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Chrisla
07-05-2011, 12:13 AM
I have a scene where detectives are doing their initial investigation of a woman's death. She fell--or was pushed--from a deck onto a patio. A man shows up at the scene, after the body has been removed, claiming he's looking for his wife. Questioning indicates they got into a fight the night before and she took off. He thought she might be at the scene, her aunt's house. The body fits the description of his wife.

Would the officers take him in for questioning, based on the information he's given them, and tell him there that the description fits and ask him to identifify the body?

Or would they pull him aside, tell him the description fits, and ask him to come in on his own to ID the body?

Whichever way they handle it, if it is not his wife, but the wife's aunt, would they then go with him to notify other family members, including the wife (who might be possible suspects) or would they interview the family later?

I would think they would want to see the family members' reactions, but am not sure how it would be done.

I'd appreciate input from anybody familiar with normal police procedures.

Thanks!

allz28
07-05-2011, 04:57 PM
I'm a former federal law enforcement officer.

My first question after reading this is-- who reported the murder/found the victim and why couldn't they identify the victim? Most of the time, the reporting party makes the identification and we don't have to go through all the television ID at the morgue junk.

But assuming your reporting party was a complete stranger who doesn't know the victim, I will say that part of the description of the diseased would be her age, and I would think the husband's wife and aunt would be far enough apart in age that they wouldn't get mixed up. But that's not always the case.

You asked: "Would the officers take him in for questioning, based on the information he's given them, and tell him there that the description fits and ask him to identify the body?

Or would they pull him aside, tell him the description fits, and ask him to come in on his own to ID the body?"

Procedurally, I'm not seeing a big difference between your two scenarios. Just that one has them detaining him for questioning and the other has him coming in on his own free will. Is that what you're asking?

As a cop, I always asked people to do things before making them. So if I needed to search a car, I'd ask, "Mind if I take a look in your vehicle," instead of saying, "Step out of your car so I can search for drugs." If they denied my request to take a look around and I already had good PC for the search, then I'd tell them I was just being polite and they need to step out of the vehicle.

So I feel confident that the detective would ask the suspect to come in rather than force him, unless they had to.

jclarkdawe
07-05-2011, 05:45 PM
I have a scene where detectives are doing their initial investigation of a woman's death. She fell--or was pushed--from a deck onto a patio. How much do they think she was fell or pushed? Whichever one is stronger is going to dictate a lot of how the police go at this. But they're going to need some evidence to base this on. Who's patio? Police are going to get a copy of the apartment's owner picture and physical description from motor vehicles and come up with a tentative ID. A man shows up at the scene, after the body has been removed, claiming he's looking for his wife. Realize this is going to be quite a while later. Especially if they think she was pushed. Assuming she's obviously dead from the fall, let's discuss time lines. Patrol officers and EMT/fire department arrive, about five minutes after she jumps. Medical takes initial control of the scene. EMTs determine she's dead, call medical control to confirm that decision (you have to explain why you think they person is dead). Then the EMTs have to finish up their paperwork. EMTs will probably clear after about 30 minutes.

Police try to determine where the woman fell from, and her ID. Additional patrol officers and supervisor will need to arrive. Medical examiner will be contacted. Here's where the time line becomes different depending upon how clear the cause is. If there is any possibility it is a homicide, then detectives will need to be contacted and arrive.

Meanwhile the medical examiner will probably show up. Start thinking travel times (none of this warrants lights and siren). Assuming clearly accidental, you're going to use up a couple of hours before the funeral guys haul off the body. A murder investigation will use up even more.

So hubby is going to be showing up two or three hours later. I'm going to guess hubby would go to the apartment and that's where he comes into contact with police.

Questioning indicates they got into a fight the night before and she took off. He thought she might be at the scene, her aunt's house. The body fits the description of his wife. But if it's her aunt's house, then the police would assume the body is the aunt who fell. Why would they assume it is the wife?

Would the officers take him in for questioning, based on the information he's given them, and tell him there that the description fits and ask him to identifify the body? Probably not want him to look at the body. Jumpers can cause experience people to lose their lunches. No way should a family member see them. Most initial IDs are based upon height, weight, age, and photo ID. If the wife and aunt would roughly match, they'd ask for distinguishing marks and tattoos, and jewelry and piercings. Hair length (in various places) is useful.

Most people don't do well with bodies, especially of loved ones. As stated, the police would ask him to come in and give a statement. If they are investigating this as a possible murder, they're not going to give him much room to wiggle on it.

Or would they pull him aside, tell him the description fits, and ask him to come in on his own to ID the body?

Whichever way they handle it, if it is not his wife, but the wife's aunt, would they then go with him to notify other family members, including the wife (who might be possible suspects) or would they interview the family later? If they think this is murder, they'd probably hold him while they go and interview people. They would definitely not go with him to notify the family. But until either the wife or the aunt is found, from your scenario it sounds like the police aren't going to be sure who jumped, so announcing her death would be a bit premature.

I would think they would want to see the family members' reactions, but am not sure how it would be done. Depends, but they'd do a lot of initial interviews if they think it is murder.

I'd appreciate input from anybody familiar with normal police procedures.

Thanks!

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Chrisla
07-05-2011, 08:27 PM
I'm a former federal law enforcement officer.

My first question after reading this is-- who reported the murder/found the victim and why couldn't they identify the victim? Most of the time, the reporting party makes the identification and we don't have to go through all the television ID at the morgue junk.

A stranger found the body, or rather his dog did.

But assuming your reporting party was a complete stranger who doesn't know the victim, I will say that part of the description of the diseased would be her age, and I would think the husband's wife and aunt would be far enough apart in age that they wouldn't get mixed up. But that's not always the case.

Good point. I have them about ten years apart, but that may not be enough. I can change that a little.

You asked: "Would the officers take him in for questioning, based on the information he's given them, and tell him there that the description fits and ask him to identify the body?

Or would they pull him aside, tell him the description fits, and ask him to come in on his own to ID the body?"

Procedurally, I'm not seeing a big difference between your two scenarios. Just that one has them detaining him for questioning and the other has him coming in on his own free will. Is that what you're asking?

Yes. I had them asking him to come in because (1) there were a lot of onlookers, and (2) their initial questioning disclosed he'd had a fight with his wife the night before--a fight in which she'd "accidentally hit her head on a dresser."
But my writing group questioned them taking him in (even though they asked), citing his constitutional rights.

As a cop, I always asked people to do things before making them. So if I needed to search a car, I'd ask, "Mind if I take a look in your vehicle," instead of saying, "Step out of your car so I can search for drugs." If they denied my request to take a look around and I already had good PC for the search, then I'd tell them I was just being polite and they need to step out of the vehicle.

So I feel confident that the detective would ask the suspect to come in rather than force him, unless they had to.

Thanks so much for your response. It helps in that it reinforces what I had already researched, and it raised the question of the age difference between the aunt and niece--something I'll have to fix.

Do you know the answer to my other question--would they let him go to notify the family, then interview them later, or would they go with him to do that, to guage their reactions?

Thanks again!

allz28
07-05-2011, 09:11 PM
Oops, sorry I missed that question.

There will definitely be some type of interview/informal questioning at the scene. So that would be completed before notifications.

The rest depends on the detective.

I, personally, hated family notifications. Plus, so many people react to grief differently that I don't think I would gain much from watching reactions. And, anything I see during the reaction wouldn't hold much in court, so at most, all it could do is point me in the right direction. So I guess what I'm saying is, I would have just let the husband call his family and make notifications, unless there's some type of evidence at the scene that makes him a prime suspect and I need to keep him from communicating with anyone.