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View Full Version : First day of murder investigation - please help!



SecretScribe
07-18-2007, 12:31 PM
Hi there

In my murder story a body is discovered early on Sunday morning, the cops are then called and finally homicide is called to the scene. I don't describe too much of the investigative details, then have the coroner arrive and the detective has a chat with him. The detective then goes to have some lunch - is this realistic at all, or would he be running around - his partner is looking up stuff on the computer back at the office.

Then the partner calls with an ID on the victim, they go and see the family, look through the girl's room then drive (20 mins) back to the station. At this point they call it a day. Again - realistic? Would they be working through the night, or wait for Monday morning?

One of my beta readers has commented that there doesn't seem to be enough happening in the first day - nobody else has picked up this particular problem, but it got me worrying about whether my description of the lead investigator's behavior is realistic. He isn't a shirker btw, actually a good cop.

Hope someone can help!!!

Vanatru
07-18-2007, 03:59 PM
Some of their actions will depend on the amount of known evidence at the time. Sometimes they might have to wait a bit to get results back from whatever testing, or for leads to come forward.

A large majority of time for some dectectives is talking to witnesses and possible subjects. ALOT. Going door to door or talking to next of kin, friends, co-workers.

Part of the urgency to get so much done so quickly may be due to the victim and who or what the victim is connected to. ie. High profile victim as oppossed to low profile nobody victim. Also take into regard their case load. If this is just Jane or Joe Shmoe in Cracktown..........and they have two other cases going on which have a higher importance level..........this one might get put on the "backburner".

As for beta readers.........they're like anyone else. Just a person with an opinion. It may be right, it may be wrong. Regardless of their author status. IMO. You are the author of your project, you decide what is important or what isn't. Not them.

JD65
07-18-2007, 10:51 PM
Here's my two cents (or two pence, since you're in the UK) - and keep in mind this is based on US (specifically California) experience.

Realistic? Not in my experience. I'm a prosecutor and have handled homicide cases, including going to the murder scene or wherever they discover the body. It's a painstaking process of observation, evidence collection and documentation. The coroner (the actual doctor that does the autopsy) usually doesn't come to the scene unless it's something quite unusual. Instead, "technicians" from the coroner's office will respond and are then in charge of the body, including wrapping it up and transporting it back to the morgue for the eventual autopsy. There is discussion between the lead detective and those technicians/investigators, since they pass on pertinent information to the coroner for him to evaluate the autopsy findings.

From my experience, while there may be one detective on scene, his partner (and usually several others from the homicide unit) would pitch in during the initial investigation. One may be back at the station doing "background" or other research (either on the victim if known or possible suspect if known). Others would assist in evidence collection, witness interviews (the person who found the body, a canvass of the neighborhood/area for other possible witnesses - especially in your case where a body is discovered. I'm sure they'd be looking for anybody who heard/saw anything to help narrow down the time of death or if the body was dumped there, etc.)

The thing that most struck me as not quite realistic was the detective having a chat, then going to lunch. While he/she may grab something quick on the way to where they're going next, I don't see a leisurely lunch happening. Time truly is the biggest enemy in solving homicides. In the cases I've worked, the detectives try to capitalize on the initial 24 hours from the murder (or discovery of the body). In your scenario, once they ID the body and notify the next of kin, the search of her room seems appropriate, but I think they'd more likely track down her movements for the time leading up to her death, talk to her friends, enemies, lover(s), etc. I've never seen a detective "call it a day" after such a cursory beginning to the case.

To answer your last question - if the body is discovered Sunday morning, would they wait until Monday to begin working the case? Absolutely not. They'd hit the ground running from the second they hit the scene.

Just my opinions, of course... but as a former police officer, current criminal prosecutor and avid mystery/thriller reader, if I read that the lead detective went to look at the body, had lunch, notified the parents, then "called it a day" without much real investigation, I'd probably close the book.

Tiger
07-18-2007, 11:23 PM
Have you ever watched, "The First 48"? I'm not sure how edited it is for space or content, but they actually count down the hours after officers reach the scene.

Generic, but I'm assuming basically instructive about timelines.

Tsu Dho Nimh
07-18-2007, 11:30 PM
Around here, coroners don't go to the scene, the bodies go to them.

Usual sequence here ... cops are called, first ones there secure the scene and start locating witnesses, crime scene techs arrive and do the evidence collection and bag the body ASAP, ship body out and continue evidence collection.

There was a recent article in the AZ republic (www.azfamily.com) about the importance of the first 24 hours ... if they don't have solid leads by then, it's going to be a long slog.

Soccer Mom
07-18-2007, 11:40 PM
Another prosecutor here. No, you often work insane hours when a body is first discovered. Hanging out to chat? Going off to have lunch? No. Greasy burger from a drive through? Yes.

rugcat
07-18-2007, 11:50 PM
The thing that most struck me as not quite realistic was the detective having a chat, then going to lunch. While he/she may grab something quick on the way to where they're going next, I don't see a leisurely lunch happening. Time truly is the biggest enemy in solving homicides. In the cases I've worked, the detectives try to capitalize on the initial 24 hours from the murder (or discovery of the body). This is exactly right. You might want to keep in mind that one of the first things an investigator wants to look at is "peer groups," family, friends, etc., and they want to get to them as soon as possible, before they can have time to think about how they'll respond to questions.
Around here, coroners don't go to the scene, the bodies go to them. In many places, the ME (Coroner) does indeed respond to the scene.

SecretScribe
07-19-2007, 12:02 PM
Hi there, thanks for all the help on this. My story is set in South Africa and I have created a somewhat unrealistic situation for the novel in that the team is working on only this crime - in the context of this story. In real life they would be juggling a lot of cases. Not sure if I should try to build this in, but the story works better without it. The call is early on a Sunday morning and the body is only identified in the afternoon, at which point they interview the parents. (First chapter is in SYW - Buried Secrets)

I realise now that I have messed up the start (and my ms is complete), so any ideas, from anyone on how to edit this without having to rewrite the whole thing??!! :( For example, they get hold of friends, etc on Monday, not on Sunday.

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Added:

Oh dear, just realised I may have messed up something else. The id is made on Sunday afternoon, the detectives visit the parents. Monday they interview friends, etc and then the formal id by the parents is scheduled for later on Monday afternoon. Would this happen? Would the family id be done asap??

SecretScribe
07-19-2007, 12:59 PM
Ok, I have been rewriting furiously. Would any of the experts be available to read the first three chapters of my novel to see if I have a believable (and yet wildly interesting:) ) scenario?? Would really appreciate it!!!:Sun:

Vanatru
07-19-2007, 08:40 PM
South Africa?

*blink* *blink*

Sorry, my experience is only valid in the southern U.S..

However, I would be willing to take a look at the work and give you my 2cent input.

SecretScribe
07-20-2007, 12:42 PM
Thank you Vanatru! Will PM you.