evidence

KN, p. 132 “Fan Favorites – 2014”

 

I’ve said it before and it’s still true: Kerrian’s Notebook followers are a great bunch. A few of the readers mentioned that some of the posts in 2014 were ‘ripped from the headlines.’ Truth is often stranger than fiction, so while Kerrian is a fictional character, the posts are based in solid fact. As I say in my upcoming novel, “Murder is messy,” and it’s sometimes just plain weird. But, even a Homicide Detective cooks, goes on an occasional trip, and works with other law enforcement officers, so the fan faves were an interesting mix.

 

Below is the list of the most frequently read new posts on Kerrian’s Notebook in 2014.

Click on each title to take you to that page.  🙂

 

10.  “How many bodies at the yard sale?” (p.122) – Based on a visit to the 2014 Writers’ Police Academy.

 

 

9.  “Death by Elevator” (p.105) – Based on my real-life experience in April, 2014.

 

8.  “50 More Ways to Die an Unnatural Death” (p.111) – The #1 vote getter was so popular that I wrote another list and it made the top 10 as well.  🙂

 

7.  “Cemetery at the Golf Course” (p.116) –  Yup, this one is true.

 

 

6.  “Officer needs assistance!” (p.117) Photos taken at the re-enactment of a high-risk stop.

 

5.  “75 Second Mookies” (p.126) – Created, taste tested and eaten by us.  🙂

 

4.  “Chocolaty Chocolate Banana Muffins” (p.96) – Created, taste tested and eaten by us  🙂

 

 

3.  “What does a firefighter wear?” (p.119) Info about uniforms and videos of heat resistance testing. Photos taken during the 2014 Writers’ Police Academy.

 

 

 

 

2.  “What does a sheriff do?” (p.115) tells the difference between a Sheriff and a Police Chief, as explained to me by an active duty Chief.

 

…and the most frequently read new post on www.kerriansnotebook.com in 2014 was:

 

1. “100 Ways to Die an Unnatural Death” (p.100) Written in honor of the 100th Kerrian’s Notebook post.  There were LOTS of writers that checked out the two unnatural death lists, used some of the ideas in their own writing and even contributed suggestions. Readers sent me some wickedly funny emails and some of those ideas are in #8!

 

Thanks to all of you, readership almost doubled in 2014. It was a phenomenal year!

 

Here’s to a great 2015, with fewer real-life homicides, more crimes solved and always, more amazing mysteries/suspense/thrillers to read.

 

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

KN, p. 71 “Whose fingerprint is that?”

 

I watched one of the CSI NY television episodes last Friday and was struck, yet again, by the Hollywood look of their crime labs. I like the show because of the actors and some of the cases, but as I’ve said before, TV sets and real life investigations bear little resemblance to each other – not in time, or equipment, or budgets. But, the viewing public expects the local police departments to have all that equipment readily available and is upset with the super long wait for results. It’s called the ‘CSI-effect’ and the guys and gals in real-life law enforcement have to deal with it all the time.

 

In the real world, investigators and examiners prove a case against the possible suspects using proper evidence collection techniques and tools, with hard work – not flash results in 50 minutes.

 

Fingerprint powders, brushes and magnifier

 

Fingerprints found at the scene are still the favored piece of evidence tying the suspect to the crime. These days, using a combination of ingenuity and newly developed chemicals and powders, a crime scene investigator can lift (and/or photograph) prints from many previously challenging surfaces.

 

After dusting for prints with black fingerprint powder,

they can be lifted from various smooth surfaces using (in forefront) a gel lifter, a hinge lifter and (in background) tape.

Prints are photographed and then can be viewed under an Optical Comparator. This machine can be hooked up to a laptop, and the image sent off to AFIS for ID.

 

Contrast image as seen on Optical Comparator

 

 

We hope for a complete print, but the usual occurrence is that most of the time, partial prints are left at the scene. That’s what makes the search for the suspects so much tougher than what the TV dramas tell us. There is no instant ‘a-ha’ moment that comes right after the crime has been committed. In a real lab, AFIS comes back with a list of 10-20 possible matches and someone then makes a comparison by hand of the most likely hits.

 

Some things to keep in mind:

 

*A print can disappear over time and there are too many variables (temperature, humidity, condition of the surface, etc.) to predict how long that will take.

 

*A really crisp print can be photographed right at the scene, using some great digital cameras now available.

 

*Forensic science is not a certainty, even though TV shows may give that impression.

 

*There is no nationwide standard for number of points of ID for a fingerprint. In the year 2013, the acceptable number of matching points (between the actual print and the print in the AFIS database) can range from 5 to 20 depending on where the suspect lives.

 

There is no such thing as a perfect crime, but the jails are filled with crooks that swear they have been framed. One of my favorite excuses: “Somebody planted that print.”

 

Right.

 

That only happens on TV and in the movies.

 

 

*Photos taken by Patti Phillips at the Sirchie Education and Training Center, Youngsville, NC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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