true crime

KN, p. 299 “Happy 11th Anniversary!”

In 2010, I finished writing a novel featuring Charlie and Sheila Kerrian as a dedicated police detective and his equally dedicated educator wife. I also wrote a few articles in 2010 developing back story for the happily married couple experiencing life while Charlie recovered from an on-the-job-injury. He had time on his hands between rehab sessions, so he kept a notebook while he looked into crimes in the greater NY area and opened up about their lives in general.


I did this as a marketing tool to get the word out about the book and was delighted when readers asked for more. While attending Writers’ Police Academy that year, I was encouraged to start a website and put the articles out there to a wider audience. The book was never published (very long story) but more than 300 posts later, we are celebrating eleven years of Kerrian’s Notebook, with an international audience that happily keeps growing.


Along the way, I had a slew of requests for the posts to be combined into books, and Kerrian’s Notebook, Volumes 1 & 2 were created. Find them on Amazon, in e-book form.

Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 1

Kerrian’s Notebook, Volume 2


Here are the ten most popular posts from the eleven years, as decided by you and all the readers around the world. You are a mix of law enforcement officers, professional writers, and civilians who love to read the behind the scenes info found on KN. Click on the titles to read the posts again or enjoy them for the very first time.


#10 – What Does a Texas Ranger Do?


#9 – How Big Is That Jail Cell?


#8 – CSI Techs – What Is That Smell?


#7 – What Does A Firefighter Wear?


#6 – The Stokes Basket Rescue Method


#5 – Underwater Evidence and Body Recovery: Lakes and Bodies of Water


#4 – What Happens in an Ambulance?


#3 – How Many Bodies at the Scene?


#2 – 100 Ways to Die an Unnatural Death


#1 – How to Become a Texas Ranger


Here’s some great news to begin year #12:


There will be a special Anniversary Drawing in honor of sharing eleven years of fun, facts, and a few dead bodies. If you’re a subscriber to the newsletter, details will be included in the next one. If not a subscriber, sign up now and be eligible to win a mystery, novel of suspense, or thriller.


Thank you one and all! I couldn’t have done it without your fabulous comments,  suggestions, and continuing readership.


Stay tuned for the next Kerrian’s Notebook.   🙂


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KN, p. 296 “Kidnapping”

If there are no paragraph separations in the article, double-click on the title. This will reveal a more readable version.

Kidnapping: “Moving another person a distance by force or fear without the person’s consent.”

I was a kid the first time I heard the term ‘kidnapping.’ A multi-million dollar ransom demand for the safe return of the adult son of a wealthy man had been splashed all over the news. I was horrified that anyone would be mean enough to kidnap anyone, then ask for money not to harm them.


In fact, kidnappings have been committed for centuries. Conquering armies enslaved the conquered to serve in the armies, or to work as domestics for the people back home. In the day of King Richard the Lionhearted, royalty on the losing side in war would be taken from the battlefield and ransomed for enormous sums. Hence the term: king’s ransom. Unscrupulous ship captains conscripted men off the streets to serve on long ocean voyages for no pay.


In the 20th and 21st centuries, ‘kidnappings’ have become frequent enough that they now fall into four categories under the term aggravated kidnapping.

1) kidnapping that causes the victim serious bodily harm or death;

2) kidnapping that involves a demand for a ransom;

3) kidnapping taking place concurrent with a carjacking; and

4) kidnapping based on fraud, force, or fear of a victim who is under age fourteen.


Kidnapping by parents is in another category altogether, since generally, the parents are in the middle of custody fights and no harm is meant toward the child.

Make no mistake about it: both kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping are serious crimes with huge punishment if a conviction is reached. If guns are used, or somebody gets beaten up during the commission of an aggravated kidnapping, the sentence served can be over ten years.  

Revolutionary groups and/or terrorists have employed kidnapping as a way to raise money for their causes. But, all countries look unfavorably on this practice and if caught and convicted, the criminals face time in jail or death by execution.

One of the most famous kidnappings in the 20th century was that of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son, in March, 1932. Ransom notes were delivered, with increasingly higher demands for money. Law enforcement tracked multiple leads, but tragically, the child’s body was found on the side of the road in May, 1932. It became a federal case as pursuit of the kidnapper(s) intensified. It took two years to find the man responsible, another two years to convict and carry out the sentence – death by electrocution. The Lindbergh case resulted in laws that introduced the death penalty for taking a kidnap victim across state lines.

This FBI article relates details of the case:

According to FBI stats, there were over 29,000 active missing person records involving children under the age of 18 at the end of 2021. How do we guard against our children getting snatched? There are a few basic steps to take (suggested by a private investigation firm with offices in Florida, New Jersey, and New York City) that can help keep your child safe:

Cyber Safety
Children now share their lives online, and the downside of all that socialization is that they might be lured by dangerous people to meet in the real world. As long as they live under your roof, you should check to see what they are up to online. Both computer and phone activities should be age appropriate and time-limited. You’re the parent. You’re in charge.

The Check-First Rule
All children should be taught to check with parents first before going anywhere. Period.

Stay aware
Stay off the phone when you are out and about with your children, so that you can be alert to any strangers taking unusual interest in them. In case you get separated in a crowd, children should know their address, parents’ names, and phone numbers by heart.

Ways to React When an Abduction is Attempted
If someone is attempting to forcibly take them somewhere, children need to know how to react if you’re not there. Teach your kids to scream “Call 9-1-1!” or “Call a cop!” One suggestion: They could start spinning their arms around like a windmill, making it harder to grab them. Another suggestion: Give your child a whistle to blow, to scare off anyone trying to avoid attention.

Teach Kids To Spot the Trusted Adults
If someone is bothering your child, and you’re not there, they should look for a security guard, an employee with a name tag, a police officer, or a mom with her own children in tow.

Talk to Your Children
You can help prevent an outsider from taking advantage of your child’s vulnerabilities by letting them know that you’re always ready to listen. Talk to them every day about their day. Be an active part of their lives.

Get to know your neighbors. Be alert to unknown people that keep driving through the neighborhood. In this era of GPS maps, it’s really hard to get lost, and children should never give directions to strangers.

*Photo of the Lindbergh flyer from the FBI files.



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KN, p. 264 “Crime Scene Dioramas – ‘Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’ “


F.G. Lee Diorama “Attic”

Miniatures have always intrigued and impressed me, whether individual glass creations or furniture/decorative pieces made for dollhouses. The detail and craftsmanship needed for the exquisite designs requires a steady hand, lots of patience, and really good eyesight. A great magnifier comes in handy as well.


Not long ago, I binge-watched an old police procedural show, Rizzoli & Isles, that usually got the details right and often featured interesting forensic tools used during the investigations. One of the episodes showcased crime scene dioramas, an item new to me, but not to the field of forensics.


I researched the method of replicating specific scenes as shown in R & I and found that the technique originated back in the 1940s with Frances Glessner Lee, a woman fascinated by, and well versed in, miniatures. The first woman police captain in the U.S., she devised the dollhouse sized true crime scenes to “find the truth in a nutshell,” and to assist in training investigators to search for details they might otherwise miss. Her work in this area earned her the name of “mother of forensic science” as well helping to found the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University, where the dioramas were kept and studied.

F.G. Lee Diorama “Living Room” detail


The dioramas are so true to life that they contain details like teeny bullet holes, blood pools, headlines on newspapers, ‘rope’ made from thread, made-to-scale (one inch to one foot) bodies with accurately placed wounds, fully stocked kitchens, and much more. This fascinating way of studying grim crime scenes, preserved the information gleaned from the evidence in a way that no other method at the time did. Some crime scene photographs were taken back then, but not with the inch by inch digital coverage or video that we employ today. Lee took meticulous notes at the actual scenes and transferred that to her dioramas, sometimes taking five years to complete.


After Lee’s death in 1962, the nineteen remaining dioramas were transferred to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, Maryland, and were on display at the Smithsonian in 2017-18. Modern day homicide investigation trainees can still benefit from these re-creations and in fact participate in classes where they study the dioramas and come up with solutions to the crimes depicted. Emily Rancourt, former police crime scene investigator now teaching at George Mason University, toured the Smithsonian exhibit with colleagues and said, “You don’t want your first time coming on a crime scene to be a real crime scene.” Trainees have an opportunity to develop observational skills before having to do so in the field.


The 21st century has brought a renewed interest to crime scene dioramas. One person in this specialized arena, Abigail Goldman, creates modern day ‘Dieoramas’ that have been featured in art galleries, on radio shows, and in newspapers in the United States. She has worked as an investigator for the public defender in Bellingham, Washington, re-creating murder scenes. Her larger dieoramas are 1:87 scale — the human figures in each work are under an inch tall. The scenes range from 8 inches square to more than 3 feet long.


A. Goldman Dieorama


Interested in making a diorama of your own? Some high schools and colleges assign the projects, requiring the work to be done with miniatures readily available in toy stores and to be presented in shoe boxes. If you do make one, let us know the challenges in doing so.



*Dioramas by Lee photos: courtesy of the Smithsonian

*Rancourt quote: Washington Post, November, 2017. “Can bloody dioramas show how to investigate a murder? These forensic experts say yes.” By Tom Jackman

*Abigail Goldman – check out her website




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