The Murder Room
LPA's Unique Method for Solving Murder Cases Quickly and Easily
Most murders are simple; murder serves as conflict resolution for the offender. However, this is not the case in the 1% of victims who fall victims to serial killers each year in the United States. In the other approximately 99% of United States homicides, argument-conflict is the #1 reason homicides occur when the offender experiences some kind of conflict with the victim, murders the victim either spontaneously or by planned attack, and aims to benefit from the victim’s death. The Murder Room: Victim-Centered Death Investigation Methodology for Cold Case Investigation (VICDIM-CCI) is designed for field application by investigators who are charged with the duty of solving even the most challenging cases.
"Your system determines your outcome", so VCDIM-CCI is an investigatory system that combines traditional CSI and detective work with both quantitative and qualitative research methodology using Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Domains as its Operating System. Red + Blue = Purple, and you’ll notice that the bottom of the large, center triangle is red, the middle is blue, and the top is purple. We have to complete each of the red and blue six Stages in order to make purple. No way around it.
Stage 1: Knowledge. Learn your case. Organize the entire file, sort, put into binders and flag what jumps out at you. Audit the file. Identify missing pieces. Begin your participant organizational charts of how everyone goes together.
Stage 2: Comprehension. Find a quiet place and read the file front to back. Flag more critical content as you read through. Make lists of participants, continue fleshing out the organizational charts. Take copious notes.
Stage 3: Application. Contact original investigations, meet with them, and revisit the crime scene. Determine at this point if you think you might have a shot at solving the case. Not every case is solvable, some are solvable, but not prosecutable. Meet with the prosecutor to determine how to move forward.
Stage 4: Analysis. Analysis means to break something apart, study each individual piece, then reassemble in a newly understood whole. Start with the victim. VCDIM-CCI is a victim-centered method. Analyze the victim using Pettler’s Research-Based Forensic Victimology Worksheet.
Next study the crime scene and corresponding lab reports. Compare them to the victimology. Does it make sense for this person? Can you see the personality of the victim in the crime scene? What about the offender? The crime scene is a reflection of the dynamics in force and intensity combined with ambition, physique, skill, and weaponry of the victim-offender relationship. It is essentially Divergent Dualism because one aims to survive and one aims to kill. Make a list of evidence and lab results and send off anything that needs to be tested using new technology like the M-VAC.
Partner with the forensic pathologist to study the wounds to the victim. Where they are is as important as where they are not. Compare them to the crime scene and to the victim. Does it make sense? Is anything missing? How about brought in to the crime scene? This step is very important. Note: In cases where suicide is in question, it is recommended to seek a psychological autopsy at this point.
Begin suspectology the same way you did victimology by using Pettler’s Research-Based Forensic Suspectology Worksheet. You don’t need a name, only to identify crime scene characteristics that reflect personality, style, weapons, skill, type of attach, location, etc. Compare it to the wound patterns, crime scene, and victim.
Start the investigation where the investigation starts, which often is with the 911 call. LPA uses forensic linguistic analysis on spreadsheets and other methods to dissect statements. Compare the 911 call to other statements, then to the suspectology, wound patterns, crime scene, then to the victim.
Stage 5, Step 6 is deciding to reconstruct or not. Not all cases should be or are reconstructable. This decision should always be a team effort and all reconstructions should be executed using the scientific method to minimize investigator bias and maximize quantitative results. Try every way you can think of. Eyes wide open, mind open wider…
Stage 5: Synthesis. This is where it really gets interesting. In a large room, begin by putting a map with important locales on the wall. Create a legend and attach it to the map. Next, assemble a timeline on the wall. Third identify all of the crime scene characteristics that you can. The ones you can prove put each individual one on a green card and start a green column on the wall. Things you can somewhat prove put on yellow cards. Things you cannot prove...yet…put on red cards. You should end up with three columns for the crime scene. Do the same for the victim. Put his/her photo on the wall and do green, yellow, red columns for him/her too. Carry on with the suspect any any potential accomplices. Then make a space on the wall for “white noise”. White noise for the purpose of The Murder Room is to categorize all the extraneous, useless, muddy-the-water, information and names in the case file that cloud or blur the critical content. Design a target and put the suspect’s photo in the center. Everyone that is safe to interview who will not tip off the suspect, put in the green zone. People who you are not sure, put in the yellow zone, and people like the suspect’s parents, spouse, etc. who would possible protect the suspect put in the red zone. Prepare three levels of questions: Level 1 ask the question like, “What can you tell me about June 1, 2010” to everyone you interview. Level 2 questions are specific to the victim and offender, “What can you tell me about Jane? Fred? Jane and Fred’s relationship?” ask everyone you interview. Level 3 questions are specific to the interviewee and should be open-ended, yet certain.
Finally, move on to the Conflict-Resolution-Benefit Matrix (CRB). CRB pares down murder to three things: Conflict, Resolution, and Benefit. Preceding conflict between the victim and offender is the #1 consistent variable linking murder victims with offenders. Identify who is in conflict with the victim. Is there a divorce, custody dispute, debt? Next analyze your crime scene. Does the crime scene reflect any of the conflicts? Do you see anger, power, greed, does the offender talk about one of the conflicts, but turns it around to blame the victim? Third, identify who benefits from the victim’s death? How does this person(s) benefit? Money, new life, keep a secret, etc.?
Stage 6: Evaluation. Now and only now can you make educated statements about your case because you know it and have analyzed it, synthesized it, and evaluated it front to back using a scientific method combined with tried and true CSI and detective skills. If all your new lab results are back, you’re ready to develop a plan with the investigative team and go into Green Zone interviews.
Come back to The Murder Room and update the information, change card colors for new insights gained, etc. Constantly be revisiting and thinking forward.
And most of all, never give up.