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FTJoshua
07-18-2007, 11:27 PM
I have no idea where a general question like this should be posted, so, apologies!

Let's say you have a mom and dad who are killed in an accident while their only teenage daughter is out for the night. Let's assume the parents were not carrying cell phones, but did have I.D., and they died at the scene. Let's further assume they have a wallet photo of the daughter, and her name on the back of it.

The daughter comes home from an hour to three hours after the accident.

What is the procedure for the police? Would they send someone to the home address and wait to see if anyone came home? Who would they call? Would they try to track down where the couple worked and look for next of kin that way?

Is it reasonable (for drama purposes) to have the daughter coming home and finding a uniformed officer waiting his patrol car outside the house?

Any help here would be greatly appreciated!

rugcat
07-19-2007, 12:04 AM
They would probably send a uniformed officer to the home, but if there was no one there, they wouldn't wait. They might leave a message to call the police department about an urgent matter.

You could have the daughter arrive home just as they were leaving--that wouldn't be too much of a coincidence.

Try the Story Research forum in the future.

MacAllister
07-19-2007, 12:09 AM
I've ported the thread to Story Research, where I think you'll get more action. :) I left a redirect in FAQ, so hopefully you won't get lost looking for it.

Little Red Barn
07-19-2007, 12:27 AM
They will try to contact the police chaplin and send him, along with a detective or uniformed officer and go to the house. Then , the person is requested to go to the hospital, morgue for identification. Usually they will provide a ride.

MarkEsq
07-19-2007, 01:37 AM
Not getting many replies here, and I'm not sure I can be all that much help. I do have some familiarity with police procedures and with having cops show up to tell me someone I know was killed in a car accident, but neither experience is on point, as we lawyers say.
My hunch is that if the police knew that the daughter lived at the address, they might conceivably wait for an hour or so. Probably not for too long, and not at all unless they were sure she lived there. Could you have them drive by to check the house (maybe for the third time) as she is walking up the driveway/down the street? Perhaps an officer was returning to the house to leave a note and she arrives home.. not implausible in my humble opinion. I'll be interested to see if anyone has first-hand knowledge of this procedure.

kristie911
07-19-2007, 05:02 AM
Our officers would leave a card asking her to call as soon as she got home, then a car would be sent to the house to give her the bad news.

Vanatru
07-19-2007, 06:28 AM
Our officers would leave a card asking her to call as soon as she got home, then a car would be sent to the house to give her the bad news.

Ditto. From personal experience, if the person isn't home, one of our deputies or officers will leave a card asking for the person to call them, or whoever it is they need to talk to (a detective, a sergeant, a regular LEO on special detail). If they aren't jammed with calls, sometimes the deputy/officer will knock on some neighboring doors trying to find anyone who knows the people.

Once contact is made, they may request the person come to the PS building, or substation or go to the person's home and make contact. It can vary, so you have some fudge room in this matter. Not every agency will necessarily do the same thing...........even within the same state or county.

Sandi LeFaucheur
07-19-2007, 02:40 PM
Let's further assume they have a wallet photo of the daughter, and her name on the back of it.

Do people put the name of their child on the back of a photo? I'd have thought they would know who she was. I could see the date, maybe, but not the name. Just my opinion.

Maryn
07-19-2007, 05:04 PM
Good eye, Sandi. It rings false that a parent would write a kid's name on a wallet photo. Of course, the photo itself could include something that easily identifies the kid, if that's necessary.

Maryn, who doesn't even carry pix of her kids, except in her skull

Vanatru
07-19-2007, 08:43 PM
I'll disagree. :)

We actually do put first and last name on wallet photos and date. Due mainly to have to clean out the grandparents personal belongings after they passed on.

They had so many photos of family members with no names, dates, etc. Seemed like such a loss of history there. To make sure I wasn't like that, we've started IDing all photos.

So, I think it's plausable. Of course, what do I know. ;)

Redhedd
07-21-2007, 04:20 AM
It depends on where you are as to what the procedures are. In Louisiana it's the duty of the office of the coroner to make death notifications. However, they do utilize law enforcement if making a death notification out of the area (e.g. another state). The officer will go to the house and make notification and have them call the coroner's office for more details.

Also, if the bodies have been positively IDed you don't need to sweat the issue of having a photo with name etc. LexisNexis has addresses, phone numbers, and names of all people in a residence (for the most part.) Our death investigators use LexisNexis ALL the time to search for next-of-kin.

But the biggest issue I have with the scenario is that no agency would EVER give a death notification to a minor child. There's a "hierarchy" of next-of-kin as far as release of information: First is a spouse, then a child of majority age, then a parent, a sibling, and then if there are none of the above it goes to grandparents/grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, but I'm not sure of the exact order of those last few. If a teenage daughter was the only surviving relative, then social services would appoint an advocate to act as "next of kin" until arrangements could be made.

Little Red Barn
07-21-2007, 04:53 AM
Another big issue, coming from my police hubby is they (police) want to deliver the news to the family member before the press releases it, as they don't want the world to know before the family member..police will keep trying, believe me and each roll calls address will be given the wherabouts of the suspected family member so they can try to contact. The coroner usually comes into play after the police have contacted... Good luck.

FTJoshua
07-23-2007, 07:53 PM
If a teenage daughter was the only surviving relative, then social services would appoint an advocate to act as "next of kin" until arrangements could be made.

But the police or coroner's office would still tell her, right? As soon as possible?

And what about identification of the bodies? I assume they'd still need someone to do that...is a co-worker valid if there are no of-age relatives?

thanks everyone for your help!

(Also, what constitutes "positive ID"? Is it enough if the police have the driver's lisences of the victims, provided they were still recognizable?

Redhedd
07-23-2007, 09:39 PM
Positive ID can be made with driver's licenses if they were still recognizable. It is not necessary for a friend or relative to actually look at the body to affirm identity. Yes, the minor child would be notified, but only with a responsible adult with her. They certainly wouldn't tell her if she was by herself.

kristie911
07-23-2007, 09:48 PM
If she was under age which probably differs state to state (Michigan is 17), then the police would take someone from child protective services with them to notify her. Our county also has what's called the Victim's Assistance Team, which are simply volunteers with specialized training that help a family get through a tragedy. They do some counseling, help them through the funeral arrangements if necessary, and sometimes simply hold someone's hand while they cry. But in a case like this, they would also accompany the CPS worker and the officer while the daughter was told.

And if the daughter had no other relatives (no aunts, uncles, cousins, anything) CPS would probably try to find her a friends house to stay at for a time because that is far preferable to putting her in foster care.

If possible, the police may even contact a principal from the daughter's school to find out if she had any close friends and contact the friends parents while they were waiting for her to turn up. That way there's already a place for her to go.

ideagirl
07-26-2007, 08:46 PM
It depends on where you are as to what the procedures are. In Louisiana it's the duty of the office of the coroner to make death notifications.

True, every jurisdiction is different. But just to clarify for everyone on the board, Louisiana is REALLY different; it's the only state whose law is based on French law (every other state's law is based on English common law--there's a little bit of Spanish background out west, but the basic foundation is still English common law). So, what's true in Louisiana is very often not true of any other state, and vice versa.

Good point about not giving a death notice directly to a minor child without the intervention of social services.

jclarkdawe
07-26-2007, 10:06 PM
I think you need to think through your time line very carefully here. And where you start is with the accident. I've done this from the Fire/EMT end, so I don't know the end result, but let me run some issues through with you.

I'm guessing here that we have a car accident. Accident happens, 9-1-1 is called, police and fire/rescue is toned out. Assuming a five minute response time, police and fire/rescue arrive within about 10 minutes of the accident. At that point, one of two things are going to happen with each person involved.

Either the person is a patient or a victim. EMTs can determine death when the person is obviously dead. Decapitation, for example, is an obvious death. Below that, you depending on the extent of the injuries and how serious they are, is whether you call them or send them to the hospital.

If the person is a patient, no matter how grim the outlook, they get transported to the hospital. It is very rare for a person to be dead coming off the ambulance, nearly always the hospital will make some attempts to save them. If no one knows them when they arrive at the hospital, the hospital will attempt to identify, but not as a high priority. You're probably looking at least an hour or more before identification becomes much of an issue to a hospital. If the patient dies in the hospital, the hospital will attempt identification and notify the police. But you're looking at some big time gaps.

If the person is a victim, and all people in the car are victims, we place a tarp over the vehicle and deal with the patients. After we get the patients are dealt with, we'll start thinking about victims. From the fire/rescue end, we'll probably be sitting around for quite a bit, before we start working on the car. Before we can do anything to remove the bodies, a lot of police work goes on.

Police will begin the identification process through running the license plate (we can usually find at least one). I presume that they then print out licenses for the people showing up on the license plate. Depending on the department, the computer in the cruiser can show the picture from your driver's license. If possible, an identification is made (a lot of times it can't be). An attempt to retrieve identification such as purses will be made.

Assuming this is not a crime scene (DUI makes it a crime scene), we will probably get permission to extricate the body after about an hour. Pictures will have be taken, measurements made, et cetera. Although in New Hampshire, the police are technically suppose to remove bodies, it seems to end up with the fire department. In cases of obvious death, the car's body structure is going to be pretty much gone, requiring us to tear the car to pieces to get the body out. Ideally we like to do this in one piece.

When we get the body out, a police officer and the coroner will come over, and look at the body. We've placed the body in a bag, but it's not zipped. More pictures will be taken. Depending upon the police and condition of body, wallets will be removed. By this point, we're probably nearly two hours after the initial accident, and this is also the first time anyone is going to be sure enough of the identification to want to do notifications.

Remember, with victims, time does not matter. No one is in a rush, we want to do it right. I had one body extrication where we spend over four hours getting the body out. And there were no technical problems, we just didn't have any need to rush and we wanted to treat the gentleman with respect.

This brings me back to the issue of time lines. Although it is possible that the police would be attempting to notify after one hour, things would have to go real quickly for that, or someone would have to be there to identify (in which case they'd be getting all these questions). If an accident happened at say 7 PM, my guess is identification would not be confirmed until 10 or 11 and notifications not started until then.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

FTJoshua
07-26-2007, 10:19 PM
This information is great. Jim, thanks for the timeline, very helpful. If anyone's still reading...what if a cell phone was found at the scene? Would it be used to contact people in any way for notification purposes? or would the police go through records first (to find relatives)?

Redhedd
07-26-2007, 11:01 PM
True, every jurisdiction is different. But just to clarify for everyone on the board, Louisiana is REALLY different; it's the only state whose law is based on French law (every other state's law is based on English common law--there's a little bit of Spanish background out west, but the basic foundation is still English common law). So, what's true in Louisiana is very often not true of any other state, and vice versa.

Good point about not giving a death notice directly to a minor child without the intervention of social services.

Oh, yes, I will cheerfully agree that Louisiana is one completely weird state. [g] Napoleonic Code Rulz!

jclarkdawe
07-27-2007, 12:04 AM
This information is great. Jim, thanks for the timeline, very helpful. If anyone's still reading...what if a cell phone was found at the scene? Would it be used to contact people in any way for notification purposes? or would the police go through records first (to find relatives)?

My impression is that it is all done in person, and not through the phone. The police department where it happened will contact the local police to do the contact.

Even with a rental vehicle, from what I've seen is that the police start with the plates. It's easy and quickly available. It is also information that is verified. To get a car registered (or rented), you had to show some I.D. at some point, so the information is reliable. Difficult to tell if a cell phone has accurate information.

Remember, speed is not important, accurate is. When you go knocking on the wrong door and tell someone has been killed and they're not, you end up the featured story on the news.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe