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This is the author’s version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source: Ferguson, Claire (2015) Staged homicides: An examination of common features of faked burglaries, suicides, accidents and car accidents. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 30(3), pp. 139-157. This file was downloaded from: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/82077/

c Copyright 2014 Society for Police and Criminal Psychology

Notice: Changes introduced as a result of publishing processes such as copy-editing and formatting may not be reflected in this document. For a definitive version of this work, please refer to the published source: http://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-014-9154-1

Running Head: FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 1

Staged homicides: An examination of common features of faked burglaries, suicides, accidents and car accidents Dr. Claire Ferguson1 University of New England

1

Claire Ferguson, Criminology Department, University of New England, Armidale NSW, AUSTRALIA Email: [email protected] Telephone: +61 431 343 303

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 2

Abstract A staged crime scene involves deliberate alteration of evidence by the offender to simulate events that did not occur for the purpose of misleading authorities (Geberth, 2006; Turvey, 2000). This study examined 115 staged homicides from the USA to determine common elements; victim and perpetrator characteristics; and specific features of different types of staged scenes. General characteristics include: multiple victims and offenders; a previous relationship between parties involved; and victims discovered in their own home, often by the offender. Staged scenes were separated by type with staged burglaries, suicides, accidents, and car accidents examined in more detail. Each type of scene displays differently with separate indicators and common features. Features of staged burglaries were: no points of entry/exit staged; non-valuables taken; scene ransacking; offender self-injury; and offenders bringing weapons to the scene. Features of staged suicides included: weapon arrangement and simulating self-injury to the victim; rearranging the body; and removing valuables. Examples of elements of staged accidents were arranging the implement/weapon and re-positioning the deceased; while staged car accidents involved: transporting the body to the vehicle and arranging both; mutilation after death; attempts to secure an alibi; and clean up at the primary crime scene. The results suggest few staging behaviors are used, despite the credibility they may have offered the façade. This is the first peer-reviewed, published study to examine the specific features of these scenes, and is the largest sample studied to date. Keywords: Homicide, Staging, Crime Scene, Investigation

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 3

Staged Homicides: An examination of common features of faked burglaries, suicides, accidents and car accidents

Until the last 15 years, crime scene staging in homicide cases has received very little attention in the published literature. Even now, despite several authors describing the frequency with which these behaviors occur, still only a handful of studies have examined the manipulation of evidence, when it is likely to occur and how it is perpetrated (Geberth, 2010; Hazelwood & Napier, 2004; Keppel & Weis, 2004; Meloy, 2002; Schlesinger, Gardenier, Jarvis & Sheehan-Cook, 2012; Turvey, 2000). Recently Schlesinger and colleagues (2012) studied staging behaviors in a sample of 79 staged homicide crime scenes in the United States of America (USA) to determine how often these types of behaviors were perpetrated, the types of homicides involved, levels of effort expended by the offender(s) and the related motivations. The following is a more detailed analysis of the specific staging behaviors carried out by offenders in 115 staged homicide scenes. It is based on research undertaken as part of the author’s doctoral thesis (Ferguson, 2011). This discussion will address the questions: 1.

What façade is the offender most likely to create in a staged homicide scene?

2.

Within common types of staging, what evidence is most often manipulated by the offender to redirect the investigation; for example what evidence is falsified in a staged burglary and how does that compare to a staged suicide?

3.

Are the findings in the Schlesinger study (2012) supported in this data?

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 4

4.

Are the frequency of staged cases increasing across time, as proposed by Hazelwood and Napier (2004) and Geberth (1996)?

Crime scene staging refers to the deliberate alteration of physical evidence at an alleged crime scene in an effort to simulate events that did not occur. This is intended to mislead authorities or redirect an investigation (Chisum & Turvey, 2007; Ferguson, 2014; Geberth, 2006). Hazelwood and Napier (2004) add there is also verbal staging, where the offender makes self-initiated contact with police to report a homicide victim as a missing person in an effort to avoid investigative scrutiny. Cases of verbal staging may also involve manipulation of the physical evidence, however the most important element of the definition- intent to redirect an investigation- must be present. Crime scene staging may occur in cases other than homicides, such as false reports of sexual assault, insurance fraud and so on. This analysis focuses on the manipulation of evidence to mislead authorities in homicide cases only. As discussed by Schlesinger and colleagues (2012), understanding and being able to detect crime scene staging is critical in homicide investigations. Despite this there is a paucity of evidence-based information regarding how often these behaviors occur in homicide cases and what pieces of evidence are commonly manipulated. Thus far, only four studies have been published2 on staged crime scenes (Hazelwood & Napier, 204; Keppel & Weis, 2004; Schlesinger et al., 2012; Turvey, 2000), with most other discussions being strictly anecdotal3. Since there are only four published works in the area, each is discussed in turn. Several other 2

Studies into crime scene staging have been carried out by others such as Eke (2008) and Pettler (2011) although these have not been peer reviewed or published. 3 For a more detailed discussion of these works and others see Ferguson, 2011.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 5

authors have also discussed crime scene staging without reference to any analysis of the behavior and based exclusively on their experience (Douglas & Douglas, 2006; Douglas & Munn, 1992; Geberth, 1996). These anecdotal works will also be reviewed very briefly. Published Studies Turvey, 2000. In 2000, Turvey studied 25 staged homicides and attempted to describe them based on their common features. He noted that investigators are more prepared to recognize staged domestic homicides than other types and that these often involve anger (60%) or profit (48%) motivations. Turvey determined that the most common staged offense is stranger-burglary (52%), followed by suicide (16%). Not mentioned by any other authors, Turvey also discovered that many offenders (20.0%) in staged cases were currently, or had previously been employed with Law enforcement. Hazelwood and Napier, 2004. In 2004 Hazelwood and Napier surveyed 20 Law enforcement agents to determine how often staging occurs and what types of scenes are commonly simulated. The rationale behind this survey, similarly noted by Geberth (1996), was that staging behaviors may be increasing due to the portrayal of forensic techniques in mass media, and thus more information is necessary to investigate these cases properly. The authors estimated fewer than 3 percent of homicide cases involved crime scene staging, though this figure is tentative given participants were asked to simply recall past cases. They also found that in the opinion of their participants, staging of sexual assault in false allegation cases was most common, followed by staging homicides as burglaries, suicides/accidents/natural deaths, and sex-crimes. The sample size in this

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 6

examination was notably small (N=20), and the methodology used (asking agents for opinions based on their memories) potentially led to availability biases skewing results. Indeed, the authors note the survey lacked generalizability and examined investigative perceptions rather than providing evidence for how staging can be recognized by investigators. Keppel and Weis, 2004. In 2004 Keppel and Weis discussed the rarity of staging and posing of bodies during one year in Washington State. They differentiated between the two behaviors, gave common characteristics of these cases and provided a profile of each offender type. They noted that staging and posing are discrete behaviors, although they failed to highlight that posing can be used as a form of staging. In this analysis, the sample included only those cases where the body itself was staged or posed, thus potentially excluding staging cases that did not involve repositioning of the deceased. In their sample of 5,224 victims, Keppel and Weis (2004) estimated that 0.1 percent of bodies were staged. This is much more conservative than the Hazelwood and Napier (2004) estimate, however Keppel and Weis were addressing only staged corpses and not staged evidence in general. They also noted that “staging a murder scene occurs so infrequently that it is unlikely that most violent crime investigators will ever investigate a murder that has been staged” (p. 1311). Considering only one type of evidence staging was examined, this finding is not generalizable to the frequency of staging more broadly. In fact, many authors speak to the commonality with which these types of behaviors occur, however unsophisticated or unsuccessful they may be. The authors added: “staging a murder scene requires the killer to spend time before the murder, planning its execution” (p.1308). This statement is not referenced to any previous work or

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 7

study and there is no indication which finding indicates planning is necessary in these cases. Schlesinger et al., 2012. In the most detailed published study to date, Schlesinger et al. (2012) determined the prevalence of staging, what types of homicides involve staging, the level of effort put into the façade, and the scene-type most likely to be staged. They examined a non-random sample of 946 homicide crime scenes and found 8.4 percent involved staged evidence (n =79), a much greater proportion than that proposed by Keppel and Weis (2004). Their criteria for determining whether a case was staged was based on a Law enforcement agent’s theory of staging, and confirmation from the authors themselves. This is a more broad definition than that of Keppel and Weis (2004). Schlesinger et al. (2012) determined that the most common types of staging methods used were arson (25%), verbal staging (22%), burglary/robbery/breaking and entering (18%), accidents (14%), suicides (8%) and homicide-suicide (5%). Major findings included the prevalence of multiple victims and the rudimentary nature of the staging efforts, with elaborate staging occurring in only 12 percent of cases. Types of homicides (domestic, non-serial sexual, serial sexual, and general felony) were separated, and staging behaviors within each type were examined. It was determined that domestic homicides often involve verbal staging, whereas nondomestics more often involve arson. Relationship patterns between victims and offenders were discussed and it was found that there is often an intimate or familial relationship involved (77%), as was indicated by the higher level of staging in domestic cases. This is consistent with previous findings (Hazelwood & Napier, 2004; Turvey, 2000).

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 8

Anecdotal Literature Douglas and Munn, 1992. In 1992 and 2006 the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Crime Classification Manual devoted a chapter to addressing staged scenes and in it noted that often pieces of evidence do not fit together in a logical way in these cases (Douglas & Douglas, 2006; Douglas & Munn, 1992). Based on the experience of the authors and not an empirical examination, Douglas and Munn (1992) and then Douglas and Douglas (2006) held that common behaviors carried out at these scenes include: staging entry/exit points which may not make sense; high risk criminal behavior from the supposed offender’s perspective; inappropriate items being taken from the scene; injuries which are inconsistent with the level of threat to an offender; repositioning of bodies at the scene; and ‘undoing’ behaviors. They add there is usually a close offender association with the victim, but that offenders will not usually initiate ‘discovering’ the victim, nor contact the police. Although not addressed specifically, this implies that verbal staging is infrequent in their experience. Geberth, 1996. Similar to the FBI’s Crime Classification Manual, Geberth (1996, 2006) addressed staged scenes in a strictly anecdotal fashion. He cited no empirical analysis of staged crime scenes, but noted in his experience staging most often happens in homicide cases where an offender seeks to present the scene as a suicide or accident. He proposed the second most common type of staging involves homicides made to appear as sex-crimes, and finally, arson may be employed to both destroy evidence and have the scene appear as an accidental death in a fire. Geberth (2006) also provided a checklist to assist investigators with identifying these scenes, including assessing the victimology, evaluating injuries, conducting all death

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 9

investigations as if they were homicides and so on. This list of advice, as well as the common behaviors predicted, have been criticized in the literature as speculative and repetitive (Ferguson, 2011; Turvey, 2008). For example, in the checklist (Geberth, 1996, p. 29) item 1 states: “assess the victimology of the deceased” while item 6 states: “establish a profile of the victim through interviews of friends and relatives”. In practice, assessing a victim would involve interviews with friends and relatives, making item 6 repetitive and unnecessary. Several other criticisms of Geberth’s checklist have also been made, including those pertaining to the items themselves, as well as the broader issue that they are all based on only the subjective experience of one investigator (Ferguson, 2011; Turvey, 2008). However, Geberth (1996, 2006) does provide an interesting discussion on how these types of offender behaviors may be increasing in frequency, thus reinforcing the importance of studying them in more detail. The current analysis will add to this literature base by studying in greater detail the façade the offender is likely to create in a staged homicide scene. The prevalence of staging methods employed by offenders and the differences between what evidence is staged when various scene-types are simulated will be examined. That is, what specific features are common within staging types most often seen, such as staged burglaries, suicides, accidents, and car accidents? Along with separating cases by the victim and offender relationship type, as was done in Schlesinger et al. (2012), this analysis will separate cases by the type of staging perpetrated. This will allow for a detailed examination specific to each staging type. This study will also determine whether the presence of staged cases is increasing

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 10

over time since this has been highlighted by at least two authors as a potential issue facing investigators (Geberth, 2006; Hazelwood & Napier, 2004). Method Sample To examine crime scene staging in homicide cases, and compare those results to the previous findings outlined above, a non-random sample of 115 cases from the USA occurring between 1973 and 2007 was analyzed. These cases involved at least 188 offenders (1 case involved an unknown number of offenders), and 138 victims. The cases were obtained from the legal database Westlaw. Westlaw allows subscribers access to decisions from all states in the USA, including state, federal and regional federal courts. It works with 600 courts and 3,500 judges nationally. Westlaw’s aggressive opinion collection process involves: retrieving decisions from court websites and publicly accessible docketing systems; subscribing to opinion distribution systems; and seeking out individual decisions of interest to researchers. Decisions are searchable in the Westlaw database by virtue of the fact that they are publicly available. That is, Westlaw is simply an interface to search through public records from different sources across the USA. All cases in this sample involved a conviction of the accused. Although all of the convictions or sentences in these cases were appealed on some level, no convictions were overturned or involved a miscarriage of justice as far as the author is aware. To gather cases for this study, first the ‘ALL-CASES’ database for the USA was selected to allow for the largest number of cases to be queried. All American cases were then searched using various parameters such as ‘staged&homicide’, ‘staging&homicide’, ‘staged&scene’, ’staged&crime&scene’, ‘make it look like a

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 11

suicide’, ‘make it look like a burglary’, ‘make it look like an accident’, ‘make it look like self-defense’, ‘make it look like a sexual-homicide’, ‘make it look like a drug killing’, ‘make it look like an execution’, ‘make it look like a missing person’, ‘make it look like a runaway’, and so on. Searches took place in the first half of January 2010, and included cases between 1970 and 2010. The results were then examined manually by the author to determine whether two thresholds were met: first, whether the case involved a homicide; and second, whether the inclusion criteria used herein were present. All homicide cases which potentially involved elements of staging were assessed for inclusion, regardless of the homicide type. That is, domestic, non-domestic, sexual, criminal enterprisehomicides and so on were all assessed for inclusion in the sample without preference. In order to be included in this sample the determination that a scene was staged had to have been made: by a forensic expert4 testifying as such in court (n= 37, 32.2%), or both a confession from the accused with corroboration from physical evidence available (n= 75, 65.2%). In some cases a combination of confessions and expert testimony determined the scene was staged (n= 3, 2.6%). Experts were often Medical Examiners/Forensic Pathologists, Profilers, Accident Reconstructionists,

4

The definition of who is an expert depends on the specific jurisdiction where the individual is seeking to be admitted into court. In the USA the determination is usually made based on the threshold tests Frye v United States, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. or Federal Rules of Evidence (2011), Rule 702. Federal Rule 702 states: [I]f scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case In essence, Judges are free to admit any expert who has more knowledge than the average person, or juror, in their field. They are generally asked to testify to issues which are not considered common knowledge by the court. Experts are granted or denied this status depending on the Judge’s discretion and reading of the rules in that jurisdiction.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 12

Forensic Consultants or others as dictated by the case and evidence specifics. These parameters ruled out those cases where only police officers or detectives were fact witnesses giving evidence about the presence of staging, and those where similar theories were put forth by prosecutors alone. This is a higher threshold than that employed in the previous published studies, where only the opinion of a Law enforcement agent was necessary (Hazelwood & Napier, 2004; Keppel & Weis, 2004), or a Law enforcement opinion plus confirmation from researchers (Schlesinger et al., 2012). It was noted that each expert may have a different definition of staging. In order to ensure only confirmed staging cases were included in this analysis, the author conducted an independent assessment of the factual summary of each case. This summary was provided in the Westlaw document and was used to determine if staging, according to the conservative definition used herein, was indeed present. This process was not simply a formality, but as detailed an assessment as the available information would allow. In some cases originally flagged for inclusion the opinion of the author and prosecution expert differed regarding the presence of staging as per the definition used here. These cases were therefore excluded from the sample to limit the possibility of false positives. In all cases in the final sample the court agreed with the prosecution expert/confession and the author, as each case led to a conviction of the accused which was then upheld on appeal. In a small number of cases opposing experts testifying for the defense were present who opined to a different sequence of events and sometimes the absence of staging. In these cases the court found the argument for the prosecution and the presence of staging more credible, and the defendant was convicted. These convictions were

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 13

then also upheld on appeal. Such cases were included in order to obtain the largest possible sample size. In cases where a confession was used as evidence of staging, corroborating evidence was necessarily present. Although certainly offenders lie for their own benefit, in the present cases the confession was supported by the known facts of the case, and both were accepted by the trier of fact. Moreover, for many cases a long period of time had elapsed for the appeal process to be undertaken and still none of the convictions were overturned. In this regard it is believed that the confessions are credible, and these cases were included in the sample. Procedure This examination evaluated cases where staging was involved in order to determine what elements were common amongst these crimes, who the victims and perpetrators were, and what evidence was most commonly manipulated in each type of staging. Several questions were asked of each case relating to offender characteristics, victim characteristics, offense characteristics, and staging behaviors used. A complete coding dictionary for each of the variables is available in the Appendix. Coding for the presence or absence of each of these variables was dictated by the material available in the factual summary of the case, including the summary of the expert’s testimony, or the confession of the accused. While there was no access to primary materials (such as interview transcripts, investigators’ reports, crime scene photographs, etc.), these summaries provide a description of the relevant sequence of events that happened before, during, and after the homicide, including the basic information necessary for an analysis of this type. However, the factual summary of the case includes only information which was

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 14

deemed admissible, and is presented as a summary. Therefore it is a potential source of bias. Two types of analyses were performed on the data. The first analysis determined the frequency of each variable in the total sample. This would allow for questions to be answered regarding the broad trends apparent in victim and offender characteristics of staged cases, and a basic comparison to be made to homicides in general5. Second, each type of staging was separated to provide for a more useful examination of the specific staging behaviors carried out by those seeking to have the scene present in a certain fashion. For example, all staged burglaries were compared to determine the characteristics common to those cases. A cross-tabs analysis was completed to determine the frequency data for each of the variables by staging type with the most common being: staged burglary, staged suicide, staged accident, and staged car accident. Combined, these types made up 82.6 percent of the total sample (n=90). The type of homicide staged was indicated by testimony from the expert or admission from the offender/co-conspirators that they manipulated the scene to have it appear as a particular scenario. The type of scene staged was plain in most cases, as indicated by the evidence which did not present legitimately relative to the other evidence at the scene. The following are the types of staging addressed in detail in the results, and their operational definitions.

5

It should be noted that the general homicides statistics, compiled through the Bureau of Justice in the USA by Fox and Zawitz (2007), would also include staged cases. Due to the rarity of these behaviors (estimated between 0.1 to 8.0% depending on study and definition), there would be relatively few instances of staging in the total sample of general homicides used for comparison here.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 15

Staged Burglaries are those cases where the offender manipulates the scene so it presents as though a burglary, break and enter, or home invasion has occurred in an attempt to cover up the homicide. Staged Suicides are those cases where the offender manipulates the scene to appear as though the homicide victim has taken their own life when this did not occur. Staged Accidents involve the offender staging the scene to appear as though the victim has died in any type of accident not involving a motor vehicle, including a boating accident, firearm accident, and so on. Staged Car Accidents are those cases where the offender stages the scene in order to present as though the victim has died as a result of a car or automobile accident. This may involve the victim being inside or outside of the vehicle, and can include various scenarios such as an accident which supposedly led to a car fire, one which led to a drowning death in the vehicle submerged in water, one which involved the victim being thrown from the car and so on. During this process each type of staged homicide was examined in relation to key variables identified in the literature, such as staged entry and exit points for burglaries, faked suicide notes for suicides, and the like. Operational definitions of all variables are given in the Appendix. Checks of inter-rater reliabilities were performed to assess the reliability of each variable based on levels of agreement between two coders. Ten percent (n= 12) of cases were randomly selected for this process. Cohen’s kappa values for each variable ranged between k = 0.625 and 1.000, indicating substantial to complete agreement between coders (Landis & Koch, 1977).

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 16

Cohen’s kappa values for each variable are presented in Table 1. Few issues were noted during coding, aside from information missing for some variables and low prevalence for another 3 variables. Table 1: Insert Table 1 here

Results Total sample For all 115 cases, there was commonly only one offender (61.7%). In 37.4 percent of cases there was more than one offender, ranging from two to five. Two offenders were most common (20.0%), with the likelihood of each additional offender decreasing. Primary offenders6 were most likely to be male (79.1%). The occupation of the primary offender was measured on a dichotomous system based on the work of Turvey (2000). Whether the offender was employed with Law enforcement was examined, and it was determined that 5.0 percent of cases involved current or previous Law enforcement professionals (7 cases), however the level of involvement with Law enforcement, as an occupation, was unknown in 43.0 percent of cases. The number of victims ranged from one to four, with one being most likely (84.3%) and four least likely (0.9%). Victims were most likely to be female (51.3%), although the split was relatively even in this sample (51.3% vs 36.5%). In 12.2 percent of cases there were multiple victims of both sexes. Victims ranged in age between 5 months and 87 years, but were most likely to fall in the 19-29 (16.5%) or 30-44 (14.8%) year old categories. Victim age was unknown in a large number of

6

Primary offenders are defined as those who engage in the majority of the attack or assault, or who instigated or ensured the attack or assault was carried out. Their intention to have the attack take place can be illustrated through planning, funding, or physically carrying out the crime.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 17

cases (45.2%). Table 2 outlines victim age and the prevalence of other key variables, including victim demographics and victim and offender relationship types. Table 2: Insert table 2 here

Although between 1970 and 2010 was searched, homicides occurred only between 1973 and 2007: 1973-1979 (8.7%), 1980-1989 (22.6%), 1990-1999 (46.1%) and 2000-2007 (21.7%). Between the two full decades studied the frequency of staged homicides increased by 104 percent. Figure 1 illustrates the number of staged homicides per year in this sample. Figure 1: insert figure 1 here

The most common type of staging found in this sample was staged burglary (40.9%). This was followed by staged suicides (13.9%), staged accidental deaths (13.9%), and staged car accidents (13.9%). Staged sexual homicides and selfdefense homicides were present much less frequently (5.2 and 4.3% respectively) and other types were perpetrated even less commonly: drug-related homicide (1.7%), execution (1.7%), car-jacking (0.9%). Natural deaths, missing persons and hate crimes were never staged, although 4.3 percent of cases were staged with no clear scenario apparent. As missing person cases were never staged in this sample, it is possible to conclude that verbal staging was never present according to Hazelwood and Napier’s (2004) and Schlesinger et al.’s (2012) definition: where the offender makes self-initiated contact with police to report a homicide victim as a missing person in an effort to avoid investigative scrutiny. More will be said of this in the discussion section. Table 3 presents the frequencies and percent of each type of staging, the true cause of death, and who was responsible for weapon procurement at the scene.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 18

The apparent cause of death is often an element which the offender may attempt to manipulate. In this sample the real cause of death was discovered in almost all of the cases (n=112, 97.4%). The most common causes were injuries from firearms (37.4%), multiple weapons (20.0%), blunt force (13.0%), strangulation (14.0%), and sharp force (7.0%). In a significant number of these cases some confrontation was evident between the victim and offender immediately prior to the homicide (26.1%). For our purposes, confrontation was deemed to have been present when violence or a verbal argument unrelated to the homicide was evidenced before the fatal assault. This type of confrontation is separate and additional to that which would be expected when one person physically attacks another and the victim attempts to defend themselves or flee. The presence of confrontation is determined based on witness reports, neighbors, or the offender him or herself indicating they heard, observed or were part of an argument prior to the homicide. This variable was included to measure those homicides which happened during a conflict regarding unrelated matters (such as fidelity, children or finances), not those where an offender attacked a victim, they fought, and the victim subsequently died. Confrontation does not directly correspond with ‘heat of passion’ circumstances in court, although the two are not mutually exclusive. Whether there was a confrontation before the homicide was undetermined in 37.0 percent of cases. However, the fact that it is known to be present in one quarter of the cases may indicate in these instances the homicide happened in a spur of the moment fashion, during or after an argument. This could show at least the timing of the homicide was unplanned. The fact that 30.4 percent of the total staged sample involved opportunistic weapons, and another 10.4 percent involved no weapons or

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 19

manual killings would support this. Weapons were brought to the scene by the offender in 31.3 percent of cases; they were brought by the victim in 2.6 percent, and how the weapon came to be available was unknown in 25.2 percent. Table 3: Insert Table 3 here

In this sample all but two cases involved a relationship between victims and offenders (98.3%); be it a current or previous intimate/family cohabiting relationship (domestic; 72.2%) or a friendship or work-association (non-domestic; 26.1%). Each of these relationship types is operationally defined in the Appendix. In only two cases were the victim and offender(s) strangers, and in at least one of those, they met under normal circumstances earlier on the day of the homicide and subsequently got into a conflict over drugs. In this case the scene was staged to appear as a sexual homicide. The victim reported to witnesses prior to her death that she would be with the offenders as they lived in the apartment next door. The argument over drugs ultimately led to the homicide and staged scene, the offender did not randomly or opportunistically select the victim. In the second case involving strangers the victim was opportunistically selected and the scene was staged, ostensibly to prevent the offender being identified as he was known to be one of only a few people with access to the victim at the time she was killed (she was discovered in a locked hotel room to which he had a key). Notably, the latter is also one of only two cases in this sample which involved sexually posing the victim as per Keppel and Weis’ (2004) definition. Several cases examined were not domestic in that the victim and offender were not involved in an intimate or family relationship nor living together but had other repeated and personal contact with each other, being friends, coworkers or

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 20

business partners. This finding has not been addressed in the literature previously to any great degree, although it is in line with the expected motives of anger and profit (Turvey, 2000). Schlesinger et al. (2012) note that staging is often motivated by the fact that offenders see themselves as a logical suspect based on their relationship to the victim. This may certainly be the case with offenders who are related to victims by virtue of being friends, coworkers or business partners. Of the total 115 cases, 15 (13.0%) were murders for hire, where the primary offender, who was always known to the victim either domestically or otherwise, hired or recruited someone else to kill them. This finding speaks to the motives for staging evidence highlighted by Schlesinger et al. (2012), where offenders may wish to distance themselves from the homicide under the assumption they will be logical suspects. Table 4 presents the types of staging by victim-offender relationship. Domestic homicides were most often staged to appear as burglaries, making up one third of the total sample (33.9%). Domestic homicides also often involved staged accidents (10.4%) or car accidents (11.3%). Within domestic relationships, spouses or exes were most likely to stage burglaries as were family members who cohabited, making up 20.0 and 12.2 percent of the total sample respectively. Unmarried partners or exes were equally likely to stage burglaries (1.7%) as car accidents (1.7%). Co-workers were most likely to stage burglaries (2.6%) followed by sexualhomicides (1.7%). On the other hand, friends were more likely to stage suicides than any other offender type (7.0%), and the two cases involving strangers were staged as either a burglary (0.7%) or a sexual homicide (0.7%). Table 4: Insert Table 4 here

Staged scenes by type

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 21

Although the thesis from which this data has been extracted separated cases into the six most frequent types of staging, only staged burglaries, suicides, accidents and car accidents will be discussed in more detail here as they make up 82.6 percent of the total sample. Staged burglaries. Nearly half of this sample, 40.9 percent, involved staged burglaries. These are cases where the scene, at least superficially, presented as a burglary, home invasion or break and enter in which the victim was killed, and where the offender’s original statement included that he/she believed the victim was killed in a burglary. Victims of staged burglaries were almost always discovered in or around their own home (85.1%; which was also often the home of the offender), and were commonly discovered by the offender him/herself (44.7%). This means 83.0 percent were domestic homicides staged to appear as burglaries, whereas 14.9 percent were non-domestic where the victim was killed in their own home. Staged burglaries were most likely to have multiple victims (21.2%), in comparison to the other 3 common types of staging (staged suicides, accidents and car accidents which had multiple victims in 6.3% of cases each). Victims were more commonly female than male, although the split was fairly even (46.8 vs. 36.2% respectively). Multiple victims of both sexes were killed in 17.0 percent of staged burglary cases. Close to 43 percent (42.6%) of victims died from gunshot wounds, 27.7 percent died due to injuries from multiple weapons, 10.6 percent died from blunt force trauma, and 4.3 percent each died from manual and ligature strangulation. One victim in this subsample was beaten to death manually (2.1%). In many of these cases, weapons used to kill the victims were brought by the offender (46.8%), or were available at the scene (25.5%). This finding goes towards describing the level

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 22

of planning involved, where bringing a weapon may evidence premeditation, and using an available weapon may show the opposite. Furthermore, in only 10.6 percent was there a known conflict or confrontation between victim and offender immediately prior to the death, whereas in 57.4 percent no conflict was evidenced. In cases not involving a confrontation immediately preceding the fatal violence it is possible the homicide was planned and executed without precipitating violence or provocation from the victim. However, the immediate circumstances of the homicide were unknown in 31.9 percent of staged burglaries. In terms of how the offender manipulated the evidence to assist in presenting the burglary façade, several staging behaviors were common. A staged point of entry or exit for the burglar was only present in 34.0 percent of cases, and valuables were removed in only 51.0 percent. Valuables were disrupted at the scene but not taken in an additional 25.5 percent. Items which would not usually be considered valuable to a burglar (such as VCRs, out of date cellular phones or personal music players, inexpensive clothing and children’s toys) were removed in 23.4 percent, and disrupted in 36.2 percent of staged burglaries. Similarly, the scene was ransacked in 40.4 percent of cases. The number of offenders who failed to remove/disrupt items from, or ransack the scene despite this being a well-known feature of legitimate burglaries speaks to the level of sophistication present regardless of whether the crime was premeditated. Most burglary stagers attempted to clean up or destroy evidence of what actually transpired (66.0%), and many created alibis for themselves (36.2%) by recruiting someone else to lie for them, or manufacturing evidence of where they were at the time. Also of note, although less common, 19.1 percent of offenders self-

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 23

injured to give the appearance of a violent confrontation between themselves and the alleged intruder. Many offenders then reported to police that they were unconscious or getting help while the victim was being killed. Also rare at these scenes was evidence of tampering with the phone or lighting (10.6 and 6.4% respectively), arson (4.3%), mutilating the victim’s body (10.6%), planting bloodstains (2.1%), arranging a murder weapon (4.3%), transporting the body to a secondary scene or dump site (6.4%), rearranging the victims’ body or clothing (12.8%), and planting drugs at the scene (6.4%). Staged suicides. Almost 14 percent (13.9%) of this sample involved homicides staged to appear as suicides. This was determined based on how the scene presented to police and the statement given by offender(s) regarding what they believe to have transpired. As would be expected, these victims were mostly discovered in their own home (81.3%) and by the offender (50.0%). Half of staged suicides were actually domestic homicides (50.0%), with the remaining half involving victims and offenders who were friends or non-domestic family members. Unlike all other types of staging, staged suicide victims were more commonly male than female (56.3 vs. 43.8% respectively). Weapons used to kill victims were often opportunistic (31.3%) (although this was unknown in many cases; 37.5%) and involved firearms (56.3%), ligatures (18.8%), manual strangulation (12.5%) or multiple weapons (12.5%). Violent or verbal confrontations were known to have immediately preceded the death in many cases of staged suicides (43.8%). Evidence which the offender commonly used to stage the scene included arrangement of a weapon (81.3%), simulating self-injury to the victim (93.8%), cleaning up or destroying evidence related to the true events (50.0%) and

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 24

rearranging the body (68.8%). The deceased was usually not transported to a secondary scene (68.8%). Fake notes were used in only 18.8 percent of cases (n=3), and drugs were not often planted (93.8%). See Table 5 for a summary of the content of fake notes staged in the total sample. Offenders did not often arrange for an alibi (81.3%), or mutilate the corpse after death (75.0%). In 31.3 percent of cases valuables were removed from the scene of the alleged suicide despite this being inconsistent with how a legitimate suicide would appear. This may speak to a lack of sophistication on the part of the offender, where it is not acknowledged that missing valuables is a good indication to investigators that the death may be a homicide. The prevalence of conflict preceding the violence supports the likelihood of spontaneity. Removing valuables may also speak to a financial motive for the crime. Table 5: Insert Table 5 here

Staged accidents. Of the 115 staged homicides studied, 13.9 percent were staged to appear as non-vehicular accidents, such as firearm accidents, drownings, falls, house-fires and so on. This was evidenced by the way the scene presented to experts, and the account given to police by the offender of what took place. Victims were most often discovered by the offender(s) (75.0%) in their own home (62.5%), although a greater proportion than the other types of staged cases were discovered in locations which were not their own homes, vehicle, work or the home of the offender (25.0%; such as in boating locations, or firing ranges). Victims were commonly female (56.3%). Domestic relationships were present between victims and offenders in 75.0 percent of staged accidents, while 18.8 percent involved friends or non-domestic family members and 6.3 percent involved coworkers/business partners.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 25

One quarter of these cases were staged accidental shootings, where the victim actually died from a gunshot wound (25.0%). In these cases, the offender usually called emergency services for help after “discovering” the victim (75.0%). In 12.5 percent each, drowning, poisoning, blunt force trauma, manual strangulation or multiple weapons were used to inflict the fatal injuries. In 25.0 percent of these cases the weapon was brought to the scene by the offender, in 25.0 percent it was opportunistic, and in 18.8 percent no weapon was used. How the weapon came to be at the scene was unknown in 25.0 percent of cases. In only 6.3 percent of staged accidental deaths was there more than one victim. Arson was used to stage housefires in only two cases (12.5% of accidents, 1.7% of total). The evidence which was commonly manipulated by the offender to present the scene as an accident included: arranging a weapon or implement that caused the death (56.3%); leaving the victim at the primary scene and arranging it to appear as an accident (75.0%); repositioning the body within the crime scene (62.5%); and cleaning up or destroying evidence (62.5%). In 12.5 percent of cases the body was mutilated after death, and drugs were planted in 6.3 percent. In an additional 6.3 percent the offender arranged an alibi for him or herself, and in 18.8 percent the offender tried to make the victims’ injuries appear self-inflicted. Staged car accidents. Another 14 percent (13.9%) of the total sample involved staged car accidents. In contrast to the other types of staging examined, these victims were, not surprisingly, found in their own or the offender’s vehicle (or just outside; 100%) and were often found by a stranger or police officer (62.3%) rather than the offender. Almost a third of these cases (31.3%) involved the offender supposedly being involved in the car accident with the victim, and thus discovery and

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 26

contact with police was made by the offender him or herself. Of these offenders,18.8 percent self-injured in an attempt to lend credibility to their story. Relationships between parties were commonly domestic (81.3%). In three cases (18.8%) the victim and offender were friends or non-domestic family members (12.5%), or coworkers/business partners (6.3%). Victims in this type of staging were the most likely to be female of all other types of staging examined (75.0% vs 46.8% in staged burglaries, 43.8% in staged suicides and 56.3% in staged accidents). Blunt force trauma was the most common cause of death in faked car accidents (31.3%), followed by gunshot wounds, ligature strangulation and multiple weapons (12.5% each), and then drowning7 and manual strangulation (6.3% each). Weapons used to inflict these injuries were opportunistic in 31.3 percent of cases, brought by the offender in 18.8 percent, and no weapon was used in another 18.8 percent. The fact that the actual cause of death was often inconsistent with a vehicle accident may speak to the lack of sophistication present in these staging efforts. In this subsample, a car was arranged to appear as though it had crashed in 93.8 percent of cases, and the body was transported to the staged accident scene in 93.8 percent. In one case it was unclear whether the homicide took place in the car or somewhere else. In 81.3 percent of cases the victim’s body was arranged in accordance with how the offender wished the scene to present (such as in the driver’s seat, under the wheels, etc), and in over half the cases (56.3%) the corpse was mutilated after death by inflicting additional injuries or burning. Much of the mutilation was secondary to the arrangement of the car accident, such as when a

7

In the drowning case the scene was staged to appear as though the car accident caused the victim to drive into a body of water, where she subsequently drowned.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 27

body sustained additional injuries after being placed into a car and rolled down an embankment. Arson was present most often in this subsample, occurring in 37.5 percent of cases. Over 60 percent (62.5%) of staged car accidents involved no attempt by the stager to secure an alibi, and an additional 62.5 percent involved attempts to clean up or destroy evidence of what actually transpired (often at the primary crime scene not the accident site). In combination these findings may indicate commitment to the façade, as moving and arranging the body, arranging a car and cleaning up involves an expenditure of time, effort and energy. However, it is also clear that commitment does not equate to thoughtful premeditation as many of these efforts were still readily identifiable from an investigator’s perspective. Discussion This analysis sought to determine: what façade is the offender most likely to create in a staged homicide scene and how; whether the findings in the Schlesinger study (2012) were supported by this data; and whether the frequency of staged cases is increasing across time. Each question will be discussed in turn. It is first necessary to discuss the general findings and what they mean in relation to the literature. General Findings This analysis provides a discussion of the specifics of crime scene staging efforts by the type of scene staged. The total sample results support those put forth by Hazelwood and Napier (2004), Schlesinger et al. (2012), and Turvey (2000), that scenes are often staged after domestic homicides, where the victim and offender are involved in an intimate or familial, cohabiting relationship. Importantly though, these findings also highlight that domestic cases are not always present, that other victim

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 28

and offender relationships are also likely to be involved; such as friends or family members who do not live together, or coworkers/business partners. This is not a finding which has been addressed previously in the published literature, though it is not unexpected given that most offenders stage scenes to appear as non-domestic or random assaults (Schlesinger et al., 2012; Turvey, 2000). This is also discussed in the anecdotal literature (Douglas & Douglas, 2006; Douglas & Munn, 1992; Geberth, 1996; Gross, 1924; Meloy, 2002; O’Hara & Osterburg, 1972). Similar to the Schlesinger et al. (2012) study, in this analysis there were also staged cases involving strangers; meaning that confirmed staging does not necessarily equate to a relationship being present between involved parties. In both cases in this sample where the victims and offenders were strangers the offenders still had reason to assume (rightly) they would be logical suspects to police. These offenders were seen in close proximity to the victims prior to their deaths. Indeed they were questioned and subsequently arrested based on this proximity and their inconsistent statements to Law enforcement. Schlesinger and colleagues (2012) note the prevalence of multiple victims in their sample of 79 staged cases. The same was found in this sample where, although most commonly there was only one victim and one offender, multiple victims were not uncommon. If this proportion is compared to homicides in general in the USA between 1976 and 2007 it is evident that multiple victims are indeed much more common in staged scenes than overall. The USA Bureau of Justice Statistics, Homicide Trends reports that only 4.9 percent of incidents involve greater than one victim in general homicides (Fox & Zawitz, 2007), a much lower proportion than the staged cases. Although not reported in the other staging literature, in this sample

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 29

over one-third of cases involved multiple offenders, compared with approximately 20.0 percent reported by the Homicide Trends report (2007) over a similar time period. The discrepancy between the staged percentages and the general percentages could indicate a possible red-flag for investigators, where multiple victims or offenders may indicate the potential for staging to be present. Hazelwood and Napier (2004) and Schlesinger et al. (2012) discuss verbal staging as involving offenders making self-initiated contact with police to facilitate missing persons reports. There were no staged missing persons cases in this sample. However, in contrast to Turvey’s (2000) findings, and Douglas and Douglas’s (2006) and Douglas and Munn’s (1992) discussion, almost half the offenders did make self-initiated contact with police after “discovering” the victim’s body. In staged burglaries and car accidents offenders sometimes reported to police that they had been involved in the car accident, or were home when the invasion took place. Some self-injured to evidence this involvement. As the definition of verbal staging includes only those cases where the offender makes self-initiated contact with police to report a missing person, there were technically no verbal staging cases in this sample. However, many non-missing persons cases involved first contact with police by the offender, and almost all involved the offender lying to police at some point in the investigation to redirect police attention. This finding may question the specificity of the current definition of verbal staging to only missing persons cases, as self-initiated contact with police can be made with many other types of staging as well. Staged homicides make up a significant proportion of homicides annually (Schlesinger et al., 2012). To determine if staging is present investigators should

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 30

look for signs evidencing, or witnesses reporting, a confrontation prior to the fatal assault, especially in cases where this would not be expected normally, such as in accidents. In suspected staged burglaries investigators should acknowledge apparent offender behavior which is inconsistent with a burglary as a possible sign of staging, such as where there is no obvious point of entry, valuables are not removed, non-valuables are removed, or the scene is disrupted/ransacked but nothing is taken. Injuries which are inconsistent with the reported events should be specifically noted, especially in cases of supposed burglaries or car accidents, as offenders may self-injure in an attempt to be viewed as co-victims. For the most part, staging efforts will be restricted to 1 or 2 behaviors, meaning evidence of what truly occurred should be available to those who seek it out. Some offenders do go to elaborate efforts to redirect the investigation, and these instances should not be extemporaneously ruled out as unlikely. Based on their training and intuition, many investigators may already take note of the presence of the common staging behaviors outlined above. For these individuals, the fact that their existing procedures have been borne out in the research should provide reassurance that they will be able to detect staging should they come across it. For those who do not currently look for these behaviors, this study may serve as a trigger for changing the way they consider the potential for staging and what staging efforts commonly entail. The recommendations above may be used to open new avenues of inquiry, or perhaps allow investigators to recognize elements of staging they may not have thought suspicious otherwise. At the very least, these recommendations allow for researchers and detectives alike to use

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 31

empirical findings to seek out potentially staged evidence, rather than the experientially based recommendations of the past. Façades Created by Stagers Previously, staging behaviors have been studied according to the type of homicide involved, such as a domestic, general felony, serial sexual or non-serial sexual homicide (Schlesinger et al., 2012). In contrast, the current analysis separated homicides by the type of scene the offender was seeking to present to investigators. This was done in order to facilitate the most efficacious analysis from an investigator’s standpoint. Put differently, it was suspected that Law enforcement would be unaware, upon entering a scene, whether they were dealing with a domestic, general felony, serial-sexual or non-serial sexual homicide. They would, however, likely be able to identify if the scene presented as a burglary, suicide, accident or car accident. Once this was done, if there was some question as to whether the scene was staged or legitimate, the investigator could consult the research to determine what offender behaviors are common to the relevant staging type, and what they need to be cognizant of. In light of this, each type of staging was studied separately. The most common façade staged by the offenders in this sample was a burglary, home-invasion or break and enter. This is consistent with the findings of Turvey (2000) but in contrast to other, more recent research, which determined that staged accidental deaths in fires, and staged missing persons cases were most prevalent (Schlesinger et al., 2012). Schlesinger and colleagues discuss arson as being the most common staging behavior, especially in general felony homicides. Arson was present here less than 10 percent of the time, and was most often

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 32

perpetrated during the staging of a car accident. Much more often in this sample, homicides were staged as accidents or car accidents not involving a fire. The discrepancy in these findings is difficult to explain. As such, the issue of how often and why fire is used in staged homicides needs to be given more attention in the future. As for staged missing persons cases (also known as verbal staging), despite Schlesinger et al.’s (2012) findings that these are the second most common type of scene staged, no cases here involved missing person reports. This is interesting given the possibility that some of the Schlesinger et al.’s (2012) sample and the current sample could overlap based on the timeframes sampled and methodology used. The discrepancy in these findings may be explained by a combination of three or more factors. First, it is possible that Hazelwood and Napier (2004) and Schlesinger et al.’s (2012) term ‘verbal staging’ was not used by the experts, prosecutors, judges and court reporters in the current sample. That is, the term ‘staging’ may only be used by these individuals in its more traditional sense, to describe those cases where physical evidence is manipulated, not those where an offender falsely reports a missing person to Law enforcement. If this is true, the sampling method used herein may not have tapped into verbal staging cases if they were not referred to as staged. On the same token, Schlesinger et al. (2012) seem to be using a more inclusive definition of staging, where lying to police about a missing person is enough to constitute staging. Under the current definition of staging, manipulation of the physical evidence to redirect Law enforcement was necessary. Therefore, even if verbal staging was reported as such in the factual summaries used here, cases where only lying and no offender evidence

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 33

manipulation was present would not have been deemed appropriate for inclusion in the sample. Finally, it is also possible Schlesinger et al.’s (2012) less conservative sampling method led to the inclusion of missing persons or verbal staging cases in their study which would not have been included here. Schlesinger et al. (2012) required only that a Law enforcement agent opine about the presence of staging (verbal or otherwise), whereas the current analysis required either an expert opinion or a confession with corroboration. As such, it is certainly possible that some missing persons cases not involving experts or confessions were included in the Schlesinger et al. (2012) sample and not the current one. Staged suicides, accidents and car accidents were the second most frequent types of staging perpetrated in this sample. Staged suicides being common was partially supported in the Schlesinger et al. (2012) analysis, and similar to Turvey’s (2000) findings. Of note is the fact that the staged suicides and accidents were more likely than other types to involve an unrelated verbal or physical confrontation before the fatal violence. Staged suicides often evidenced only basic staging behaviors, such as placing the firearm in the victim’s hand with their finger on the trigger. This may indicate a lack of forethought, which is further supported by the fact that some offenders also removed valuables. A lack of premeditation in the staged suicide cases may be in contrast to many of the staged burglary cases, where weapons were much more frequently brought by the offender and less precipitating conflict was evidenced. However, regardless of the greater likelihood of offenders coming prepared in faked burglaries, many simple behaviors were not carried out despite the credence they would have lent the story. For example in many cases valuables were not removed, points of entry/exit were not staged, and ransacking was not present.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 34

Although planning was not necessarily evidenced, in the staged car accidents there appeared to be a greater commitment to the façade, with more pieces of evidence being manipulated such as arranging a car; arranging, moving and mutilating the body; and cleaning up the true crime scene. This was different to many other staged scene types, where only one or two behaviors were often carried out. A lack of elaborate staging was also reported by Schlesinger and colleagues (2012) where only 12.7 percent of cases involved five or more pieces of evidence being staged. While a similar system was not used to count the number of staging behaviors employed in this sample, the absence of many staging behaviors suggests only minimal staging efforts, especially in staged suicides and non-vehicle accidents. In these cases many offenders simply placed a weapon near the victim and lied to police about how the homicide transpired. Support for Schlesinger et al.’s (2012) findings A modest amount of consensus exists between the findings of Schlesinger et al. (2012) and the findings of the current study. Both analyses found domestic relationships between victims and offenders to be common in staged homicide cases, while many fewer cases involve stranger relationships. The current research adds that non-domestic relationships where the victims and offenders are known to each other, such as acquaintances and co-workers, were also present. Both of these studies also found that multiple victims and offenders were more common in staged homicides than general homicide statistics would predict. The current study did not find support for Schlesinger et al.’s (2012) proposition that verbal staging in reported missing persons cases is common, although it did find support for the presence of verbal staging in other types of cases,

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 35

as outlined above. Arson was not as prevalent in this sample as it was in the Schlesinger study, where staged burglaries, suicides, accidents, and car accidents were the most frequently staged scenarios. Overall, the consensus between the two works points to a lack of sophistication in these efforts and different staged crime types presenting in different ways to investigators. Is Staging Increasing? The frequency of staging being employed by offenders, as noted by Geberth (1996), may be increasing over time. In this sample between the 1980s and 1990s the number of staged cases meeting the inclusion criteria increased by 104 percent. It is unclear whether this trend would be maintained from 2001-2010 given that the most recent case was perpetrated in 2007. However this is certainly a finding which begets future analysis. Hazelwood and Napier (2004) theorize these behaviors may be on the rise due to the portrayal of forensic techniques in mass media. It is also possible that because this examination did not assess all cases where staging occurred, but only those tapped into by the present methodology, that this finding is spurious and demonstrating more our ability to recognize staging than the frequency of the behavior itself. Also, given the uncertainty surrounding how often and why staging occurs, yearly fluctuations might be expected. On the other hand it is equally possible that this analysis has indicated a true increase in the frequency of crime scene staging. Regardless, the existence of, and the mechanism behind the potential increase should be explored in greater detail. Limitations This study is limited by at least two issues. The greatest limitation with the current analysis comes from the potential for bias in the sample. As mentioned in the

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 36

method section, case information was taken from factual summaries presented in court documents, and primary documentation was not available. Evidence which was not deemed admissible was therefore not included, and some of the finer details may have been lost when the information was summarized for court records. The other potential limitation comes from the fact that offender confessions about what they did to stage the scene, were used in some cases to assess the presence and absence of various behaviors. Although measures were taken to ensure these cases were not false positives, there may still be potential for bias related to this procedure. Future Directions Given the findings of this study, it is clear there is a large scope of research which should be undertaken in the future. This could involve a number of elements, including expansion of the total sample size as well as each of the subsamples to allow for greater generalizability. As mentioned, the frequency of staging should be analyzed across time to determine if the behavior shows an increase with different methodologies and different timeframes. It is also necessary that various types of staging continue to be separated and studied on their own, as each type has a different constellation of behaviors which defines it. Combining all staged homicide scenes together as a supposedly homogeneous sample would not be recommended. As was also suggested by Schlesinger et al. (2012), it is necessary to explain why only some cases involve staging, given the likelihood that most offenders would ultimately prefer not to be discovered and held accountable. Why do some choose to manipulate the evidence and redirect the investigation while others do not? Unfortunately, the current study may elaborate on the types of staging behaviors carried out, but it does not tell us why offenders choose these behaviors. More

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 37

specific study of the offenders themselves would be necessary to shed light on this. From a pragmatic standpoint, the analysis of offenders may allow for a better understanding of the staging behaviors carried out, whether forensic awareness was involved, the types of alibis likely to be given and their importance to detecting staging, the level of planning utilized, and so on. This may inform investigative decision-making as well as appropriate charges. With the current research building on that published previously, it is hoped that at least a modest level of consensus can now be held about what types of behaviors one can expect to find in a staged homicide, and the victim and offender circumstances involved. This consensus is beneficial given that these behaviors are somewhat commonplace. Perhaps this discussion of staged crime scenes in homicides can provide a jumping off point for other informed research involving homicides as well as different crime types, as the potential for manipulating evidence certainly exists in many kinds of criminal and civil cases.

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References Burnley, J., Edmonds, C., Gaboury, M., & Seymour, A. (Eds.). (1996). National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook. Washington DC: Office for Victims of Crime. Chisum, W.J. & Turvey, B.E. (2007). A History of Crime Reconstruction. In W.J. Chisum & B.E. Turvey (Eds.), Crime Reconstruction (pp. 1-35). London, UK: Academic Press. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals [1993] 509 Douglas, J., & Douglas, L. (2006). The detection of staging, undoing and personation at the crime scene. In J. Douglas, A. W. Burgess, A. G. Burgess, & R. K. Ressler (Eds.) Crime classification manual (2nd ed., pp. 31-44). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Douglas, J., & Munn, C. (1992). The detection of staging and personation at the crime scene. In J. Douglas, A. W. Burgess, A. G. Burgess, & R. K. Ressler (Eds.) Crime classification manual (pp. 249-258). San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass. Eke, A. (2001). Staging in cases of homicide: Offender, victim and offence characteristics. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Toronto, Toronto Canada. Federal Rules of Evidence, (2011). U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.: December 1. Retrieved 17 September 2013 from: http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/rules/rules-evidence.pdf Ferguson, C.E. (2011). The defects of the situation: An examination of staged crime scenes. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Bond University, Gold Coast Australia. Ferguson, C.E. (2014). Staged crime scenes: Literature and types. In W. A. Petherick (Ed.) Serial crime: Theoretical and practical issues in behavioural profiling (3rd ed., pp. 141-164). Boston: Andersen Publishing. Fox, J. & Zawitz, M. (2007). Homicide Trends in the United States. Homicide Trends in the United States Series. Retrieved 17 April 2010 from: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=966 Frye v. United States [1923] 293 Geberth, V.J. (1996). The Staged Crime Scene. Law and Order Magazine, February, 89-92.

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Geberth, V.J. (2006). Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques (4th ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Geberth, V.J. (2010). Frequency of Body Posing in Homicides. Law and Order, 58, 29-31. Gross, H. (1924). Criminal Investigation. London, UK: Sweet & Maxwell. Hazelwood, R. & Napier, M. (2004). Crime Scene Staging and Its Detection. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 48, 744-759. Keppel, R., & Weis, J. (2004). The Rarity of “Unusual” Dispositions of Victim Bodies: Staging and Posing. Journal of Forensic Science, 49, 1308-1312. Landis, J., & Koch, G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1),159-174. Meloy, J.R. (2002). Spousal Homicide and the Subsequent Staging of a Sexual Homicide at a Distant Location. Journal of Forensic Science, 47, 395-398. O'Hara, C. & Osterburg, J. (1972). An Introduction to Criminalistics. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Pettler, L. (2011). Crime scene behaviors of crime scene stagers. (Unpublished doctoral thesis). Capella University, Minneapolis, MN. Schlesinger, L., Gardenier, A., Jarvis, J., & Sheehan-Cook, J. (2012). Crime Scene Staging in Homicide. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11896-012-9114-6 Turvey, B.E. (2000). Staged Crime Scenes: A Preliminary Study of 25 Cases, Journal of Behavioral Profiling, 1(3),1-15. Turvey, B.E. (2008). Criminal Profiling: An introduction to behavioral evidence analysis (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 40

Table 1: Inter-rater reliabilities calculated for each variable Variable

Cohen’s kappa

Level of agreement (Landis and Koch, 1977)

Number of offenders

1.000

Complete agreement

Number of victims

1.000

Complete agreement

Sex of victim

1.000

Complete agreement

Victim age

1.000

Complete agreement

Sex of offender

1.000

Complete agreement

Offender occupation

1.000

Complete agreement

Relationship

1.000

Complete agreement

Victim discovery location

1.000

Complete agreement

Cause of death

.875

Near complete agreement

Weapon procurement

.676

Substantial agreement

Staging type

.896

Near complete agreement

Arson

1.000

Complete agreement

Body discovery

.815

Near complete agreement

Staged point of entry or exit

1.000

Complete agreement

Valuables missing/disrupted

.818

Near complete agreement

Personal items missing/disrupted

.818

Near complete agreement

Weapon arranged

1.000

Complete agreement

Body transported

.750

Substantial agreement

Body arranged

.727

Substantial agreement

Fake note

1.000

Complete agreement

Drugs planted

1.000

Complete agreement

Staged self injury

1.000

Complete agreement

Phone tampering

*

Lighting tampering

*

Ransacking

.750

Staged bloodstains

*

Clean up

.833

Near complete Agreement

Post-mortem mutilation

.625

Substantial agreement

Offender self injury

1.000

Complete agreement

Alibi

1.000

Complete agreement

Confrontation

1.000

Complete agreement

Substantial agreement

** in the subsample of cases coded for inter-rater reliabilities these behaviors were never present, meaning Cohen’s kappa values could not be calculated.

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 41

Table 2: Victim and relationship characteristics in staged homicides (variables appearing with greatest frequency are presented in bold) Victim Age (years)

Number of Cases (n)

Percent

missing

52

45.2

0-17

9

7.8

18-29

19

16.5

30-44

17

14.7

45-60

10

8.7

60+

8

7

Total

115

100

male

42

36.5

female

59

51.3

multiple both

14

12.2

Total

115

100

Relationship Relationship spousal or ex

56

48.7

unmarried partners or ex

7

6.1

domestic family

20

17.4

subtotal (domestic)

83

72.2

coworkers

9

7.8

friends

21

18.3

subtotal (non-domestic)

30

26.1

strangers

2

1.7

Total

115

100

Victim(s) Sex

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 42

Table 3: Frequency of types of staging, cause of death, and weapon procurement in total staged homicides (variables appearing with greatest frequency are presented in bold) Staged Crime

Number of Cases (n)

Percent

unknown

4

3.5

burglary

47

40.9

self defense

5

4.3

suicide

16

13.9

accidental death

16

13.9

car accident

16

13.9

car-jacking

1

0.9

drug-related homicide

2

1.7

sexual homicide

6

5.2

execution

2

1.7

Total

115

100

unknown

3

2.6

gunshot

43

37.4

suffocation

1

0.9

drowning

3

2.6

poisoning

2

1.7

blunt force (weapon)

15

13

sharp force

8

7

strangulation (manual)

8

7

strangulation (ligature)

8

7

blunt force (manual)

1

0.9

multiple causes

23

20

Total

115

100

unknown

29

25.2

brought by offender

36

31.3

brought by victim

3

2.6

opportunistic

35

30.4

no weapon used

12

10.4

Total

115

100

Cause of Death

Weapon Procurement

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 43

burglary n(%)

self-def n(%)

suicide n(%)

accident n(%)

car-acc n(%)

car-jacking n(%)

drug deal n(%)

sex- hom n(%)

execution n(%)

spousal

3 (2.6)

23 (20.0)

1 (0.9)

7 (6.1)

8 (7.0)

9 (7.8)

1 (0.9)

0

2 (1.7)

2 (1.7)

56 (48.7)

partners

0

2 (1.7)

1 (0.9)

1 (0.9)

1 (0.9)

2 (1.7)

0

0

0

0

7 (6.1)

family

0

14 (12.2)

1 (0.9)

0

3 (2.6)

2 (1.7)

0

0

0

0

20 (17.4)

subtotal (domestic)

3 (2.6)

39 (33.9)

3 (2.6)

8 (7.0)

12 (10.4)

13 (11.3)

1 (0.9)

0

2 (1.7)

2 (1.7)

83 (72.2)

coworkers

0

3 (2.6)

1 (0.9)

0

1 (0.9)

1 (0.9)

0

1 (0.9)

2 (1.7)

0

9 (7.8)

friends

1 (0.9)

4 (3.5)

1 (0.9)

8 (7.0)

3 (2.6)

2 (1.7)

0

1 (0.9)

1 (0.9)

0

21 (18.3)

subtotal (nondomestic)

1 (0.9)

7 (14.9)

2 (1.7)

8 (7.0)

4 (3.5)

3 (2.6)

0

2 (1.7)

3 (2.6)

0

30 (26.1)

strangers

0

1 (0.9)

0

0

0

0

0

0

1 (0.9)

0

2 (1.7)

Total

4 (3.5)

47 (40.9)

5 (4.3)

16 (13.9)

16 (13.9)

16 (13.9)

1 (0.9)

2 (1.7)

6 (5.2)

2 (1.7)

115 (100.0)

Total n(%)

unknown n(%)

Table 4: Victim-offender relationship type by type of staged scene (variables appearing with greatest frequency are presented in bold)

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 44

Table 5: Fake notes found in staged homicide cases Case

Staged scene

Cause of death

Content of note

Determination of note authenticity

O relation to V

2

Staged suicide (hanging)

Ligature strangul ation

Note found on victim’s computer. Stated she loved the offender and had wanted to suicide for a long time due to a sexual assault by offender’s ex-wife and her current husband

Expert testified it was highly unlikely the victim authored the note, and highly likely the offender did

Boyfrien d

6

Staged suicide (shooting)

Gunshot wound

Note found beside deceased on a nightstand, apologized for suicide and said to call the offender who had victim’s truck and phone. Other practice notes found at the scene

Mother of victim testified note was not in her son’s handwriting

Friend

16

Staged execution (shooting)

Gunshot wound

Type written note laying next to the body read ‘this is for our bud that you sent to jail mother fucker rest in peace’. Victim had previously been shot in a robbery of the home and had testified against the offender in that case

One offender (son of victim) admitted to writing the note and staging the scene

Wife, Son

24

Staged suicide (hanging)

Ligature strangul ation

Four lengthy notes written to husband and children were discovered

Forensic Pathologist testified the death was not from suicide but homicide. Defense expert testified handwriting was victim’s, but when they were written was unknown.

Husband

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 45

Figure 1: Number of staged homicides per year

8   7  

7   7  

5  

5   5   4  

3   2  

3   3  

2   1  

1973  

4   4  

0  

4  

4   3   3  

2  

1  

1978  

4  

5  

3  

2   1  

8  

1   1   0  

1983  

1988  

1   1   1993  

1998  

2003  

0  

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 46

Appendix Offender Characteristics Number of offenders. This includes those involved in the actual homicidal act, as well as those conspiring to commit the act. It was expected that this will range from one to five. Offenders were deemed involved, and included in this tally, if they had been formally charged with the homicide, if they had been charged with a lesser offense involved in the same crime, or if they confessed. Also, if an expert opining on staging determines that one, two or more people were involved, this was added to the number of offenders. Sex of offender. The sex of the primary offender was also addressed where the primary offender is the offender who engaged in the majority of the attack or assault, or who instigated or ensured the attack or assault was carried out. Their intention to have the attack take place can be illustrated through planning, funding or physically carrying out the crime. In a case where a person hires another person to kill someone else, the person doing the hiring would be the primary offender while the hitman or woman would be considered a secondary offender. In a case where several people were involved in a homicide that happened without pre-planning, the offender who inflicted the majority of the injuries would be considered the primary offender. Law enforcement offenders. According to Turvey (2002), offenders who are currently or previously involved in Law enforcement are more likely to stage scenes than non-Law enforcement offenders. This may be due to their awareness of police procedure. Being deemed ‘involved in Law enforcement’ required offenders to be currently or previously employed in any capacity at a local, state, federal or military police agency. Victim Characteristics Number of victims. The number of victims of the homicide was counted. Victims were included if they were found dead at the primary scene or an associated scene. Victim Sex. This is the sex of the victim(s) as indicated by the factual summary of the case. This was coded as male, female, or both in the case of multiple victims of both sexes. Victim Age. This variable accounts for the the age of the primary victim (the victim who was targeted for the majority of the attack or assault, or who the attack or assault was instigated against). Primary victims were indicated by the factual summary of the case and could be determined based on the autopsy findings, the testimony of experts related to motive, or the admission of the offender(s) as to why the crime was committed. Relationship. The relationship between victims and offenders could take on many forms including: spousal (or ex-spousal) whether the participants are hetero or homosexual; Defacto, common-law or an otherwise cohabiting relationship including both hetero and homosexual ones; other domestic/cohabiting relationships, such as various levels of family members; co-workers or business partners; friends, acquaintances or non-cohabiting family members; or strangers. People that were considered spouses were those who were currently or previously legally married. Those who were considered defacto, or common-law were boyfriends, girlfriends or fiance(e)s (both hetero and homosexual) who lived together in the same dwelling. Family members that share a domestic relationship were those who were related by blood or marriage and also lived under the same roof in the same household. Co-workers were those who worked together at the same company or business and were repeatedly in contact with one another, whereas business partners were those who shared a financial interest in the same company or business. Friends were those people who had a personal relationship that was not sexually intimate (indicated by being in contact on a regular basis), who did not live in the same dwelling, whereas acquaintances were those who were known to each other and shared multiple contacts but were not in contact regularly and did not share an intimate or personal relationship. Strangers were those who have never met before, or who were unfamiliar to each other. For the sake of this research, those people who met the day of the homicide, or immediately before it

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 47

under circumstances not related to the crime, but shared no previous relationship were considered strangers. Offense Characteristics Year of offense. The year the homicide took place. Victim discovery. Where the victim was discovered was examined, and one of a few levels were possible including in the bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen, foyer, vehicle or outside of the home of either the offender, the victim or both. Who discovered the deceased or fatally injured victim was also addressed. There were six possibilities for who discovered the victim here, including: the offender; family (by blood or marriage) of the victim; family of the offender; friends, acquaintances, or coworkers of the victim; friends, acquaintances, or coworkers of the offender; or others, including police, random passersby, and so on. Operational definitions from the ‘relationships’ variable were used here. Cause of death. The cause of death or the weapon utilized by the offender to inflict the fatal injuries on the victim was indicated by the autopsy findings. The injuries that led to the victim’s death were from: a firearm; blunt force trauma or being hit with an object; sharp force trauma or being stabbed, slashed, or chopped; being hit by a vehicle; manual strangulation; strangulation with an instrument or tool; a drug overdose; a manual beating (no weapon); multiple weapons; suffocation; drowning; poisoning; or a fall. Availability of weapons. The availability of weapons at the scene, or how the weapon came to be present at the scene was measured. This fell under one of four possibilities. The weapon may have been brought to the scene by the offender, it may have been brought to the scene by the victim and subsequently used against them, it may have been already available at the scene (an opportunistic weapon), or the offender may not have used any weapon at all. This was indicated through the facts of the case, where how the weapon came to be at the scene is a common feature presented to the Judge/jury and it is determined based on the case specifics, such as who a firearm is registered to, who owns a particular knife set, and so on. Confrontation. According to Burnley (1996) the vast majority of intimate partner homicides occur during an argument, in relationships that have a history of domestic abuse. In light of the link between previous violence and domestic homicide, and domestic homicide and staged crime scenes, it is important to examine the context under which the fatal attack occurred. The next variable examined whether the attack happened during a confrontation between the victim and the offender. Confrontation was simply coded as present or absent. Those cases that evidenced violence or a verbal argument unrelated to and before the fatal assault were coded as having a confrontation present. This type of confrontation is separate to and before that which would be expected when one person physically attacks another for the purpose of killing them. Evidence of confrontation may come from physical evidence, witness reports, neighbors, or the offender him or herself indicating that they heard or were involved in an argument with the victim prior to the homicide. Staged Elements Type of staging. The first variable in this section is the situation or offense that the homicide was staged to look like, or the type of crime that the offender was attempting to have the scene present as. This can take on one of a number of possible levels including: a burglary, break in or home invasion; a suicide; an accidental death; a car accident; a car-jacking or car-robbery gone wrong; a drug deal gone wrong; a sexual homicide; an execution or ‘hit’; a kidnapping; a runaway; a non-specific stranger attack; a frame-up; a natural death; a hate crime; or a self-defense/justifiable homicide. This was measured based on two dimensions, first, how the scene presented and what the offender said in their statements to police was accessed, followed by what experts believed the scene was meant to present as, or the scenario that the offender admitted to trying to have the scene display as. It was expected that this would be a straight forward determination to make, as it should be obvious what the offender was trying to portray with the staging efforts. For instance, if the victim was found hanging by a noose and there was a fake suicide note present, it is clear that the offender was trying to stage the

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 48

scene as a suicide. The offender’s statements of what they believe to have happened at the scene were helpful. In case the scenario which was meant to be displayed was unclear, there was a level of this variable which was coded as unknown or unspecific. It is possible that those offenders who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or withdrawing from those effects, those who are not forensically aware or who are otherwise in a panic, will not actually attempt to portray any series of events, and will simply manipulate the scene sporadically with no real direction. In these cases the type of staging attempted was unclear, and was thus coded as such. Point of entry/exit. The next measure which was examined revolves around the point of entry which may have been staged by the offender. This is not the actual point of entry for the offender, but the point they desire to be perceived as where they entered or exited. This can be staged by cutting a window screen, opening or breaking a window, or breaking in a door. It could also be done by simply leaving a door open or unlocked. In this case the specific point of entry or exit was not examined, but simply whether this behavior was carried out in any form. This behavior was deemed present if it was the opinion of the expert that there was some evidence that the offender did not actually use this point of entry or exit, such as dust on the window sill which is inconsistent with someone coming through the window. It may also be the case that under questioning the offender admitted that he/she staged a point of entry or exit. Valuables. The next measure was used to determine whether or not any valuables such as cash, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, or firearms were taken or disturbed by the offender in an effort to simulate a robbery or burglary. Offenders may remove items from the scene in order to lend credence to the story that a burglary has taken place, or they may simply disrupt or alter valuable items at the scene in order to give this impression. This could be done by moving these items around in the scene, removing them from their usual locations to another within the scene, or taking them away altogether. Personal items. Similarly, whether non-valuable personal items were removed or disturbed by the offender at the scene in order to stage the offense was also measured. These items could also be disrupted, altered or removed entirely. Statements of witnesses and/or the offenders admissions were used to make this determination, where people who live in the house which was supposedly burglarized may be able to account for what is missing or what has been moved, valuable or otherwise. These statements were indicated in the factual summary of the case. Weapon arrangement. Whether or not a weapon was arranged or positioned at the scene in order to give the illusion of something that did not occur was addressed. According to Chisum and Turvey (2007) determining whether the weapon found at the scene inflicted the injuries on the victim, or what the purpose of the weapon may be if not, is an important determination to be made at all crime scenes. Therefore whether weapons exist in the scene or near the body that did not inflict the fatal injuries, and whether those weapons could have been used in the way their positioning indicates to inflict the injuries was examined. This was a dichotomous variable, where the presence of an unrelated weapon, or the positioning of the murder weapon was coded together as the arrangement of a weapon. This could take the form of pulling a car over the victim’s body to imply they have been run over when they have not, or putting a firearm in a victim’s hand to imply they shot themselves at close range when they were actually shot from some distance, and so on. Body transportation. Those cases where there was evidence that the homicide did not take place at the discovery site were coded as those involving transportation of the body. This evidence could be a lack of blood stains at the discovery scene which would be expected, drag marks or other indications that the body has been moved, as well as transfer evidence that came from another location as indicated by the factual summary. Body arrangement. A related issue is whether or not the body was arranged or moved within the scene of the crime. Instead of moving the body to another location entirely, the offender may arrange or position the body where it fell to hide what actually took place, to imply that something else took place, or both. This repositioning of the body can also include dressing the victim after death, or undressing them. Evidence that the body has been positioned could be things like nudity or sexualized positioning despite the absence of evidence of a sexual assault, or a lack of consistency between the livor mortis and rigor mortis present and the positioning of the body. Wound patterns,

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 49

bloodstains and other physical evidence inconsistent with the discovery positioning may also be an indication that the body has been moved. Body posing was assessed separately, where the body is posed in a sexually degrading fashion to shock the finder or for the offender’s own pleasure (Keppel & Weis, 2004). Posing may thus be unrelated to thwarting capture. The presence of these behaviors was indicated by facts of the case and the opinion of the expert or statements made by the offender that the scene was staged. Fake notes. In cases which are staged to appear as suicides, runaways or kidnappings the offender may attempt to provide a note or letter indicating where the victim has gone or why they are doing what they are supposedly doing. Providing a fake note may be perceived by offenders as a good way to legitimize the presentation of the crime scene. This variable was used to code for whether or not a fake note was used in the simulation of the crime. This may take on the form of a fake suicide note, a fake letter of revenge from the supposed offender and so on. If there was a note at the scene, which the offender admits to writing, or which does not come from the victim, then this variable was coded as present. Drugs planted. Equally important was the determination of whether any drugs or illicit substances were planted at the scene. These may be arranged near the body to give the illusion of instability on the part of the victim, or possible overdose. It is also possible that while no illegal drugs were present, paraphernalia were arranged in order to give this same appearance. This was coded as present when an expert opined that the paraphernalia or substance has been planted or staged at the scene, or when the offender admitted to doing so. This may be based on an absence of the substance in the victim’s toxicology report at autopsy. Simulated self-injury. This involves the offender simulating self-injury to the victim. This can be done by giving the victim hesitation marks on the throat or wrists, cutting the throat or wrists, gunshot wounds to the temple, under the chin, inside the mouth or to the chest, as well as superficial cuts to the stomach, arms, wrists and genitals. Evidence of pseudo self-injury was coded as present or not, and was most likely to be a determination made by the medical examiner or forensic pathologist. Telephone/lighting. The next two variables were used to determine whether the offender disabled the telephone or lighting at the scene as part of the staging effort. This may be carried out by individuals who are attempting to create a scene similar to how they believe legitimate scenes would present, based on their experiences with the media or otherwise. Both of these elements were coded as either present or absent. Whether phones or lighting had been disabled purposefully was indicated by the factual summary and the expert’s testimony, or the confession of the accused that the scene was staged. Ransacking. Ransacking was defined as going hurriedly through a scene in an attempt to look for something or steal things, in so doing the scene will become disordered, and may sustain damage. In the staged cases, ransacking may be used to imply that things were stolen when in fact they were not, or more simply to give the impression that someone was looking for valuables within the scene and disrupted it in the process. A determination of ransacking was made based on the presentation of the scene as indicated by the factual summary and the testimony of experts, or the offenders admission that the scene had been staged. Bloodstains. The next element examined whether any bloodstains were staged at the scene. This could come in the form of placing blood around the supposed point of entry or exit, planting blood on items belonging to, or the person of another in order to make it appear as though they were somehow involved, or placing the victim’s blood on a weapon or instrument to imply its use in the homicide. Coding this element as present required an opinion on the part of an expert that the bloodstains present could not have been deposited in the way they were presented, or the confession of a perpetrator that they purposefully applied the stains to the area in order to mislead investigators. Clean up. Any case involving staging something that did not happen may also involve hiding, concealing or cleaning up what did occur. This may come in the form of taking the weapon away from a scene and disposing of it, removing or destroying clothing or other materials used during the offense, or physically washing or tidying up the scene in order to make it appear as though something

FEATURES OF STAGED HOMICIDES 50

else happened there. It was thought that this would be a fairly easy indicator to deem as present. For example, in those cases where expected items or evidence is absent, such as the murder weapon or bloodstains, it is clear that someone has removed them. In other cases instead of an absence of evidence which indicates clean up, there may be a presence of evidence such as the smell of cleaning products or bloody clothing in the washing machine. Mutilation. Another way to mask what truly occurred, and make it appear as though something else occurred is by mutilating the body of the victim after death. For example, if the staged scene is meant to portray that the victim died as a result of an accidental fire, the body of the deceased may be set alight after death. This would seemingly serve the purpose of both concealing what actually occurred as well as implying that something else occurred. Similarly, if a victim has been beaten to death, they may then be placed in a car and the car rolled off a cliff with the goal that the injuries sustained while going over the cliff would mask the injuries from the beating, and give the impression that death resulted from the fall. Mutilation, for the purposes of this work, was defined as a disfiguring injury which happened after death. The reason that the postmortem stipulation has been put on this definition is to ensure that this measure is valid, in that it actually measures injuries sustained by the victim as part of the staging, not injuries which led to the death itself. If weapons or other objects were placed into the victim’s orifices after death, this was also considered mutilation. Although these behaviors may not have involved disfiguring injuries, they did involve manipulation of the victim’s body after death aside from simply moving or repositioning the body. Therefore, these behaviors were also classed as mutilation. Mutilation was coded as either present or absent, and was deemed present based on the findings of the wound pattern analysis conducted by the medical examiner or forensic pathologist. Arson. The arson variable assessed whether the body or the scene was set on fire by the offender as part of the staging effort. This is separate to body mutilation in that the offender may set fire to the scene as opposed to the victim’s body itself. This was coded as present if the scene involved a fire which was not the cause of the death and was deliberately lit. This was indicated by the facts of the case as well as the expert’s testimony or offender’s admission as to which elements of the crime were not deposited legitimately. Self-injury of offender. In an effort to legitimize the scenario which the offender seeks to portray, they may self-injure. The next variable examined whether the offender attempted to self-injure as a part of the staging effort, and was deemed present or absent based on the opinions of the experts working the case, the medical professionals involved if the offender sought medical attention, or the admissions of the offender. Those individuals who solicited others to injure them were also coded as present for this measure, as the intent behind the behavior is the same. Alibi. The next element determined whether the offender arranged, or attempted to arrange an alibi for themselves. It is possible that these behaviors may run the gamut from rudimentary to elaborate. This aspect was coded as either present or absent, and was dependent on two things. First, it was necessary to be aware of the time of death according to the medical examiner or forensic pathologist, and secondly it had to be determined that the suspect’s statement as to where they were and what they were doing at that time was untrue based on the factual summary.