Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Inteview with Homicide - Behind the Plot - Part IV

When Smith got back to the precinct, he escorted Ms. Bell to one of the “soft rooms,” an interrogation room with a couch and overstuffed chairs. He asked his assistant to get her some coffee and a pastry, and then went through the questioning one more time. It took another three hours, but nothing new came out of her. He let her lay down on the couch to rest.

After entering updated information into his computer, Smith sat back and stared at the metal balancing man on his desk so he could think. It gave his mind a chance to recoup a bit and to start putting some pieces together. When the head of forensics came in, he gave her his undivided attention.

“You’ll be glad to know your hunches are still good.”

“Yeah?” Smith was pleased. “What have you found?”

The tech slunk into a chair and read from pages on her clipboard. “The envelope revealed no fingerprints. The message on the inside said, "Bring it to me," printed on the same common paper and using the same printer as all the other notes Ms. Bell has received over the last year. The words were different this time. The others were ‘Just so you know.’ The smudge is blood, but the type is one we’ve never seen before. It’s on its way to the lab and I put a rush on it.”

“What do you mean you’ve never seen it before? Is it animal blood?”

She shook her head. “Not that we can tell. It’s whacked. The only thing we can think of is that someone added something to it and placed it deliberately.”

Smith sat back and folded his hand. “We’ll let the lab figure it out. Go ahead.”

She flipped another page. “ME says the throat was ripped out by someone very strong; it was done by hand, but there were no epithelials other than the vics. He verified that the other wounds on the victim’s body were made by the hatchet and your hunch was right; they were placed post-mortem. There were no fingerprints except those of the victim, Ms. Stark, and her roommate in the apartment. There are no fingerprints except the victims on the body. You were also right about the splatter pattern; it occurred when the body was place. The guy wasn’t killed in the apartment. TOD was an hour before Ms. Stark reported it.”

“Do we have any forensics yet from the garage or anywhere else around the building?”

She looked up and frowned at him. “We do, but so far zip. It doesn’t look like this was committed on the premises.”

Sitting up, he drummed his fingers against the desk. “How the hell can someone haul a full sized body to the 11th floor of a very occupied high rise without anyone seeing him or leaving a trace. It doesn’t make sense!” He stopped his tirade and lifted the side of his mouth. “Sorry, Kate. This one’s really a knock out.”

“Yes, sir. It’s kicking out butts, too.”

“Anything else?”

“Yeah.” She went back to her clipboard. “The call Ms. Stark received was placed from the basement of the building, so whoever made it was very near her.” The tech leveled her eyes at Smith and smoothed over the papers. “He had to be almost right on top of her when she got out of her car, if she’s telling the truth. Escalating, do you think?”

Smith rubbed his face. “Yeah. That’s what I’m afraid of. I’ve got a few more questions for Ms. Stark. Thanks, Kate. Keep the envelope secure; we might be able to match it to something later. Stay on top of the labs and don’t let them give you any guff about that rush.”

“I never do.” Kate left the room and Smith called his support sergeant into the office.

“Charley, here’s what I want you to do: Send out officers to talk to anyone who knows Ms. Stark, the roommate, or the victim. Start interviews immediately. I want to know everything; where they go, who they hang out with, hell, what they eat for breakfast. Friends, family, acquaintances, the whole nine yards. This stalker is our primary interest at this point. Who’s the lead on that case?”


“Have him meet me in the interrogation room right away. We’ll work together on Ms. Stark. I want to know if there are other cases like this in the Northwest or on the West Coast. Check with all the other agencies and let’s get a list of anything remotely similar to this. If we find other stalker type cases, then I want to go through the registration, a list of any sex offenders who just got out, and complete background checks on all of them. Start interviews immediately on any in the vicinity. I want to know where they were the night of the killing and where they were on the night of Ms. Stark’s attack last year.”

“You got it. Anything else?”

Smith put on his jacket and headed out the door. “That will get us started. The rest is up to our Ms. Stark.

GENERAL QUESTIONS: A few of my writer friends had some specific questions for the homicide division that I asked during my interview. Here is what he told me:

• Do the detectives order the forensics or is there a special unit that handles that part of the investigation? Detectives determine what tests they want done and have forensics do them.

• Who would have jurisdiction over a case like this? Portland Police Bureau would in this case since it takes place in downtown Portland. If a case happens outside of the city, it is handled by the county sheriff’s office. Oregon State Patrol has jurisdiction in some cases and sometimes PPB uses the OSP labs.

• Would any other agencies get involved? Jurisdiction is determined by where the crime took place; city or county. If there are similar crimes in another state or with the FBI, then the local police will hook up with that agency to exchange information. There is a national database used by most agencies. In some cases, the local police will contact various state police and the US Marshall’s office to get additional information and help, if needed.

• When someone is shot and killed, how does that person really fall? It depends on what they are doing and where they are. Not all victims fall forward, not all die instantaneously, some move on their own volition.

• I've heard that there isn't a fingerprint database where they enter the print and can do a sort quickly, as seen on CSI. Is this true? There is a national database that all agencies use. And how long, on average, would the real process take? Couple of days.

• Can an FBI work undercover in a sting operation with the police? Yes, if it's a joint federal investigation. FBI is involved in federal crimes, bank robberies (because banks are a federal institutions), terrorism, kidnappings, etc. Also the FBI has resources for homicide profiling and other types of profiling that local agencies use, plus a variety of different analyst for different kinds of information.

• Under what circumstances would a victim be tested for GHB or some similar Drug? All victims get toxicology analysis done. They might do more extensive GHB test if there was a reason for it.

• Would they know if DNA testing is done in Mexico? Don't know.