Sheila here. This morning, I finished trimming one of the backyard crepe myrtles and hauled the branches out to the curb. I had to use a reciprocating saw to cut through part of the tree, but was able to use a handheld clipper for some of the smaller sections. I felt that clipper fall out of my pocket while I stacked the debris at the curb. It wasn’t going anywhere, so I finished dragging and piling the branches before I looked for the wayward tool.
Guess what? It took me a few minutes to find it, even though I basically knew where it had fallen and had a limited area in which to search.
We frequently watch TV shows and movies telling the tales of people that go missing in the night, people who might have wandered off from a campsite, people or children who might have been separated from a touring group, but who then get lost. Nothing nefarious suspected, but the person hasn’t turned up in a reasonable amount of time. Maybe they tripped and fell, hit their head, and became unconscious.
There are search and rescue groups organized for just this purpose, and most of the members are well-trained volunteers. See Fiona Quinn’s article here.
We, the public, think a body in the woods would be easy to find, unless buried in the ground, or hidden behind a rock, so why do we need all the people and the dogs walking close to each other in a well-defined, mapped out grid?
How hard could it be?
Charlie’s crime oriented brain has rubbed off on me, so this is what I did. I stuffed an old pair of jeans, stuck one of my bright pink wellies at the end of a leg, piled the branches on top of ‘the body part’ and took photos. My apologies to the new neighbors who don’t know what Charlie and I do in our spare time.
Can’t possibly miss that bright pink wellie I showed you at the beginning?
This is what you’re searching for:
The ‘leg’ is fully visible from this angle, right?
All I did was walk to the other side of the brush pile. A glimpse of the jeans can be seen, but not the bright pink wellie.
I did not remove ‘the body part’ before taking this picture, I promise you. I knew right where the jeans and wellie were and could not see them. Standing right over the ‘crime scene,’ and just because I was at a different angle, and a few steps in a different direction, the area looked quite innocent. Just another gardening pile, in the middle of a nice neighborhood, waiting for pickup from the city refuse truck.
This is why we need Search and Rescue teams walking close together, looking at every blade of grass in front of their feet. In this case, if the ‘body’ had been in the woods, the dogs would probably be called out as well.
Many thanks to all the hardworking volunteers who train vigorously in tough terrain to get certified and are ready to help whenever called upon.
Disclaimer: I did not use a real body part. The jeans were stuffed with t-shirts. Seriously. 😉
TV shows and movies have long used the ‘put-the-body-in-the-suitcase’ mode of hiding a body when someone dies in a nefarious way during a vacation. But is it realistic? Could it really be done?
If we set aside the smell factor (bodies start to stink within 24 hours if left unrefrigerated) corpses need to be hidden while they are still flexible and ‘stuffable.’ Rigor mortis (post-mortem stiffening of the body) sets in fairly quickly, so any book or TV show that shows the body being stuffed into a container in the first hour or so after death, is probably fairly accurate in that detail. Cold temperatures slow down the rate of rigor mortis and warm temperatures speed it up, so the surrounding environment plays a big factor in how speedy the corpse disposal must be.
Bodies are bulky and have those inconvenient limbs that don’t want to stay where they are put. In “Is that a body in the rug?” I chatted about why carrying a body around in a rug is a dumb idea. Waaay too many things can go wrong.
So, what to do? If the evildoer needs to move the body away from the scene of the crime in order to allow him/her to establish an alibi, a large container with wheels might be a solution. A laundry cart would fill the bill in a limited way if the victim died in a hotel, but what if the murderer wants to get the body out of the building?
The photo above shows my travel golf bag with a man standing next to it. As you can see, it’s not really long enough for stowing a grown man’s body, even though it looks like it should be when seen rolling through an airport. I tried getting into it, scrunching down, bending my knees, holding my arms tightly to my body, but nope. Not long enough even though I’m less than six feet tall. Maybe for somebody shorter?
Season #4 of the popular TV show, “Longmire,” included an episode featuring a body found on the side of the road in a large duffle bag after a tour bus had left the scene. There was an assumption that it had been inadvertently forgotten after a highway traffic accident. Until somebody tried to lift the bag. And then looked inside. Ooops.
Bodies are waaay heavier than can be handled by normal luggage seen in department stores. I did find a company online that makes six-foot long duffel bags complete with heavy duty stitching and zippers – important for those times when something other than tent poles would be in the bag.
Would it be possible to send the body by commercial airline? Aside from the logistical problems of getting the body to the airport and the smell factor – who would carry it, etc. – commercial airline restrictions limit baggage to 50 pounds each. Some airlines (not all) will allow overage in some cases for an extra fee, but that’s at the discretion of the agents at the airport and/or requires special permission. If the flight is fully booked, an agent will check the cargo weight before takeoff and leave bags behind if the safety weight limit for the total cargo has been reached. My mother asked me once how I could manage carrying my travel golf bag (filled with the clubs as well as golf clothes, shoes, gloves, and golf balls). First of all, the bag has wheels, and the clubs themselves weigh less than 25 pounds.
And then there is the size restriction and no airline employee can fudge on that without someone in the baggage chain questioning an extra-large bag. Remember, baggage handlers have to pick these bags up and hand load them onto baggage movers. The upper limit on size is 72” – that’s a combination of the length, width and height measurements. The 6’ duffle would be long enough for the average adult, but it doesn’t take into account the width of the bag or height, thereby eliminating it from travel by commercial flight without those special fees and permissions. Plus, most duffles don’t come with wheels.
The “Longmire” body was that of a petite young woman, so she fit easily into a six-foot duffle. The gal probably weighed about 100-120 pounds, but there were no wheels attached to the bag. How did the murderer remove the fully packed bag from the crime scene? No spoiler here, but he/she had to have help, even with the handles on the bag. The use of the tour bus as the would-be mode of transportation was believable, since the fully loaded duffle would never have made it through all the security checks on a commercial airline, even a cargo flight. Kudos to “Longmire” for realism.
Having said all that, as one advertisement said, you need a bag that “will carry you through any situation or season.”
For all around ease of use (wheels, size) a trunk probably is the best choice. And, they’re even on sale right now at some locations. Kidding. 😉
But, as a long-term way of establishing an alibi? Face it, you’re gonna get caught. Moving large duffles or trunks? Somebody is going to see you do it and remember it. After all, it’s not a bag of groceries.
*Note: no bodies were found in any of the suitcases or trunks we used for research.
**Further note: this information is for entertainment purposes only. Seriously.
***Photos by Patti Phillips
“What? Is somebody trying to kill the builder?” you ask.
‘They’ might be thinking about it. As in, more than one person is annoyed.
Here’s what is happening. When we moved in, the neighborhood was full of wooded lots. Even the properties with houses already there, had plenty of trees at the edges, along the fences, or next to the houses. Some were mature trees that had been left on the otherwise cleared lots before construction had begun. Property owners added flowering trees as time passed. Wildlife flourishes in this residential neighborhood of 1/4 and 1/3 acre lots. We’re not out in the country, but these are not zero-lot homes either.
Phases 1 and 2 of the larger housing development have long been completed. Phase 3 was finished three years ago, the original trees are beautiful, and the owners are adding new fruit/flowering trees each year.
Enter Phase 4. The original developer had a few lots left and found a builder to buy them. That builder wanted the lots cleared before finalizing the deal. That’s when we, the neighbors, discovered that some of the grassy/lightly-wooded areas between existing homes were actually unsold lots.
ALL of the trees from those lots are being cleared, lots of red dirt remains, and now mudslides into neighboring backyards are expected with the next heavy rain.
The developer in charge of the work told me on the phone that the lots are not wide enough to have left the trees in place. The one in the photos is 60 feet wide. Years ago, I lived in a house surrounded by maples and evergreens. That lot was 50×100. IMO, this guy simply did not want to take the time to leave a couple of trees to shade the house and protect the wildlife on the lot.
The neighbors to the left and right of the bulldozer photo were concerned enough to have the City Inspector come out to assess the situation. Note the dirt to the left appears to be in a pile that crosses the property line and would be the most likely to slide into the neighbor’s yard in the rain.
The builder’s solution was to place sand barrier ‘fencing’ on the property line. The bulldozer operator moved the dirt up against it.
Other lots have similar problems with soil grading and tree removal.
Heated conversations have been held. The neighborhood grapevine is operating at peak efficiency. Town council meetings are scheduled on the topic.
In case you doubt that neighbors and builders would actually get angry over something like this, read on.
Existing homeowners in Colorado were upset with new builders in the neighborhood who appeared to be putting in homes that did not conform to the look of the development, thereby lowering everyone’s property values. Building was delayed while plans were reviewed. Board members who were in charge of approving the designs (but didn’t) were removed from their positions and new people replaced them.
When developers with big money at stake and disgruntled homeowners with possible deflated property values are at odds, tempers can flare, injunctions can occur, and nothing good happens. If the builder complies with city ordinances, there is little recourse for the neighbors who don’t care for the look of the newer houses, or how the new homes will affect them.
City codes exist for a reason. Check yours out. You might be surprised at what is NOT included in some communities, such as: building setbacks, curbing pets, rules about garbage, home swimming pool regulations, livestock allowed in the city limits, etc.
We haven’t seen any bodies in the remaining woods yet, but it is still early in the process. Kidding. Tempers are high, but so far, everybody is just at the yelling stage. Let’s hope that reason prevails and the builder corrects the problems he has created, then doesn’t produce any new ones.
*Photos by Patti Phillips