anonymous asked:

Could my character actually use the whole "bury a dead body down six feet deeper than you would, and bury a dead animal at the normal burial depth" thing, or since that's slightly common knowledge and as you've mentioned before, it's hard to lose the trained dogs that sniff these things out, would the police dig deeper because they trust the animal?

I mean for a book, by all means go for it. Make your characters dig a 12-foot deep hole by hand. There is probably some way you could imagine for them to not be discovered. Please do note that is is really difficult to dig a hole though, you got to make sure that it won’t collapse in on itself, and that your character has a way out (like even a regular 6-foot hole is difficult to climb out of).

Most bodies are discovered in shallow graves, because it is HARD AS HELL to dig a long deep, body sized hole, and not be noticed by someone. Sniffer dogs are very well trained, and are trained to ignore dead animal smells, and are looking for dead human smells. These dogs can differentiate. I don’t know how. But they have AWESOME noses.

What you may not know is that dogs usually don’t find these graves. They are found because the murdered confesses, someone decides to put a well in on their farm, an aerial sweep detects the anomaly in the dirt, or because a walking sweep finds disturbed earth and they are looking for a body.

Watson:  Here is an article on human remains detection (HRD) dogs. In this article, dogs were able to sniff out the location of where a body was buried after it has been moved. It goes in-depth in regards to how sensitive a trained dog is, and the kind of signals that are used to communicate with its handlers. There isn’t any mention of faking with another animal, but they probably will be looking for specifically human death smell.

Now for some speculation: For a novel, there are hundreds of possibilities you can think up to use the whole “bury a dead body extra deep and put a dead animal on top so no one can find the body”. You could play with remote locations so you character is not discovered burying the body, and so if the body is ever found there is no connection. You could have small town cops find the site, reach a dead family pet and stop because they don’t want to disrupt the poor pups remains. The possibilities end where your creative deviance does. For real life though (one don’t murder people) this is not really a plausible way to hide a body. 

kinda-real-awkward  asked:

Hello and thank you for answering my last question! Here's another: Is there anything a criminal can do to leave ZERO evidence at a crime scene? Is it even possible to leave no evidence at a crime scene?

Hey @kinda-real-awkward

In the real realness of the world, it is very much possible to minimize the amount of evidence left at a crime scene. But it is pretty much impossible, as far as we know, to leave ZERO evidence behind. There are a few things to consider here, which may make this answer contradict itself, but bear with me. It will all make sense in the end.

Right now, wherever you are sitting, whenever you are doing literally anything, your body is shedding. Skin cells, hair cells, sweat, maybe you sneeze and send some boogers onto your keyboard. Every single second of every day you are leaving little bits of yourself EVERYWHERE. Some factors make you leave more or less of yourself. If you have eczema, for example, you will shed more skin cells than the average person. If you are like me and hate things on your hands, and are constantly rinsing stuff off your hands, you may leave less immediately after a wash, but more as constant soaping up makes your skin dry which leads to more shedding. Long story short here is that every one leaves some part of themselves behind, to varying degrees.  This is where Locard’s Exchange Principle comes into play. Every contact leaves a trace. This principles maintains that the perpetrator of a crime will leave something of themselves behind at a crime scene, and also pick up something FROM the crime scene and carry it home with them.

Knowing that there is another point I would like to make- everything, including you, is covered in various bacteria and other peoples’ cells. If you shake hands with some one you get a little of them, and they get a little of you, as well as a little microflora. Some of these bacteria and other microbiota have DNase and proteinase properties- meaning they are enzymes that denature DNA or protein on contact. Meaning while you are leaving little pieces of yourself behind, that microbiota is also breaking those little bits down.

Microbial forensics is an emerging field, and is gaining more sensitive techniques and traction in court every day. The aim of microbial forensics is to detect all those little pieces of you (read ‘a criminal’) and the environment around you, and use those to place you in a crime scene. Or to connect you to a victim or a get away vehicle.

So while your character can wipe fingerprints away, and tie back their hair and wear gloves and any number of things, it really is not feasible to remove every last trace of yourself from a crime scene. Some kits these days are sensitive enough it is really easy to contaminate your sample. Real life story from a prof: at a lab, the DNA sample being examined got contaminated with boar DNA and no one knew how it got there. Eventually it was figured that the lab tech was visiting the supervisor’s office, which coincidentally had a boar head in there for some reason or another, and the DNA was transferred over somehow.

On the flip side, if your character is very careful, the evidence they leave behind would not be enough to gain a conviction. Because of the CSI effect (we have a post here) juries are often times set on there having to be some kind of DNA evidence left at the scene, and that just isn’t the case every time. Sometimes the only physical evidence of a criminal is some fibres, or a finger print, and I kid you not, special glitter. Some cases are based around a series of circumstantial evidence that all adds up to pointing to this one person, while there is no physical evidence of that person having been to the crime scene.

So in short, it is impossible to leave ZERO evidence behind, but it is 100% possible to leave so little evidence behind that the police never ever put your character in jail.

Also on another note, if you have to leave behind physical evidence. It makes it harder to trace down individual characteristics if the item left behind is mass produced. Let’s say you accidentally left behind a shoe print. It is really easy to track down say a size 16 limited edition men’s boots based on unique soles, as opposes to a regular Chuck Converse. Basically mass production makes it hard to differentiate between individual items, and makes it statistically more likely for other people that are not the criminal to have to same item as the criminal.

artiestroke  asked:

So I'm writing an urban fantasy noir story, where the victims (usually local drug dealers and gang members) of an overly enthusiastic vigilante with lightning powers are found burnt to an electrified crisp. How would the bodies generally be identified? What would the police release to the local news about it, especially considering that it's set in a time where actual super powers are yet to be precedented?

Hey @artiestroke 

Good question, as far as identifying bodies without recognizable features, DNA is always the next step, and a very solid indicator of who this person is. Electricity takes the shortest path to ground, usually, so extremities such as arms/fingers that are not in the direct path may be fairly untouched. Electricity will have very significant effects on the cells it comes into contact with, often damaging the membranes, so if the cells are left alone, the enzymes present in the cell would likely destroy the released DNA (you’d have to arrive on scene very quickly, collect the samples, and refrigerate within minutes if you were going to get the DNA from the damaged cells). It is possible to get DNA from burn victims by going under the layers of burn and getting (relatively) undamaged cells. Additionally, although not great, you can get cells from within bones (like nerve cells, capillaries, etc). You honestly don’t need a lot of cells to be able to get a profile of the 13 CODIS loci (which are the standard for identifying individuals), only 1 ng (less than 170 cells) or in some cases with the really expensive kits, less than that (These may be more prone to error).

Once they’ve got the DNA profile, they have to determine who it belongs to by comparing to known profiles. The DNA profile is useless without any sort of reference or standard, so the victims would have to have been profiled at least once, usually on a previous charge, but in theory could be identified as such. If they’re local gang/drug ring members, they could easily have been caught once or twice on a smaller charge of some sort.

As to what the police would release to the public, it could be hard to tell. PR and public trust are delicate things, and the wrong wording could lead to disastrous panic among the citizens. While they may have no idea what or who is killing these people (aside from electricity), they don’t want the public thinking that. No two police departments would handle unknown victims exactly the same, but they’d want to reassure the public they are working on this, but any leads offered would be rewarded.


Between 1984 and 1985, a ruthless serial killer that became known as the “Night Stalker” instilled fear into the hearts of Southern California residents. He entered homes at nights where he would dispose of any men in the house before sexually assaulting, and quite often killing, the women and ransacking the house. Age was of no consideration to this ruthless killer: he raped and killed children and he raped and killed decrepit elderly ladies. Not following much of a particular modus operandi, he used a wide variety of murder weapons. He slashed throats, he bludgeoned, he shot, and he stabbed. On one brutal occasion, he gouged the eyes out of one of his victims.

The downfall of the Night Stalker commenced after the August 25 murder of Bill Cairns and the sodomy of fiancee, Inez Erickson. As he was fleeing, a neighbourhood boy spotted him and reported him to the police, taking down the registration number of the car in which he fled. Three days later, the aforementioned car was discovered discarded in Los Angeles. A run of the registration confirmed that it was a stolen car. The car was delivered to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department where it would be vehemently combed for evidence. 

Chemical fumes were pumped into the car and as a result, hidden fingerprints reacted to the fumes and turned white. After the fumes dissipated, the fingerprints were investigated with a high-power laser ray. The fingerprints were then analysed and flown to Sacramento, where an Automated Fingerprint Identification system had just recently been installed. The fingerprints uncovered from the car were run against the database of previous offenders.

Moments later, they had a match: Richard Ramirez.

Decomposition Stain

When a body has been lying in the same place for a certain period of time (usually between 2-3 days in most cases) the blood vessels in the body start to break down and rupture, causing vapors to build up inside the major cavities. The decay of haemaglobin in the blood gives the corpse a greenish tint, while gas build up causes the skin to slip from the muscle structure or tear from internal gas pressure. After four days, the body begins to bloat enourmously, with body fluid leaking out of every orifice.

The result is a brownish stain that grows bigger as more fluid breaks down inside the body. The smell attracts copious amounts of insects, and by the fifth day the body will be host to thousands of maggots (in a room temperature environment).

The footprint that caught Richard Ramirez. At the time, Ramirez bought a new pair of shoes that were extremely unique and rather easily traceable. Were it not for this footprint, Ramirez might have still been killing to this day.

Stages of Decomposition

1. Fresh: chemical breakdown of the body but not visually apparent. Algor, rigor and livor mortis starts to happen but no decomposition odours

2. Bloat: gasses accumulate in the body from anaerobic activity in the abdomen and odours begin. This stage ends when the body deflates.  

3. Active decay: body is wet from the decomposition fluids and strong odours begin. Flesh begins to disappear.

4. Advanced decay: Flesh is mostly gone and body begins to dry

5. Dry remains: No odour and bones are exposed to the elements (animals, environment)