Category Archives: Crime Scene Investigation

Crime Scene Investigation and Fingerprinting

Interesting historic video on crime scene investigation and forensic science. I have a copy as well, that I purchased on DVD from the National Archives. The date on the original is a bit unclear, but it appears to have been made around 1960. It should be noted that some of the practices shown are no longer up to date, and that current safety precautions are not in use. It’s still interesting from a historical standpoint.

Interpretation, Collection and Preservation of Glass Fragments

By Kathy Steck-Flynn

A man is found dead in an abandoned house. Upon examination the medical examiner finds that the man was killed by a single gunshot to the head. Three local teens where observed near the house two days earlier. They are picked up and questioned by police. When pressured, the teens admit to having stolen one of the boys’ father’s guns. They had taken turns shooting at the windows of an abandoned house.

The teens admit that John shot the gun first, then Jay and last was Fred. At the scene the investigators find three bullet holes in a window. They analyze the angle of each bullet hole in relation to the victim and find that the bullet which passed through the far right side of the window pane is the one which fatally wounded the man. Continue reading

Intent Behind the Bullet

by D.H. Garrison, Jr.

Originally published in the Association of Firearm Toolmark Examiners Journal, Oct. 1993.

Just because a shot was fired, and just because someone was injured or died as a result of the shooting, and just because a shooting reconstruction was completed…this does not mean that the expert can render an opinion about the intent behind the bullet thus fired.

While many an attorney, whether prosecution or defense, wants to “prove” the intent or lack thereof to a jury, and sometimes tries to use a expert witness to accomplish that end, this does not mean that the shooting reconstruction expert has any scientific basis whatsoever to state an opinion as to what was or was not the intention of the shooter at the moment of the shooting. Intent, after all, is usually an “ultimate issue” and, thus, the purview of the jury, the finders of fact, and cannot properly be addressed by the expert.[1] Continue reading

An Introduction to Crime Scene Reconstruction for the Criminal Profiler

by Daryl W. Clemens

This article originally appeared in the MAFS newsletter, 27(2), April 1998.


Crime Scene Reconstruction- The use of scientific methods, physical evidence, deductive reasoning and their interrelationships to gain explicit knowledge of the series of events that surround the commission of a crime.
-Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, The Scene, 4(1), Jan 1997, p. 2.

Criminal Profiling- The application of psychological theory to the analysis and reconstruction of the forensic evidence that relates to an offender’s crime scenes, victims and behaviors.
– Turvey, B., “CP101: An Introduction to Criminal Profiling”, Online Course,, May 1997.

While both of these activities may appear to be similar and are in fact related, it is important to note that they are not the same. The difference between the two is most easily understood by looking at which questions about the crime they attempt to answer.1,2,3,4 Crime Scene Reconstruction looks at the physical evidence and attempts to determine “What happened?” and “How did it happen?”.5,6 Criminal Profiling looks at the physical evidence and the reconstruction and attempts to determine “Why may this have happened?” and “What does that tell us about Who may have done it?”.7 It is important to keep in mind that only those directly involved in the crime know for sure what happened and why, and they may be unable or unwilling to say. 8,9

Continue reading

Why Crime Scene Reconstruction Does Not Answer the Why? Question

By Dean H. Garrison, Jr.

This article originally appeared in the MAFS newsletter April 1996.

“I tend not to try to determine why people do things at crime scenes.”
-Criminalist Charles Morton
California v Menedez II, Trial transcript 12-5-95

Crime scene reconstruction may answer the question of where a victim was standing when an axe hit him or who stepped in the pool of blood by the door or what caused the revolver’s hammer to fall or when the third shot hit the car window or how the knife ended up out on the patio, but the crime scene reconstructionist cannot answer the ultimate question, the final question that tugs at everyone’s mind, the all-encompassing, all-seeing, all-knowing question of WHY did the crime happen? This may account for the fact that attorneys (for either side) very seldom ask “Why?” questions. Continue reading

Footwear, the Missed Evidence

Dwayne S. Hilderbrand, CLPE
Lead Latent Print Examiner
Scottsdale Police Crime Lab

This article originally appeared in Minutiae, The Lightning Powder Co. Newsletter, Nov-Dec 1995, p. 2-5, 11.

“The scope of a complete examination consists of two main functions: first,
the recovery process, which includes the discovery and preservation of the
prints, and second, the identification process, which involves evaluations,
comparisons, and findings related to the recovered impression.”

(Grieve 1988).


“Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even
unconsciously, will serve as silent witness against him. Not only his
fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothing,
the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the
blood or semen he deposits or collects.. All of these and more bear mute
witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused
by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses
are, it is factual evidence, physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot
perjure itself; it cannot be wholly absent, only its interpretation can err.
Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its

(Paul L. Kirk 1974).

On September 19, 1991, two German tourists were hiking in the mountains on the border between Austria and Italy when they spotted a body buried in the ice. The two tourists, suspecting foul play, contacted the authorities. As it was not clear at the time exactly where the body was found, police authorities from Austria and Italy responded. Following the normal procedures for the recovery of the body, they attempted to free it from the ice using jack hammers. Unfortunately, the jack hammers were damaging the body, pickaxes and ski poles were then used.

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Ear Identification

Presented at the conference for Shoeprint and Toolmark Examiners Noordwijkerhout, 24 April 1997.

The subject of my presentation for this conference is ear research / ear identification. It concerns not only the research into the adversity of ears but also the finding of earprints especially in relation to committed penal acts. My further reasoning will be separated into four parts.

1. A piece of history according to ear research and what is known about that subject in literature.

2. The history of ear research in the Netherlands in which I will indicate the present state of affairs.

3. International developments (as far as I’m concerned).

4. The criminological value of earprints in the future, especially my views on the internationalization of earprint research, standard norms and co-operation. Continue reading

Burglary Investigations

By Daryl W. Clemens

Burglary defined

Burglary is sometimes also known as Home Invasion, or Breaking and Entering. The unlawful entry into the premises of another with intent to commit a felony (usually larceny) therein.


Burglaries represent one of the more common crimes to which patrol officers respond. Someone has returned home from an evening out and found the doors open and their property missing. The police are called, and an investigation is begun. Continue reading

Arson Investigation

Written by Katherine Steck-Flynn

The Fire

Arson investigation starts with the fire itself. To create and sustain a fire three factors must be present. The three factors are known as the fire triangle (Peige ed., 1977). The fire triangle consists of oxygen, a fuel source, and heat. In most cases the percentage of oxygen concentration must be above 16% (Peige, ed., 1977). The fuel may be any flammable substance. The heat source needs only to match the ignition temperature of the fuel.

In a fire involving arson the arsonist will have tampered with one or more of the factors in the fire triangle. The arsonist may increase the fuel load by introducing flammable material or by adding accelerants such as kerosene, gasoline or alcohol (French, 1979) The arsonist may increase the oxygen content of a structure by opening windows or punching holes in ceilings and walls (French, 1979) Fire will follow the highest concentration of oxygen to its source. By ventilating a structure at the top and starting a fire at the bottom of the structure an arsonist can cause the fire to race upward through the structure. The fire will rapidly involve the whole structure rather than be confined to one room. Continue reading