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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Inteview with Homicide - Behind the Plot - Part III

Smith had a long conversation with the DA about what he planned to do next. Satisfied, the DA left for home a few minutes before. The Medical Examiner was just now looking at the body.

Questioning the witness was long and arduous for both detectives and Ms. Stark. What was her relationship to the victim? Where was she between the hours of 3pm and 7pm? Was anyone with her? What time did she leave work? When did she see the victim last? Speak to him last? What exactly did she do when she came home? Hundreds of others.

Ms. Stark was cooperative, but terrified, and it was hard to get her to calm down enough to give them coherent answers. They would probably have to take her down to the van later when she had time to settle down and then start all over again. When she found out she wouldn’t be allowed back in the apartment for two to five days, depending on what they discovered, Ms. Stark was inconsolable. Both of them took special care to treat her as cordially as they could; she was still the prime suspect, but Smith knew you drew more flies with honey than vinegar.

After questioning Ms. Stark and one time over the scene, Detective Smith suspected many things that would guide him as they moved forward. It looked like the body was placed there after the attack; there was minimal splatter and not enough blood. There was what looked like ax marks all over the body and the throat had apparently been ripped out. An ax was taken from the hallway fire case and neatly placed next to the body. No fingerprints, unfortunately. Ms. Stark told them she received a phone call from the victim just before she discovered the body, but that he was very hard to hear. She wasn't sure if it was him. His name had appeared on her cell phone and they verified the date and time of the call. She and the victim had been lovers over the last year, but were non-exclusive. An envelope similar to the ones Ms. Stark had been receiving over the last year from a stalker was discovered under the body. One side was soaked with blood, but the other revealed the witness's name and a smudge on one corner. Based off this information Smith ordered forensics to collect fingerprints and blood samples from the witness, her roommate, the victim, and anyone else close to the scene before they started their run on the apartment.

The roommate was out on a date and seen by dozens of people, so his alibi was solid. Ms. Stark’s, on the other hand, was not; she claimed she was working late, and entries from her work computer confirmed that, but there was a good forty-five minute gap from the time she left the office to the time she arrived at the apartment. Smith has his doubts, however; the extent of damage done to the body was impressive; it was very hard to believe a woman 5’2”, 110 lbs. could inflict the injuries sustained by the victim. Smith knew stranger things had happened, but he had a good hunch this was done by one hell of a strong individual. That all remained to be seen, of course.

Scanning the scene, Smith knew there were four areas they needed to gather evidence on to prosecute the perpetrator when they found him: circumstantial evidence, forensic evidence, witness statements, and a confession, if they can get one. He made certain his officers and the forensic people went over this apartment with a fine tooth comb starting with the victim and working their way out.

He watched his men and women work, trying to see what story the scene was trying to tell: was this an act of passion? A premeditated action? Did the murder take place here or somewhere else, as the evidence seemed to be telling him? If so, where? Is there evidence of a struggle? Who is the victim, his friends, his family, his full background? Did he have conflicts with someone else? What was his life style like? What was he involved in? In other words, who the hell was he? The woman had a history of a stalker they could not locate; was he involved? Smith had someone pulling the files on the stalking case and a call into the detective in charge. Maybe the stalker was escalating. Anything that the suspect touched would have to be examined, but Smith wasn’t hopeful; so far, the only fingerprints they found came from Ms. Stark, her roommate, and the victim.

The forensics team took their time, and Smith was grateful. He watched them collect every piece of evidence, every scrape they could get their hands on, but the pickings were slim. They would preserve is meticulously.

Smith yawned; they had already been on the scene for several hours. He knew it would at least 12 more. Videos, photographs, finger prints, shoe impressions all had to be gathered, not to mention any video surveillance tapes from inside and outside the high rise, traffic cameras, security tapes, etc., etc. All would have to be searched frame by frame. He already had people on it, but it would take weeks to put together. DNA had to go to the State lab and could take as long as six months. Tests on the envelope, the ax, the apartment itself could take days and possibly weeks. That was his concern; the more time it took, the longer the guy was out on the street. Smith always hated that part of the job, but knew a case had to be built brick by brick. They’d get him; it was only a matter of time, but time was his enemy.

After Smith talked to the lead on Ms. Stark’s stalker case, his concern doubled; this was looking more and more like a serial case, one of the toughest to crack. Ms. Stark could be in terrible trouble. He needed to get her into protective custody immediately. She was resistant to the idea of going down to the precinct even though they assured her she would be quite comfortable and safe there. She agreed to stay there temporarily, but said no more than a few hours. Smith knew he would have to find a place where she would be safe. He’d jump that hurdle when they came to it.

Once everything was gathered and the ME had ordered the body taken to the morgue, Smith rubbed his eyes, had the uniforms seal off the apartment, and followed the teams back to the precinct. It was going to be a very long couple of days.