A large amount of blood ranging
around the home in which a violent crime occurred might demonstrate that
the victim was moved or dragged around the area as the offender used more
force than necessary to subdue (in the case of rape) or kill (in the case of
The signature is not necessarily evident in each of a serial offender’s
crimes. Contingencies can arise, such as interruptions or unexpected victim
responses, that cause the offender to abandon these unnecessary steps. In
such instances, the offender will be much less satisﬁed or gratiﬁed by his
Why is this? Violent crimes often originate with offender fantasies. This is
particularly true for serial offenders. As they brood and daydream, they de-
velop a more and more compelling need to express their violent fantasies.
When they ﬁnally act out, some aspects of the crime will demonstrate their
unique personal expression based on these fantasies. This is personation. As
an offender acts out again (and again), this personation will be repeated and
is his signature. The elements that comprise signature are the most speciﬁc
manifestations of his fantasies; they are therefore the most meaningful to him.
Another reason for the absence of signature elements in some crimes
committed by serial offenders is that the investigator does not always have
a surviving victim or even a crime scene to work with. Violent offenses
often involve high-risk victims, which may mean no one reports them miss-
ing, so there is no search for them or their bodies. Many offenders dump
bodies outside, away from the scene of the crime and in an isolated spot.
This may result in a great deal of decomposition, which obscures signs of
signature on the victim’s body and clothing. And if the body has been
dumped, the actual crime scene is somewhere else, along with most of the
indicators of signature.
Nevertheless, although detecting a signature or calling card is a challenge,
it can be the biggest piece of the puzzle in identifying a serial offender. It is
an unfortunate truth that the more victims there are, the more indicators of
signature there are. Investigators want to stop violent serial offenders, but it
often takes evidence gathered from multiple victims, crime scenes, dump
sites, witnesses, and so on to identify signature elements that will link the
crimes to a serial offender.
MODUS OPERANDI OR SIGNATURE?
A rapist entered a residence and captured a woman and her husband. The
offender ordered the husband to lie on his stomach on the ﬂoor. He then
placed a cup and saucer on the husband’s back. “If I hear that cup move or
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Modus Operandi and the Signature Aspects of Violent Crime 23
hit the ﬂoor, your wife dies,” he told the husband. He forced the wife into the
next room and raped her. In another situation, a rapist entered a house and
ordered the woman to phone her husband and use some ploy to get him
home. Once the husband arrived, the offender tied him to a chair and forced
him to witness the rape of his wife.
The rapist who used the cup and saucer had developed an effective MO to
control the husband: he had dealt with the obstacle that stood between him
and his goal. The second rapist went beyond this. The full satisfaction of his
fantasies required not only raping the wife, but also ﬁnding, summoning
home, humiliating, and dominating the husband. The ﬁrst rapist dealt with
the husband because he was there; he kept him from witnessing or interfer-
ing with the rape. The second rapist needed the husband to be there and, fur-
thermore, needed him to witness the rape. His personal needs compelled him
to perform this signature aspect of crime.
In Michigan, a bank robber made the tellers undress during a robbery. In
Texas, another bank robber also forced the bank employees to undress; in
addition, he made them pose in sexually provocative positions as he took
photographs. Do both crimes demonstrate a signature aspect?
The Michigan robber used a very effective means to increase the odds of
his escape. He probably guessed or knew that the tellers would get dressed
before calling the police. When interviewed, these employees offered vague,
meager descriptions because their embarrassment had prevented eye contact
with the perpetrator. This subject had developed a clever MO. The Texas rob-
ber, however, went beyond the required actions to perpetrate his crime. The
act of robbing the bank did not gratify his psychosexual needs. He felt com-
pelled to enact the ritual of posing the tellers and taking pictures, leaving his
signature on the crime.
When investigators attempt to link cases, MO plays an important role. How-
ever, MO should not be the only criterion used to connect crimes, especially
with repeat offenders who alter the MO through experience and learning.
The ﬁrst offenses may differ considerably from later ones; nevertheless, the
signature aspect remains the same, whether it is the ﬁrst offense or one com-
mitted ten years later. The ritual may evolve, but the theme persists.
The signature aspect also should usually receive greater consideration
than victimology (this should not be discounted, however) when investiga-
tors attempt to link cases to one another or to a speciﬁc serial offender. For
instance, physical similarities among victims may not be signiﬁcant indica-
tors when crimes are motivated by anger; in such cases, the signature will
tell investigators much more about the offender than victimology will.
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CASES LINKED BY OFFENDER SIGNATURE
Ronnie Shelton: Serial Rapist
During the 1980s, Cleveland, Ohio, was terrorized by a man who became
known as the West Side Rapist. When he was ﬁnally caught, Ronnie Shelton
was found guilty of forty-nine rapes, twenty-nine aggravated burglaries,
eighteen felonious assaults, sixty counts of gross sexual imposition, twelve
kidnappings, nineteen counts of intimidation, three counts of cutting tele-
phone lines, two thefts, and twenty-seven aggravated robberies. He was con-
victed on 220 counts of the indictment. The judge gave him 3,198 years, the
longest sentence in Ohio history.
Shelton’s MO included entering the victim’s dwelling through a window
or patio facing a wooded area or bushes offering concealment. He wore a ski
mask, stocking, or scarf. He was initially violent, threatening the victim,
throwing the victim to the ﬂoor, or holding a knife to her throat. But he
would then calm her down by convincing her he was not there to rape but to
rob her, saying, “I just want money,” or something similar. When he had the
victim under control, he would return to the violent mode. Shelton would use
such phrases as, “Keep your eyes down,” “Cover your eyes,” or “Don’t look
at me and I won’t kill you [or hurt your kids].” Before he left, he would ver-
bally intimidate the victim with warnings such as, “Don’t call the police or
I’ll come back and kill you.”
It was in his verbal approach and the nature of his sexual assaults that
Shelton’s signature was evident. He was verbally degrading and exception-
ally vulgar. He also would say such things as, “I have seen you with your
boyfriend,” “I’ve seen you around,” or “You know who I am.” He would
rape the victim vaginally, withdraw, and ejaculate on the victim’s stomach
or breasts. He would then frequently masturbate over the victim or between
her breasts. He often used the victim’s clothing to wipe off his ejaculate.
Shelton forced many of his victims to perform oral sex on him and then in-
sisted they swallow the ejaculate. He would also force them to masturbate
him manually. A combination of these acts was Shelton’s signature.
One puzzling element of the assaults was that the rapist’s earlier victims
described a bump on the rapist’s penis, while later victims did not. Shelton’s
signature linked him with all the assaults, despite the difference in descrip-
tions. Had his signature not been recognized, he might not have been pun-
ished for many of his crimes.
As it turned out, there was a simple explanation for the difference in
physical descriptions: Shelton had undergone a procedure to remove geni-
tal warts, so the “bump” had been removed before the later victims were
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Modus Operandi and the Signature Aspects of Violent Crime 25
Just as the serial killer or rapist develops an MO, so does the serial arsonist.
An arsonist’s MO may involve targeting structures of a certain type that offer
easy access and escape. The use of certain accelerants and incendiary de-
vices is a component of the MO, as is the selection of a speciﬁc site to set the
ﬁre, for example, inside, outside, in a toolshed, or near a furnace.
The signature aspects of an arsonist may include evidence of bizarre
behavior at the crime scene. He may take certain items from the crime scene,
like women’s undergarments or cheap costume jewelry—items that are not
valuable monetarily but are meaningful to him. He may leave something at
the crime scene. One ﬁre setter would draw pictures on the walls before set-
ting ﬁres. He may defecate or urinate at the scene. In addition, speciﬁc incen-
diary mixtures and accelerants, such as the unusual combination of kerosene
and gasoline, may be indicative of a signature.
An investigator should apply the same principles used in detecting the
signature aspect of a sexual assault or homicide to arson. The crime scene
must be analyzed for any offender activity that appears unusual or unneces-
sary for the successful perpetration of the arson.
Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber: Serial Bomber
In May 1998 Theodore J. “Ted” Kaczynski was found guilty and sentenced
to life in prison for a series of sixteen bombings that claimed three lives and
injured twenty-three other people, two of them seriously. Kaczynski either
mailed or hand-placed all of the bombs between May 1978 and April 1995.
He initially targeted individuals associated with universities and the airline
industry—thus, the FBI code “Unabom” and, later, “Unabomber.”
The Unabomber case is an excellent example of an MO that evolves with
repeated offenses and increased skill. Most of the earliest bombs were pipe
bombs constructed with such untraceable common materials as match heads
and batteries. The third bomb, which was planted in a package in the cargo
hold of American Airlines ﬂight 444, featured a detonator controlled by an
altimeter. Despite the fact that the bomb only caught ﬁre and failed to
explode, this detonation system indicated a new level of complexity in the
Unabomber’s MO. The sixth bomb, sent to Vanderbilt University, contained
smokeless powder. The eighth bomb, left in a computer lab at the University
of California-Berkeley, was the most powerful yet. It contained ammonium
nitrate and aluminum powder. On December 11, 1985, the Unabomber
planted a bomb outside a computer store in Sacramento, California. This
bomb, the eleventh, had a gravity trigger and a backup system, and it was
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ﬁlled with nails to make the blast more harmful. It exploded as soon as it was
touched and caused his ﬁrst fatal bombing.
Kaczynski had a distinctive signature. From the beginning of the bomb-
ings, he showed a fascination with wood. One of his victims, president of
United Airlines at the time, was named Percy A. Wood. Wood received the
bomb hidden inside a book published by Arbor House. Another intended vic-
tim was named LeRoy Wood Bearnson. Perhaps most intriguing, in June
1995, Kaczynski sent a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle bearing the
return address of Frederick Benjamin Isaac (which, interestingly, would be
abbreviated FBI) Wood of 549 Wood Street in Woodlake, California. His
ﬁnal target was the headquarters of the California Forestry Association.
His obsessions carried over into the ritualistic details found in the handi-
work of his bombs. He built many of the electrical and switching mecha-
nisms in them from scratch, even though these components are available at
most hardware stores for relatively little cost. He constructed elaborate
wooden housings for many of the bombs. By the time Kaczynski was appre-
hended on April 3, 1996, it was estimated that more than one hundred hours
of work would have gone into the construction of one of his bombs. It was
evidently a point of pride for him; in a letter to the Washington Post, Kaczyn-
ski boasted about the precision and care with which he assembled his bombs.
Some of his correspondence, which he signed as a member of the “Freedom
Club,” points to another (literally) signature element of his crimes: the let-
ters “F.C.” were found on the remnants of several of the bombs.
When investigators and prosecutors face a situation as convoluted and
confusing as the Unabomber case, the recognition of the offender’s signature
is of paramount importance. Broad geographical range and initially bafﬂing
victim selection can make it very difﬁcult to establish motive. In such an
information vacuum, the various facets of the signature become increasingly
important in linking an offender to his crimes.
SERIAL KILLERS AND SIGNATURE CRIME
Steven Pennel was a sexual sadist who murdered at least three victims. His
MO involved using duct tape and ligatures to control his victims while he
tortured them. He used hammer blows to kill them (Douglas, 1989).
Pennel’s signature could be seen in the nature of the wounds inﬂicted on
his victims. He targeted the buttocks and breasts, beating and pinching them
with tools, including a hammer and pliers. The victims were kept alive dur-
ing these assaults because Pennel derived sexual gratiﬁcation from their
response to torture. Autopsy results conﬁrmed that none of the victims had
been sexually assaulted.
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Modus Operandi and the Signature Aspects of Violent Crime 27
The victims also had ligature marks around their necks, although the
blunt-force trauma to the head was the cause of death. Pennel enjoyed tight-
ening the ligature to the point of near strangulation. Because he required his
victims to be alive and conscious during torture, he did not kill them this
way. Strangulation was part of his signature, not the MO. It was a method to
cause extreme suffering in order to fulﬁll his sadistic fantasy.
Body disposal was similar for the victims. Pennel left their bodies in full
view, dumped with cold indifference by roadsides. The absence of remorse
demonstrated by Pennel’s body disposal methods can be considered another
aspect of his calling card.
The violence escalated as Pennel’s ritual matured and his fantasies sea-
soned. The last victim suffered the greatest amount of antemortem trauma
and postmortem mutilation. Again Pennel targeted the breasts. But in this
victim’s case, there was postmortem mutilation to the breasts rather than
antemortem mutilation, as had been evident with his other victims. This
caused some to debate whether this victim bore Pennel’s signature and
whether she had in fact been killed by him.
There were two reasons that this case could be linked to Pennel. His sig-
nature was still evident with this victim. First, he had inﬂicted a great deal of
injury to the victim’s buttocks while she was alive. Therefore, the signature
aspect of torturing a live victim was present, but it was evolving. With each
victim, the torture became more brutal. As stated above, interference with
the ritual due to contingencies arising will alter an offender’s ritual. This vic-
tim probably died before Pennel completed his ritual mutilations, so the sig-
nature appeared to be somewhat different but actually was the same. Second,
victimology strengthened the connection between these victims and Pennel.
The victims were all high risk: they were prostitutes or had a history of drug
abuse, or both. They disappeared from the same area, a state highway, and
police recovered the bodies within a few miles of each other.
Nathaniel Code, the offender referred to earlier in this chapter, killed eight
times on three separate occasions. The ﬁrst homicide, a twenty-ﬁve-year-
old black female, occurred August 8, 1984. Code stabbed her nine times in
the chest and slashed her throat. Approximately one year later, on July 19,
1985, Code struck again, this time claiming four victims: a ﬁfteen-year-old
girl, her mother, and two male friends. Code nearly severed the girl’s head
from her body. Her mother died from asphyxiation and was draped over the
side of the bathtub. Code shot one of the males in the head, leaving him in
a middle bedroom. The other male was found in the front bedroom, shot
twice in the chest and with his throat slashed. The last killing took place on
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August 5, 1987. The victims were Code’s grandfather and his two young
nephews, ages eight and twelve. The boys died of ligature strangulation. Code
stabbed his grandfather ﬁve times in the chest and seven times in the back.
All three cases involved single-family dwellings. The air conditioners or
TVs, or both, were on, drowning out the noise of the intruder as he entered
through a door or window. Code quickly gained and maintained control of
the multiple victims by separating them into different rooms.
But there were changes in Code’s MO exhibited from case to case, which
offer another excellent example of the reﬁnement of an MO. With the ﬁrst
murder, a gag had been fashioned from material at the scene. The next time,
Code had come prepared, bringing duct tape with him. It is evident that he
engaged in some type of surveillance activity to obtain information about the
victims, especially with the second homicides. He brought a gun to dispose
quickly of the greatest threats, the males. The last victims, an elderly man
and two children, posed little threat to someone of Code’s large physical
stature, so he did not use the gun.
Code had a very distinctive calling card. The overkill injuries suffered by
the victims demonstrated one aspect of his signature. Code employed a very
bloody method of attack and overkill. He could have simply murdered each
of these victims with a single gunshot wound, a clean kill involving very lit-
tle mess. Instead, he slaughtered his victims, slashing their throats with a
sawing motion, causing deep neck wounds. Although brutal, the attack did
not satisfy Code’s ritual; all the victims who sustained neck wounds, with
the exception of the ﬁfteen-year-old girl, also suffered additional injury. One
male victim sustained gunshot wounds to the chest and another multiple stab
wounds to the chest. Code wounded nearly all of the victims far beyond what
was necessary to cause death.
This physical violence and bloody overkill satisﬁed Code’s need for dom-
ination, control, and manipulation. He positioned all of his victims face
down, more evidence of this theme of domination. Forensics revealed the
daughter’s blood on the mother’s dress, indicating that Code forced the
mother to witness her daughter’s death.
The last signature aspect of Code’s crimes probably best illustrated this
unique calling card: the ligature. Code used an unusual conﬁguration and
material. In all three cases, the victims were bound with electrical appliance
or telephone cords acquired at the scene. Code could have brought rope or
used his duct tape, but the use of these cords satisﬁed some personal need.
He used a handcuff-style conﬁguration, with a loop around each wrist. He
also bound the ankles handcuff style and connected them to the wrists by a
lead going through the legs.
The dissimilarities of these cases involve the MO, not the signature as-
pect. The use of a gun with threatening males revealed an adaptive offender.
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Modus Operandi and the Signature Aspects of Violent Crime 29
At the time of the grandfather’s homicide, additional ﬁnancial stressors af-
fected Code, as evidenced by the theft of money from the grandfather’s res-
idence. Three years of living reshaped this offender’s behavior at each of the
crime scenes. The MO reﬂected this change, but the signature did not.
Understanding and recognizing the signature aspects of crime has obvious
importance. It is often vital to the recognition, apprehension, and prosecu-
tion of the serial offender.
In 1984 David Vasquez pleaded guilty to the murder of a thirty-two-year-
old Arlington, Virginia, woman. The woman had been sexually assaulted and
died of ligature strangulation. The killer left her lying face down with her
hands tied behind her back. He had used unique knots and excessive binding
with the ligatures, and a lead came from the wrists to the neck over the left
shoulder. The body was openly displayed so that discovery would offer sig-
niﬁcant shock value.
The offender had spent an excessive amount of time at the crime scene.
He had made extensive preparations to bind the victim, allowing him to
control her easily. His needs dictated that he move her around the house,
exerting total domination of her. It appeared he had even taken her into the
bathroom and had made her brush her teeth. None of this behavior was nec-
essary to perpetrate the crime; the offender had felt compelled to act out this
Vasquez had a very low IQ. His lawyers felt this would make it difﬁcult
to prove his innocence, so they convinced him he would probably receive the
death sentence if he went to trial. Afraid for his life, Vasquez opted for life
imprisonment and pleaded guilty.
In 1987, police discovered the body of a forty-four-year-old woman, nude
and face down on her bed, with a rope binding her wrists behind her back. The
ligature strand tightly encircled the neck, with a slip knot at the back, contin-
ued over her left shoulder down her back, and then wrapped three times
around each wrist. Forensics revealed she had died of ligature strangulation
and had been sexually assaulted. The offender left the body exposed and
openly displayed. He appeared to have spent a considerable amount of time
at the scene. This homicide occurred four blocks from the 1984 murder.
Vasquez had been imprisoned for several years when the 1987 murder
occurred. The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime conducted
an exhaustive analysis of these homicides, a series of sexual assaults, and
several other killings that had happened between 1984 and 1987. Eventually
it linked these offenses, through analogous signature aspects, to an Arling-
ton, Virginia, subject. Physical evidence later corroborated this connection.
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Vasquez was exonerated and released.
This example illustrates the importance of recognizing the signature
aspects of a violent crime. These signature aspects can serve justice and soci-
ety not only by curtailing a serial criminal’s violent career, but also by pre-
venting the arrest or punishment of the wrong person.
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The Detection of Staging,
Undoing, and Personation
at the Crime Scene
JOHN E. DOUGLAS
LAUREN K. DOUGLAS
Chuck and Carol Stuart were on their way home from a prenatal birthing
class when, according to Chuck, a ﬁve foot ﬁve inch black man weigh-
ing 150 to 165 pounds abducted the couple, forcing them to drive to Mission
Hill, a racially mixed Boston neighborhood where drug abuse and crime are
common. After robbing the couple, said Stuart, the perpetrator shot Carol in
the head and then shot Chuck in the stomach. Carol died that night in the
hospital; their infant, who was delivered by cesarean section, died seventeen
days later. The story was covered heavily by the media, with commentators
pronouncing how fortunate Chuck was to be alive.
As part of the investigation, police began to stop black men randomly on
the streets in the hope of eventually ﬁnding the killer. A few days after the
shooting, police arrested William Bennett for a video store robbery. Bennett
soon became the prime suspect in Carol Stuart’s murder. Chuck even identi-
ﬁed Bennett as the perpetrator in a police line-up.
As investigators began to explore Chuck’s background, however, rumors
ﬂew that he was having money troubles, had a girlfriend, and had taken out
a life insurance policy on his wife. Investigators became suspicious of
Chuck’s recount of the abduction and murder. Chuck had told the police that
the perpetrator had shot him and his wife from the back seat of his car. Inves-
tigators were curious how the offender was able to shoot Chuck in the stom-
ach from such an odd angle. The question was also raised as to why Chuck
chose to call 911 ﬁrst before attempting to help his dying pregnant wife.
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Chuck’s brother would later identify Chuck as the actual killer. Chuck had
shot his pregnant wife and then himself, staging the crime scene to look as
though a third party was responsible. Chuck Stuart ended up committing sui-
cide, and William Bennett was a free man.
Behavior reﬂects personality. Everything observed at a crime scene tells
a story and reﬂects something about the unknown subject (UNSUB) who
committed the crime. The crime scene and forensic evidence contain mes-
sages that will lead to the answers the investigators need to solve the crime.
By studying crimes and talking to perpetrators who have committed violent
crimes, investigators can learn to apply and solve the equation of Why +
How =Who. During this process, investigators attempt to interpret clues left
by the UNSUB at the scene, similar to a doctor who evaluates symptoms to
diagnose a particular disease or condition. As a doctor begins forming a
diagnosis and treatment plan based on his or her experience, an investigator
correspondingly conducts crime analysis when he or she sees patterns
emerge. Based on the analysis, leads and tactics can be developed to help
investigators identify the UNSUB.
A major part of the process of crime scene analysis depends on the ana-
lyst’s insight into the dynamics of human behavior. Speech patterns, writing
styles, verbal and nonverbal gestures, and other traits and patterns compose
human behavior. This combination causes every individual to act, react,
function, or perform in a unique and speciﬁc way. This individualistic behav-
ior usually remains consistent, whether it concerns keeping house, selecting
a wardrobe, or raping and murdering.
The commission of a violent crime involves all the same dynamics of nor-
mal human behavior. The same forces that inﬂuence normal everyday con-
duct also inﬂuence the offender’s actions during an offense. The crime scene
usually reﬂects these behavior patterns or gestures. Learning to recognize
the crime scene manifestations of this behavior enables an investigator to
discover much about the offender. Due to the personalized nature of this be-
havior, the investigator also has a means to distinguish among different
offenders committing the same offense.
There are three manifestations of offender behavior at a crime scene: mo-
dus operandi (MO), personation (the signature), and staging. This chapter
discusses personation and staging and illustrates them by case example.
One aspect of interpreting the behavior patterns of an offense depends on
attention to details. These details often escape notice during the initial phase
of protecting and preserving the crime scene. A violent crime may not only
emotionally detach the investigator from the offense, but it may also desen-
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Staging, Undoing, and Personation at the Crime Scene 33
sitize that investigator to minute clues offered by the crime scene. Another
pitfall that obscures these important details is the inability of the investiga-
tor to achieve a comfortable distance from the crime. Identiﬁcation with the
victim, perhaps relating the victim to a family member, prevents detachment
from the crime, and judgment may become clouded by emotion. By taking
quality crime scene photographs, investigators will be in a better position to
detach themselves from a highly emotional situation.
The assessment phase of crime analysis attempts to answer several ques-
tions. What was the sequence of events? Was the victim sexually assaulted
before or after death? Was mutilation before or after death? Observations
like this can offer important insights into an offender’s personality. How did
the encounter between the offender and victim occur? Did the offender blitz-
attack the victim, or did he use verbal means (the con) to capture her? Did
the offender use ligatures to control the victim? Finally, any items added to
or taken from the crime scene require careful analysis.
As the investigator makes these assessments of the crime scene, puzzling
elements may arise that may obscure the underlying motive of the crime.
The crime scene also may contain peculiarities that serve no apparent pur-
pose in the perpetration of the crime. The latter of these crime scene charac-
teristics, personation, is discussed ﬁrst.
Most violent crime careers have a quiet, isolated beginning within the of-
fender’s imagination. The subject fantasizes about raping, torturing, killing,
building bombs, setting ﬁres, or any combination of these violent acts. When
the offender translates these fantasies into action, his emotional needs com-
pel him to exhibit violent behavior during the commission of a crime.
One of the ﬁrst cases brought to the National Center for the Analysis of
Violent Crime (NCAVC) was a 1979 homicide of a twenty-six-year-old
white female on the roof of her apartment in New York City. The cause of
death was ligature strangulation. The UNSUB left the victim’s body face up
and positioned her body to resemble a Jewish religious medal. He carefully
removed her earrings and placed them on either side of her head. He cut her
nipples off and placed them on her chest. The offender also inserted her um-
brella into the vagina and placed her comb into the pubic hair. He then placed
the victim’s nylons around her wrists and ankles. He scrawled a derogatory
message to police on her body using her pen. Finally, he left a pile of his
feces, covered with her clothing, a few feet from the body. The NCAVC
assessed all of this activity as being postmortem. A few inexpensive articles
of jewelry were missing, including the Jewish religious medal that resem-
bled the body’s positioning.
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This crime scene displayed some unusual input by this offender. The per-
petration of this crime did not require the positioning of the body, the post-
mortem mutilation, insertion and removal of items, and use of postmortem
ligatures. The signiﬁcance of this behavior was not readily apparent to the
investigator. The act of sexual assault and murder had little to do with most
of this offender’s behavior at the crime scene. His behavior went far beyond
the actions necessary to carry out this offense (the MO) because assault and
murder alone would not satisfy his needs.
Personation is unusual behavior by an offender, beyond that necessary to
commit the crime. The offender invests intimate meaning into the crime
scene (for example, by posing the victim, mutilation, items removed or left,
or other symbolic gestures involving the crime scene). Only the offender
knows the meaning of these acts. Signature is when a serial offender demon-
strates repetitive ritualistic behavior from crime to crime. The signature as-
pect of a crime is simply repetitive personation.
Undoing represents a form of personation with more obvious meaning.
Undoing frequently occurs at the crime scene when there is a close associa-
tion between the offender and the victim or when the victim represents
someone of signiﬁcance to the offender.
The following case exempliﬁes undoing. A son stabbed his mother to
death during a ﬁerce argument. After calming down, the son realized the full
impact of his actions. First, he changed the victim’s bloodied shirt and then
placed her body on the couch with her head on a pillow. He covered her with
a blanket and folded her hands over her chest so she appeared to be sleeping
peacefully. This behavior indicated his remorse by attempting to emotion-
ally undo the murder. Other forms of undoing may include the offender’s
washing up, cleaning the body, covering the victim’s face, or completely
covering the body. The offender engages in these activities not because he is
attempting to hide the victim but because he may be feeling some degree of
Staging is when someone purposely alters the crime scene prior to the arrival
of police. There are two reasons that someone employs staging: to redirect
the investigation away from the most logical suspect or to protect the victim
or victim’s family.
When a crime is staged, the responsible person is not someone who just
happens upon the victim. It is usually someone who had some kind of asso-
ciation or relationship with the victim. This offender will further attempt to
steer the investigation away from him by his conduct when in contact with
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Staging, Undoing, and Personation at the Crime Scene 35
law enforcement. Thus, investigators should never eliminate a suspect solely
on the grounds of that person’s overly cooperative or distraught behavior.
A double homicide case that received national publicity involved Susan
Smith, the mother of Alex and Michael, who purposely let her car, with her
two small sons inside, roll into John D. Long Lake in Union, South Carolina.
Smith ﬁrst went to a nearby home where she banged on the door, screaming,
“He’s got my kids and he’s got my car. A black man has got my kids and my
car.” The home owners called 911. Smith told police that she was stopped at
a red light when a black man jumped in her car and told her to drive. Even-
tually Smith said the man told her to get out of the car and he proceeded to
drive off with her children.
Smith attempted to steer the investigation away from her by creating a
false scenario to detract police. She was interviewed on many occasions, and
police began to catch the inconsistencies in her story. In addition, the man-
ner in which she spoke of her children’s disappearances made police ques-
tion her as a potential suspect. During numerous interviews, Smith spoke
about her sons in the past tense; at one point she said, “No man would ever
make me hurt my children.” This statement told police that she believed her
children were not alive. Police began to focus the investigation on Smith,
who ultimately confessed during an interview with an investigator.
A landmark case for the NCAVC in the use of signature analysis was the
1991 trial of George Russell Jr., charged with the bludgeoning and strangu-
lation murder of three women in Seattle. Each victim was blitz-attacked,
with all three killings happening over a seven-week period. All three women
were left naked and posed provocatively and degradingly. The sexual con-
tent of the posed scene escalated from one victim to the next. The ﬁrst vic-
tim was posed with hands clasped and legs crossed at the ankles and left near
a sewer grate and trash dumpster. The second victim was posed on a bed
with a pillow over her head, her legs bent out to each side, a riﬂe inserted into
her vagina, and red high heels on her feet. The ﬁnal victim was posed on her
bed with her legs spread, with a dildo in her mouth, and a copy of The Joy of
Sex placed under her left arm.
The blitz attacks were necessary to kill these women; the degrading pos-
ing was not. One of the chapter authors (J.E.D.) would testify at the hearing
advising jurors of the fact that there are not many cases of posing, that is,
when the offender treats the victim like a prop to leave a specific message.
These crimes are usually crimes of anger and of power. It is the thrill of the
hunt, the thrill of the kill, and the thrill afterward of how the offender leaves
the victim that makes the offender feel as though he has beat the system.
Douglas, relying on the signature aspects of the crimes, believed that who-
ever killed one of these victims killed all three. A jury ultimately found
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Russell guilty of one count of ﬁrst-degree murder and two counts of aggra-
vated ﬁrst-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without possi-
bility of parole.
Increasing numbers of anti-Semitic hate crimes show staging. In March
2004, Kerri Dunn, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, reported her
car had been vandalized in the campus parking lot. The police report con-
ﬁrmed her car windows had been broken, the tires slashed, and a swastika,
“Kike Whore,” and “Nigger Lover,” painted on the doors and hood of the
vehicle. The Jewish community was understandably upset by the incident
and demanded that the college administration take some action to prevent
this type of behavior from occurring in the future. The upheaval ended
when two students told investigators they witnessed Dunn vandalizing her
own car. It was known that Dunn was in the process of converting from
Catholicism to Judaism, which may be one of the reasons that she commit-
ted the act. There was also speculation that perhaps it was a mandatory ini-
tiation rite. A jury ultimately found Dunn guilty of staging the anti-Semitic
Another reason for staging is to protect the victim or victim’s family and
is employed most frequently with rape-murder crimes or autoerotic fatali-
ties. The offender of a sexual homicide frequently leaves the victim in a de-
grading position. One can hardly fault a family member’s protective staging
behavior, but the investigator needs to obtain an accurate description of
the body’s condition when found and exactly what that person did to alter the
This type of staging is also prevalent with autoerotic fatalities. The victim
may be removed from the apparatus that caused death (for example, cut
down from a noose or device suspending the body). In many cases, the vic-
tim wears a mask or costume. The costume often involves cross-dressing, so
not only does the person discovering the body have to endure the shock of
ﬁnding the victim dead, but also the shock of ﬁnding the victim in female
dress. To prevent further damage to the victim’s or family’s reputation or to
protect other family members, the person discovering the body may redress
the victim in men’s clothing or dress the nude body. He or she will often
stage the accident to look like a suicide, perhaps writing a suicide note. This
person may even go as far as staging the scene to appear as a homicide.
Nevertheless, scrutiny of forensics, crime scene dynamics, and victimology
probably will reveal the true circumstances surrounding death. Evidence of
previous autoerotic activities (bondage literature, adult “toys,” eyebolts in
the ceiling, worn spots from rope on beams) in the victim’s home also will
help determine if an autoerotic activity caused death.
Finally, the investigator should discern whether a crime scene is truly dis-
organized or whether the offender staged it to appear careless and haphaz-
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Staging, Undoing, and Personation at the Crime Scene 37
ard. This determination not only helps direct the analysis to the underlying
motive, but also helps to shape the offender proﬁle. However, the recogni-
tion of staging, especially with a shrewd offender, can be difﬁcult. The inves-
tigator must scrutinize all factors of the crime if there is reason to believe it
has been staged. Forensics, victimology, and minute crime scene details
become critical to the detection of staging.
Crime Scene Red Flags
An offender who stages a crime scene usually makes mistakes because he
stages it to look the way he thinks a crime scene should look. While doing
this, the offender experiences a great deal of stress and does not have time to
ﬁt all the pieces together logically. Inconsistencies thus begin appearing at
the crime scene, the forensics, and with the overall picture of the offense.
These contradictions often serve as the red ﬂags of staging and prevent mis-
guidance of the investigation.
These red ﬂags often occur in the form of crime scene inconsistencies.
The investigator should scrutinize all crime scene indicators individually
and then view them in the context of the whole picture. Several important
questions need to be asked during crime scene analysis. First, did the subject
take inappropriate items from the crime scene if burglary appears to be the
In one case submitted to the NCVAC, a man returning home from work
interrupted a burglary in progress. The startled burglars killed the man as he
attempted to ﬂee. A later inventory revealed the offenders had not stolen any-
thing, but it appeared they had begun taking apart a large stereo and TV unit
for removal. Analysis of the crime scene indicated the offenders passed over
smaller items, including jewelry and coin collections, of greater worth. With
further investigation, police discovered that the victim’s wife had paid the
offenders to stage the burglary and kill her husband. She was having an affair
with one of the offenders.
Second, did the point of entry make sense? For example, an offender
enters a house by a second-story window despite the presence of easier, less
conspicuous entry points.
Third, did the perpetration of this crime pose a high risk to the offender?
In other words, did it happen during daylight hours, in a populated area, with
obvious signs of occupation at the house (lights on, vehicles in the drive-
way), or involving highly visible entry points? The following case illustrates
some of these points.
In a small northeastern city, an unknown intruder attacked a man and his
wife one Saturday morning. The offender had placed a ladder against the
house, climbed up to a second-story window, and entered after removing
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the screen. This all occurred in a residential area during a time when the
neighbors were awake. The husband had peered outside his bedroom door
and saw a ﬁgure going downstairs; he then followed with a gun. He claimed
the offender struck him on the head after a struggle and then returned up-
stairs and killed his wife by manual strangulation. The victim’s body was
found with her nightgown pulled up around her waist, implying she had been
As the detectives processed the crime scene, they noted that the offender’s
weight on the ladder had left no impressions in the ground. However, when
the police investigator placed one foot on the bottom rung, the ladder left an
impression. In addition, the offender had positioned the ladder backward,
with the rungs going in the wrong direction. Many of the rotted rungs could
never have supported even ﬁfty pounds of weight. It was observed the of-
fender neither left foot impressions nor was debris transferred from the
rungs to the roof, where he supposedly gained entrance through a second
Why didn’t the offender choose an entrance through a ﬁrst-story window?
This would have decreased the chance of detection from both the occupants
and the neighbor. Why burglarize on a Saturday morning in an area full of
potential witnesses? Why choose a house obviously occupied, with several
vehicles in the driveway? If the criminal intent was homicide, why didn’t the
intruder seek his intended victims immediately? Instead, he went downstairs
ﬁrst. If he intended to murder, why didn’t he come equipped to kill? Why did
the person posing the greatest threat to the intruder receive only minor in-
juries? When an investigator analyzes a crime scene demonstrating a great
deal of offender activity and no clear motive for this activity, the statements
of the victim or witness should be questioned. In this case, the victim’s hus-
band was charged and convicted of homicide.
Another red ﬂag apparent with many staged domestic murders is the fatal
assault of the wife or children, or both, by an intruder while the husband
escapes without injury or with nonfatal injury. This was seen in the Stuart
case at the beginning of the chapter. If the offender does not initially target
the person posing the greatest threat or if that person suffers the least amount
of injury, the police investigator should reexamine all other crime scene indi-
cators. In addition, the investigator should scrutinize forensics and victimol-
ogy (for example, were there any recent insurance policies on victim?) with
Forensic Red Flags
Do the injuries ﬁt the crime? Forensic results that do not ﬁt the crime should
cause the investigator to think about staging. The presence of a personal-type
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Staging, Undoing, and Personation at the Crime Scene 39
assault using a weapon of opportunity when the initial motive for the offense
appears to be for material gain should raise suspicion. This type of assault
also includes manual or ligature strangulation, facial beating (depersonaliza-
tion), and excessive trauma beyond that necessary to cause death (overkill).
Generally, the more evidence there is of overkill, the closer the relationship
is between the victim and the offender.
Sexual and domestic homicides demonstrate forensic ﬁndings of this
type: a close-range, personalized assault. The victim (not money or goods)
is the primary focus on the offender. This type of offender often attempts to
stage a sexual or domestic homicide to appear motivated by criminal enter-
prise. This does not imply that personal-type assaults never happen during
the commission of a property crime, but usually the criminal enterprise of-
fender prefers a quick, clean kill that reduces time at the scene. Any foren-
sic red ﬂags should be placed in context with victimology and crime scene
information after careful analysis.
Other discrepancies may arise when the account of a witness or survivor
conﬂicts with forensic ﬁndings. In one case, an estranged wife found her hus-
band, a professional golfer, dead in the bathroom tub with the water running.
Initially it appeared as if the golfer had slipped in the tub, struck his head on
the bathroom ﬁxture, and drowned. However, the autopsy began to raise sus-
picion. Toxicology reports revealed a high level of Valium in the victim’s
bloodstream at the time of death. The autopsy also revealed several concen-
trated areas of injury or impact points on the head, as if the victim had struck
his head more than once. Later, investigators learned the wife had been with
him the night of his death. The wife later confessed that she had made dinner
for her husband and had laced his salad with Valium. After her husband
passed out, she let three men she hired into the house to kill him and make the
death look accidental.
Investigators often ﬁnd forensic discrepancies when a subject stages a
rape murder. The offender frequently positions the victim to imply sexual as-
sault has occurred. An offender who has a close relationship with the victim
will often only partially remove the victim’s clothing (for example, pants
pulled down, shirt or dress pulled up). He rarely leaves the victim totally
nude. Despite the body’s positioning and the partial removal of clothes, the
forensic examination demonstrates a lack of sexual assault. The investigator
should remember that sexual assault can take many forms, including ex-
ploratory probing, regressive necrophilia, and insertion of objects. With a
staged sexual assault, there is usually no evidence of any sexual activity and
an absence of seminal ﬂuids in the body oriﬁces.
An investigator who suspects a staged crime scene should look for other
signs of close offender association with the victim, such as washing up or
any other indications of undoing. In addition, when an offender stages a
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domestic homicide, he frequently plans and maneuvers a third-party discov-
ery of the victim. The case that involved the husband staging his wife’s mur-
der to appear as the work of an intruder illustrates this point. Instead of going
upstairs to check on his wife and daughter, he called his brother, who lived
across the street. The husband stayed downstairs in the kitchen while the
brother ran upstairs and discovered the victim. Offenders often manipulate
the victim’s discovery by a neighbor or family member or will be conve-
niently elsewhere when the victim is discovered.
Staging in Arson
Most of the same red ﬂags of staging that apply to a staged homicide also
apply to a staged arson. Arson investigation warrants the same attention to
crime scene information, targeted property and/or victimology, and forensic
ﬁndings as a homicide investigation.
Crime Concealment. When it is suspected that arson has been used for
crime concealment, especially a murder, one of the ﬁrst questions asked
should be, “Does the forensic evidence ﬁt the crime?” One example, a
California case began when a passing motorist saw a mobile home engulfed
in ﬂames. He honked his horn to get the neighbors’ attention as he pulled in
front of the burning home. Face down in the yard, apparently unconscious,
was a thirty-four-year-old white male, a resident of the burning home. Upon
hearing a female voice calling for help, the motorist and a neighbor at-
tempted to enter the structure, but the heat was too intense. When ﬁreﬁght-
ers and police arrived, the man who had been unconscious in the yard began
to cry out, “My wife is in there. She’s asleep in the bedroom!” He attempted
to enter the trailer but was held back by ﬁreﬁghters.
The husband told investigators he had fallen asleep in the living room
while watching TV when he was suddenly awakened by ﬁre coming from
the bedroom where his wife was sleeping. He had no memory of anything
except jumping out the window to escape the burning trailer.
The ﬁrst inconsistency of his story became evident after his wife’s au-
topsy. She had sustained numerous head wounds, including a skull fracture
running from the left cheek to the top of her head. One wound was described
as a large, gaping hole that seemed to have torn the scalp loose from the
skull. Physical evidence within the home could not account for these
injuries, the extent of which could have been fatal. The immediate cause of
death was asphyxiation and extensive thermal burns over 90 percent of the
body, with a secondary cause of compound head injuries.
The crime scene also offered many red ﬂags. The victim’s body was found
in the living room, not the bedroom. A large amount of blood was found on
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Staging, Undoing, and Personation at the Crime Scene 41
the living room ﬂoor close to where the husband had been sitting. Blood-
stains also were observed on the husband’s shirt, pants, and shoes. The most
extensive damage by the ﬁre occurred in the living room area, particularly
around the husband’s chair, and not in the back bedroom, where his wife
allegedly had been sleeping and the ﬁre supposedly had originated. The hus-
band offered no explanation of his wife’s brutal beating. He denied hearing
or seeing anything related to the incident. Closer observation of the crime
scene made it apparent the ﬁre had been set to conceal the struggle and homi-
cide that had occurred that night. The husband was subsequently convicted
of both arson and second-degree murder and was sentenced to ﬁfteen years
Insurance Fraud. Arson is often employed for the purposes of insurance
fraud. The ﬁre may be staged to appear accidental or committed by some
party unknown to the apparent victim. The detection of staging often de-
pends heavily on investigation beyond the crime scene indicators. The fol-
lowing example illustrates the investigative leads that uncovered the staging
of a crime made to appear as if the offenders were victims of arson.
A couple in their mid-sixties were summoned from a short shopping trip
with the news that there had been a ﬁre in their $850,000 home. The ﬁre had
done minimal damage to all but the second ﬂoor and a stairway leading
to the third ﬂoor, where a gasoline container was found. There were some
ﬂammable-liquid burn patterns in the master bedroom, where the most ex-
tensive damage was done. The ﬁreﬁghters had noticed an unusual lack of
furniture and personal effects in the spacious home. The couple reported that
many items were missing from their home and ﬁled a burglary report. It
appeared the arson was intended to cover the tracks of a burglar.
Three days later, ﬁreﬁghters were again summoned to the couple’s home.
This time, the house was unoccupied, and the ﬁre was set in the living room.
The investigation began to focus on the couple, although they seemed
unlikely criminals. (The wife was active in community organizations, and
neither husband nor wife had any criminal record other than a few trafﬁc vio-
lations.) However, the missing items were not typical articles targeted by
theft. The list included photographs, personal items, paintings of family
members, a dresser, and a three-foot safe.
Upon checking the furnishings and clothing still in the house, investiga-
tors noted the furniture appeared to be of poor quality, and much of the cloth-
ing looked secondhand. A real estate agent who had recently listed the house
told investigators that the residence previously had contained some nice fur-
nishings, including some expensive-looking china.
The case became more solid as investigators began checking local rental
truck and storage businesses. They found the suspects had rented a truck
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several times to move furniture from their home to a storage unit, a newly
rented house, and the out-of-state home of the suspects’ son. The storage
unit and the rented home were both rented under aliases. The house rent was
paid in cash, and the suspects unsuccessfully had tried to convince the land-
lord to turn on the utilities under his name. In addition, a phone call was
made by the suspects’ daughter at 11:38 A.M. on the morning of the ﬁre to
inform a friend that some of his belongings had been destroyed in a ﬁre at
her parents’ home. However, ﬁre department records showed the ﬁrst ﬁre
call concerning that residence was made at 2:08 P.M. Finally, most of the
items reported missing or destroyed in the ﬁre were found at either the stor-
age unit, the rented house, or the son’s home. The couple was charged and
convicted of arson and insurance fraud.
As these cases illustrate, the detection of staging at the arson crime scene
often depends on the careful investigation of factors outside the crime scene.
These factors include forensics and the alleged victim’s background (espe-
cially ﬁnancial status).
It is imperative in any case analysis to remain objective and not be placed in
a position whereby one may be inﬂuenced by investigators working the case.
This is particularly important if the analysis may possibly be used not just as
an investigative tool in a case, but in courtroom testimony when an expert is
called on for an opinion. The only way to remain objective at the onset of the
analysis is with an UNSUB case. If investigators have already identiﬁed a
suspect, this fact should not be made available during crime scene analysis.
The only information furnished for crime scene analysis should be a synop-
sis of the crime and a description of the crime scene, including, if applicable,
weather conditions; political and social environment; a complete background
of the victim; forensic information to include autopsy and toxicology and
serology reports, autopsy photographs, and photographs of the cleansed
wounds; crime scene sketches showing distances, directions, and scale; and
maps of the area.
Until the analysis of the crime is complete, having suspect information
will directly prejudice the analyst’s conclusions and may even consciously
or subconsciously cause one to tailor an analysis that steers the investigation
toward the investigator’s primary suspect. Strict adherence to this procedural
rule must be followed. Crime analysis is not a substitute for a thorough and
well-planned investigation. Over the years, it has proven to be a viable inves-
tigative tool when the standards for analysis have been carefully followed
and the crime scene analyst’s opinions have not been contaminated by hav-
ing prejudicial information.
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Staging, Undoing, and Personation at the Crime Scene 43
Behavior reﬂects personality, and to understand the criminal, the investigator
must be able to detach himself or herself emotionally from the violent
offense. There is a ﬁne line between being detached versus being observant
and sensitive to minute forensic details left by the UNSUB at the scene. Inves-
tigators should recognize offender behavioral patterns such as MO, person-
ation, undoing, and staging. If investigators approach each crime scene with
an awareness of these factors they will improve their abilities to solve the
equation, Why +How =Who, and win the war against violent crime.
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Interfacing the Interview and Interrogation
with Crime Classiﬁcation
GREGORY M. COOPER
The defendant’s own confession is probably the most
probative and damaging evidence that can be admitted against him.
Justice Byron White, Bruton v. United States (1968)
In determining and isolating the guilt of an offender, there is no evidence
more incriminating, damning, and conclusive than a voluntary confession.
Although the underlying thrust of an interrogation is to explore and resolve
issues, the successful interview of a culpable offender culminates when the
truth is surrendered in a confession.
All of the physical evidence and eyewitness testimony combined is never
worth as much as the criminal’s own self-incriminating words: “I did it.” The
admissible confession proves guilt independently. It requires no authentica-
tion, no chain of custody, no scientiﬁc examination, no opinion testimony,
no inferences, and no interpretation.
THE PROSECUTION’S ARSENAL
Eyewitness testimony is undeniably vital to a successful prosecution; how-
ever, it is often characterized by weakness. The witness may have problems
seeing or hearing and describing what occurred. In addition, the witness may
have a subtle reason to maliciously misrepresent the facts or alter them by
unintentional or even targeted prejudice. The witness may be afraid to get
involved and consequently becomes reluctant. Inconveniently before trial,
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witnesses may alter their account or become forgetful, or move out of the
state, or even die.
It is well known that two eyewitness accounts of the same incident can
differ signiﬁcantly. Research has substantially illustrated this effect:
The data of experimental psychology now establishes quite securely
that no two individuals observe any complex occurrence in quite the
same manner; that the ability of different individuals to retain and
recall observations differ; that the elements which are retained and re-
called are inﬂuenced by past experience and attitudes; and that the abil-
ity of various individuals to express what they have observed, retained,
and recall vary greatly. There is no wholly reliable witness since the
observations of all witnesses are faulty in some degree and some situ-
ations [Loevinger, 1980].
Although an eyewitness account greatly authenticates an occurrence, it
should not be overestimated. The effects of time, the limits of human percep-
tion, and recollection, bias, prejudice, greed, and all human emotions inﬂu-
Physical evidence is also imperfect. Questions can be raised about the
method of collection, preservation, analysis, and introduction of evidence.
All too often, strong cases have been jeopardized and lost due to evidentiary
error. Still an integral part of the effective prosecution, the strength of phys-
ical evidence is enhanced when combined with the complete prosecutorial
In some cases, law enforcement ofﬁcers may take offense even at the sug-
gestion of associating an efﬁciency and value factor to the application of jus-
tice. Nevertheless, plea bargaining must be unconditionally accepted as a
negotiable leverage, especially considering the monumental costs of the
American justice system and effective use of tax dollars.
At a seminar on trial advocacy, a distinguished federal judge stated, “Law
is not a search for truth. The whole objective is to achieve the highest qual-
ity of justice in the least amount of time at the lowest possible cost” (Kestler,
1982, p. 4). The following legal professional opinions support this philoso-
phy while stating that “the ultimate strategic objective of questioning tech-
niques is not to win at trial, rather it is to force an early settlement of the case
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Prescriptive Interviewing 47
on favorable terms.” Furthermore, “a favorable settlement is more desirable
than trial despite the strengths and righteousness of the cause, because it
eliminates the uncertainties and vicissitudes as well as the expense of litiga-
tion. In the vast majority of cases, the successful advocate is not the one who
ultimately prevails at the appellate level, or perhaps the Supreme Court of
the United States, but rather is the advocate who quickly demonstrates to an
opponent that further costly resistance is unreasonable and that a just result
for both parties can best be achieved at the settlement table” (p. 6).
Plea bargaining a settlement between ﬁrst- or second-degree homicide,
for example, is an extremely difﬁcult approach for the prosecution to accept.
Even worse is a descent to manslaughter, especially when the investigation
suggests a more serious charge. Some prosecutorial weakness effectively
targeted by the defense may release the offender from being prosecuted to
the full extent of the law; worse, he may escape any form of judicial justice
whatsoever. Nevertheless, a plea-bargaining agreement can and should be
sustained as an effective antidote when there is insufﬁcient evidence to sup-
port the maximum charge and accompanying penalties.
The Confession: The Best Weapon
Admissions of guilt are essential to society’s compelling interest in ﬁnding,
convicting, and punishing those who violate the laws.—Moran v. Burbine
Surpassing all other forms of evidence and reinforcing their support of the
truth, the confession remains unique. Unquestionably, the confession will
prompt immediate deliberation of both advantages and disadvantages of a
trial or plea-bargaining alternative. If a trial is warranted, a voluntary, admis-
sible confession is undeniably paramount in considering the totality of the
evidentiary presentation. The admissible confession will strengthen the in-
tegrity of both the eyewitness account and the physical evidence while fuel-
ing the synergistic effect of the prosecutorial arsenal.
A legal description of a confession is contained in the following case pro-
ceedings: “An accused person knowingly makes an acknowledgement that
he or she committed or participated in the commission of the criminal act.
This acknowledgement must be broad enough to comprehend every essen-
tial element necessary to make a case against the defendant” (James v. State,
1952). According to this legal description, a confession should consist of
(1) an acknowledgment of the commission of or participation in a criminal
act that (2) must be sufﬁciently comprehensive to include every element of
the criminal act as deﬁned by statute.
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To fully understand and implement the confession as described earlier, a
review of burden of proof and the criminal act requirements and their impli-
cations is warranted.
Burden of Proof
Criminal investigators assume the prosecution’s responsibility to prove guilt
beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes the requirement of proving each
element of the offense for which the accused is charged. There is no prosecu-
tion without the presentation of proof. And the proof is initially discovered,
organized, assessed, and ﬁnally presented to the prosecution by the in-
vestigator. A successful prosecution, which secures a conviction, is the fruit
of a productive, meticulous, and intensive investigation. If the prosecution
fails to prove all of the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the
verdict dictates the accused guilty of a lesser crime. Failure of the prosecu-
tion to gather and introduce sufﬁcient evidence to meet this burden will
result in an acquittal or, at least, the reduction of a more serious crime to a
less serious one (Klotter, 1990).
Criminal Act Requirements
There are several factors that need to be addressed to determine whether in
fact what happened was a crime. These are termed criminal act requirements.
Actus Reus. Before a person may be convicted and punished for a crime, the
prosecution must present evidence that the person (acting as a principal,
accessory, or accomplice) committed a criminal act as deﬁned by statute.
Each element of the crime prescribed by law must be present in the offender’s
actions to duly constitute a criminal offense. This principle is referred to as
actus reus. It is the ﬁrst condition required to label an act a crime.
Mens Rea. The formula for committing a crime is incomplete without the
evidence of criminal intent. The actus reus must be combined with the crim-
inal state of mind (mens rea) to constitute a crime. If the defense can show
that the defendant’s mind was innocent, a crime has not been committed.
Criminal intent must accompany the criminal act except as otherwise pro-
vided by statute. Criminal intent can also be satisﬁed if the act is accompa-
nied by such negligent and reckless conduct as to be regarded by the law as
the equivalent to criminal intent (Klotter, 1990).
This concept may be expressed in the following formula:
Criminal act (actus reus) +criminal intent (mens rea) =
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Prescriptive Interviewing 49
Causation. The criminal conviction formula incorporates through logically
deductive reasoning the existence of a causal relationship between conduct
and results. In other words, for “one to be guilty of a crime, his act or omis-
sion must have been the proximate cause thereof” (Klotter, 1990). There is
usually little or no difﬁculty in showing causal relationship.
In summation, the prosecution must show the following:
• A speciﬁc party or parties participated.
• Criminal acts as constituted by law were committed.
• There was the presence of a criminal state of mind.
• The conduct was the proximate cause of the crime.
What does the criminal act requirement (actus reus, mens rea, and causa-
tion) have to do with the confession? What is the relationship between the
confession and the prosecution’s burden of proof responsibility?
Recall the previous legal description of the confession: that it requires
acknowledgment and comprehensive culpability of each required element to
constitute a crime.
Regretfully, interviews are concluded prematurely for many reasons,
sometimes unknowingly. While devoting a concentrated effort to the ﬁrst
criterion (participation in the criminal act), the interviewer mistakenly over-
looks the pivotal third criteria (criminal intent). Although the offender’s
acknowledgments may satisfy the actus reus and causation provisions of the
criminal act requirements, the admission alone is insufﬁcient to expose
every essential element necessary to make a case against the defendant.
The offender’s admission may reveal his participation in a criminal act
(actus reus) and that his conduct was the direct cause of the crime (causa-
tion). The act, although interrelated, is only a reﬂection of his character.
However, it does not fully reveal his character or criminal state of mind, and
it is imperative that this be displayed. The interview provides the investiga-
tor a chance to extract and unravel his thought process, and reveal his crim-
inal state of mind.
To comprehensively understand the act, the criminal mind must be unrav-
eled. This issue is especially signiﬁcant when a crime is classiﬁed by vari-
ous degrees of seriousness depending on the defendant’s state of mind. Not
only must the confession reﬂect that the defendant did something “bad,” but
also it must show that he had a “bad” intent. This distinction is especially
useful for the prosecution when it is essential to determine the level of seri-
ousness of the crime and its associated degree of punishment. Moreover, it
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may also be considered when assessing the predictability of the defendant’s
propensity toward violence and potential for recidivism.
The confession provides the psychological environment for the offender to
reenact the crime. It sets the stage for him to relive his behavioral role (actus
reus) and display his psychological role (mens rea). The well-prepared inter-
viewer can write the script for the ﬁnal scene as the offender recounts each
phase of the crime. The interviewer can preview the offense by allowing the
offender to escort him through every scene until the full panorama of events
is related. The interviewer assumes the role of a scribe while he urges the
offender to mentally return to the crime and dictate his every act, precipitat-
ing thoughts, emotions, and feelings. The defendant’s own explanation of his
mens rea (state of mind) will uncover his criminal intent.
Criminal intent can effectively be articulated and demonstrated by build-
ing the mens rea portion of the confession from the foundation of three basic
1. Did the offender premeditate?
2. Did the offender deliberate?
3. Did the offender harbor malice aforethought?
These three questions provide the framework to formulate queries that
solicit the defendant’s thoughts, behavior (including habits), and feelings he
experienced before, during, and after the crime. The interviewer should not
restrict his review of the defendant’s history but should probe as far back as
possible. Furthermore, if the content of the confession clearly illustrates the
defendant’s willful misconduct, it will reject an alleged impaired under-
standing of his criminal behavior. This renders the diminished capacity or
insanity defense implausible.
There is no short-cut approach to producing an all-inclusive confession.
But when considering the consequences of failing to solve a capital crime,
expediency should never be an issue.
Preparing for the Prescriptive Interview
I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.
Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to
suit facts.—Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia
Prescriptive interviewing is a tool to supplement law enforcement efforts in
achieving successful results during the interview. It will also serve to elevate
the interviewer’s awareness of steps that can be applied to increase interview
effectiveness. Enhanced interview skills and techniques are especially ﬁtting
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Prescriptive Interviewing 51
in the light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Minnick v. Missis-
sippi (1990),when it ruled six to two precluding law enforcement ofﬁcials
from reengaging a suspect after the suspect had requested an attorney. The
Court stated that “when counsel is requested, interrogation must cease, and
ofﬁcials may not re-initiate interrogation without counsel present, whether
or not the accused has consulted with his attorney.” Consequently, it is best
to assume that law enforcement has one opportunity to interview a defen-
dant. Therefore, the interviewer will serve the public’s best interest with an
exhaustive preparation. If the interview does not terminate with the confes-
sion, neither will it be unresolved with a burden of regrets.
The vital link to a successful interview is preparation, which establishes
the foundation to developing a successful approach in the interview setting.
Preparation has four steps:
1. Data collection. Comprehensive and meticulous data collection sys-
tem must be implemented to reconstruct each phase of a capital crime. Each
criminal offense consists of fundamental elements that must be present to
conform to speciﬁc criminal code requirements. Data collection is a princi-
pal factor in determining that those requirements have been met as pre-
scribed by law.
2. Assessment. Assessing the relevancy of the data to the crime is re-
quired. It is necessary to objectively judge the value of the data collected to
determine if they apply to the elements of the crime, that is, whether the
information contributes to the criminal act requirements.
3. Analysis. Analysis of the data is imperative to complete the prepara-
tory process. Law enforcement must do more than merely see that each crim-
inal element is intact. Professionalism requires organizing and dissecting the
information, thereby observing the complex web of interrelated components
of the crime. For example, I may “see” a set of stairs before me; however, I
“observe” that there are exactly sixteen steps covered with a distinctive color
and quality of carpet. In addition, the carpet is soiled and cluttered with spe-
ciﬁc toys and items of clothing, suggesting the presence of children of cor-
responding ages. The condition of the carpet and disarray of clothing and
toys may also suggest the house-cleaning habits of the owners and even
imply an economic and social stratum. It is during this phase of preparation
that meaning and substance are assigned to the (criminal) act and the actor.
Armed with this enhanced understanding, the fourth step is applied.
4. Theorizing. Theorizing assumes the challenges of identifying the mo-
tivation underlying the criminal thought process and reconstructing the
crime. It attempts to mentally crystallize the interwoven thread or current of
thought that the criminal mind uses to justify his crime and general behavior.
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This sometimes laborious preparatory process will elevate the inter-
viewer’s ability to empathize with the offender’s state of mind and prompt a
better understanding of his thoughts and rationalization.
The preparatory phase of the interview is preeminent in conducting a
successful interview. There is no substitute for this principle, and it should
never be sacriﬁced for convenience or expediency. Granted, depending on
the grievous nature of the crime, varying degrees of effort will be applied.
However, especially with capital crimes, success will be tantamount to
Crime classiﬁcation integrates all preparatory steps of the interview. It is the
precursor to humanizing the offender and revealing his thought process. It
includes the accumulation and assimilation of data compiled during the
investigative phase for the purpose of conducting a criminal investigative
analysis. To formulate a proﬁle of the criminal personality, a criminal inves-
tigative analyst will review and analyze area photos, maps, sketches, crime
scene photos, victimology, and all incident-related reports. The analyst also
examines autopsy and forensic ﬁndings, initial and follow-up reports, and
newspaper clippings. A microscopic examination of this information will
begin to reveal behavioral characteristics of the offender, thereby exposing
major personality traits.
The process applied by a criminal investigative analyst in developing an
offender’s personality characteristics is similar to a forensic pathologist. The
forensic pathologist identiﬁes the elements surrounding the cause and
method of death by closely examining the physical evidence through an
autopsy. The criminal investigative analyst examines all referred reports and
documents and conducts a behavioral autopsy. This process may suggest the
cause or motive of the crime and offer implications of the offender person-
ality as suggested by the method selected to commit the crime. An assess-
ment of the offender’s behavioral patterns can unmask an undercurrent of
emotional deficiencies and needs manifested by the offender. An improved
understanding of or insight into these emotional deficiencies and needs can
provide a solid foundation for the interviewer. This foundation will sup-
port the strategic construction of tailored approaches and appeals to pre-
vail upon the offender.
Consider, for example, the advantage an interviewer would have when he
has in his possession the following personality characteristics of the suspect
extracted from a criminal analysis generated from the analysis of a disorgan-
ized lust murder:
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Prescriptive Interviewing 53
• Of average intelligence and a high school or college dropout
• Probably unemployed or blue-collar, unskilled occupation
• Financially dependent on a domineering female
• A previous criminal record of assault-related offense
• Probable voyeuristic activities
• Probable pornography interest and collection
• Alcohol or drugs exhibited in his behavior
• Keen sense of fantasy
• Inability to carry out preplanned activities
• Difﬁculty in maintaining personal relationships with a female for an ex-
• A need to dominate and control relationships
• Sexually inexperienced
• Sexually inadequate
• Never married or a brief, combative marital relationship
• Sadistic tendencies
• Controlled aggression but rage or hatred
• Confused thought process
• Feels justiﬁed in his behavior while feeling no remorse or guilt
•Deﬁant of authority
• Low self-esteem
• Frustration from lack of direction of control of life
• Combustive temper
• Deep anxiety
While considering these characteristics in concert with investigative ac-
tivities conﬁrming some of the biographical and descriptive information pro-
vided, an interviewer can begin to observe this offender. The interviewer
may recognize and exploit certain personality characteristics and associated
emotional deﬁciencies. In pondering the offender’s behavior, thought pro-
cesses, and aligned emotions, the interviewer is now better prepared to
design various approaches to conform to the offender’s personality.
Although traditional and canned approaches have worked in the past, they
must not be overestimated. Abraham Maslow said, “He who is good with a
hammer tends to think everything is a nail.” Square pegs will not ﬁt in round
holes. This process assists the interviewer in stepping out of his world and
into the foreign territory of his adversary. If the offender decides to cooper-
ate, it will be because he can justify his decision from his perspective. There
is only one frame of reference that is important in the offender decision-
making process: his own. And if the interviewer successfully inﬂuences the
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offender to conform, it is because an alliance was forged in the offender ter-
ritory. The offender must be able to visualize the personal advantage in com-
plying. The interviewer must develop the ability to speak the same language
to extract the best evidence: the confession.
The criminal investigative analysis process permits the diagnosis of
offender emotional strengths and weakness and general behavioral charac-
teristics. Having been briefed with this information, the interviewer is better
prepared to prescribe effective interview approaches that are customized to
the offender’s perspective. Such prescriptions may indicate
• Identifying who should conduct the interview
• Where the interview should take place
• What type of environment is best suited for the particular approach or
• How the approach or appeal should be constructed
• What emotional appeals are most likely to be effective
Before a tracker begins a journey into unknown territory to apprehend an
enemy, he enlists all possible resources to familiarize himself with the known
terrain, climate, and environment. This permits him to identify the type of
survival tools and skills needed to accomplish the task. Remember that the
offender has been preparing his responses to conceal his guilt from the mo-
ment he committed the crime, and probably before. He will use every tactic
available to counter and dismantle every offensive attack. To know your
enemy is the best strategy. It takes time, commitment, and grueling effort.
Lord Byron stated the principle well: “Knowledge is power.”
Preceding the morning of his date of execution, the notorious serial killer
Ted Bundy told FBI special agent Bill Hagmaier of the NCAVC: “If you
want to catch the big ﬁsh you must be willing to go under and into the deep
water to catch them.” Bundy proceeded to tell Hagmaier that he would “take
him under with him.”
Although prescriptive interviewing is not a panacea for the challenges in
obtaining confessions, it is still one more precision instrument to be used
in swaying the balance of justice in society’s favor. A prescriptive interview
will enhance law enforcement’s efforts to persuade serious capital offenders
to escort us under the water into the caverns of their torrential minds, surren-
der their secrets, and expose their culpability. It is hoped that the successful
use of this method will both promote the cause of justice and deter effects of
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Classifying Crimes by Severity
From Aggravators to Depravity
Crime classiﬁcation, indeed this manual, underlines the often overlooked
reality that each murder, rape, arson, and other criminal act distin-
guishes itself. Contract killing is quite obviously different from sexual homi-
cide, for example.
Crime-solving considerations force investigators to appreciate the differ-
ences between offenses according to the perpetrator’s background, crime
scene evidence, victimology, and forensic ﬁndings. Distinguishing subtypes
of crime enables various organs of law enforcement to effect justice.
To be involved in the justice system is to be humbled by one’s lilliputian
role in a process that extends well beyond a suspect’s arrest. Is justice served
merely when a suspect is taken into custody? What if a manslaughterer is
charged as a murderer? What if a cold-blooded killer is prosecuted as a bat-
tered woman? Is that justice? Obviously not.
Nor is it justice to presume that even among all types of offenders, each
is as blameworthy as the next. Each of us who imparts our experiences in
this book viscerally recognizes that crimes distinguish themselves for their
severity as well. Experience in murder, sexual assault, even property crimes
imbues one with an appreciation that some crimes separate themselves from
others as the worst of the worst.
The final leg of the justice system is punishment. Totalitarian societies
and fascist theocracies need not concern themselves with nuances of jus-
tice. They have the luxury of applying absolute state power and the word
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of “God” that has less to do with justice and more to do with who is decid-
ing another’s fate. Crime classification for them retains relevance only
long enough until an apprehended offender can be marched out to receive
his or her stoning. The insensitivity of such backward ideologies reflects
in the limitations of accountability for their police work. They do not value
life as precious and do not value individual liberties, so no one cares if
unsystematic and unscientific crime investigation leads to penalizing the
Likewise, court systems modeled on rehabilitating offenders need not
concern themselves with practical considerations like applying punishment
for its deterrent effect and therapeutic consolation to victims and their fam-
ilies. Those societies, typically afﬂicted with boundless rationalizations for
predatory elements, relegate those invested in prosocial and law-abiding
behavior in the pursuit of utopian visions of universal compassion. Justice
for them is closely linked to presumed forgiveness. Such court systems also
are inherently compromised. At the expense of stark accountability for war
criminals and other unthinkable offenders nevertheless nurtured in their
midst, the courts of such countries opt to cover their eyes so as to preserve
the delusions of their society’s paciﬁsm.
While American justice and law enforcement are closely scrutinized for
their imperfections and criticized for them, their openness to growth and
evolution is the embodiment of justice. The utility of and need for punish-
ment carves out a coexistence with compassion and rehabilitative goals.
Numerous factors diminish punishment, or the severity of sentencing, in
American courts. An offender’s previous history, social disadvantage, pres-
ence of mental illness or possibility of coinciding intoxication, lesser role in
a crime, stature in the community, and negative impact of the punishment on
others are examples of qualities that mitigate punishment. When these fac-
tors distinguish an individual, American courts may choose to mete out a less
severe sentence to a convicted offender. Mitigating factors primarily relate
to context, such as who the offender is and why the crime was committed.
Factors that aggravate punishment in criminal courts have been distin-
guished as well. Some of these nearly sixty aggravating factors, like mitiga-
tors, relate to who an offender is. Many, however, focus attention on the
crime itself—what the person did.
Aggravators Relating to the Crime Itself
Of all the themes of aggravating factors, aggravators linked to what a person
did in the course of carrying out a crime most protect the justice system from
bias, prejudice, privilege, and other unintended inequalities in sentencing.
The subjectivity of assessment of future dangerousnessness, for example,
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Classifying Crimes by Severity 57
parallels the subjectivity of an assessment of future docility. Nothing speaks
for a crime like the crime itself.
Each state, along with the federal system, has its own criminal codes and
sentencing guidelines. These codes, enacted by legislative initiative and
interpreted by courts, contribute to distinct applications of justice. This
decentralization also means that identical crimes, prosecuted in different
jurisdictions, are punished based on different factors. Depending on the level
of judicial initiative in giving jury instructions, even more distinct outcomes
are possible for each case.
State and federal criminal sentencing guidelines enumerate a host of
aggravators relating to the speciﬁcs of a crime, as listed in Table 4.1. Aggra-
vators arise from the perpetrator’s intent, the perpetrator’s actions, and atti-
tudes about the crime, including behavior after the fact. Victimology also
provides a basis for aggravating factors.
While most aggravating factors are easy to deﬁne, one aggravator—that a
crime was “heinous, atrocious, and cruel”—means many things to many
people. What is a “horribly inhuman,” “vile,” “depraved” crime—basically,
the worst of the worst? The answer has bedeviled many courts.
Distinguishing Severity: Its Relationship to Constitutionality
Use of terms such as heinous, atrocious, cruel, wanton, and other analogues
of these has withstood repeated court challenge. In Gregg v. Georgia (1976),
the Court upheld the Georgia aggravator of “heinous, “atrocious,” and
“cruel” as constitutional, but noted that a jury would have difﬁculty decid-
ing this issue. Writing for the majority, Justice Potter Stewart noted:
Sentencing authorities are apprised of any information relevant to the
imposition of the sentence and provided with standards to guide the use
of the information. . . . [T]he problem of jury inexperience in sentenc-
ing is alleviated if the jury is given guidance regarding the factors
about the crime and the defendant that the state, representing organ-
ized society, deems particularly relevant to the sentencing decision
[emphasis added; p. 192].
In another relevant decision fourteen years later, the Court, in Walton v.
Arizona (1990),clariﬁed that aggravating factors needed to be identiﬁed
through objective circumstances.
Despite those allowances, inconsistency in deﬁning the worst of crimes
has afﬂicted numerous cases. The Supreme Court in Godfrey v. Georgia
(1980),for example, reversed a capital sentence, stating, “There is nothing in
these few words, standing alone, that implies any inherent restraint on the
arbitrary and capricious inﬂiction of the death sentence.” Any sensible person
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Table 4.1. Criminal Sentencing Aggravators Categorized by Intents, Actions, Attitudes, and Victimology
Aggravator Intents Actions Attitudes Victimology
Created grave risk to others or many persons X
Capital crime in conjunction with rape, robbery,
kidnapping, and other crimes X
Preventing arrest or escaping custody X
Pecuniary gain or ransom X
Disrupt the government or enforcement of law X
Heinous, atrocious, cruel, depraved, wanton, vile, outrageous X X X X
Contract killing or hiring of a contract killer X
Age of victim—old, or young X
Vulnerable victim—non-age (for example, handicapped,
mentally ill) X
Death of multiple victims X
Use of deadly weapon or dangerous instrument X
Presence of an accomplice or defendant as leader X
Property damage X
Physical, emotional, or ﬁnancial torture to victim or victim’s family X
Death of unborn child or victim was pregnant X
Hate crime: race, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, other X
Lying in wait for the victim; ambushing victim X
Act committed in presence of child or family member X
Retaliating against a former witness or judicial or
enforcement ofﬁcer X X
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Killing a witness to obstruct testimony X X
Impersonating a peace ofﬁcer X
Destructive device, bomb, explosive X
Victim was a peace ofﬁcer, law enforcement/ judge, or other X
Murder by poison X
Murder by ﬁrearm out of motor vehicle X
Murder against someone used as shield or hostage X
Act required substantial planning, high sophistication X
Exploiting a position of trust to commit act X X
Inducing minor to commit criminal act X X
Act resulted in victim’s obtaining a sexually transmitted disease
or becoming pregnant X X
Committed in cold, calculating manner without moral justiﬁcation X
Defendant demonstrated utter disregard for human life X X
Murder committed as result of hijacking of plane, bus, train,
or ship, for example X
Murder committed in conjunction with an act of terrorism X X X
Defendant dismembered body or caused permanent debilitation,
Administered sedation drug to victim before act X X
Murder committed to avoid detection of crime X
Offense committed with intent to obstruct human
or animal health care or agricultural or forestry
research or commercial production X
Wearing a disguise during commission of crime X
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could “fairly characterize almost every murder as outrageously or wantonly
vile, horrible and inhuman.” Jury instructions in Godfrey, ruled the Court,
gave no guidance or explanation concerning the meaning of that aggravating
factor, leading to what the Court called “the standardless and unchanneled
imposition of the death sentences” (p. 429).
Heinous, Atrocious, and Cruel: Challenges
While courts have upheld the distinction of crimes for their severity, several
challenges confound justice in this endeavor.
Any killing, one might argue, is emotionally painful to the victim. Or con-
sider cases that reﬂect overkill; perhaps they involve an assailant naive to
how quickly lethal blows kill. Not a medical examiner, this killer may leave
a crime scene that by virtue of overkill suggests an “evil” crime, heinous
when compared to other killings.
In current approaches to labeling crimes as heinous, courts place heavy
emphasis on actions and victimology, and lesser consideration of actions and
attitudes. This reﬂects the paucity of evidence presented to courts to reﬂect
on intent and attitudes. Clearly, however, both of the latter qualities distin-
guish crimes from one another. Moreover, courts have upheld ﬁndings that a
given crime was evil when striking evidence relating to intent and attitude
was available to the court.
Furthermore, unless one can estimate the sequence leading to death, it is
especially challenging to presume the nature of the suffering of a victim. My
own review of court decisions upholding ﬁndings of heinous crimes also
found that killing using instruments other than guns was heavily represented
(Welner, 2003). But do such trials explore whether killers who use knives
and hammers choose them because there are no other weapons available?
Ambiguity is present even in some killings of children. Was the small vic-
tim nevertheless a witness to another crime and eliminated for crime conceal-
ment, as opposed to the handiwork of a predator victimizing a child by design?
A lack of clariﬁcation to law enforcement and defense investigators as to
what evidence is relevant to depravity means that much less factual informa-
tion about a crime is available to a jury. Without guidance, the jury may be
forced to make an uninformed decision, not only for lack of deﬁnition but
for lack of evidence demonstrating or refuting depraved intents, actions, vic-
timology, or attitudes. With no guidance, as the U.S. Supreme Court has
noted, distinguishing the worst of crimes is arbitrary. Arguments readily play
to the fact ﬁnder’s emotions, seducing them to unremarkable aspects of a
case and risking the overampliﬁcation of select detail or wholesale dismissal
of many pertinent pieces of factual evidence.
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Classifying Crimes by Severity 61
By now, we have all come to appreciate the role of the press in setting the
tone for a case through its coverage and interest. The theater of competitive
news coverage creates the risk of a person, not the person’s acts, as the issue.
High-proﬁle cases particularly fuel such dynamics for distortion.
Finally, consideration of the worst of crimes most frequently attaches
itself to murder. Yet there are kidnappings that distinguish themselves as the
worst of their ilk, just as there are robberies or even property crimes that may
be particularly heinous relative to other property crimes.
Legislatures have thus codiﬁed that evil crimes exist. But without guid-
ance, jurors struggle to distinguish qualities of a heinous crime. The inspira-
tion for establishing standards for the worst of crimes, and guidance to jurors
therefore confronts the issues of what crimes are depraved and what it is
about those crimes that makes them depraved.
A Framework for Defining the Worst of Crimes
Many of the aggravators noted denote behavior that distinguishes a particu-
larly unusual criminal at work. As such, perpetrators who meet such aggrava-
tors earn membership in a narrowed class of defendants. Other aggravators,
however, speak more to the goals of society than the exceptional nature of
the crime. A police ofﬁcer is armed, for example, and engages with crimi-
nals and in hazardous duty. Society has an interest in protecting law enforce-
ment. Yet when a perpetrator kills a police ofﬁcer in attempting to escape,
that clearly does not reﬂect an unusual criminal mentality or ensure that such
a crime was anything more than a spontaneous, if dramatic, choice. In other
words, some aggravators, such as killing in the course of committing a
felony, attach themselves to deterrence issues, while others distinguish what
are truly unusual, and the worst of the worst crimes.
TOWARD A DEPRAVITY STANDARD FOR
The Depravity Standard research, which I initiated in 1998 (www.depravity
scale.org) and is supported by the Forensic Panel, has embarked on a series
of protocols designed to create a standardized methodology for distinguish-
ing the worst of crimes in any given category. The research aimed to identify
features that would distinguish crimes in which those items were present as
depraved, heinous, and the worst of the worst.
Given this challenge, the Depravity Standard methodology committed to
accomplish the following in order to establish a standard that would unfail-
ingly contribute to justice:
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• Can the Depravity Standard be inclusive, to be applicable to the range
of all possible crimes?
• Can the Standard emphasize evidence over impressionism?
• Can its items ensure that such determinations are color, diagnosis, race,
religion, nationality, and socioeconomically blind?
• Can its items control for cultural distinctions?
• Can the Standard be neither pro-prosecution nor pro-defense?
• Can its items incorporate the range of values of a free society?
• Can items bridge society’s judgments with psychiatry’s?
• Can the items incorporate established diagnostic understandings of the
worst of behavior?
• Can this be done in a way that does not disproportionally target those
• Can the standard ensure fairness rather than arbitrariness?
• Can science contribute to the standard without stiﬂing the law?
• Can the standard be measurable in order to enable comparison?
• Can it be applied in a way that is not cumbersome?
• Can it distinguish a narrow class of offenders within categories of
• Can it be protected from abuse?
• Can it assist jurors without replacing their decision making?
• Can it be used in a way that ensures consistent application to justice?
The research began by identifying numerous examples of intent, actions,
and attitudes that appellate courts have upheld as reﬂecting heinous, atro-
cious, cruel, vile, inhuman, wanton, or horrible crimes (Welner, 1998). This
included a victimology of the worst of crimes as well.
In order to distinguish depraved features from those items earning aggra-
vator status to serve the aims of public policy—but that do not uniformly dis-
tinguish a heinous or evil act (examples include using a deadly weapon,
ambushing, killing a witness to disrupt testimony, and preventing arrest or
escaping custody)—the intents, actions, attitudes, and victimologies of those
upheld appellate cases were distilled and organized under headings shaped
by psychiatric diagnoses associated with the most pernicious behavior (see
Thus, a given fact pattern might relate very much to sadism and would be
condensed under the heading of “actions that cause a victim emotional suf-
fering.” Or a perpetrator who enlists followers into active criminality may be,
according to the construct of antisocial by proxy, represented well by “involv-
ing another person in the crime in order to maximize destructiveness.”
After expanding the list of potential intents, actions, and attitudes to en-
compass the range of imagination for potential crimes, the Depravity Stan-
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Classifying Crimes by Severity 63
Table 4.2. Diagnoses Associated with Criminally Depraved Acts
Diagnosis (source) Characteristics
Antisocial Personality Disorder History of Conduct Disorder in youth;
adult pattern of irresponsibility and rule
breaking; exploitativeness for money,
sex, and other primitive needs
Conduct Disorder Childhood/adolescence of truancy, lying,
ﬁghting, destruction of property, ﬁre set-
ting, impulsivity, and cruelty to animals
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Grandiosity, entitlement, haughtiness,
envy, intense anger
Psychopathy Brazenness, manipulative, callous,
self-centered, grandiose personality,
plus antisocial behavior
Sexual Sadism Sexual arousal through coercion and
control, including through the inﬂiction
Sadism The desire to inﬂict pain regardless of
Necrophilia Infatuation with death and decay
Malignant Narcissism Antisocial behavior, sadism, paranoia,
more ideological and more likely to
attach to groups; experience others as
threatening enemies rather than merely
objects to be exploited
Antisocial Personality by Proxy Predator; physically or materially unable
to carry out an antisocial impulse, so
manipulates a vulnerable and less
inhibited person to do so
dard research project identiﬁed twenty-six items for closer study by April
2001 (Welner, 2001). These items focus on the depravity of a crime: that is,
what is depraved. The items are event, history, and fact driven. Questions of
who is depraved, or evil, are more diagnostic and addressed through the psy-
chiatric diagnoses or theological sources. Questions of why, or context, are
well addressed in mitigation evidence and its rebuttal; the Depravity Stan-
dard does not replace these elements of a case, as it conﬁnes itself to the cir-
cumstances of the crime.
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In addition, the Depravity Standard items were developed in such a way
as to apply with equal relevance to murder as to robbery or other crimes.
“Intent to maximize damage,” for example, is as applicable to the planting
of a computer virus as it is to a mass casualty terror plot. Moreover, items
were worded in order to ensure the instrument would be blind to race, reli-
gion, politics, or socioeconomic status. At the same time, “intent to terror-
ize” works with deﬁned terrorism, something many societies refuse to do for
fear of self-incrimination.
The Depravity Standard items were constructed in such a way as to dis-
tance themselves from anything that might suggest a perpetrator’s diagnosis
or prognosis, so as to avoid prejudices inspired by a particular individual.
These approaches aimed to develop a Depravity Standard that emphasizes
fairness over arbitrariness.
In order that the research yield results that reﬂect societal attitudes, in
keeping with U.S. Supreme Court directives, the next phases of the research
explored which of the twenty-six intents, victimologies, actions, and atti-
tudes would draw a consensus of support from the general public as repre-
sentative of a depraved crime, regardless of a person’s demographic or
This phase of the research was set up on the World Wide Web in order to
survey the general public randomly in a secure, conﬁdential, and identical
manner. The Depravity Scale research, as it was known at the time, was the
ﬁrst systematic academic effort to engage citizen input to shape a future sen-
tencing instrument for legislatures and courts.
Data from this survey have contributed to establishing the intents, vic-
timology, actions, and attitudes to be included in the Depravity Standard.
Data collection at this Web site continues, for societal attitudes evolve. The
methodology enables the standard to reflect updated societal attitudes,
even many years after a valid scale began to be used as an instrument of
Almost all of the studied items, in research involving thousands of partic-
ipants to date, have drawn an overwhelming endorsement for being espe-
cially or somewhat representative of depravity. There is, notwithstanding
differences among the cultures of different states, remarkable consistency of
data across American states.
Some distinctions have emerged in data comparison between American
respondents and residents of Great Britain and other countries. Nevertheless,
this phase of the research has demonstrated that no matter what the differ-
ences are among us personally, ethnically, or spiritually, consensus can be
achieved as to what intents, victimology, actions, and attitudes distinguish a
heinous or depraved crime.
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Classifying Crimes by Severity 65
Defining the Depravity Standard Items: Implications for
Items of the Depravity Standard have been carefully deﬁned in order to in-
spire evidence-based determinations of whether an item is present. What
denotes, for example, “actions that cause grotesque suffering”? Given the
ramiﬁcations of a jury ﬁnding that such actions were a feature of the crime,
determination of this item must be evidence driven. In order to reduce risk
of arbitrariness in decision making, description of this and all other items
must ensure consistent examination in court cases everywhere. A description
of the item “actions that cause unusual quality of suffering” is seen in Ex-
Detailed descriptions of items are important guidelines to law enforcement
and investigators. Those who investigate crimes have the greatest proximity
to evidence that reﬂects on the required evidence for items such as “disrespect
for the victim after the fact,” or evidence that such an item is not present.
Evidence for the depravity of the crime may be derived from numerous
sources of information available to the investigator. Examples of these
appear in Table 4.3.
Criminal proﬁling and even many forensic science methodologies do not
reliably guarantee that the same conclusions will be generated by qualiﬁed
professionals conducting a given examination. This lack of interrater relia-
bility, which has limited the potential for evidence’s admissibility, is care-
fully addressed in the deﬁnitions and thresholds of items of the Depravity
Standard. A qualiﬁed, trained professional who adheres to the guidelines of
the Depravity Standard is therefore likely to arrive at the same determination
about a crime (low, medium, or high depravity) as another colleague follow-
ing those same protocols (Welner, 2005).
The descriptions of items also aim to preserve a narrowed class of individ-
uals who truly meet criteria of a Depravity Standard item. These speciﬁc
parameters preserve the constitutionality of the Standard. One item was ulti-
mately dropped from consideration despite the overwhelming support of par-
ticipants that it was representative of depravity: our research team concluded
that evidence for this item would be too difﬁcult to distinguish consistently
The Depravity Standard in Court
Newman, Rayz, and Friedman (2004) coined the notion of “super-aggrava-
tors”: those aggravators that, when present, were more likely to result in a
death sentence in a capital-eligible case in Pennsylvania:
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Exhibit 4.1. Example of Item Description:
Actions That Cause Unusual Quality of Suffering
Unusual quality of suffering of the victim; victim demonstrated panic, terror,
Key Distinctions: Victim terror
Description: The key ingredient of this item is the level of emotional suffering en-
dured by the victim during the crime. The presence of post-traumatic stress disor-
der or acute stress disorder validates the degree of suffering during the crime.
However, the absence of these diagnoses in the victim does not necessarily mean
that this item is not present.
Alternatively, if it is clear from the available evidence that the deceased victim
endured a realistic consideration that he or she would die, or threat to body
integrity amidst a period of helplessness, criteria for this item are met. The assess-
ment of this item is more reliant upon history if the aforementioned diagnoses are
not later present.
Eligible crimes: Assault, Kidnapping, Murder, Rape, Reckless Endangerment
Sources of information: Victim, perpetrator, and witness statements; victim med-
ical, psychological treatment, and autopsy records; witness psychological treatment
records; writings in diaries, e-mails, message boards, chats, and letters; weapon
choices, ligatures and other restraints; crime scene evidence; video or audiotapes.
Rape and less frequently attempted rape traumatize victims and are particularly
likely to meet the criteria for this item. Assault victims may also experience indeli-
ble emotional impact, which is heightened when such attacks occur in places where
the experience of powerlessness and helplessness is more acute to the victim (e.g.
prison). Victims of assaults by multiple attackers may also experience a heightened
sense of helplessness, and such crimes may manifest this item.
Murders meet the criteria of this item if evidence demonstrates that the victim
was helpless and recognized death as destiny. Such cases arise more often in stab-
bings, where death is not instantaneous. However, there are gun homicides in which
the victim clearly experienced terror, helplessness, and anticipation of impending
death or serious injury. To that end, stranglings and drownings invariably meet cri-
teria for this item, as do deaths that follow periods of restraint or torture.
Attacks which occur in the course of a person being overwhelmed, restrained,
and forced to anticipate death meet criteria for this item.
Arson and terror attacks may expose many to carnage and their own vulnerabil-
ity to instant death. Such reactions in survivors, and in the dead who do not pass
away quickly, satisfy criteria for this item.
66 CRIME CLASSIFICATION MANUAL
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Classifying Crimes by Severity 67
Perverse cases inspire emotional trauma and terror and may also reﬂect this
item. An HIV-positive person who knowingly has unprotected sex with unsuspect-
ing partners causes signiﬁcant emotional impact to those individuals when they
learn of their seroconversion. Whether seroconversion happens or not is irrelevant;
this item’s criteria are met. Additionally, a person left to die in a desert, begging for
his or her life, endures terror and emotional trauma in fearing that he or she will
starve. Even if the victim survives, the perpetrators meet criteria for this item.
Coerced victims reﬂect terror in their willingness to submit to even bizarre or
humiliating exercises in order to stave off their execution. Victims who are told to
dig their own graves (even if they survive the ordeal), to unwillingly take part in the
torture and beating of others, to engage in exercises that may later cause them con-
siderable torment, or to watch their loved ones being victimized are all crimes
where this item’s criteria are met.
This item’s criteria are not met when individuals discover the bodies of their loved
ones. This unfortunately common occurrence cannot necessarily be attributed to the
crime itself, and does not reﬂect an exceptional event.
Killings where blunt trauma renders a person quickly unconscious do not meet
criteria for this item.
Property crimes may create tremendous stress, but do not directly traumatize to
the end of satisfying criteria for this item.
Table 4.3. Information Sources for Depravity Standard Items
Victim’s medical and psychiatric records
Marks on victim’s body
Wounds reﬂecting time of death
Sequence of inﬂiction of wounds
Writings in diaries
Chatrooms and computer documents
Videotapes or audiotapes
Materials from crime scene
Choice of weapons
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• The victim was a prosecution witness to a crime committed by the de-
fendant and was killed to prevent his or her testimony
• Signiﬁcant history of felony convictions for acts of violence
• Prior convictions for which sentences of life imprisonment or death
• Prior murder convictions
The ﬁndings are consistent with our ﬁndings of relative severity of even
the most severe qualities of a crime. Still, Newman et al. were not able to
determine that other aggravators were not charged in some cases where their
super-aggravator factors were present. Moreover, because prosecutors may
have selected defendants for capital prosecution because of these aggrava-
tors, the ﬁndings may say more about prosecutors than jurors or a fair, unbi-
Litigation very much uses tried and true experiences; it is also possible that
since prosecutors in Newman and colleagues’ sample found any of these fac-
tors to have been successful in capital prosecution, they chose future capital
prosecution solely because of the presence of any of these super-aggravators
in the case history. The research does not demonstrate, however, any aggra-
vators that prosecutors selected that were not often associated with a death
penalty. Without accounting for selection bias by prosecutors, therefore,
conclusions that can be made about jurors and the general public are there-
Findings that reﬂected particularly strong endorsement of some items as
“especially” depraved point to the conclusion that even among heinous qual-
ities of a crime, some elements are even more heinous than others.
The study is being followed up by another protocol, also located at
www.depravityscale.org, that aims to ascertain societal standards for how
individual items should be weighed when present in a crime (see Table 4.4).
Establishing weight of a given feature will enable any crime to be distin-
guished according to the evidence unique to it. Such distinctions will assist
courts to understand the level of depravity of any crime, relative to other
crimes, thus compensating the lack of juror exposure to crime.
Using the Depravity Standard
What an offender did can be notable for being unremarkable, just as a
crime can distinguish itself as unforgettable. Once formulas are calculated
to account for the weights of items, the Depravity Standard will be avail-
able for use in courts, parole, and tribunals engaging all crimes across the
68 CRIME CLASSIFICATION MANUAL
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Classifying Crimes by Severity 69
Table 4.4. Items Under Study in the Depravity Standard
Aspect of the Disrespect for the Victim
tem Reﬂected Diagnostic Correlate
Intent to emotionally traumatize the Intent Sadism
victim, maximizing terror, through
humiliation, or to create an indelible
emotional memory of the event
Intent to maximize damage or Intent Psychopathy, malignant
destruction, by numbers or amount narcissism, necrophilia
if more than one person is victimized,
or by suffering and degree if only one
person is victimized
Intent to cause permanent physical Intent Sadism
Intent to carry out a crime for excite- Intent Psychopathy
ment of the act alone
Carrying out crime in order to gain Intent Psychopathy
social acceptance or attention or to
Carrying out a crime in order to Intent, Sadism
terrorize others victimology
Intentionally targeting victims based Victimology Malignant narcissism
Targeting victims who are not merely Victimology
physically vulnerable but helpless
Carrying out a crime in spite of a close Victimology Antisocial personality
and trusting relationship to the victim disorder, psychopathy
Extreme response to a trivial irritant; Actions Antisocial personality
actions disproportionate to the perceived disorder, psychopathy
Carrying out attack when in unneces- Actions
sarily close physical contact
Indulgence of actions, inconsistent Actions Psychopathy
with the social context
Unusual quality of suffering of the Actions Sadism
victim; victim demonstrated panic,
terror, and helplessness
Continued on next page
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Table 4.4. Items Under Study in the Depravity Standard, continued
Aspect of the Disrespect for the Victim
tem Reﬂected Diagnostic Correlate
Prolonging the duration of a victim’s Actions Sadism
Unrelenting physical and emotional Actions Sadism, malignant
attack; amount of attacking narcissism
Exceptional degree of physical harm; Actions Sadism
amount of damage
Inﬂuencing criminality in others to Actions Antisocial personality
avoid prosecution or penalty by proxy
Inﬂuencing depravity in others in order Actions Antisocial personality
to destroy more by proxy
Falsely implicating others, knowingly Attitudes Psychopathy, antisocial
exposing them to wrongful penalty personality
and the stress of prosecution
Disregard for the victim’s feelings or Attitudes Psychopathy
consequences of the crime on the victim
Satisfaction or pleasure in response to Attitudes Sadism,
the actions and their impact necrophilia
Projecting responsibility onto the Attitudes Narcissistic personality
victim; feeling entitlement to carry out
Disrespect for the victim after the fact Attitudes Sadism
Indifference to the actions and their Attitudes Psychopathy, antisocial
70 CRIME CLASSIFICATION MANUAL
The Depravity Standard is meant only to guide, not to replace, a trier of
fact. In order to protect the responsibility of the jurors, crimes will, accord-
ing to the weights of items present, be classiﬁed relative to other such crimes
as “low depravity,” “medium depravity,” or “high depravity,” rather than pre-
senting to the court a numerical threshold of “depraved” or “not depraved.”
With a validated and reliable Depravity Standard, prosecuting authorities
will be required to distinguish a basis for charging a crime as depraved,
heinous, or evil. If the evidence collected by investigators points to “exploit-
ing an emotionally vulnerable or trusting relationship,” only then can de-
pravity be considered. The defense will have an opportunity to present its
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Classifying Crimes by Severity 71
own evidence that, for example, “exploiting an emotionally vulnerable or
trusting relationship” did not distinguish that crime and therefore depravity
is not present.
The availability of substantive evidence to be considered by a sentencing
authority weighing depravity is paramount. If no evidence is available with
which to assert the presence of an item of the Depravity Standard, then a
claim that a crime was evil, heinous, vile, or the like cannot be made in a just
Investigators of the depravity of a crime must be mindful of a number of key
subtleties. Determination of intent has always been the most elusive aspect of
crime. Examination of possible depraved intent must rely on evidence, not pre-
sumption. This challenge compels the investigator to use evidence available
from diverse forensic sciences, from forensic pathology to forensic anthro-
pology, to forensic psychiatry. Forensic psychiatric interviewing of defen-
dants and other witnesses may provide particularly key evidence relating to
depraved, heinous, atrocious, or horribly inhuman intent items.
Furthermore, several areas of the Depravity Standard potentially overlap:
• Actions that cause physical damage and actions that cause grotesque
• Targeting victims who are physically or emotionally vulnerable
• Intent to terrorize and cause emotional pain
Evidence suggesting one such item must carefully be distinguished from
evidence for the other item, that the item is not present, or that both items are
With respect to Depravity Standard actions, forensic pathology, emer-
gency medicine, radiology, anthropology, dentistry, and criminalistics are
particularly important contributors. Not surprisingly, analysis of actions in a
crime must control for a prolonged confrontation in which damage and in-
juries multiply while a struggle occurs, as opposed to an unopposed se-
quence of attack. These forensic sciences contribute to understanding what
weapon was used, how it was used, and how often it was used.
Typically crime investigation focuses least on the attitudes of a criminal
about his crime. Commonly, the absconding offender is not witnessed or
communicating his attitudes. Postcrime communications, which police and
forensic psychiatric investigation may elicit from interviewing skills, are
often the most useful evidence with which to consider attitude items.
Investigation of attitude about the crime focuses on the offense’s after-
math. The Depravity Standard investigation uses a model of the life cycle of
a crime (that is, before, during, and after the crime) to ascertain evidence
relating to intents, victimology, actions, and attitudes.
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The reﬁnement of the Depravity Standard will merge the potentials for
evidence-based science with a fundamental need in justice. The higher scru-
tiny prompted by the standard’s use in sentencing enables a closer scrutiny
of crimes and further protects against key evidence being overlooked.
The more fairly courts distinguish the worst of crimes, the more readily
they balance the aims of punishment with sensitivity and understanding.
Once again, classiﬁcation serves the interest of justice at every stage.
72 CRIME CLASSIFICATION MANUAL
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The Violent Criminal Apprehension
ERIC W. WITZIG
May 29, 2005, was the twentieth anniversary of the Violent Criminal
Apprehension Program (VI CAP; Howlett, Hanﬂand, & Ressler,
1986). During its twenty-year lifetime, an entire generation of police ofﬁcers
has been sworn in—and retired. Although VICAP is a much more common
term in the squad room now rather than then, the origins of VI CAP are less
ORIGINS OF VICAP
Although VI CAP is a program funded, staffed, and supported by the Criti-
cal Incident Response Group (CIRG) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI), the initiating concept of VI CAP was the idea of a sworn ofﬁcer in
local law enforcement: Detective Pierce Brooks, of the Los Angeles Police
Department’s Robbery-Homicide Squad (Keefer, 1998; Egger, 1990; Taylor,
1998; see this chapter’s Appendix).
Brooks conceived of VI CAP while working the case of serial killer
Harvey Glatman. In the early 1950s, Glatman moved to Los Angeles from
New York State, where he had served time for robbery (Newton, 1990). He
opened a television repair service and made a house call at the home of his
ﬁrst murder victim, Judy Dull, then only nineteen years of age. Photography
was Glatman’s hobby, and he convinced Dull to come to his home for a
photo shoot. On August 1, 1957, after taking a few detective magazine–style
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photographs, he bound Dull and raped her. Later he took her to the desert
outside Los Angeles, where he took a few more pictures of her and then
strangled her to death. He left her in a shallow grave (Newton, 1990).
Glatman’s second victim was Shirley Bridgeford. He met her through a
lonely hearts club and convinced her to pose for a few photographs. In
March 1958 she too was taken to the desert, bound, photographed, raped,
and strangled to death (Newton, 1990).
The third victim was Ruth Mercado. On July 23, 1958, she came to Glat-
man’s apartment, where photographs were taken and she was raped. She was
taken to the desert and strangled.
Brooks became involved in the cases of Dull and Bridgeford (P. R.
Brooks, interview with the author, April 1992). He examined both cases and
observed that the victims were bound with excessive amounts of rope, far
more than would be needed to restrain them. Moreover, the bindings were
neatly arranged, with the coils of rope resting tightly against each other.
Brooks noted that the neatly applied, excessive bindings on the ﬁrst two
victims suggested strongly that these were not the killer’s ﬁrst victims or his
last. He thought that ﬁnding other victims of one killer would be easier if
information about all of the city’s homicides and homicides from other
jurisdictions could be stored in one place. Perhaps a new machine that the
federal government used to tally the 1950 census would be useful: a com-
puter. He investigated buying a computer for the city but found that it would
be half as large as city hall and cost half as much (Brooks interview, 1992;
Brooks employed an elementary form of VI CAP in order to solve his
problem. For a year and a half, he went to the central library in Los Angeles
on his days off and began to read out-of-town newspapers. He found a news-
paper reporting a homicide remarkably similar to the two he was investigat-
ing. Brooks contacted the police department handling the out-of-town case
and, combining their investigative information with the information gleaned
from his own cases, three murders were closed with the arrest of Harvey
Glatman (Witzig, 1995).
In 1981, Brooks wrote a plan for VI CAP that was submitted to the Law
Enforcement Assistance Administration:
VI-CAP [the hyphen was dropped in 1984], a product of ICAP (the
Integrated Criminal Apprehension Program), is a program designed to
integrate and analyze, on a nationwide basis, all aspects of the investi-
gation of a series of similar pattern deaths by violence, regardless of
the location or number of police agencies involved. The overall goal
of the VI-CAP is the expeditious identiﬁcation and apprehension of the
74 CRIME CLASSIFICATION MANUAL
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criminal offender, or offenders, involved in multiple murders [cited in
Egger, 1990, p. 191].
In 1981 and 1982, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration
(LEAA) funded a series of VI-CAP planning meetings. In 1983, a series of
meetings were held at the Sam Houston State University to plan for an entity
to be called the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC),
which would be located at the FBI’s Training Division in Quantico, Virginia.
Planning included VI-CAP as part of NCAVC (Egger, 1990). In 1983,
Brooks testiﬁed before Congress and presented his theory of VI CAP. Two
years later, in 1985, the director of the FBI, William Webster, credited
Brooks for his assistance in the creation of the NCAVC (Keefer, 1998; Tay-
VI CAP went online May 29, 1985, with Pierce Brooks at the keyboard of
a terminal linking the NCAVC to the FBI’s mainframe computer located in
the J. Edgar Hoover headquarters building in Washington, D.C. Brooks was
VI CAP’s ﬁrst program manager. His presence ensured that VI CAP, as im-
plemented, matched his vision, now twenty-eight-years old.
When VI CAP began in 1985, its purpose was to
collect data for analyses which will lead to the identiﬁcation of patterns
of violent crime throughout the country. Although the completion of
the [VICAP] Report and the submission of cases is voluntary, the
importance of doing so cannot be over emphasized. A single report
received and analyzed by the VICAP staff could initiate a coordinated
effort among law enforcement agencies hundreds or even thousands of
miles apart and expedite the apprehension of a violent serial offender
[Brooks, Devine, Green, Hart, & Moore, 1988, p. 2].
Brooks wrote that VI CAP’s purpose was to serve as a “nationwide clear-
inghouse . . . to provide all law enforcement agencies reporting similar pat-
tern violent crimes with the information necessary to initiate a coordinated
multi-agency investigation” (quoted in Egger, 1990, p. 193).
In the mid-1990s the VI CAP mission statement was streamlined:
“VI CAP’s mission is to facilitate communication, cooperation, and coordi-
nation between law enforcement agencies and provide support in their
efforts to investigate, identify, track, apprehend, and prosecute violent serial
and repeat offenders” (VI CAP, 2002, p. 2).
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VICAP CASE TYPES
The types and kinds of cases accepted, and sought, by VI CAP since its
beginning have changed little. VI CAP works well for the following kinds of
• Solved or unsolved homicides or attempts, especially those that involve
an abduction; are apparently random, motiveless, or sexually oriented;
or are known or suspected to be part of a series
• Missing persons, where the circumstances indicate a strong possibility
of foul play and the victim is still missing
• Unidentiﬁed dead bodies where the manner of death is known or sus-
pected to be homicide (Howlett et al., 1986)
• Abductions of children or attempts
• Solved or unsolved sexual assaults or attempts
Homicide or Attempts
After twenty years of VI CAP operation, confusion remains in the law en-
forcement community about the types and kinds of cases that can, and
should, be forwarded to the national VI CAP database. There is a popular
misconception that VI CAP is interested only in unsolved, recent homicides.
Those cases should be entered, of course, but so too should older homicides
because the value of information in the case never diminishes.
For example, one eastern state police agency sent in the solved murder of
an eight-year-old girl. The defendant had been convicted and was incarcer-
ated. When the case was sent to the VI CAP database, almost forty-ﬁve years
had passed since the murder. Nonetheless, the case was entered. A year or
two later, a state police agency in the Midwest forwarded an unsolved mur-
der of a seven-year-old girl. A VI CAP crime analyst compared the two cases
in terms of victimology and offender modus operandi (MO). The analyst
noted that the two cases presented with similarities and notiﬁed investiga-
tors. Reopening their cold case, state investigators developed probable cause
to believe that the incarcerated offender had committed the murder in their
state. After forty-ﬁve years, the child’s parents, now in their sixties, could be
told that the police had solved their daughter’s murder. Clearly, older homi-
cides, those solved and those unsolved, should be included in the database.
Death investigators typically think that solved cases are of little interest to
their colleagues. In fact, in addition to providing object lessons for the solu-
tion of murder, solved cases provide information about offenders, victims,
and MO—all invaluable when contrasting and comparing cases in an effort
to seek possible matches between or among cases. Once an offender is iden-
76 CRIME CLASSIFICATION MANUAL
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tiﬁed and it is determined or believed that he killed more than once, a data-
base search for other, unsolved (or possibly cases where an arrest was made
or an indictment handed up, causing authorities to believe the case was
solved) cases can be accomplished with information about the offender, his
victim, and his MO.
Reporting of attempted homicides is important for two reasons. First, at-
tempted homicides can be instrumental to the solution of a series of murders,
and a record of the attempts should be forwarded to the VI CAP database.
Harris, Thomas, Fisher, and Hirsch (2002) noted that medicine is more suc-
cessful than ever before in treating victims of violent crime and saving their
lives. They wrote that between 1960 and 1999, the fraction of criminal as-
saults resulting in death dropped by 70 percent. In other words, it is not that
the offender did not try hard enough to kill the victim; it is simply that the
victim would not die or that medical attention saved him or her.
Second, the reporting of attempted homicides is important because not
everyone who comes into the sphere of control of a killer is killed. Survivors
of a serial killer can provide police with invaluable information that can be
used to cut short the killer’s violent career. For police, the difﬁculty comes
in associating the correct attempted murder, out of a set of many possible
attempted murders, with the correct series of homicides. In retrospect, con-
necting cases is not always easy; the art of analysis and case matching is in
knowing which facets of the case are to be connected, how to make those
facets pop out of the background noise of all of the facts, or even if all of the
facts are present.
For example, the late Theodore Bundy did not kill all potential victims.
Robert D. Keppel (1995) wrote that in mid-July 1974, Bundy was hunting
for victims around Lake Sammamish near Seattle, Washington. Bundy,
wearing a cast on his left arm, approached a young woman and asked her to
help him load something into his car. She walked with him to his car, but
declined to get in and walked away from Bundy. Later, witnesses placed
Bundy with another woman, Janice Ott, who was never again seen alive. Still
later in the day, Bundy was seen chatting with several women. In the end he
met young Denise Naslund. She too was never seen again alive.
Robert Yates of Spokane, Washington, is another example. He pleaded
guilty in October 2000 to the murders of thirteen women in and around
Spokane but was not always successful when he tried to kill a woman
(Fuhrman, 2001). Yates patronized prostitutes on Spokane’s East Sprague
Street and murdered some of them. In August 1998, he picked up Christine
Smith. Both were in the back of Yates’s van when she received a tremendous
blow to the head. She ﬂed from Yates and the van and received medical atten-
tion. A year later, an X-ray taken of her head during the course of medical
treatment revealed that what Smith thought was a blow to the head from
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Yates was actually a gunshot wound. Subsequently, the police searched a van
that Yates owned and found a .25 caliber shell casing and an expended bul-
let (Fuhrman, 2001). Smith was able to provide authorities with information
concerning her assailant, who turned out to be Yates.
Subsequent to his guilty pleas in Spokane County, Pierce County, Wash-
ington, brought Yates to trial for two murders: Melinda Mercer, whose body
was found December 7, 1997, and Connie LaFontaine Ellis, whose body was
found October 13, 1998. Yates was found guilty of the murders, and the jury
sentenced him to death.
Missing Persons and Abductions
Among the difﬁcult decisions that law enforcement ofﬁcers and ofﬁcials
face is the handling of missing persons matters. One of the many considera-
tions in these cases is the age and vulnerability of the missing person to be a
victim of abduction and become the target of sexual or homicidal assault.
The Child Abduction Response Plan makes this clear:
Often the most challenging task at hand upon receipt of a missing child
complaint is determining whether it is an actual abduction, runaway
child, lost child, thrown away child, or ﬁctitious report to cover up the
death of the child or other family problem. This crucial assessment of
the initial facts will dictate what actions the responding law enforce-
ment agency will perform [U.S. Department of Justice, 1998, p. 1].
Once an assessment of the missing person is completed and the appropri-
ate law enforcement responses have been made, if the person, juvenile or
adult, has not been located, then a report should be forwarded to VI CAP for
inclusion in the database. In 1985, Detective David Reichert of the King
County, Washington, Sheriff’s Ofﬁce and a member of the Green River Task
Force said that once the offender’s victim selection preferences were identi-
ﬁed, the task force paid particular attention to other missing persons with the
same characteristics. The task force assembled as much information as pos-
sible about missing persons, including individual medical information, dental
charts, and X-rays. When victims of the Green River Killer were discovered,
their remains were typically little more than skeletons. However, task force
preparation paid off, and recovered remains were compared with missing
person reports, with identiﬁcation achieved in only a day or two.
Jurisdictions experiencing a large number of missing person reports daily
will be reticent to enter all of the cases into a database. That reluctance will
be increased when agencies discover that many of their missing person
reports involve repeated teenage runaways who return home after a few
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days. Nevertheless, it is better to err on the side of caution and enter into the
database more cases than thought necessary.
Matters involving unidentiﬁed dead persons can be thought of as the mirror
image of missing person cases. It is very difﬁcult to begin the homicide
investigation of an unidentiﬁed victim. The body recovery site of an uniden-
tiﬁed victim may suggest its connection to a multiple murderer. Fuhrman
(2001) wrote that during the Spokane series of murders, the bodies of
Laurie A. Wason and Shawn McClenahan were found on top of one another
in a vacant lot in Spokane. He also wrote that in the early 1970s, Ted Bundy
engaged in similar behavior: he kidnapped two women on one day and
killed both at the same location.
Failing the certainty of connection with an ongoing serial event, where to
begin in a murder investigation is far more easily determined if the victim is
identiﬁed. To that end, it makes investigative sense to enter the cases of
unidentiﬁed dead into the VI CAP database.
For a number of years, sexual assaults were not included in VI CAP. But in
2004, the VI CAP Crime Analysis Report was revised to include data collec-
tion ﬁelds suitable for these types of offenses. The questions were based on
the Behaviorally Oriented Interview of the Rape Victim proposed by Robert
Roy Hazelwood and were reviewed in July 2002 by a VI CAP working
group (Hazelwood and Burgess, 2001). In December 2002, the VI CAP
advisory board added their review and approval to the enhanced data collec-
In 1995, after ten years of operation, VI CAP’s program delivery was evalu-
ated with a business analysis. The examination revealed four points (Meis-
• Only 3 to 5 percent of the twenty-one thousand to almost twenty-ﬁve
thousand homicides committed each year were submitted to VI CAP.
• There was an “urban void” of submissions.
• Users reported that the VI CAP Crime Analysis Report was too compli-
• Users reported the perception of a “black hole.”
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During VI CAP’s ﬁrst ten years, case submissions ranged from a 150 (in
1985, the ﬁrst half-year) to almost 1,400 per year in 1995. This was but a
fraction of the total number of homicides reported for those years (24,526
murders were recorded in 1991 alone). The fraction of cases submitted to the
database was larger when unsolved murders were considered, but it was still
only a fraction.
An analysis of VI CAP submissions revealed that the cities and urban areas
that were recording large numbers of homicides were not submitting the
cases to the national database. No one could explain why this was the case.
The assumption that VI CAP misconceptions were prevalent—for example,
only unsolved cases were wanted for the national database—did not provide
an adequate explanation. Case closure rates in large cities were less than 100
percent, suggesting that even if law enforcement agencies did not understand
which cases could be forwarded, many more cases should be arriving for the
Complicated Report Form
A common complaint from investigators was that the paper VI CAP report
form was too complicated, it had too many questions, and it took too long to
Complaints about the VI CAP paper report form have been central to the
project from the beginning. The ﬁrst VI CAP paper report was a series of
three books, each with hundreds of questions. In late 1985, after six months
of operation, the VI CAP staff realized that
developing a good understanding or overview of individual cases from
information contained in the VICAP reports was difﬁcult for the
VICAP staff. The Crime Report form was collecting information that
was too detailed for its intended purpose of providing crime analysts
with the information necessary to establish linkages among cases
[Howlett et al., 1986, p. 17].
Recognizing and prioritizing the function of VI CAP, Howlett wrote:
VICAP’s purpose was not to investigate cases but to analyze them. In
order to do so effectively, general patterns have to be discernible, and
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that is better done by establishing the general parameters of events
rather than extremely speciﬁc reconstructions. Crime scenes are sel-
dom exactly replicated, but general MOs are. Crime analysis and crim-
inal investigation require different levels of speciﬁcity [Howlett et al.,
1986, p. 17].
In 1986, the VI CAP report form was reduced in size from three volumes
to a ﬁfteen-page, 190-question, check-the-block, forced-choice instrument.
This was the report form that users in 1995 found too difﬁcult.
VI CAP users had the perception that VI CAP was like an astronomical black
hole, where the force of gravity is so intense that nothing escapes, not even
light. The perception was that data went to VI CAP, and nothing was ever
heard about this information again. VI CAP did little to close the communi-
1994 Crime Legislation
The ﬁrst and major stimulus for change of VI CAP was the Violent Crime
Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Title X—State and Local Law
Enforcement, Subtitle D—Improved Training and Technical Automation,
Paragraph (b), Training and Investigative Assistance, provided funding for
VI CAP to develop a pilot program. The goal was to create an intelligent
information system to collect, collate, organize, and analyze information
about violent serial crime. Congressional funding allowed VI CAP to em-
bark on the next change.
Department of Energy
Cooperation between the FBI and the Department of Energy (DOE) on other
projects suggested that the DOE’s computer expertise could be used to good
advantage by VI CAP. Systems analysts and programmers with Bechtel
Nevada, a contractor operating the Remote Sensing Laboratory for the DOE
in Las Vegas, Nevada, began to develop a new object-oriented, client-server
computer and software system for VI CAP.
VI CAP crime analysts began a detailed examination of the crime analysis
report. Their efforts resulted in a reduction of questions from 190 to only 95.
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Moreover, with the aid of color printing technology not available in 1986
and intelligent layout and design, the new VI CAP form looked less impos-
ing and more like an attractive, easy-to-use reporting instrument.
1998 Crimes Against Children Legislation
This legislation provided funding for additional crime analysts (CAs). In
1998 VI CAP hired thirteen CAs, and this brought the total number to
twenty. In 2004, VI CAP stafﬁng levels provided for one unit chief, ﬁve
regional managers (typically supervisory special agents of the FBI), nine-
teen CAs, one squad operations assistant, and three major case specialists.
The easiest part of the change process involved the VI CAP data collection
instrument. The number of questions on the form was reduced to 95. For
more than two years, VI CAP personnel sifted through the database to learn
which data were most probative and offered the best possibility of suggest-
ing relationships between or among cases. Frequently reported attributes
were made part of the form, and infrequently used attributes were discarded.
The form revision was very much like that undertaken by the VI CAP staff
in 1986 when the variables and attributes of the comprehensive form that
Pierce Brooks had initiated were trimmed.
In 1985, most automated systems resided in a huge mainframe computers.
Typically these machines were housed in special rooms with dedicated air
handling (air conditioning, mostly, as the machines produced a large amount
of heat) and raised ﬂoors to accommodate heavy cables providing power and
communication among machine components. The machines required fre-
quent maintenance. Programming the machines was a special function and
practiced by a small number of persons. Programming languages were difﬁ-
cult to master, with abstruse syntax.
Information retrieval from these machines was challenging. Information
retrieval was performed by VI CAP CAs, who had to master the Natural
programming language to access the database (written in Adabase) on the
mainframe computer (an Amdahl). With practice, the VI CAP CAs learned
to prepare discrete queries designed to elicit cases exhibiting characteristics
similar to the case under analysis. Their satisfaction with the query results
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exceeded the accuracy of the Automated Modus Operandi System, used
By the mid-1990s, tremendous advances had been made in computing.
State-of-the-art operating systems for microcomputers, combined with chips
processing data at a faster pace, and hardware with greater storage capacity,
costing about two thousand dollars or less, brought a tremendous amount of
data processing capability into a desktop environment. Database software
advances produced a product capable of providing mainframe utility in a user-
friendly, client-server environment, accessed by powerful microcomputers.
Advances in hardware and software made possible the shift of VI CAP soft-
ware from a mainframe platform to a desktop platform. Data accessible only
by a few VI CAP CAs can now be accessed by anyone in law enforcement
equipped with VI CAP software written for the client-server environment.
VI CAP engaged contractors outside the FBI to write the client-server soft-
ware application for New VI CAP. (Use of the lowercase “i” in ViCAP
became the ofﬁcial choice in the late 1990s. A standard spelling, VI CAP, is
used in this chapter to reduce confusion.) VI CAP software is now distrib-
uted to participating agencies so that they can perform their own analyses
with direct access to all of the data they enter into the system. A networked
version of New VI CAP software allows the exchange of violent crime infor-
mation within a police department, a county, a state, or across the nation.
When an intranet is not available for data transmission, the utility of
another FBI-sponsored initiative is used: Law Enforcement Online (LEO).
LEO is accessible to members of law enforcement entities on application.
After an applicant’s law enforcement agency status is conﬁrmed, LEO issues
software, a sign-on, and a password. The LEO e-mail tool provides an
encrypted conduit for information exchange. Through LEO, VI CAP users
ensure that their transmitted data will not be read by others.
THE NEW VICAP
The sea change in New VI CAP utility was the movement of the software
from a mainframe platform to a user-friendly, client-server environment that
can be delivered to any law enforcement entity. Brieﬂy, New VI CAP soft-
ware permits users to
• Match violent crime cases
• Perform cold case analysis
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• Identify trends
• Learn the “how” and “why” of violence
• Provide agency administrators with a violent crime reporting system
Crime Case Matching
New VI CAP software provides state and local agencies with the same type
and kind of crime case matching capability enjoyed at the national level by
the VI CAP Unit. Any data that a user enters into the system are retrievable.
Much of the information is captured through the use of pull-down menus,
reducing the amount of typing necessary for data entry and the potential for
misspelled words (which make data retrieval difﬁcult when correctly spelled
words are used in a computer retrieval statement). Dialogue boxes capture
hand-entered data. Provision was made for a narrative to be included as part
of the data. In an effort to avoid double data entry, the narrative portion
accepts text that can be applied in a cut-and-paste style from other word pro-
These details of data entry are important because only the data entered
into a New VI CAP database can be extracted, but all of the data in the data-
base, forced choice or text, can be retrieved for crime case comparison. A
CA can select facts or behaviors from an offense and query the database for
cases exhibiting similar characteristics. This is the way that CAs in the FBI’s
VI CAP Unit check for two or more cases that may have been committed by
the same offender, or match open, unsolved cases to a known offender’s time
line of travels and activities.
Another feature of New VI CAP software is the ability to enter victim or
crime scene photographs into the database and have them associated with a
particular case. A written description cannot capture the details of bindings
applied to a victim, but a photograph can do so with great clarity. Moreover,
although case jackets and photographs can disappear over time, data entered
into the New VI CAP database are not lost and are available for later retrieval
Perform Cold Case Analysis
During the twenty years that VI CAP has been in operation, an entire gener-
ation of detectives has moved from the start of their careers to retirement.
Experience teaches us that when seasoned homicide detectives leave the
unit, all of their case knowledge goes with them. But a computer database
never forgets. Data entered (and properly backed up) are never lost. The
answer to the question, “What are the facts of the murder committed six
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years ago in the alley, the rear, of the 200 block of Tennessee Avenue, South-
east?” is always available.
Turner and Kosa (2003) offered that cold case squads are formed because
law enforcement agencies, regardless of size, are not immune to rising
crime rates, staff shortages, and budget restrictions. Rising crime rates
can tax the investigative and administrative resources of an agency.
More crime may mean that fewer cases are pursued vigorously, fewer
opportunities arise for followup, or individual caseloads increase for
already overworked detectives. Transfers, retirements, and other per-
sonnel changes may force departments to rely on younger, less experi-
enced investigators to work cases, often unsuccessfully [p. 1].
The VI CAP tool allows storage of old, cold cases for reassessment and
work at a later date. Moreover, the evidence-tracking capability of VI CAP
affords instant recall of evidence collected for examination by new and en-
hanced laboratory techniques available at some future date.
VICAP Tool Conﬁguration
In the early 2000s, VI CAP had three different electronic schemes to serve
the varied needs of law enforcement agencies. The ﬁrst of these is a stand-
alone version. In this conﬁguration, the VI CAP software system operates on
one computer, with one sign-on and password. Opportunities for tracking
work and changes to the database are lost in this conﬁguration, but it works
well in smaller agencies with only a few personnel.
The second conﬁguration operates on one computer but with several sign-
ons and passwords available. This option provides individual, tracked access
to the database, but is more costly as licensing issues come into play.
The third conﬁguration operates in a client-server environment. Here the
VI CAP software resides in the server and is accessible from as many client
computers as the law enforcement entity wishes—or can afford—to network
with the server. Although this is the most expensive option in terms of both
equipment (clients and servers) and licenses, this option provides individual
access to the database by multiple persons at the same instant in time.
In the future and with years of development behind it, VI CAP will be open-
ing a national database for law enforcement users. The database is designed
to contain all homicides, missing persons, unidentiﬁed dead, and sexual
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assault cases submitted by state and local law enforcement entities across
the United States. The database will be accessible through the Internet
using individual LEO accounts. With this tool, analysts and detectives can
query the database and obtain a possibilities set matching the variables in
the query and the facts of a case under investigation.
From a local and regional tool, VICAP will move to another level when
the national database comes online. Cold case squads will be united, and
investigators can track, for example, the spread of trucker-committed prosti-
tute murders across the United States. A question frequently asked by
knowledgeable investigators is: Is this murder linked to any others? That
question can be answered through VI CAP as MOs and photographs from
possible related cases can be compared and contrasted.
Today’s VI CAP is still located within CIRG and is part of NCAVC, along
with the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) 1, which handles terrorism
threats; BAU-2, which handles crimes against adults; BAU-3, which han-
dles crimes against children; and the Behavioral Research Group, serving
as the center’s research component. The NCAVC provides assistance to law
enforcement entities at all levels and around the world in these types of
• Child abduction or mysterious disappearance of a child
• Serial murder
• Single murder
• Serial sexual assaults or rapes
• Product tampering
• Arson and bombing
• Weapons of mass destruction
• Public corruption
• Domestic and international terrorism
Current VICAP Services
VI CAP’s supervisory special agent for administration, Gary L. Cramer (per-
sonal communication to the author, March 2006), wrote that the current
VI CAP program
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consists of more than 18 FBI Crime Analysts, along with program
management personnel, IT Specialists, over 700 law enforcement
agency clients throughout the United States, and a decentralized data-
base management system, all working together to solve violent crimes.
Crime data is entered within the law enforcement organization’s
VICAP client workstation at the user end and is provided in electronic
format via Law Enforcement Online (LEO) connection to CIRG. Alter-
natively, a media disk or hardcopy of the data can be mailed to the
CIRG VICAP program for data entry. The Crime Analysts collect all
data and work to compare, analyze, link, and help solve crimes utiliz-
ing tools offered by the VICAP system.
More speciﬁcally, VI CAP’s unit chief, Thomas J. Donohue (personal
communication to the author, March 2006), wrote that VI CAP’s services to
law enforcement entities in the United States and abroad include
• Analytical support for “cold” case investigation, to include homicide
and sexual assault matters that may potentially involve transient or
• Mapping, trend analysis, training, and case coordination support and
• A full range of analytical services for all member agencies on sub-
mitted cases, as well as limited analysis for nonmember agencies
which submit criteria cases
• Written products prepared and disseminated in the Criminal Intelli-
gence Assessment Report (CIAR) format
• Offender time lines, matrices, and mapping products
• NCIC interface for off-line searches of suspects or vehicles
• National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS)
searches of messages dating back to 1986
• National crime analyst training in-services to include crime analysis,
behavioral analysis, and case management
• VICAP Alerts published in the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin and
other publications; VICAP Alerts feature crime information notices
of general interest to law enforcement
Cases Suitable for VICAP
VI CAP collects case information on more than homicides or attempts, miss-
ing persons, and unidentiﬁed dead. Child abductions or attempts, kidnap-
pings, and sexual assaults or attempts and rapes cases are now accepted and
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sought. Including these additional offenses makes VI CAP a much more
desirable tool for law enforcement. (Information about VI CAP can be found
Detective Pierce Brooks’s idea for VI CAP is more than ﬁfty years old. His
vision included computers that at the time were little more than gloriﬁed
card sorting machines. In those ﬁfty years, computer speeds and memories
have gone up, as the prices for those capabilities have gone down. Today
Brooks’s vision and the needs of modern law enforcement are looked after
by the VI CAP Advisory Board made up of law enforcement executives and
investigators. The advisory board provides guidance and advice to VI CAP’s
management. After twenty years of experience and practice with Brooks’s
concept, VI CAP has ﬁne-tuned the merger of people and machine to create
a data storage and retrieval system that adds immense value to criminal
APPENDIX: PIERCE R. BROOKS
Pierce Brooks was born in Los Angeles in 1923. He lived there until World
War II, when he left to ﬂy for the U.S. Navy. After the war, he returned to
Los Angeles and in 1948 joined the police department.
Brooks served in patrol, vice, and narcotics assignments before he moved
to homicide. His rise to the elite homicide unit was rather quick, because he
was there in 1957 to work on the case of Harvey Glatman, having joined the
department only nine years earlier. His promotions in the department contin-
ued until 1969, when he retired with the rank of captain.
Along the way in Los Angeles, he met Jack Webb, the Hollywood direc-
tor and actor. Webb performed both functions for the television series, Drag-
net, and played the part of Sergeant Joe Friday. Brooks was a perfectionist
in his work, and he saw in Webb the same characteristics. He once remarked
that Webb tightly “blocked his shots” on a scene, specifying exactly where
the actors were to stand, how the camera would be positioned, what lighting
was to be used, and other details.
The respect was mutual. From time to time during Sergeant Friday’s
opening monologue on Dragnet (“This is the city. Los Angeles, California.
I work here. I carry a badge.”), he announced the shift’s watch commander
as Lieutenant Pierce Brooks. Dragnet 1969, a movie, used the murders com-
mitted by Harvey Glatman as its theme.
After Los Angeles, Pierce Brooks became the chief of police in Lake-
wood, Colorado; Springﬁeld, Oregon; and Eugene, Oregon. In later years, he
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consulted on the Seattle, Washington, Green River murders; Chicago
Tylenol murders; and the Atlanta, Georgia, child murders. He wrote a cou-
ple of books, and Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field (1979) is about one
of Brooks’s cases.
Brooks died in Springﬁeld, Oregon, on February 28, 1998.
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100: Criminal enterprise
101: Contract murder (third party)
102: Gang-motivated murder
103: Criminal competition
104: Kidnap murder
105: Product tampering
106: Drug murder
107: Insurance-related death
107.01: Individual proﬁt
107.02: Commercial proﬁt
108: Felony murder
108.01: Indiscriminate murder
108.02: Situational murder
120: Personal cause homicide
121: Erotomania-motivated murder
122: Domestic homicide
122.01: Spontaneous domestic homicide
122.02: Staged domestic homicide
123: Argument/conﬂict murder
123.01: Argument murder
123.02: Conﬂict murder
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124: Authority murder
126: Nonspeciﬁc motive murder
127: Extremist homicide
128: “Mercy/hero” homicide
128.01: “Mercy” homicide
128.02: “Hero” homicide
129: Hostage murder
130: Sexual homicide
134: Sadistic murder
135: Elder female sexual homicide
140: Group cause homicide
142: Extremist homicide
143: Group excitement
Murder is the unlawful taking of human life. It is a behavioral act that termi-
nates life in the context of power, personal gain, brutality, and sometimes sex-
uality. Murder is a subcategory of homicide, which also includes lawful taking
of human life, such as, manslaughter, deaths resulting from criminal and non-
criminal negligence, and unpremeditated vehicular deaths (Megargee, 1982).
Although a distinction is made in the literature among homicide, murder, and
killing, for the purpose of this book, the terms are used interchangeably.
THE UNIFORM CRIME REPORTING PROGRAM
The earliest system for classiﬁcation of homicide is the Uniform Crime
Reports (UCR). The UCR, prepared by the FBI in conjunction with the U.S.
Department of Justice, presents statistics for crimes committed in the United
States within a given year. Recognizing a need for national crime statistics,
the International Association of Chiefs of Police formed the Committee on
Uniform Crime Records in the 1920s to develop a system of uniform police
statistics. Seven offenses were chosen to serve as an index for gauging ﬂuc-
tuations in the overall volume and rate of crime. Known collectively as the
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crime index, these offenses were the violent crimes of murder and nonneg-
ligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, and the
property crimes of burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft. By con-
gressional mandate, arson was added as the eighth index offense in 1979.
A survey of the ﬁgures reported in the UCR for all murders committed
between 1976 and 2003 shows that the number of murders in the United
States has ﬂuctuated from 16,605 in 1976 to a peak of 21,860 in 1980, drop-
ping to 20,613 in 1986 and up to 21,500 in 1989 to a low of 16,503 in 2003
(U.S. Department of Justice, 1977, 1981, 1987, 1989, 2003). The UCR also
cites information about age, race, and sex of victims and offenders; types of
weapons used; and situations in which killings took place.
The current UCR classiﬁes murders as follows:
• Felony murder (occurs during the commission of a felony)
• Suspected felony murder (elements of felony are present)
• Argument-motivated murder (noncriminally motivated)
• Miscellaneous or nonfelony types (any known motivation not included
in previous categories)
• Unknown motives (motive ﬁts into none of the above categories)
Percentages for all categories of murder except the unknown motives cat-
egory have decreased. In 2003, there were 14,054 murders categorized. The
number of murders classiﬁed in the category, however, has risen dramati-
cally. In 2003, there were 4,476 murders categorized in the unknown cate-
gory out of the 14,054 murders. This trend is particularly noteworthy in that
it suggests both the heterogeneity of motives that give rise to murder and the
clear inadequacy of a system that partitions murder essentially into three cat-
egories: felony, noncriminal, and miscellaneous. The miscellaneous and
unknown motives categories represent wastebasket classiﬁcations. A classi-
ﬁcation system that fails to capture 40 to 50 percent of the cases (other and
unknown) clearly is suboptimal in its ability to explain the universe of
HOMICIDE CLASSIFICATION BY VICTIMS, TYPE,
The FBI Academy’s Behavioral Science Unit at Quantico, Virginia, began
contributing to the literature on the classiﬁcation of homicide with the
Hazelwood and Douglas (1980) publication on typing lust murderers. The
classifying of homicides by number of victims, type, and style was pub-
lished by Douglas, Ressler, Burgess, and Hartman in 1986. A single homi-
cide is deﬁned as one victim and one homicidal event. A double homicide is
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deﬁned as two victims who are killed at one time in one location. The Janu-
ary 27, 2001, murder of Dartmouth College professors Half and Suzanne
Zantop by teenage classmates James Parker and Robert Tulloch is an exam-
ple of a double homicide. This case was solved by investigators who traced
the knives to Parker, who bought them online. A triple homicide is deﬁned
as three victims who are killed at one time in one location. Any single-event,
single-location homicide involving four or more victims is classiﬁed as mass
There are two subcategories of mass murder: classic mass murder and
family mass murder. A classic mass murder involves one person operating in
one location at one period of time, which could be minutes or hours or even
days. The prototype of a classic mass murder is a mentally disordered indi-
vidual whose problems have increased to the point that he acts out against
groups of people who are unrelated to him or his problems, unleashing his
hostility through shootings and stabbings. One classic mass murderer was
Charles Whitman, who in 1966 armed himself with boxes of ammunition,
weapons, ropes, a radio, and food; barricaded himself in a tower at the Uni-
versity of Texas at Austin; and opened ﬁre for ninety minutes. (See Chapter
Thirteen.) The second type of mass murder is family mass murder. If four or
more family members are killed and the perpetrator takes his own life, it is
classiﬁed as a mass murder–suicide. Without the suicide and with four or
more victims, the murder is classiﬁed as family mass murder. An example is
John List, an insurance salesman who killed his entire family in 1972. List
disappeared after the crime, and his car was found at an airport parking lot.
He was located seventeen years later following a television program describ-
ing the murders.
A spree murder is deﬁned as a single event with two or more locations and
no emotional cooling-off period between murders. The single event in a
spree murder can be of short or long duration. On September 6, 1949, spree
murderer Howard Unruh of Camden, New Jersey, took a loaded German
Lugar with extra ammunition and randomly ﬁred the handgun while walk-
ing through his neighborhood, killing thirteen people and wounding three in
about twenty minutes. Although Unruh’s killing took a short length of time,
it was not classiﬁed as a mass murder because he moved to different loca-
tions (Ressler, Burgess, & Douglas, 1988).
Serial murder was initially deﬁned as three or more separate events in
three or more separate locations with an emotional cooling-off period
between homicides. At a 2005 FBI conference on serial murder, discussion
focused on the number of events needed for classiﬁcation as serial. There
was considerable support for reducing the number to two or more events to
qualify as serial in nature. The serial murder is hypothesized to be premedi-
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tated, involving offense-related fantasy and detailed planning. When the
time is right for him and he has cooled off from his last homicide, the serial
killer selects his next victim and proceeds with his plan. The cooling-off
period can last for days, weeks, or months and is the key feature that distin-
guishes the serial killer from other multiple killers. Ted Bundy is an exam-
ple of a serial murderer. Bundy killed thirty or more times over a period of
many years in at least ﬁve different states.
There are other differences that are hypothesized to distinguish the mass,
spree, and serial murderers. In addition to the number of events and locations
and the presence or absence of a cooling-off period, the classic mass mur-
derer and the spree murderer are not concerned with who their victims are;
they will kill anyone who comes in contact with them. In contrast, the serial
murderer usually selects a type of victim. He thinks he will never be caught,
and sometimes he is right. A serial murderer carefully monitors his behavior
to avoid detection, whereas a spree murderer, who often has been identiﬁed
and is being closely pursued by law enforcement, is usually unable to con-
trol the course of events. The serial killer, by contrast, plans and chooses vic-
tim and location, sometimes stopping the act of murder if it is not meeting
his requirements. With a sexually motivated murderer, the offense may be
classiﬁed as any of the aforementioned types.
Crime classiﬁcation assists investigative proﬁling, a step within investigative
considerations. Investigative proﬁling is best viewed as a strategy enabling
law enforcement to narrow the ﬁeld of options and generate educated
guesses about the perpetrator. It has been described as a collection of leads
(Rossi, 1982), as an informed attempt to provide detailed information about
a certain type of criminal (Geberth, 1981), and as a biological sketch of be-
havioral patterns, trends, and tendencies (Vorpagel, 1982). Geberth (1981)
has noted that the investigative proﬁle is particularly useful when the crimi-
nal has demonstrated some clearly identiﬁable form of psychopathology. In
such a case, the crime scene is presumed to reﬂect the murderer’s behavior
and personality in much the same way as furnishings reveal a home owner’s
Proﬁling is, in fact, a form of retroclassiﬁcation, or classiﬁcation that
works backward. Typically we classify a known entity into a discrete cate-
gory, based on presenting characteristics that translate into criteria for
assignment to that category. In the case of homicide investigation, we have
neither the entity (for example, the offender) nor the victim. It is thus nec-
essary to rely on the only source of information that typically is available:
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the crime scene. This information is used to proﬁle, or classify, an individ-
ual. In essence, we are forced to bootstrap, using crime-scene-related data,
to make classiﬁcations. This bootstrapping process is referred to as proﬁl-
ing. There have been no systematic efforts to validate these proﬁle-derived
CCM: A MOTIVATIONAL MODEL FOR CLASSIFICATION
The ﬁrst published FBI Behavioral Science Unit system for typing lust mur-
der (Hazelwood & Douglas, 1980), which Megargee (1982) properly
described as a syndrome rather than a typology, delineated two categories,
the organized nonsocial category and the disorganized asocial category, that
were not intended to embrace all cases of sexual homicides. This early work
on lust murder evolved into a programmatic effort to devise a classiﬁcation
system for serial sexual murder (Ressler et al., 1988). In the late 1980s, the
agents from the Investigative Support Unit at the FBI Academy joined with
the Behavioral Science Unit to begin working on a crime classiﬁcation man-
ual, using as a guide the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disor-
ders (DSM-IV-TR, 2006) of the American Psychiatric Association. Work
groups were assigned to the major crime categories of murder, arson, and
sexual assault. An advisory committee representing federal and private asso-
ciations was formed.
Although many of the conceptual and theoretical underpinnings of this
model derive from earlier writings on the subject, the study of violent crime
has advanced and thus new crime classiﬁcations have been added.
In the CCM, classiﬁcation of homicide by motive has four major cate-
gories. The criminal enterprise category has eight subcategories: contract
murder (third party), gang-motivated murder, criminal competition, kidnap
murder, product tampering, drug murder, insurance-related murder (indi-
vidual proﬁt or commercial proﬁt), and felony murder (indiscriminate or
situational). The personal cause category has eleven subcategories: eroto-
mania-motivated murder, domestic homicide (spontaneous, staged, or neo-
naticide), argument/conﬂict murder, authority murder, revenge, nonspeciﬁc
motive murder, extremist homicide (political, religious, or socioeconomic),
“mercy/hero” homicide, and hostage murder. The sexual homicide category
has ﬁve subcategories: organized crime-scene murder, disorganized crime-
scene murder, mixed crime-scene murder, sadistic murder, and elder female
sexual homicide. The group cause category has three subcategories: cult mur-
der, extremist homicide (political, religious, or socioeconomic murder [para-
military or hostage]), and group excitement.
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100: CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE
Criminal enterprise homicide entails murder committed for material gain.
This material gain takes many forms (for example, money, goods, territory,
101: CONTRACT MURDER (THIRD PARTY)
A contract killer is one who kills by secret assault or surprise. He is a mur-
derer who agrees to take the life of another person for proﬁt; that is, he is a
hit man. There is usually an absence of relationship (personal, familial, or
business) between killer and victim.
Victimology. The victim of a contract killer is perceived by the person
hiring the killer as an obstruction or hindrance to the attainment of a goal.
This goal could be a financial one (collecting life insurance or controlling
a business) or it could be personal (an extramarital affair, a refusal of
The victim’s risk is situational. It is the offender’s perception of the vic-
tim as an obstacle that puts the victim at risk. The risk for the offenders (con-
tractor and killer) is dependent on their relationship with each other and the
experience and expertise of the offender who is committing the murder.
Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. The offender usually spends a
minimum of time at the scene. A quick, fast killing is usually opted for.
Several factors at the scene are indicative of offender sophistication. One
index of this professionalism is the weapon that is used. Customized sup-
pressors, handguns, or other instruments of death often indicate a specialist
who is comfortable with killing. The crime scene may reﬂect this in other
ways, including little or no physical evidence left at the scene, effective stag-
ing, elaborate body disposal, and a crime scene that shows a systematic,
orderly approach before, during, and after the crime.
The weapon may be chosen based on its availability, lack of traceability,
or inability of making a bullet match from it (.22 caliber). The offender often
will drop the weapon or leave it at the crime scene with the body to lessen
the possibility of being apprehended with it in his possession. Firearms used
for a contract killing are often stolen or not registered.
Arson is sometimes used to conceal the contract murder. (Refer to sec-
tion 231 for further information.)
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Staging. If staging is absent, there will be no other crime indicators: for
example, nothing will be missing, and there will be no sexual assault. Sec-
ondary criminal activity may mean that the offender is youthful, an amateur,
or of low intelligence.
The counter to this is a crime scene with complex staging, such as cut
brake lines or aircraft malfunction, to make the death look accidental. Sec-
ondary criminal activity to confuse the primary motive of murder may
include the appearance of a robbery or breaking and entering that went
wrong, or a kidnapping. The body may be positioned to imply that a sexu-
ally motivated homicide occurred. Actual sexual assault is a variable de-
pending primarily on offender professionalism.
Common Forensic Findings. Just as staging and other crime scene indica-
tors reﬂect the offender’s level of experience, forensic ﬁndings can also offer
distinguishing features. The veteran professional killer, for example, may
choose a weapon that is difﬁcult to trace and focus the area of injury to the
victim’s vital organs, especially the head. Usually there are a minimal num-
ber of wounds; overkill is rare. A blitz or ambush style of attack is also com-
mon to this type of killing.
Most contract killings have some evidence of premeditation. The killer may
stalk the victim. An individual with preexisting, intact criminal connections
will be able to contract a murder more easily and with less of a conspirator-
ial trail than an individual without established criminal connections. While
the latter individual’s conspiratorial trail may be more easily detected, the
nature of the crime ensures the existence of a conspiracy for all offenders.
Scrutiny of a suspect’s preoffense contacts, discussions, and communica-
tions may provide evidence of the conspiracy (telephone and ﬁnancial
records should be reviewed for such evidence).
The contractor (the party engaging the killer) will have a history of per-
sonal conﬂict or business competition with the victim. However, he or she
may exhibit a preoffense behavior change that frequently includes an appar-
ent improvement in relationship with the victim. This improvement is often
deliberately made apparent to relatives, friends, and business associates. The
offender’s motivation for projecting an image of caring and concern toward
the victim is to lure the victim into a false sense of security while convinc-
ing those around him that he is above suspicion once the investigation has
begun. Interviews with those close to the offender and victim may reveal this
type of preoffense behavior. Additional preoffense behavior that others may
observe is a nervousness or preoccupation on the part of the contractor.
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Postoffense, the offender (contractor) will often demonstrate selective
recall. He or she will have an uncharacteristically detailed, precise, airtight
alibi for the period during which the homicide occurred. The investigator
will be able to specify the offender’s activities and the exact times these
occurred from receipts and other evidence; however, his actions before and
after the offense will be harder to pinpoint. The contractor will most likely
be highly visible during the time of the offense (at a public place or party, for
Search Warrant Suggestions
Telephone records and other communications, ﬁnancial records showing
transfers of money, travel records, receipts (for rental cars or motels, for
example), and weapons are all important search warrant suggestions.
CASE STUDY 101: CONTRACT MURDER
U.S. District Court Judge John Wood was known as Maximum John to mem-
bers of the legal and law enforcement society in Texas. His reputation for
handing out the stiffest penalties possible for drug offenders had brought
him to the attention of the criminal community as well. Judge Wood had
made serious inroads into the organized drug trade of the southern and west-
ern areas of Texas where drug ﬂow across the Mexican border into this
region had made trafﬁcking a lucrative business.
Jamiel Charga (known as Jimmy) especially seemed to be beneﬁting from
the drug business, as evidenced by his lifestyle: he had lost $1.1 million dur-
ing one three-day Las Vegas gambling trip. Jimmy’s brother, Lee, who had
also been implicated in drug trafﬁcking (and who was murdered on Decem-
ber 23, 1978), often expressed feelings of persecution at the hands of federal
representatives like Judge Wood and the assistant U.S. attorney, James Kerr
Jr. (Kerr was the object of an attempted assassination in November 1978.)
Jimmy Charga, who was already in prison, shared his brother’s animosity
of Judge Wood, imagining that he was the object of the judge’s personal
vendetta. He was also convinced that he would be given a life sentence by
Judge Wood if he was convicted of the ﬁve counts of drug trafﬁcking he
faced in Wood’s court.
At approximately 8:40 A.M., on May 29, 1979, Judge Wood called good-
bye to his wife as he walked out the front door of their apartment. Ten to ﬁf-
teen seconds later, as he walked from the brick condominium to his green
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Chevrolet, he was struck in the back by a single gunshot. Mrs. Wood came
out of the apartment after hearing the noise she had immediately identiﬁed
as a gunshot. She found her husband lying near his car and attempted to help
him. Wood was transported to Northeast Baptist Hospital, San Antonio,
where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 9:30 A.M.
Judge Wood was placed at a high risk because of the stance he took when
sentencing drug trafﬁckers. Typically, he would not have been considered a
high-risk victim when considering other factors that rate a victim’s risk level
(lifestyle and income, for example). However, his occupation and intoler-
ance of drug offenders, in addition to his ﬂippant attitude toward the threats
against his life (he had ended the protection given him by federal marshals
and had stopped carrying the gun they had given him), elevated his risk.
Relating Judge Wood to the victimology of a contract killing shows that
his risk was situational. He was viewed as an obstruction to Jimmy Charga’s
freedom and his drug enterprise. Judge Wood had ended U.S. marshal pro-
tective services and had stopped carrying the gun they had given him.
Crime Scene Indicators
Judge Wood’s body was lying three and a half feet from his car at a forty-
ﬁve-degree angle with the feet pointing northwest, the head southeast, and
the arms outstretched to the side.
The witnesses who saw the judge struck by the bullet and fall to the ground
never saw the gunman. There was no physical evidence (no shell casings or
ﬁngerprints, for example). The exact location of the sniper was not known.
There were reports of several different strangers at the apartment around the
time of the murder, but none led to any substantial suspect information.
The fast method of killing meant a minimum of time at the crime scene
for the offender. The apparent ease of the killer to slip in, shoot the judge,
and escape undetected (especially with a police patrol within two blocks
responding at 8:41 A.M.) are all indicators of careful premeditation by an ex-
perienced hit man.
The bullet entry point was to the lower back, left of center, with a trajectory
through the body of less than ﬁfteen degrees. It immediately hit the spine,
causing fragmentation of the bullet and disintegration. These bullet frag-
ments resulted in wounds throughout the abdomen and internal organs.
Ballistics revealed that the bullet was a .243 caliber or 6mm. Based on the
riﬂing marks, it was concluded that two kinds of common riﬂes could have
ﬁred the bullet: the Browning Lever-Action and the Interarms Mark X.
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The ambush, sniper style of attack on Judge Wood, requiring only one
shot to kill almost instantly, is forensics information typical of the more ex-
perienced contract killer.
The investigation of Judge Wood’s murder became the largest federal inves-
tigation since John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Due to the professionalism
of the killer (as evidenced by the lack of forensics and witnesses), the direc-
tion of the investigation depended greatly on the history of conﬂict between
Judge Wood and Jimmy Charga. In addition, the conspiratorial trail was less
visible due to Charga’s criminal contacts. This minimized the effort to seek
a hit man, therefore minimizing the number of conspirators who could later
become damaging witnesses.
The combination of extensive investigation with all of Charga’s business
associates, family, and friends, combined with intelligence derived from
informants, began to focus attention on Charles Voyde Harrelson. On June
24, 1979, Charga’s wife, Elizabeth, had paid $150,000 to Harrelson’s step-
daughter in Las Vegas for the completed contract killing. Harrelson ac-
knowledged receiving the money but said it was for a drug deal. The
conspiratorial trail ﬁnally began to emerge after examination of telephone
bills that linked Harrelson with Charga through family members.
Charga’s wife was audiotaped while visiting her husband in Leavenworth
Prison. “Yeah, go ahead and do it,” she said, when the couple discussed plans
to kill Judge Wood. They were repeating a previous conversation that had
taken place before Wood was murdered. Elizabeth Charga also wrote a let-
ter to Mrs. Wood in which she acknowledged making the payoff, but she
denied involvement in the conspiracy.
Mrs. Harrelson admitted buying the .240-caliber Weatherby Mark V, the
murder weapon, using a false name and giving it to her husband. The riﬂe
butt with the Weatherby trademark was the only partly recovered, making a
ballistic match impossible (another indicator of some criminal sophistica-
tion). Harrelson’s placement near the crime scene, in contrast to his claim of
being 250 miles away the day of the killing, was solidiﬁed when a series
of witnesses testiﬁed he was at motel in North San Antonio the night before
Charles Harrelson was convicted of the 1979 murder and conspiracy to mur-
der and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without parole.
He appealed his case in 1998 to the Supreme Court. On March 29, 2004,
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Harrelson, father of actor Woody Harrelson, lost his Supreme Court appeal.
Jimmy Charga was convicted of obstructing justice in the Wood investiga-
tion. He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in relation to
the attempt made on assistant U.S. attorney James Kerr. Kerr, who often tried
drug cases in Wood’s court, barely escaped injury from a barrage of bullets
by ducking under his car dashboard in November 1978. Charga was also
convicted of continuing criminal enterprise, conspiring to import marijuana,
and tax fraud.
Elizabeth Charga was originally charged with murder conspiracy, con-
victed, and sentenced to thirty years. This was later overturned because the
judge had not instructed the jury that her guilt had to be based on joining the
conspiracy with malicious intent. She was also convicted of obstructing jus-
tice and tax fraud and received a ﬁve-year sentence.
Jo Ann Harrelson was convicted of perjury before the grand jury, during
her own trial, and to FBI agents. Also convicted for their part in the assassi-
nation were Joe Charga, Jimmy’s brother, and Theresa Jasper, Harrelson’s
102: GANG-MOTIVATED MURDER
A street gang is an organization, association, or group of three or more
people, whether formal or informal, that has as one of its primary activi-
ties the commission of antisocial behavior and criminal acts, including
Gangs in one form or another have been around for hundreds of years,
with pirates probably some of the original gangs. The groups that tradition-
ally come to mind are the Crips and the Bloods from California, whose ori-
gins can be traced to the late 1960s. According to the Los Angeles Police
Department, as of 2006, Los Angeles is now home to 463 gangs, up from 300
in 1990. The city has an estimated 40,000 gang members. And as another
example, gang-related grafﬁti, robberies, shootings, and stabbings are on the
rise in Utah after a decade of decline.
Street gangs were ﬁrst formed in response to territorial struggles with
rival neighborhoods. Fatalities that were associated with gang activity were
largely based on these territorial conﬂicts. Contemporary gangs are demon-
strating signs of evolution from loosely knit gangs to more established,
organized crime groups. The ﬂourishing cocaine market has been the pro-
pelling force behind this evolutionary process. Because the drug enterprise
is now the heart of gang existence, drug-related homicide and street gang
murder are becoming synonymous.
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Victimology. The victims of street gang homicide are usually members or
associates of a gang. Gangs generally have a leader or group of leaders who
issue orders and reap the fruits of the gang’s activities. A gang may also wear
“colors,” that is, certain types of clothing, tattoos, and brands imprinted with
the gang’s name, logo, or other identifying marks. Many gangs also adopt
certain types of hairstyles and communicate through the use of hand signals
and grafﬁti on walls, streets, their own school work, and school property.
Innocent bystanders are peripheral victims in some drive-by shootings.
Local businessmen being extorted by gangs also become homicide victims,
but this is usually restricted to Asian gangs. Filipino gangs in Hawaii use
ﬁrearms as a currency in the drug trade; therefore, these gangs target victims
to obtain guns that include military and law enforcement personnel. Vio-
lence involving street gangs most often includes minority, male victims and
Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. The homicide scene is usually
an open, public place within gang territory. Frequently the site of the killing
is in front of or near the victim’s residence. Drive-by killings are the most
frequent tactic employed by gangs. This mobile, public clash has a much
greater prevalence over the one-on-one confrontation. Drive-by killings
often involve more than one car.
The crime scene is disarrayed, with no concern for the body. It is not con-
cealed and may even be displayed and positioned in a speciﬁc manner if a
message is intended by the killing. Symbolic items may be left, such as the
colors representing a gang or grafﬁti messages. Sometimes gang members
involved with the offense will yell another gang name at the scene to misdi-
rect law enforcement and focus retaliation on another gang.
The weapon is bought to the scene and is often concealed. Frequently
there are additional victims injured and associated offenses related to the
Staging. Staging is generally absent.
Common Forensic Findings. Firearms are the weapons of choice with
most gangs. The typical gang arsenal includes assault riﬂes, fully automatic
weapons, semiautomatic handguns, and shotguns. Knife attacks are rare.
Multiple wounds from multiple-round weapons characterize a common
forensic ﬁnding of the gang homicide. The offender often empties the gun’s
magazine into the victim. Such wounds are usually manifested in two ways.
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For optimum lethality, the offender targets the victim’s head and chest. And
for a ritualistic attack (especially prevalent with a retaliatory killing), there is
methodical shooting of arms, knees, groin, and legs ﬁrst, then chest and head.
An execution style of shooting is one other method employed with gang
murder. There are isolated incidents of torture, but these are rare and usually
occur only with an intragang conﬂict.
The victims who had gang involvement often have tattoos. Hispanic
gangs especially tend to have many intricate tattoos.
“Intelligence is the basis for success of the entire investigation,” according
to Joe Hoolmes of the Sheriff Lynwood Gang Unit. Known gang conﬂicts
may also give direction to the investigation. Geographical considerations
quickly help classify a homicide: an area of concentrated activity will in-
crease the likelihood that the killing was gang motivated. Because gang
killings are usually public, there are frequently witnesses.
The type of homicide perpetrated by street gangs is reﬂecting their emer-
gence as more organized criminal operants. Some gangs are functioning as
contract killers. The largest percentage of gang killings are motivated by
drugs, with territory disputes and retaliatory killings the second and third
most common motives. One other motive for gang homicide is the intermin-
gling of a female from one gang or territory with the male of another.
Although many studies note the average gang is composed of males be-
tween the ages of twelve and twenty-one who reside in poor, central areas of
cities with populations of more than 200,000, girl membership in gangs has
been increasing. Surveys of gangs in large cities indicate a wide variance in
ethnicity, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Caucasians.
The law enforcement ofﬁcer should attempt to keep a log of the addresses
of gang members frequently seen together. Gang members often exchange
stolen goods, guns, and clothing that may connect them to an offense. If pos-
sible the ofﬁcer should keep Field Information Cards (FIC) and have gang
members sign the back of this information with their moniker (gang nick-
name) and logo. Usually gang members are proud of this and will volunteer
to do so. The investigator should also have the gang member initial, sign, and
draw his gang grafﬁti on the back of the rights card when being interviewed.
This can prove helpful during prosecution for establishing the subject’s
membership or involvement with a gang.
Known gang conﬂicts may also give the investigator direction. For exam-
ple, Bloods do not ﬁght each other, but Crips will ﬁght each other. Also,
black versus Hispanic conﬂict is becoming more prevalent. The two groups
used to coexist peacefully.
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Search Warrant Suggestions
Search warrant suggestions for gang-motivated murder include the following:
• Firearms, ammunition
• Grafﬁti: walls, garage, books, papers, anywhere in a house
• Pictures with guns and gang members, photo albums
• Other items of gang association: clothing with colors, insignias,
monikers, pagers, nice cars, jewelry (especially gold)
Multiple addresses should be listed on the search warrant, including gang
members recently seen with the offender, due to the exchange of stolen prop-
erty, guns, and clothing between gang members.
CASE STUDY: 102: GANG-MOTIVATED MURDER
As a group of friends from a Los Angeles neighborhood were piling into
their cars to go to a movie, someone shouted, “Get down, get down!” Every-
one scrambled for safety as gunﬁre ﬁlled the air. The shots were being ﬁred
from a car ﬁlled with black males. When the attack was over, two Hispanic
males aged seventeen and eighteen were dead. In addition, a four-year-old
child died several hours later at the hospital.
Both teenage victims had an extensive history of gang involvement common
to the victims of street gang homicide. The eighteen year old had been jailed
several times as a juvenile for assault with a deadly weapon and drug pos-
session charges. The seventeen year old also was involved with the same
gang for over three years. He too was well known to the police for being
involved with gang conﬂicts. He had been implicated in a recent drive-by
shooting of a rival member, but no action had been taken.
The child victim was typical of many victims of street gang killings: he
was an innocent bystander who happened to be playing on his porch at the
Crime Scene Indicators
The area of the shooting had a reputation for being the location of many gang-
related conﬂicts. The crime scene was in an open public place, in front of the
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child’s house and next to the house of the eighteen year old. The killing
involved a drive-by assault in which the offenders brought their weapons with
them. The bodies were left where they fell until paramedics responded. There
were witnesses, but most were gang members who preferred to exact their
own form of justice, so they were not cooperative with the police.
All three victims sustained lethal wounds to the chest area and died of mas-
sive blood loss. The seventeen year old also had gunshot wounds to the left
arm and left side of his neck. Investigators determined from the forensics
that at least two weapons had been involved: a 9mm and a shotgun. The
eighteen year old was killed from a shotgun blast. The targeting of vital or-
gans and presence of multiple gunshot wounds are both common forensic
ﬁndings with gang murder.
Through the use of informants, the investigator learned that the seventeen-
year-old victim had been involved in the earlier fatal attack on some rival
gang members. He had been recognized and targeted by that gang for retal-
iation. Investigators were able to come up with three suspects of the four or
ﬁve gang members believed to be involved. A search warrant produced one
of the murder weapons, a 9mm fully automatic MAC-10. Two subjects were
charged with murder, and a third was charged with his part in the killings,
driving the car.
All have been convicted of their respective charges. All of the offenders were
sentenced to twenty years to life.
103: CRIMINAL COMPETITION
Death in this type of homicide is a result of organized crime conﬂict over
control of territory.
Victimology. Generally the victim is a prominent or known organized crime
ﬁgure or member of the hierarchy. Both intragroup and intergroup conﬂicts
are prevalent prior to the homicide, with the victim generally reﬂecting this
conﬂict. Innocent bystanders may become unintentional victims.
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Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. The crime scene represents a
well-planned crime and reﬂects the evidence consciousness of the offender.
The scene may appear to pose a high risk to the offender, but because there
are built-in safeguards (like an escape plan), the risk is considerably low-
ered. An example of this escape plan is the use of a decoy car that runs inter-
ference by blocking trafﬁc, feigning car trouble, or causing an accident while
the offender escapes.
The killing is done expeditiously, which keeps the time spent at the scene
to a minimum. The offender usually is experienced and brings a weapon of
choice to the scene.
Body disposal tends to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. The offender
will either go to great lengths to conceal and dispose of the body or leave it
wantonly displayed at the murder scene.
Staging. Staging is usually not present.
Common Forensic Findings. Weaponry or the method of killing used
depends on the intent of the offender. If he is sending a message or making
a statement, bombing, a public killing, or an execution-style shooting (head
wounds) will be seen. If the murder is one of elimination, then a small-
caliber, untraceable weapon will be more prevalent. Vital organs are targeted
in both cases.
The use of intelligence obtained from gangland informants is a fundamental
consideration that is especially appropriate with this classiﬁcation of homi-
cide. Intelligence regarding such matters as rival groups and internal power
struggles should be explored.
Search Warrant Suggestions
Search warrant suggestions for the suspect’s residence include weapons,
guns, spent cartridges, clothing similar to that reported by witnesses, com-
munication records (telephone, letters, tapes), and ﬁnancial records.
CASE STUDY: 103:
John T. Scalish was the last great don of the Cleveland maﬁa. On May 26,
1976, at the age of sixty-three, he faced heart bypass surgery. The man who
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had possessed the power to decide others’ fate with the nod of his head was
now helpless to control his own. Despite the beneﬁt of Cleveland’s best heart
specialists, Scalish died a few hours after surgery.
Scalish’s untimely death created a crucial hole in mob leadership because
he had not picked a successor. The battle that was ignited by those struggling
to ﬁll that void became one of the bloodiest in ﬁfty years of Cleveland’s
One of the casualties of the mob’s leadership transition was Daniel Greene.
Born to Irish American parents in 1929, he was place in an orphanage as a
young child when his father either left or died. Greene was schooled in
a tough Italian neighborhood that spawned a lifelong hatred of the people
who would play a central role in his life.
Greene did a stint in the marines, where he boxed and became an expert
marksman. During the early 1960s, he worked on the Cleveland docks and
took over the leadership of the International Longshoreman’s Union. He
exercised his authority by skimming union funds, extorting money from
workers through beatings and threats, and attempted routine shakedowns of
Greene was forced out of the union and convicted in federal court of em-
bezzlement, which was overturned on appeal. He pleaded guilty to a lesser
charge of falsifying union records and was ﬁned. He never paid the ﬁne and
never saw any prison time for this offense.
Green started his own business, Emerald Industrial Relations, with which he
would have union friends stall or cause trouble on a construction site. He would
then offer to settle the dispute for a fee. In addition, he started a business of
waste removal by consolidating rubbish haulers, forcing any of the reluctant
to join through bombing, burning, and pouring acid on their equipment.
Newspaper exposure eventually forced him out of the Solid Waste Guild.
It was during this period that Greene began to make connections with
Cleveland’s organized crime scene. In 1971, he was implicated in what
became the ﬁrst of a long line of bombings to eliminate threats and further
his delusions of a Cleveland-based Celtic crime organization.
At the time of Danny Greene’s death, he ﬁt the victimology of being a
prominent organized crime ﬁgure and representative of one at odds with
those in power. He also had a history of being an FBI informant.
Crime Scene Indicators
After John Scalish died, James Licavoli (alias Jack White) reluctantly took
charge of the Cleveland maﬁa. Danny Greene began to methodically kill
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White’s associates in an attempt to overthrow him. Cleveland was in the
throes of a full-scale bombing war as a result of Greene’s ambitions and
There were several unsuccessful attempts on Greene’s life; he walked
away from one bombing that demolished his apartment with only a few bro-
ken ribs. Because Scalish had bequeathed White a weak organization, he had
no single hit man who could eliminate Greene. To compensate for this
deﬁcit, White contacted every thug he knew for the job.
On October 16, 1977, as Greene entered his car after a dentist appoint-
ment, Ronald Carabbia sat nervously clutching an airplane transmitter ﬁfty
yards away as his accomplice, Ray Ferritto, slowing cruised toward the free-
way. The transmitter’s target was a platter directional bomb that was planted
in the passenger door of a Trojan horse. (Trojan horse is the name given to a
nondescript vehicle that has a bomb planted in it. It is parked next to the tar-
get’s car and is detonated by remote control when the intended victim comes
near it.) Once Greene was between his vehicle and the Trojan horse, Carab-
bia pushed the button that detonated the directional explosive device. The
explosion sent a red ball of ﬁre into the air and blasted debris over the entire
Greene’s clothing was torn off, except his brown zip-up boots and black
socks. His left arm landed a hundred feet from the bomb site. A blue Adidas
duffel bag he was carrying containing a 9mm pistol, two magazines full of
bullets, notebooks, and a list of license plates driven by his enemies was
found nearly intact.
Traces of the bomb’s components (the explosives, the container, and the
detonator) were found at the crime scene but were not traceable to their
source. No latent prints were found on the Trojan horse.
By noting the fragment patterns and direction, and the intensity of dam-
age from the blast and the heat and ﬁre, investigators were able to determine
where the bomb was (the seat of the blast is where the most damage is).
Greene’s back was torn apart by the blast. His left arm was severed from his
body, as previously mentioned. The cause of death was from massive inter-
nal destruction due to both blunt-force trauma and penetrating injury.
A woman driving with her husband to an art gallery allowed a blue Plymouth
to turn in front of her. For an instant, she and the Plymouth’s driver, Ray Fer-
ritto, stared directly at each other. She also noticed a man in the car’s back
seat staring at the parking lot where Danny Greene was just climbing into his
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car. The next instant, pieces of Greene’s car were ﬂying at the couple, who
followed the Plymouth onto the freeway, making note of driver, car, and
license plate. The female eyewitness was a commercial artist and was able
to sketch a picture of both suspects. In addition, both witnesses later identi-
ﬁed Ferritto and Carabbia from photos.
The license plates of the Trojan horse played an important role in the
investigation. When agents went to the department of motor vehicles to
check registrations, they went to the original ﬁles rather than the computer.
Immediately before and after the Trojan horse plates were plates that were
registered to the same person. One name was a phony, but the other was the
true name. The clerk remembered the man who had ﬁled the tags since he
acquired two sets of plates with different names. The car was also eventually
traced to a dealership that was known to be involved with the Cleveland
Ronald Carabbia was indicted and found guilty of murder. His original sen-
tence was the death penalty, but that was later commuted to life in prison
without parole when the state supreme court ruled the death penalty uncon-
Ferritto became a protected government witness and served a ﬁve-year
term. Another man, Butchy Cisternino, also was convicted for his part in
Greene’s death by making the bomb.
Jack White was found not guilty during the ﬁrst state trial. Jury tampering
was strongly suspected. At the second state trial, all those involved were found
guilty. In federal court, White was convicted for murder among other charges
and given a forty-ﬁve-year prison sentence. He died in prison around 1986.
104: KIDNAP MURDER
Kidnap murder pertains to a person abducted for ransom and killed whether
the ransom is paid or not. It is important to know what designates a kidnap-
ping as opposed to a hostage/barricade situation. A kidnapping involves the
seizing and detainment or removal of a person by unlawful force or fraud,
often with a demand of ransom. The victim has been taken against his or her
will by a possibly unknown subject and is detained at a location unknown to
the authorities. Negotiations involving a kidnap situation may include the
victim’s family, government ofﬁcials, business leaders, law enforcement
authorities, and the offender.
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A hostage/barricade situation is when a person is held and threatened by
an offender to force the fulﬁllment of substantive demands made on a third
party (see classiﬁcation 129, which deals with hostage murder). The person
being held in a hostage situation is at a location known to the authorities.
This is the major difference between these two situations.
Victimology. The victim of a kidnap murder has an elevated level of risk
due to offender perception. A victim who would be considered low risk due
to lifestyle or occupation will have this risk elevated due to his or her socio-
economic background or availability of resources to meet possible ransom
demands. Resistance and control considerations are also a factor affecting
risk. The elderly and the very young are at higher risk due to their inability
to resist the offender as effectively as a healthy adult could.
Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. There may be multiple crime
scenes: the location of the abduction, the death scene, and the body disposal
site. The victim is usually alone when the abduction occurs. Furniture may
be upset, the victim’s belongings scattered in a way that indicates sudden
interruption of activities, and doors may be left open. The ransom note may
be left at the scene. Future communication from the offender, and possibly
the victim, is possible. There may be evidence of multiple offenders.
Staging. No staging is present.
Common Forensic Findings. Analysis of the ransom note or recording and
victim communication are the prime pieces of forensic evidence. Technical
enhancement of recordings should be used to amplify background noise and
recording techniques. This information may assist in locating where the re-
cording was made. The method of communication (computer, paper, tape,
writing) should be analyzed. The authenticity of both offender and victim
communication should be established. Gunshot wounds are often noted that
are contact or near contact to the head and other vital areas.
Items that should be scrutinized when dealing with a kidnap murder are tele-
phone and ﬁnancial records. Prior employees should be considered. The pos-
sibility that multiple offenders were involved also should be kept in mind. A
telephone trap and trace is usually indicated.
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The offender’s preoffense surveillance, efforts to trace the victim’s move-
ment, and routine may help produce witnesses who observed strangers or
suspicious persons in the victim’s neighborhood or other locations that were
part of their routine. Analysis of the offender and victim communication
using threat assessment may prove advantageous. Threat assessment is the
process of determining validity and potential source of threats received by
individuals, groups, or companies. If the threat is determined to be real,
countermeasures are developed to protect the potential victim. The analysis
of threat communication, based on the psychology and psychodynamics of
the threat, may denote personality traits of the suspect. Preoffense publicity
of the victim or other types of victim visibility may provide leads to victim
select and targeting.
Search Warrant Suggestions
Search warrant suggestions include communication records such as tele-
phone records. In addition, pictures of the victim, audio or video recordings
of the victim, and diaries, journals, and travel-related data such as airplane
tickets should be considered.
CASE STUDY: 104: KIDNAP MURDER
At 9:50 P.M. on July 26, 1988, the Jackson Police Department, Jackson, Mis-
sissippi, received a phone call from Robert Hearin. His wife, Annie, was
missing. Hearin had arrived home late that afternoon to an empty house and
had become increasingly alarmed after calling friends in an attempt to locate
his wife. A search of the area by police produced a ransom note that had been
left in the foyer. The note demanded that Hearin pay twelve people who had
fought legal battles with School Pictures of Mississippi, which he owned.
Annie Hearin was seventy-two-years old at the time of her abduction and
had been married to Robert for forty-nine years. She was an active part of
the Jackson community, patronizing the Jackson symphony and opera. She
had held executive positions in the Opera Guild and Junior League and had
cochaired the Mississippi Arts Festival.
The Hearins had a reputation for being a civic-minded, unpretentious
couple who had funded local colleges and universities in addition to con-
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tributing to the Jackson art museum. They lived in a posh neighborhood, but
their brick home was not considered lavish by Jackson standards.
Robert Hearin was a self-made millionaire who controlled an empire con-
sisting of Mississippi’s largest gas distribution company, its second largest
bank, and the second largest insurance company. Hearin also had run School
Pictures, the photo-processing operation that had employed the twelve men
named on the ransom note as franchisers.
“When corporations are bought and sold, you jerk people’s lives around
without even knowing it,” said one Jackson businessman. This statement
illustrates one of the factors that elevated Annie Hearin’s risk level as victim:
the nature of her husband’s business of making decisions that could be poten-
tially disastrous to some people. Another factor that increased Annie Hearin’s
risk level is that she was a frail, seventy-two-year-old woman who was not in
particularly good health. She would pose minimal resistance to the offender,
making her easier to control and minimizing any commotion that would
attract unwanted witnesses. Thus, Annie Hearin was an example of a victim
whose low risk level became slightly heightened by offender perception.
Crime Scene Indicators
The last person to see Annie Hearin was her maid, who left the Hearin resi-
dence around 3:30 P.M. the afternoon of July 26. Hearin had hosted a bridge
game with several friends that afternoon. When her husband arrived home at
4:30 P.M., he found his wife’s car in the driveway and her shoes placed beside
a living room chair. There were no signs of forced entry, and nothing was
missing from the home.
At 9:50 P.M., Hearin notiﬁed the police. They made a search of the area
and discovered a splattering of blood, possibly from nose or lips, on the front
door and door frame. A note was found in the foyer.
The following note was typewritten on a 1920 Vintage Royal manual type-
R bert Herrin
Put these people back in the shape they was in before they got mixed up
with School Pictures. Pay them whatever dama ges the y want ant tell
them all this so they cank now what your doing b ut dont tell them why.
you are doing it. Do this before ten days pass. Don’t c all police. [The
twelve franchisers were then listed.] If any is dead pay his children.
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On August 15, Hearin received a letter dated August 10 and postmarked
August 12 from Atlanta, Georgia. This letter was signed by Annie Hearin
and later analyzed to be authentic. Analysis of the letter revealed that she had
been directed verbally and mechanically to write it and was under great
duress. The note contained the following message:
If you don’t do what these people want you to do, they are going to seal
me up in the cellar of this house with only a few jugs of water. Please,
save me, Annie Laurie.
Blood also was found on this note, but neither this sample nor the one
found at the crime scene could be deﬁnitely linked to her.
An investigative consideration of great importance in this case was the list
of franchisers on the ransom note. A suspect in a kidnapping of this sort, one
that was more retaliatory than proﬁt motivated (nonspeciﬁc demands in ran-
som note), would be someone who had been (in his perspective) mistreated
by the victim’s husband. Careful investigation of the ﬁnancial status as well
as any history of problems precipitating the incident, either domestic or
occupational, would be helpful in narrowing down a list of possible suspects.
Another consideration that was of signiﬁcance in terms of the suspect
who was ﬁnally charged with Annie Hearin’s kidnapping was scrutiny of
meetings and travel typical of his routine. His travels had made him familiar
When considering the list of names on the ransom note for a possible sus-
pect who may have had a score to settle with Robert Hearins, investigators
found that N. Alfred Winn’s name was prominent. A St. Petersburg, Florida,
lawyer, Winn had been involved in a court battle with School Pictures in
1983. The company had sued him, alleging that he owed them money they
had advanced him. Winn countersued, alleging the company had misstated
his prospects for making money when it signed him up as a franchisee. In
1983, a district judge in Jackson ordered Winn to pay the company $90,000,
and in 1984 he was ordered to pay $153,883. School Pictures, having failed
to collect, seized Winn’s law ofﬁce. Winn was quoted as saying he had lost
his life savings.
A neighbor of the Hearins identiﬁed Winn from a photo lineup as the man
she saw in a white van in the neighborhood a few days before the kidnap-
ping. In addition, a superintendent for a construction crew working at a
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neighborhood church two blocks from the Hearin residence recalled seeing
Winn looking around the neighborhood.
On August 5 or 6, 1988, sometime between 6:00 A.M. and 9:00 A.M. at the
Quality Inn in DeLand, Florida, Winn met with a woman and asked her to
mail the letter in Annie Hearin’s handwriting. At Bishop’s Planetarium and
South Museum Tampa in late August, Winn again met with this woman to
pay her the initial $250 of a $500 promised payment. The rest was paid on
February 18, 1989, about 7:15 A.M., again at the DeLand meeting spot. The
woman had agreed to dye her hair and disguise herself as part of the deal.
In a search of Winn’s law ofﬁce and home, the FBI seized a map of Jack-
son with the Hearins’ home, businesses, and farm marked; six aerial maps of
Jackson; two handguns; and an old Royal typewriter.
On February 8, 1990, Winn was convicted of extortion by mail, conspiracy
to kidnap, and perjury in connection with Annie Hearin’s disappearance. The
status of state charges of homicide are as yet uncertain. Annie Hearin’s body
has not yet been recovered. Winn was sentenced to 235 months in prison and
5 years probation.
105: PRODUCT TAMPERING
In this type of homicide, death results from contact with a commercial prod-
uct, sabotaged by the offender for the purpose of achieving ﬁnancial gain.
There are three primary offender strategies used for achieving ﬁnancial gain:
litigation on behalf of the victim (wrongful death), extortion, and business
operations. The last method includes damaging a competing business through
sabotage of its product or manipulating the stock market as a result of nega-
Violation of the Federal Anti-Tampering Act occurs when any product has
been affected by the actions of the perpetrator. With a business attack, taint-
ing or switching labels may happen on a retail level. Elements of this crime
include the involvement of a consumer product such as a drug; the tainting
of that product or the switching of product labels to make them materially
false; and intent to cause serious injury to the business of a person.
The extortion method also can be tied into the business manipulation
approach. An example is a crime involving a protection racket, in which the
taint is tied to a demand for payments under threat of closing down the store
or causing grave damage to the reputation of the business.
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Victimology. The victim of product tampering may be random or speciﬁc,
dependent on the product’s distribution, the product’s use, and the offender
strategy. Sabotaged baby food, brake lines, and soft drinks will involve a
particular age group or class of people. Some sabotaged products will be
distributed only on a local scale, so the victimology will be more conﬁned.
The localization of victims can also help establish whether the product is
being tampered with at a retail stage or at the manufacturer’s level. Random
victimology is likely to be seen with extortion or with intent to damage a
The more speciﬁc victim is seen when the offender employs litigation for
wrongful death. The victim will be a family member or one closely associ-
ated with the offender. Random victims are observed when this type of of-
fender wants to remove suspicion from himself or herself and stages the
crime to look like the work of an indiscriminate killer.
Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. Multiple crime scenes usually
are involved with this homicide: the site where the product is altered, the
location where the product is procured by the victim, the place of use or con-
sumption, and the death scene. The location of alteration may offer evidence
of the tampering involved. If it is mechanical sabotage, tools particular to
that alteration will be present. Chemicals, poisons, and medicines may be
found if this type of tampering is employed.
Tampered-product locations and the proximity of victims to sites will aid
in deciding the scope and movement of the offender as well as origin of the
product. At the death scene, the proximity of the victim to the altered prod-
uct can aid the investigator in reconstructing the product’s path. In addi-
tion, communication from the offender may be found at any of the scenes
Staging. Staging is crucial if the offender is using the litigation strategy.
The offender must make it appear as if the family member or close associate
was a victim of either a random killer or a company’s faulty product. For the
ﬁrst set of circumstances, there could be other random victims selected to
give the appearance of an indiscriminate saboteur at work. The other situa-
tion may require the death to look like an accident (for example, a defective
automotive part or short-circuited power tool that causes the fatal accident).
Fire started by apparently faulty wiring that burns a house down with the vic-
tim inside is another illustration of a staged product tampering. The initial
impression derived from the crime scene of a staged tampering homicide
ranges from violent death to a medical emergency of some kind, without any
obvious indicators of a homicide.
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Common Forensic Findings. Examination of the product is one of the fun-
damental considerations of product tampering. There may be visible signs of
tampering, such as clearly discolored capsules. The type of analysis done on
the product and victim will depend on the instrument of death.
Suspicion of poisoning requires toxicological and chemical analysis of
the product and victim to determine if products of the same lot were in-
volved. Because toxicological analysis is not routine in postmortem exami-
nation, exhumation of the victim may be necessary to detect poisoning. This,
along with the distribution of victims, will help decide if the source of tam-
pering is at the retail or manufacturer level. Type of poison and consistent or
varying levels of poison in each tainted product reﬂect the resources and
sophistication of the offender. The packaging of the product will also be
revealing of offender sophistication: this includes absence or presence of ﬁn-
gerprints, repackaging, and the appearance of the tainted items.
The analysis of offender communication would be approached in the
same manner as in kidnap murders (see classiﬁcation 104). If the communi-
cation is verbal, a verbatim set of the caller’s comments and information
about speech patterns and accent are vital to threat assessment.
Threat assessment of offender communication may be helpful. If there is no
extortion demand associated with the death and civil litigation has been
initiated, the litigant should be scrutinized. The litigant’s ﬁnancial status
(beneﬁciary to insurance claims or inheritance, along with problems such as
outstanding debts, for example), relationship with the victim (problems, extra-
marital affairs), and preoffense and postoffense behavior should be examined.
Although the primary motivation is ﬁnancial gain, the offender who tar-
gets a family member for death often has concurrent secondary motivations
or goals that will be equally well served by the victim’s death. Avenues such
as domestic problems and extramarital affairs should be explored. Because
product tampering deaths are relatively rare, early allegations of such by
anyone who stands to beneﬁt from the victim’s death should be viewed cau-
tiously and evaluated carefully.
Cyanide is often the poison of choice because it is easily available at chem-
ical and photographic supply houses and in college and high school laborato-
ries. It can also be ordered through the mail. One ounce can kill 250 people,
so its potency makes it a popular choice with product tampering offenders. An
important investigative tool in cases of an offender who has used cyanide is a
complex instrument in use at the Food and Drug Administration’s Cincinnati
district laboratory. It can track down the source of the cyanide and identify the
supplier, who can ﬁnd the geographical customer list rather quickly. This may
help narrow the list of typical suspects (chemical ﬁrms, grocery clerks, the
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enemies of deceased victims, or a store’s terminated personnel ﬁle) and fur-
ther isolate the offender.
Search Warrant Suggestions
Search warrant suggestions for this type of crime include ﬁnancial records,
materials speciﬁc to the tampering (for example, tools, electronic devices,
chemicals, drugs, literature pertaining to drugs, manuals), and any related
products (other analgesics, empty capsules). Evidence of tampering practice
and other tainted products should also be considered.
CASE STUDY: 105: PRODUCT TAMPERING
Stella Maudine Nickell’s husband, Bruce, came home from work with a
headache. After he had given his wife of ten years a kiss, he went into their
kitchen and reached for a bottle of Extra-Strength Excedrin. He swallowed
four capsules and sat down to watch television. Stella remembers that Bruce
then decided to go for a walk out on the patio. Suddenly she heard Bruce call
to her that he felt like he was going to pass out. Within the next minute, he
collapsed and was unable to speak. Stella called the paramedics, and Bruce
was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He died a few hours
later, never regaining consciousness.
Six days later, on June 11, 1986, Sue Snow started her day by taking two
Extra-Strength Excedrin capsules, as was her habit. The caffeine in the cap-
sules was like her morning cup of coffee. Fifteen minutes later, her daugh-
ter, Hayley, found her sprawled unconscious on the bathroom ﬂoor. By noon,
she was dead.
At the time of his death, Bruce Nickell was ﬁfty-two. When he married Stella,
he was a hard-drinking heavy-equipment operator, which suited Stella since
she had a fondness for bar hopping. Nickell had recently taken stock of his
life and decided to dry out by attending a rehabilitation program. Stella at-
tended a few sessions with him. Before his death, Bruce was often unem-
ployed, which had begun to get on Stella’s nerves.
Sue Snow was forty years old at the time of her death. She had dropped
out of high school to marry but had turned her life around through hard work.
She had become the assistant vice president at a branch of the Puget Sound
National Bank and was happily married to Paul Webking. They were rarely
apart and “madly in love,” according to Webking.
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Both victims were users of the product. Nickell and Snow had never met;
Snow was an example of the random victim that is common to many prod-
uct tampering murders.
Crime Scene Indicators
Five bottles of tainted Extra-Strength Excedrin came from Johnny’s Food
Center in Kent, a Seattle, Washington, suburb, and a Pay ’N’ Save store in
Auburn. Two contaminated containers were found in the Nickell household.
Seals on the containers were cut or missing, and the boxes, which had been
reglued, demonstrated obvious signs of tampering. The victims lived within
ﬁve miles of each other, a factor that was signiﬁcant to investigators devis-
ing the area of offender operation.
Sue Snow became a victim because of staging. Stella Nickell was very dis-
appointed with the medical examiner’s initial decision that her husband had
died from emphysema and not cyanide poisoning. Her husband’s death
meant $105,000 to her in addition to the damages she expected to get from
Bristol-Myers when his death was declared by poisoning. Someone else had
to die to alert the authorities that a random cyanide killer was at work in King
County. So Stella Nickell poisoned the three bottles of Excedrin and slipped
them onto the shelves of area stores, one of which was bought by Snow. This
set the scene for Nickell to approach ofﬁcials with her suspicions that her
husband had fallen to a cyanide murderer as well as giving her grounds to
The initial cause of death listed on Bruce Nickell’s death certiﬁcate was pul-
monary emphysema because the coroner had failed to detect the cyanide in
his body. It was not until after Snow’s death, when Stella Nickell came for-
ward with the hesitant suggestion that her husband also had been the victim
of a random cyanide killer, that the true cause of death was determined. At
that time, tissue samples demonstrated cyanide poisoning. Sue Snow had
levels of cyanide that were easily detected by medical examiners.
After analysis of the tampered bottles, it was established that a random
selection of pills had been poisoned. Some capsules contained more than
three times the lethal adult dose of potassium cyanide. Others were not con-
taminated; Paul Webking took two capsules from the same bottle that proved
fatal to Sue Snow twenty minutes later.
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The exterior carton and bottle tampering was artless. The boxes were
reglued in an amateur manner, exhibiting minimal sophistication on the part
of the offender.
Stella Nickell had a restless yearning to buy the property the Nickell trailer
stood on and open a tropical ﬁsh store. Her ambitions were becoming insis-
tent. At the age of forty-four, she had an increasing awareness of the gap
between her dreams and reality. To her, the gap seemed to be widening faster
as each year passed. That her husband was frequently unemployed rein-
forced her belief that if she did not act soon, her dreams would slip away for
good. In addition, she felt her husband was not much fun since he had
In the fall of 1985, Nickell took out a $40,000 life insurance policy on her
husband, naming herself as sole beneﬁciary. Bruce Nickell also held a state
employee policy that paid $31,000, with an additional $107,000 awarded in
the event of an accidental death. To Nickell, $176,000 could easily make her
dreams into reality.
Nickell’s daughter, Cynthia, who was living with the Nickells at the time
of the murder, eventually came forward and told about the conversations she
had had with her mother during the ﬁve years leading to the offense. Bruce
Nickell’s death was a popular topic of conversation with Stella Nickell.
Cynthia testiﬁed in court that her mother had studied library books on poi-
sons and experimented with toxic seeds, either hemlock or foxglove. Bruce’s
only reaction was to become lethargic. When Stella learned that a recover-
ing alcoholic was susceptible to other addictive substances, she discussed
the idea of killing him with heroin, cocaine, or speed, so it would appear to
be just an accidental overdose.
According to Cynthia, her mother expressed great interest in the Tylenol
murders of Chicago in 1982. Using the same plan, she could not only collect
life insurance but ﬁle suit against the responsible company, Bristol-Myers
(which she did), for wrongful death. She felt this was a viable alternative to
get her ﬁsh store and live in the comfort she had always dreamed about.
These discussions between Cynthia and her mother show how scrutiny of
a suspect’s preoffense conversations may be helpful in establishing motive
and premeditation. There was not enough evidence to bring Stella in until
Cynthia decided to talk.
Stella Maudine Nickell was convicted of ﬁve counts of product tampering
and two counts of causing the death of another by product tampering (the
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ﬁrst conviction using a federal law enacted in 1983). On June 17, 1988, she
was sentenced to ninety years. She will not be eligible for parole until 2018.
106: DRUG MURDER
Drug murder is deﬁned as the murder of an individual where the primary
cause is to remove an obstruction and facilitate the operation of the drug
Victimology. The victimology of drug-related homicide is dependent on the
motive of the offender. The homicides are categorized into ﬁve motive
groups: discipline, informant, robbery, territory infringement, and antidrug
The victim of a discipline-motivated homicide is being punished for break-
ing the rules of a drug distribution group by which he is employed. Exam-
ples of these infringements include skimming money or drugs, stealing
customers, or in some other way hindering, obstructing, or impeding the
operation. The informant supplies information on the criminal enterprise to
law enforcement or competing dealers. A robbery-motivated homicide usu-
ally deals with a rip-off of drugs, money, or other goods (especially gold jew-
elry) related to the sale of drugs from customers, trafﬁckers, or dealers. A
drug trafﬁcker who infringes on the territory of another drug dealer may
become the victim of a drug murder. Victims of these four types of murder
are commonly known to law enforcement as having a history of association
with the drug trade. They may have an arrest record, reﬂecting a history of
drug use, robberies, and assaultive behavior relating to this involvement, or
at least an association with known drug offenders.
The last type of victim can be anyone from the neighborhood antidrug
crusader to a law enforcement ofﬁcer. These victims may be social workers
or clergy who are offering treatment to drug abusers and thus usurping cus-
tomers of the dealers. Judges who impose stiff penalties, politicians who
vigorously campaign against drugs, and witnesses testifying against drug of-
fenders are other examples of this victimology. All of these victim types are
individuals opposed to the drug trade and viewed as an obstruction, real or
symbolic, the offender wants removed.
Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. Drug-related homicide often
occurs in a public place if the death of the victim is intended to be a mes-
sage. The body is usually not concealed but is left at the scene with a wanton
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indifference. Evidence such as drugs or money may be removed from the
scene. The weapon used is frequently one of choice that is brought to the scene
and taken from it by the offender. Drugs or drug proceeds removed from the
scene or missing from an obvious or known victim trafﬁcker are another
indicator that might be apparent at the scene of a drug murder.
Staging. Staging is usually not present.
Common Forensic Findings. The weapon used is predominantly a ﬁre-
arm, often large caliber and semiautomatic. Occasionally knife wounds or
blunt-force trauma will be present, but these injuries are not as prevalent. A
high lethality of injury will be seen in which vital organs (chest and head)
are targeted. Overkill involving multiple wounds can be seen.
A drug screen done on the victim may help establish possible victim use
and connections to the drug business. Sometimes the mode of death might
be an overdose, or so-called hotshot, especially if the victim is a user.
The investigator should make sure a latent print process is attempted on
the body. Physical contact commonly occurs between the offender and vic-
tim of a drug murder before death.
The offender will almost always have a known association with the drug
trade as a user, manufacturer, or distributor. This subject commonly will be
associated with a street gang, since gangs are immersed in drug trafﬁcking
(see classiﬁcation 102).
This homicide appears opportunistic, with rip-offs, territory infringe-
ments, and some discipline-motivated killings. Informant and antidrug ad-
vocate hits usually are setups that demonstrate some degree of organization
and planning. Although informant use is a fundamental consideration with
many investigations, the use of intelligence information is especially valu-
able with drug-related murder. Use of prison informants might also prove
helpful with this type of homicide.
Offenders may exhibit displays of wealth even though they have no legit-
imate source of money. They have expensive clothing, vehicles, and jewelry
yet are unemployed or have a job that is inconsistent with their apparent
Search Warrant Suggestions
Search warrant suggestions include large amounts of money, clothing, elec-
tronic equipment, and so on reﬂective of a possible illegitimate money
source; drug paraphernalia, that is, items that link the offender to the drug
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trade; ﬁrearms; phone records; rental contracts; address books; ﬁnancial
records and bank records; transaction records, computerized records, and
ledgers; packing materials (packaging from drug shipments, processing, lab
setups, distribution [dividing into smaller parcels for street sale]); and pho-
tos (of using, manicuring, and preparing drugs).
Two case examples are given. The ﬁrst illustrates a scene where all per-
sons present were killed. The second case illustrates a dual drug murder.
CASE STUDY: 106: DRUG MURDER (A)
On January 30, 1984, FBI agents surrounded a rooming house in Miami’s
Coconut Grove section. Within a few minutes, they had in custody George
Clarence Bridgette, one of the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives. When he
was arraigned before a federal magistrate, he continued to claim his name
was Odell Davis, the alias he had gone by since he had ﬂed Long Beach, Cal-
ifornia. He was wanted for the drug-related murder of four people and at-
tempted murder of another.
Bridgette had two accomplices who had already been tried and convicted
for their part in the murders: Willie (“Chino”) Thomas and James Earl Cade.
Two of the victims were thirty-year-old Pamela Cade, an ex-wife of James
Earl Cade’s uncle, and her three-year-old daughter, Chinue Cade. Another
daughter, ﬁfteen-year-old Carolyn Ferguson, was shot, but she survived to
testify against Thomas and Cade. Larry Luther Evan, age thirty-seven, and
Crystal Baxter, age twenty-three, were the other two victims.
Crime Scene Indicators
At 10:30 P.M. on September 4, 1977, Cade, Bridgette, and Thomas entered
Pamela Cade’s Long Beach residence, pulled down the window shades, and
immediately killed Baxter. Bridgette carried a shotgun, Cade had a knife,
and Thomas had a .38-caliber revolver. Thomas then turned his gun on
Pamela Cade and shot her. Thomas was ﬁrst thought to have killed Chinue,
but later it was later determined that Bridgette tore the child out of her dead
mother arms, held her upside down by the feet, and shot her in the neck. He
then tossed the dying child onto the sofa.
Thomas turned his gun on Ferguson. The ﬁfteen year old struggled
ﬁercely for her life as Thomas tried to shoot her in the head. She received a
chest wound and feigned death, which enabled her to survive.
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Evans was the target of all three being stabbed and shot with both the
revolver and the shotgun.
The bodies were left at the scene with no attempt at concealment. The
weapons of choice, ﬁrearms and a knife, were brought to the scene and
removed with the offenders.
Crystal Baxter died of multiple head and back wounds caused by a shotgun.
Pamela Cade died of a .38-caliber gunshot wound to the head. Chinue died
of a gunshot wound to the neck. Larry Evans suffered seven stab wounds to
the chest, one of which penetrated his heart, causing death. He also was shot
in the chest with the revolver, and shotgun pellets were retrieved from his
The overkill present for Baxter and Evans is often found in a retaliatory
drug killing. Not only were the offenders retaliating against the victim they
felt had wronged them, but they were making a statement to anyone else who
might consider ripping them off. Vital areas (head and center chest) that
ensure lethality were targeted, another common ﬁnding in drug murder.
The motive for a this multiple murder was a so-called burn on a forty dollar
drug deal between James Cade’s cousin and Pamela.
Cade and Thomas were convicted on four counts of murder on November
22, 1978, and were sentenced to death. When the state supreme court
declared the death penalty unconstitutional, their sentences were commuted
to life imprisonment.
CASE STUDY: 106: DRUG MURDER (B)
By the time he was twenty-three, Daniel A. Nicoll had a thriving drug trade
that required bimonthly trips to Florida in his 1978 Ford pickup. Although
Nicoll did not live in a mainstream drug trade city, he was important enough
to be the target of a uniﬁed task force consisting of Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), state, and local law enforcement.
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When he was not making Florida trips or selling the drugs he bought there,
Nicoll tended bar at the Club California in Buffalo, New York. It is there he
met Laura Osborn. As their personal relationship developed, Nicoll began
supplying her with cocaine and marijuana for personal use as well as dealing.
Donald and Claire Nicoll referred to their son’s drug dealings as “dirty busi-
ness” and as the reason their son was no longer residing with them. Nicoll was
arrested by the police in Buffalo, New York, for possession of methadone,
unlawful possession of a controlled substance (PCP), and unlawful posses-
sion of marijuana. The case was not disposed of prior to the murder.
Nicoll had had some close calls before his death. He returned from one
Florida trip with an injury above his eye, attributing it to a drug rip-off. He
had also been threatened with a gun when he was suspected of a drug rip-off
on another occasion.
Nicoll demonstrated a ﬁtting picture of the drug murder victim. His his-
tory of a drug-related arrest and the fact that his reputation in the drug busi-
ness had reached a federal level with DEA involvement offered further
illustration of this victimology. In addition, Nicoll had a history of previous
threatening drug-related confrontations.
Laura Osborn had met Nicoll while bar hopping in 1975, and they had
maintained a steady relationship for about four years. Osborn beneﬁted from
Nicoll’s prosperous drug trade personally as well as ﬁnancially by dealing
herself. She had no arrest record but was under the same DEA investigation
Osborn paid a price for her involvement with Nicoll. She was the victim
of his abuse, seen on occasion with bruises around her face. Another time,
Nicoll explained a head injury that Osborn suffered as a suicide attempt.
However, Osborn claimed that Nicoll had struck her on the head with a bot-
tle. Neighbors had witnessed the assault, but no legal action was ever taken.
Osborn epitomized the drug murder victim for the same reasons Nicoll
did: she was known to law enforcement as being associated indirectly (rela-
tionship with Nicoll) and directly (through her active dealings) with the drug
Crime Scene Indicators
There were two crime scenes involved with these homicides. The ﬁrst one
was on a back road where the victims were parked, waiting for the offender,
who was going to buy drugs from them. The offender, Larry Rendell, pulled
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his truck alongside Nicoll’s truck, facing the opposite direction, so that the
two drivers were facing each other. Larry then shot both Nicoll and Osborn
from his truck. Nicoll fell over unconscious into Osborn’s lap. Osborn was
still alert, having been shot in the arm while trying to protect herself.
Rendell climbed into the truck and drove it to another road. Osborn
pleaded for her life, assuring Rendell she would tell no one about what had
happened. She then asked Rendell for some cocaine. It was at this time
Nicoll stopped breathing.
Osborn got out of the truck and began to walk away, taking her shoes off
as she walked. Rendell felt he could not afford to let Osborn live, so he shot
her from the truck and then went over to complete the job.
Both bodies were dragged over an embankment and covered with leaves.
Rendell then drove Nicoll’s truck into a gully off a nearby road.
Later Rendell told his brother that he tore the truck apart to remove any shell
casings from the ten to twelve shots he ﬁred at Osborn and Nicoll. Conﬁs-
cated at his apartment were clogs and a green jacket with lettering that he
wore at the time of the murder. Both items were soiled with blood from each
Cause of death for Daniel Nicoll was multiple gunshot wounds to the
head, causing massive cerebral hemorrhage. Osborne also died of massive
cerebral hemorrhage from multiple gunshot wounds. She had been struck at
least six times by the .22-caliber riﬂe.
Lawrence K. Rendell had several reasons for killing Nicoll and Osborn. He
claimed that Nicoll had shorted him on a previous marijuana deal and Nicoll
had ignored his protests. He also owed Nicoll anywhere from $450 to $1,000
for past drug deals and was constantly hassled by the victim to pay up. Ren-
dell had instructed Nicoll to bring his supply of cocaine the day of the mur-
ders because he claimed to have a buyer. Rendell had decided that killing
Nicoll served a threefold purpose of settling his debts, evening the score
from the previous rip-off, and providing him with drugs. In addition to the
other physical evidence linking Rendell to the crime, two speakers from
Nicoll’s truck were found in his apartment during the search.
Larry Rendell was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder.
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107: INSURANCE-RELATED DEATH
A victim is murdered for insurance or inheritance purposes. There are two
subcategories for this type of homicide: individual proﬁt murder and com-
mercial proﬁt murder.
107.01: INDIVIDUAL PROFIT
The individual proﬁt murder is deﬁned as one in which the murderer expects
to gain ﬁnancially by the victim’s death.
Victimology. The victim of an insurance or inheritance death for individual
proﬁt has a close relationship with the offender. This includes family mem-
bers, business associates, and live-in partners.
Many victims of this category are not typically characterized as high-risk
targets. In fact, their lifestyles, occupation, and living circumstances often
classify them as very low risk. However, because of the offender’s perception
of them as an avenue to his or her ﬁnancial goals, their risk is greatly elevated.
Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. Usually the body is not con-
cealed but is left in the open or somewhere that discovery is probable. The
nature of the crime scene, or where it falls in the continuum between organ-
ized and disorganized, depends on the amount of the offender’s planning and
his or her capacity.
An example of one extreme of this continuum is the spontaneous offense
committed by a youthful, impulsive, or less intelligent subject. This crime
scene would contain more physical evidence, such as ﬁngerprints or foot-
prints. The weapon would be one of opportunity acquired and left at the
scene. The crime scene would be chaotic, with evidence of sudden violence
to the victim (a blitz-style attack). The body would be left at the assault site
with little or no effort to conceal it.
The other extreme of this crime scene would be the offense committed
by the calculating, proﬁcient offender who has mapped out all aspects of the
crime ahead of time. This methodical approach is represented by an orderly
crime scene in which there is minimal physical evidence present. The weapon
is one of choice, brought to and removed from the scene by the offender.
Staging. Staging is often employed with this type of homicide. Its complex-
ity can reﬂect offender capability, resources, and premeditation. The crime
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scene will most frequently be staged to give investigators the impression that
death resulted from natural or accidental causes or from criminal activity.
Suicide staging is also possible, especially in the light of the more liberal
standards of some insurance policies.
Common Forensic Findings. Asphyxial or chemical modalities are com-
mon because these deaths are often not considered untimely and therefore
not investigated within the medical-legal system. Toxicological studies of
the blood, liver, hair, and so on are essential to determine if poisoning was
used. Exhumation may be necessary.
The staging used will determine the forensic ﬁndings; for example, a
staged robbery-murder victim might have gunshot wounds, as opposed to
the seemingly accidental drowning victim who has pulmonary edema and
blood-streaked foam present in the nose and mouth. Therefore, the variance
of forensic ﬁndings is vast.
The mechanism of money transfers, whether insurance document or wills,
should be checked to determine the authenticity of the victim’s signature.
Any recent beneﬁciary change or increase in insurance premiums or new
policy procurement justiﬁes further probing into the victim-beneﬁciary rela-
tionship. Many of the components that are detailed in the discussion of
domestic homicide (see classiﬁcation 122) are pertinent with this investiga-
tion, especially since multiple motives are often involved (extramarital
affairs, irreconcilable conﬂicts, and so forth).
Precipitating events may be seen as external stressors, such as ﬁnancial
problems, marital discord, dissension with the victim due to job, or alcohol.
There may be a change in preoffense behavior toward the victim, often in the
form of apparent relationship improvement. Offender nervousness or preoc-
cupation may also be observed by others.
The offender often has an uncommonly detailed, steadfast alibi with
selective recall. The offender also may delay reporting the murder, espe-
cially if he or she desires a third party to discover the body. A comprehen-
sive examination of the physical and psychological records and history of
the victim should be done when the investigator suspects the offender has
employed suicide or death-from-natural-cause staging.
Search Warrant Suggestions
Financial records of the victim and offender should be scrutinized. If the
death was staged to appear natural, medications, poisons, or drugs of any
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kind should be looked for. Any indicators that would support the precipitat-
ing events (for example, offender in debt or extramarital affairs) should be
CASE STUDY: 107.01: INDIVIDUAL PROFIT
John Dale Cavaness seemed to have the angel of death at his side when it
came to his family. In April 1977, his twenty-two-year-old son, Mark Dale
Cavaness, was found shot to death, an apparent victim of either a bizarre
accidental shooting or a homicide that had remained unsolved. Seven years
later, history repeated itself with the shooting death of another of John’s
sons, Sean Dale Cavaness, the apparent victim of an execution-style killing
and robbery. When St. Louis homicide detectives arrested Cavaness for
Sean’s murder, the people of the Little Egypt region in southern Illinois were
Dr. Dale, as he was affectionately called, was akin to Mother Teresa to his
patients and friends. He often did not charge his patients and was not only a
tireless and devoted physician, but also a congenial, down-to-earth neighbor
who took time to talk with people despite his overburdened practice.
Cavaness’s family and closest ofﬁce workers, however, knew he had a
darker side. His ex-wife, Marian, had spent some miserable years toward the
end of their marriage, the victim of physical and verbal abuse. His four sons
never had known much from their father besides castigation and torment.
The facts of Cavaness’s disastrous ﬁnancial status, the mistreatment of his
family, and his history of problems with the law combined to form a disturb-
ing portrait of man who was capable of murdering his own sons for money.
Victimology: Victim 1
At the time of his death, Mark Dale Cavaness was an unsettled twenty-two-
year old with no direction to his life. His parents’ divorce and a move to
St. Louis had upset him to the point that he had failed his senior year of high
school. He had never received his general equivalency diploma (GED) and
had drifted around the Midwest, working odd jobs for short periods of time,
before returning to Little Egypt in 1977 to work on his father’s farm. Marian
Cavaness worried about the effect her ex-husband’s constant sarcasm and
persecution was having on her son. Phone conversations with her ex-husband
consisted primarily of his complaints about Mark: he was “amounting to
nothing” and was a “no-good pot smoker.” Mark’s voice often reﬂected self-
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Marian had decided it was time to persuade Mark to come back to
St. Louis, ﬁnd a job, and get his GED. She and her three other sons were
spending the weekend in Little Egypt so the boys could be near their father
and Mark for Easter. She was determined not to return to St. Louis without
him. On Saturday, April 9, Marian, Sean, and Kevin, another son, set out to
ﬁnd Mark. They were concerned because he had not shown up at the
Cavaness house, especially since it had been Mark’s idea for the Little Egypt
Easter reunion with his mother and brothers. They drove out to the trailer on
Dale’s farm where Mark was staying.
Fifteen-year-old Sean, walking through tall grass by Mark’s white Jeep
pickup truck, was the one to ﬁnd the remains of his oldest brother. Kevin,
nineteen at the time, had to take control, calming his hysterical brother and
protecting his mother from the sight of Mark’s ravished corpse. Scavenger
animals had left little; Sean had known it was Mark only by recognizing his
belt buckle and his boots sticking out of the grass.
Crime Scene Indicators: Victim 1
Mark’s body was positioned on its back ten to twelve feet from the truck,
with the feet pointing toward the pickup. From the midthigh up, including
the arms and hands, was fresh skeletal remains with a few shreds of tissue
still intact. The skull was picked clean, with only the left eyeball and the
brown hair remaining. Only the lower legs, which were still encased in jeans
and laced-up work boots, were intact. Turkey vultures, wild dogs, possums,
and other scavenger animals were responsible for the condition of the body.
It was not possible to determine where Mark had been standing or sitting
when shot because the animals could have dragged the body into the grass.
A black leather wallet found in the grass near the body carried the identi-
ﬁcation of Mark Dale Cavaness. A plaid shirt was also found near the truck.
A package of Vantage cigarettes and a book of matches were in the left breast
pocket. There was a hole about two and a half by four inches surrounded by
dried blood between the left breast pocket and snap buttons.
Buckshot was found under the body site where the rib cage had rested, as
well as scattered on the ﬂoorboard inside the truck. Blood was on the driver’s
seat, ﬂoorboard, inside door panel, and outside, just behind the door opening.
The blood spatter pattern and the small, neat hole in Mark’s shirt indicated a
point-blank shot either while he was sitting behind the wheel (turned toward
the passenger side), getting in or out of the truck, or standing beside it.
The shotgun was a 12-gauge, three-inch magnum Browning automatic
goose gun. It belonged to John Dale Cavaness. One round was found in the
chamber and one in the magazine. The safety was off. It was lying on the
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passenger side of the truck with the barrel pointing toward the driver’s side.
The gun was inside its case, with the front barrel protruding several inches
as if the end of the case had been blown off when the gun was ﬁred. The hook
end of a metal coat hanger had been wedged into the trigger guard through
another hole in the case. Hanging from the coat hanger was a camouﬂage
hunting vest with its lower edge shut in the passenger door. The shotgun had
been positioned across an ax handle that raised the shooting angle.
The shotgun had been rigged in such a way to make it look as if Mark had
reached across the driver’s side and grabbed the barrel, pulling it toward
himself. The coat hanger, hooked on the trigger and anchored on the other
side by the vest caught in the passenger door, had pulled the trigger. Mark
had taken the shot point-blank in the chest.
Staging: Victim 1
The shooting had been intended to look like an accident or a booby trap. A
suicide was unlikely because the gun would have been removed from the
Kevin Cavaness was certain his brother, an experienced hunter, would
know better than to grab a gun by its barrel and pull on it. The detective as-
signed to the case also found this an unlikely sequence of events. The end of
the case could have been shot off, but the case also showed signs of wear
The piece of evidence that discounted the attempt to stage an accident or
booby trap was the location of the cartridge. If the gun had been in the case
when ﬁred by the coat hanger or the murderer’s ﬁnger, the spent cartridge
would be inside the case.
Only one spent shotgun cartridge was found, on the ﬂoorboard of the
driver’s side. It was reasoned that the offender had ﬁred the gun inside
the truck and then returned it to its case. The killer then constructed the
phony scene, making the shooting look accidental or booby-trapped. No ﬁn-
gerprints or footprints were obtainable from the crime scene because it had
been compromised by the initial personnel responding to the call.
Forensic Findings: Victim 1
Mark Dale Cavaness had died from a point-blank shotgun blast through the
heart. Time of death was estimated to be fourteen hours before discovery of
his remains (Good Friday evening or late afternoon), based on tissue sam-
ples taken from the lower legs and feet. He was positively identiﬁed through
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Victimology: Victim 2
Sean Dale Cavaness had been through some troubled years as a teenager. He
was haunted by the vision of his brother’s corpse and healed slowly from the
trauma. Of all the Cavaness boys, Sean had hungered the most for his
father’s love and approval. Consequently, he was hurt the deepest by Dale’s
callousness and ridicule. In 1984, at age twenty-two, he was struggling to
ﬁnd direction for his life. He had an alcohol problem that had required inpa-
tient treatment and was still having problems despite attending Alcoholics
On December 14, Sean’s body was found early in the morning in a remote
part of the county near St. Louis. He had been shot twice in the back of the
head. For the second time in seven years, Kevin Cavaness was faced with the
appalling task of identifying a dead brother.
Crime Scene Indicators: Victim 2
The body had been discovered by a farmer at 7:45 A.M. on the way to feed
his horse. The crime scene was located off a back road that ran along the
town of Times Beach, which had been sealed off and evacuated due to dioxin
contamination, therefore offering a solitary location with little trafﬁc.
Sean’s body was beside a gate framed by two stone pillars leading to a
pasture. He was lying on his back with his head pointing north, his feet
pointing south, and both arms parallel alongside the body. He was dressed in
brown corduroy pants, a cream-colored V-neck short-sleeved sweater, and
blue tennis shoes. A search of the pockets revealed no personal effects
and no means of identiﬁcation.
There were two entrance wounds to the back of the head and one appar-
ent exit wound under the left eye. The body was still warm to touch. Liver
temperature was ninety-ﬁve degrees. Air temperature was thirty-eight to
Sean was identiﬁed by ﬁngerprints in the county ﬁle. He had been stopped
for a trafﬁc misdemeanor a year earlier.
Staging: Victim 2
The staging that is so prevalent in insurance-related murders also was em-
ployed with this killing. The execution-style placement of the gun to the
back of the head was one element that was intended to give the appearance
of drug dealers or similar criminal society at work. The absence of the wal-
let and all personal effects made robbery look like a motive for the murder.
These circumstances imply a removed killer with no personal attachment to
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the victim, motivated by monetary gain to pull the trigger. In actuality, all
these implications were true of Sean’s murderer.
Forensics Findings: Victim 2
Sean Cavaness had died between 5:00 A.M. and 7:00 A.M. that morning, pos-
sibly less than one hour before discovery of his body. The cause of death was
two .357-caliber magnum bullets to the head, either of which was lethal.
The shot to the back of the head just to the right of center had traveled up-
ward at angle through the brain and exited at the corner of the left eye. It had
been ﬁred from a distance of one inch or less, but not in actual contact, as
evidenced by the powder stippling and searing of the ﬂesh. Based on the
blood spatter pattern and ﬂesh fragments found on the left shoulder and in
the crook of the left arm, it was evident that Sean had been standing with his
left arm slightly raised when he was hit by the ﬁrst shot.
The second shot was ﬁred from a distance of twelve to eighteen inches
from the head as Sean, already brain-dead from the ﬁrst wound, lay on the
ground. It entered near the right ear and lodged in the brain.
Sean’s blood alcohol level had been .26. This meant he had consumed
twelve to thirteen drinks before he died.
Although Dale Cavaness was a prime suspect to the detective who had han-
dled Mark’s murder, it remained an unsolved homicide. There was never
enough evidence to charge Cavaness.
Sean’s murder would be a different story. The night before his murder, his
father had been seen driving around the area near Sean’s St. Louis apartment
and parking when he spotted Sean walking down the street. The couple who
lived below Sean not only saw the car, but also wrote down the license plate
number on a paper bag because they were alarmed by Dale’s hovering
around the apartment. Their fears were calmed as they watched Dale em-
brace Sean under a streetlight. They had met him several weeks before and
recognized him as Sean’s father. The couple had heard the sounds of boister-
ous singing and laughing coming from upstairs until 3:00 A.M., when two
distinct sets of footsteps were heard leaving.
Dale’s ﬁrst statement to the homicide detective was that the last time he
had seen Sean was nearly four weeks earlier. When he was arrested and
interviewed, he denied the encounter in St. Louis until confronted with the
paper bag with his license number written on it. Cavaness’s live-in girlfriend
had originally supported his alibi, but under pressure, she relented and stated
that Dale had not been home until late morning on the day of murder.
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Cavaness then came up with the story that he had indeed gone to see Sean
that night. They had gone out drinking until after 3:00 A.M. and then gone for
a ride. When they arrived at the crime scene, Cavaness claimed that Sean
asked for his gun while the two were standing by the car. “Tell Mom I’m
sorry,” he said, and then shot himself in the head. Dale claimed that after he
had determined Sean was dead, he ﬁred another shot and took Sean’s be-
longings to make it appear a robbery-murder. His motive for this was to
spare Marian the sorrow and guilt of her son’s suicide.
The forensics did not support this version for two reasons. The ﬁrst shot
could not have been the one to the right of the ear as Cavaness claimed, be-
cause of the blood and tissue splatter on the left arm. That shot had been ﬁred
as Sean lay dead on the ground. Second, Sean’s greatly elevated blood alco-
hol level would have considerably impaired his dexterity, making it nearly
impossible for him to reach around behind his head and ﬁre the gun.
The other detail that cast doubt on Dale’s veracity was his activity in the
evening of the day of the murder. He had gone to a big Christmas party
attended by most of the people in his town. A number of the partygoers were
questioned, including several who spent most the evening with Cavaness.
Despite their unwavering belief in Dr. Dale’s innocence, each agreed that he
had acted perfectly normal, drinking, laughing, and even staying late. His
actions were hardly appropriate for someone who supposedly had witnessed
the death of his son only hours before (not to mention having to shoot his
own son in the head as he lay dying).
Two months before Mark Cavaness was killed, Dale had taken out a
$40,000 life insurance policy on him, with Dale named the benefactor. Sev-
eral months before Sean’s murder, Dale had convinced Sean and Kevin to
join an investment program that would make them some money in the future.
Dale would pay $1,000 each month on each of the policies and claim a tax
deduction. The boys had agreed. At the time of Sean’s death, Dale claimed
that he had let the policies expire. However, the policies were not only paid
up, but there were two more policies that Dale had taken out on Sean
amounting to another $40,000. There was a total of $140,000 to be made by
Cavaness from Sean’s death.
Balanced against this was Dale’s own sorry ﬁnancial state. He was in debt
for at least half a million dollars with assets of about $150,000. He had ﬁled
a negative $200,000 income tax return for several years preceding 1984, nul-
lifying any need for the tax write-off he had claimed the investment policies
On November 19, 1985, John Dale Cavaness was convicted of ﬁrst-degree
murder and subsequently given the death penalty. On November 17, 1986, a
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prison guard doing rounds found Cavaness hanging from the door by three
extension cords tied together and looped at one end with a slip knot. After a
futile resuscitation attempt, he was pronounced dead.
107.02: COMMERCIAL PROFIT
Commercial proﬁt homicide is murder to gain control of a business or to
proﬁt from the business.
Victimology. Victimology is the primary point that contrasts this type of
murder with individual proﬁt murder (classiﬁcation 107.01). The victim in
this type of murder is more likely to have a partner or professional relation-
ship with the offender; however, this does not exclude a familial or personal
relationship with the offender.
Crime Scene Indicators Frequently Noted. Crime scene indicators are the
same as those for individual proﬁt murder: a continuum from the sponta-
neous and haphazard murder to the well-executed one.
Staging. Staging is the same as for individual proﬁt murder. It depends on
the resources, sophistication, and degree of premeditation of offender.
Common Forensic Findings. Forensic ﬁndings range from violent to acci-
dental to natural death.
In a commercially motivated homicide, the business relationship and corpo-
rate structure should be checked. As in individual proﬁt murder, the offender’s
preoffense ﬁnancial status should be examined. In addition, the victim’s pre-
offense status should be checked, because motive for the killing could be that
the victim was costing the company money (through faulty investments, inef-
fectual business decisions, or alcohol problems, for example).
The net worth of the victim, as well as the net worth solvency of the busi-
ness, is important. For example, a business having difﬁculties may be bailed
out by a business partner’s life insurance. This may be seen by a correlation
of impending business failure with purchase of the policy.
Search Warrant Suggestions
Business records and the suspect’s and victim’s ﬁnancial records are search
warrant suggestions. Additional suggestions are those presented for individual
proﬁt murder (see classiﬁcation 107.01).
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CASE STUDY: 107.02: COMMERCIAL PROFIT
On the morning of July 9, 1991, thirty-four-year-old Steven Benson sur-
prised everyone by showing up early at his mother’s home. He had made ar-
rangements the night before to accompany his family to look at some
property that morning. No one really expected him, as it was out of charac-
ter for him to be up early. Nevertheless, he appeared at his mother’s home at
7:30 A.M. Soon after he arrived, he took her Chevrolet Suburban to buy some
doughnuts and coffee but took almost an hour and half to return.
After his return, Benson convinced his mother and his brother, Scott, to
come along on the outing, despite his mother’s brief resistance to the idea.
Benson arranged the seating, placing Scott in the driver’s seat, the spot he
usually occupied. He placed his mother in the front passenger seat where his
sister, Carol Lynn, usually sat because she had a problem with carsickness.
He placed Carol Lynn in the back, behind Scott.
Just as Benson ran into the house to get something he had forgotten, the
Suburban was engulfed by a thunderous explosion and an orange ﬁreball.
Benson ran out of the front door, only to immediately return and shut the
door behind as a second explosion rocked the house. Of the car’s occupants,
sixty-three-year-old tobacco heiress Margaret Benson and her twenty-one-
year-old adopted son, Scott, were killed instantly. Forty-one-year-old Carol
Lynn sustained serious injuries.
After Margaret Benson’s husband, Edward, had died in 1980, her estate was
estimated to be around $9 million. This did not include the millions more she
would eventually inherit from her father, Harry Hitchcock. By July 1985
Margaret suspected that her son, Steven, had squandered at least $2.5 mil-
lion of her money on his many imprudent business deals. In addition to the
numerous times she had to bail Steven out of ﬁnancial disasters, she sus-
pected he was now embezzling money to support his extravagant lifestyle.
In part, this extravagance was prompted by the demands of his domineering
wife, Debby. Steven lived in fear that if he denied her anything, she would
take their three children and leave him, as she had done once before.
By July 1985 Margaret had ﬁnally endured enough of Steven’s sapping
her money. In addition, she had suffered nothing but disrespect and cruelty
from both Steven and his wife. The day before her death, she had summoned
her lawyer from Pennsylvania to look at the company’s books and “ﬁnally
do something about Steven.” She discovered Steven had bought a luxurious
home by siphoning money from their joint business, which she had ﬁnanced
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and managed. He had also opened up another ofﬁce in nearby Fort Myers,
Florida, that was much more luxurious than the trailer ofﬁce in Naples. With
just one glance at the books, the lawyer was able to tell that here were many
improprieties with Steven’s bookkeeping.
Once Steven realized what his mother was doing, Margaret’s victim risk
level skyrocketed. Her lifestyle and personality would normally have put her
at very low risk for becoming the victim of a violent crime, but because of
her situation, her risk was considerably elevated.
If Margaret discovered the extent of Steven’s embezzlement, she might
have eliminated his inheritance or severely reduced it. In addition, she was
already planning to put a lien on his new home and close down his Fort
Myers ofﬁce. The beneﬁts of killing his mother were obvious. By including
Scott and Carol Lynn in the fatal explosion, Steven hoped to secure the entire
inheritance and family business for himself. Scott and Carol Lynn’s inheri-
tance from Harry Hitchcock would be his. Margaret, Scott, and Carol Lynn
became high-risk victims because of their brother’s perception of them as
obstacles to his absolute control of the family business and money.
Crime Scene Indicators
The ﬁrst blast blew the car windshield out and both doors open. It also peeled
back the top of the car toward the rear. The explosion blasted Margaret and
Scott out of the vehicle. Margaret’s body landed in the grass alongside the
driveway. Scott was thrown away from the house and landed on the drive-
way. Carol Lynn survived because her door had been open. She jumped out
of the car, which was engulfed in ﬂames, and tried to get her shirt off. Both
her shirt end her hair were on ﬁre.
When agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)
examined the crime scene, they noted that debris was scattered a hundred
feet in all directions. There were two distinct blast areas in the vehicle, sig-
nifying there were probably two devices. Because the ﬂoor had been blasted
downward, the agents concluded that the devices had been placed inside the
vehicle. From the blast pattern, it appeared that one device had been between
the two front seats and the other was under the passenger seat directly behind
the driver, where Steven had placed Carol Lynn. The injuries on the bodies
were also consistent with this placement to the bombs. Fragments from the
scene revealed that the devices were pipe bombs.
Scott Benson had sustained massive injury to his entire right side. The right
side of his trunk was laid open from the waist to the shoulder, with most the
internal organs exposed. A knifelike piece of shrapnel had penetrated his skull.
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Margaret Benson’s right foot had been destroyed. It appeared she had been
resting her left hand on the console over one of the devices because that hand
had been completely blown off. Her face had been obliterated from the fore-
head down. In addition, the left side of her body had sustained heavy damage.
Carol Lynn lost most of her right ear. She sustained gaping shrapnel
wounds to the leg and smaller wounds to the arms and shoulder of her right
side. Her chin was gashed and the side of her face seared. Severe burns cov-
ered her right arm and parts of her body. In addition, a neighbor who was
running to the scene to help was hit by shrapnel from the second blast, which
severed the end of his nose.
The investigation focused on Steven Benson as investigators learned from
Margaret Benson’s lawyer how upset she had been with Steven. Information