Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases  book cover
1st Edition

Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases

ISBN 9781498711180
Published August 6, 2015 by CRC Press
416 Pages 20 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

Individuals who perpetrate murder sometimes pose or reposition victims, weapons, and evidence to make it look like events happened in a different way than what actually transpired. Until now, there has been scarce literature published on crime scene staging.

Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases is the first book to look at this practice, providing a methodology of identifying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating the evidence of each case by learning to marry the physical evidence to the behavioral evidence.

The book begins with the history of crime scene staging and includes many case examples that illustrate how, when, and why criminals stage crime scenes. The characteristics of crime scene stagers and their victims are examined along with the intent of crime scene staging and dynamics of the staged crime scene. In addition, coverage of forensic victimology explores the reasons why a person might become a victim and why, based on this, staging may be performed.

The book emphasizes the importance of recognizing behavioral red flags which are often present in staged crime scenes. These indicators can be commonly overlooked by investigators when they focus only on the physical evidence of a crime scene. Early detection, crime scene analysis, and crime scene reconstruction of the staged crime scene are each supported—by the full body of literature and latest published research on staging as well as by proven real-world, field-based methodologies.

The book identifies and describes various types of crime scene staging behavioral patterns, presenting the complications and challenges that crime scene staging presents for investigators. This book will be an invaluable tool for forensic scientists, investigators, homicide detectives, and law enforcement to understand all aspects of crime scene staging dynamics.

Table of Contents


History of Crime Scene Staging
Early Historical References to Crime Scene Staging
     1514 The Story of Richard Hunne
     1841 The Story of Mister
     1859 The Budge Case
     1882 Bloodstains on the Doorjamb
     1882 Dr. Carl Liman and Staged Weapons
     1887 Dr. Eduard R. von Hofman Murder Staged as Suicide 
     1892 Lizzie Borden 
     Glaister 1902 
     1924 Hans Gross
     1936 O’Connell and Soderman 
     1962 Soderman and O’Connell 
     1972 O’Hara and Osterberg
     1974 Svensson and Wendel
Contemporary References to Crime Scene Staging 
     1984 Puschel, Holtz, Hildebrand, Naeve, Brinkman
     1989 Ueno, Fukanaga, Nakagawa, Imabayashi, Fukiwara, Adachi, Mizoi 
     1992 Douglas and Munn 
     1996 Geberth 
     1996–2006 Geberth 
     1996 Leth and Vesterby 
     1998 Yamamoto, Hayase, Matsumoto, Yamamoto
     1998 Mallach and Pollak 
     1999 Adair and Dobersen 
     1999–2011 Turvey 
     2000 Turvey
     2001 Meloy 
     2002 Adair 
     2004 Hazelwood and Napier 
     2004 Keppel and Weis
     2006 Douglas and Douglas 
     Eke 2007 
     2007, 2011 Chisum and Turvey 
     2009 Cobin 
     2010 Geberth
     2011 Ferguson
     2011 Pettler 
     2012 Schlesinger, Gardenier, Jarvis, and Sheehan-Cook
     2014 Chancellor and Graham
     2014 Ferguson 
     2015 Pettler
Summary of Crime Scene Staging Literature

Introduction to Crime Scene Staging
Staging versus Scene Alteration
Staging versus Precautionary Acts
Crime Scene Staging Statistics and No Repository
Crime Scene Staging Is a Problem

Crime Scene Dynamics
Heart of It All: Ethics 
     Death Scene Characteristics Indicative of Homicide
Anatomy of a Homicide 
     Physical Evidence 
     Behavioral Evidence
     Circumstantial Evidence 
     Body as Evidence
Staged Scenes versus Other Types of Scenes


Offender Characteristics and Behaviors
Offender Characteristics 
     Offenders Are Most Often Male 
Crime Scene Staging Behavior
Categorizing Crime Scene Staging Behaviors 
     Crime Scene Staging, Research, and Typologies 
     Evaluating Typologies
Building Theories about Crime Scene Staging 
     Development of a Substantiated Theory on Crime Scene Staging
     Pettler’s 2011 Theory of Crime Scene Staging 
     Breaking Down the Theory: The Problem of Crime Scene Staging
     Breaking Down the Theory: The Problem for Society
     Breaking Down the Theory: Identifying Solutions 
     Breaking Down the Theory: Strengths and Weaknesses

Defining Victimology
Victimology Theory 
     Case Example
Victimology and Politics
Importance of Victimology 
     Case Example
Research-Based Forensic Victimology: A Suggested Approach 
     Taxonomic Hierarchal Arrangement of Victimological Components 
     Conceptual Model of Research-Based Forensic Victimology 
     Implications of Research-Based Forensic Victimology 
          Physiological: Victim’s Physical Demographics and Attributes 
          Safety: Victim in Relation to Personal, Familial, Financial, and Occupational Safety
          Love and Belonging: Victim in Relation to Relationships
          Esteem: Victim in Relation to Personality, Cognition, Emotionality, Behavior, and Achievement 
          Self-Actualization: Victim in Relation to Relative Adoption of Worldly Concepts 
Victim–Offender Relationship 
     Importance of Victim–Offender Relationship Examination
     Importance of Victim–Offender Relationship: Circumstantial Evidence 
     Facilitation, Precipitation, and Victim Risk 
          Case Example
          Case Example 
     Assessing Risk Level

Purposes and Motives
     Disconnecting the Victim–Offender Relationship
     Misdirect Investigations 
     Avoid Apprehension
Motives for Murder 
     Motive 1: Argument/Conflict/Confrontation 
     Motive 2: Property Gain 
     Motive 3: Robbery 
     Motive 4: Sexual Assault

Intimate Partner Violence 
     Intimate Partner Violence and Risk Factors Indicating Lethality 
     Case Example 
     Physical Abuse 
     Emotional Abuse 
     Psychological Abuse (Mental Abuse)
     Sexual Abuse 
     Economic Abuse
Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence
     Physical Consequences 
     Psychological Consequences
     Lifestyle-Related Consequences
Intimate Partner Homicide
     Intimicide Characteristics 
     Intimicide Dynamics 
     Power–Anger Conceptual Continuum 
     Intimicide Homicidal Pattern
Criminal Profiling and Its Value toward
     Predicting Risk and Preventing Lethality in Intimicide 
     Intimicide Offender Characteristics

Types of Staging
Homicides Staged as Suicides 
     Case Example 
     Suicide and Firearms 
     The Betty "Bea" Lafon Johnson Malone Flynn Sills Gentry Neumar 
     Case Example 
     Case Example
Homicides Staged as Robberies, Home Invasions, and Burglaries
     Case Example
Homicides Staged as Accidents 
     Case Example 
     Case Example
Homicides Staged as Car Accidents
Homicides Staged as Sexual Homicides 
     Case Example
Homicides Staged as Self-Defense Cases 
     Case Example
Homicides Staged as Missing Persons 
     Case Example 
     Case Example


Crime Identification: Detecting Deception
Bloom’s Taxonomy 
     Phase 1: Knowledge, Comprehension, and Application 
     Phase 2: Analysis 
     Phase 3: Synthesis and Evaluation
Victim-Centered Death Investigation Methodology (VCDIM) 
     Suggested Approach 
     Overview of the VCDIM Process 
     VCDIM: Outline 
     VCDIM Stage 1: Crime Scene Knowledge
     Staging Identification Trilogy 
          Conflict and Confrontation 
          Victim Discovery
          Verbal Staging
Crime Scene Investigation
     Assumption of Integrity 
     Constellation Theory
VCDIM Stage 2: Crime Scene Comprehension
VCDIM Stage 3: Application of the Crime Scene Processing

Crime Analysis
Victim-Centered Death Investigation Methodology: Outline
VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis
VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 1 (Victimology)
VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 2 (Crime Scene and Lab Reports)
     Victim Discovery and Notification 
     Time, Date, Location, and Number of Crime Scenes
     Initial Contact Location
     Murder Scene Location 
     Victim Recovery and Disposal Site Location 
     First Responders 
     Crime Scene Logs 
     Points of Entry and Exit 
     Sketches and Maps 
     Evidence Lists 
     Evidence of Staging 
     Cleaning the Crime Scene 
     Hiding and Removing Evidence 
     Creating Evidence
     Destroying Evidence
VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 3 (Autopsy: Wound Pattern Analysis) 
     Physical Evidence on the Body
     Time of Death 
     Evidence of Injury
VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 5 (Suspectology)
VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 5 (Statement Analysis) 
     "How-To": Organize to Multiple Statements 
     Detecting Deception 
     Types of Narratives
VCDIM Stage 4: Crime Analysis—Component 6 (The Scientific Method) 
     Bloodstain Pattern Analysis 
     Shooting Incident Reconstruction 
     Kaleidoscope System

Crime Synthesis and Evaluation
Summary of Crime Scene Staging Behaviors and Characteristics
VCDIM Outline 
     VCDIM Stage 5: Crime Synthesis 
     Before, During, and After the Death of the Victim 
     Victim-Centered Modified Triangulation: Empirical, Quasi-Empirical, and Nonempirical 
     Tying It All Together 
     VCDIM Stage 6: Crime Evaluation

Custom Art
Crime Scene Staging Awareness Initiative
Recommendations for Future Research 
     Expanded Sample Sizes 
     Staging Prevalence and Frequency 
     Staging and the CSI Effect
     Offender Characteristics and Behaviors 
     Victim Characteristics: Victimological Studies 
     Victim–Offender Relationship 
     Conflict and Confrontation
     Victim Discovery 
     Verbal Staging 
     Behavioral Taxonomy 
     Crime Scene Staging and Law Enforcement Professionals
American Cold Case Epidemic
American Investigative Society of Cold Cases
Cold Cases and Crime Scene Staging

Appendix A:
Research-Based Forensic Victimology

Appendix B:
Victim-Centered Death Investigation Methodology Outline

Appendix C:
Crime Synthesis Matrix

Appendix D:
Physical Evidence Inventory and Information Worksheet

Appendix E:
Crime Scene Photo Log Worksheet

Appendix F:
Wound Pattern Analysis Worksheet

Appendix G:
Statement Analysis Worksheet

Appendix H:
Prereconstruction Checklist


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Laura Gail Pettler is a forensic criminologist, author, educator, and inventor. She is a crusader for justice for victims in homicide cases. Laura is dedicated to using her life to make a difference. Laura holds a bachelor of science degree in preprofessional psychology; a master of science degree in criminal justice where she focused on death investigation, forensic psychology, and aspects of forensic science; and a doctor of philosophy degree in public safety specializing in criminal justice where she focused on forensic criminology and specifically on the study of intimate partner violence and crime scene staging behaviors. Laura is an International Association for Identification (IAI) Certified Senior Crime Scene analyst and is the chairwoman of the IAI’s Bloodstain Pattern Analysis Subcommittee.

Laura was inducted into the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC) and served one year on its honorary review board while simultaneously serving as AISOCC’s Director of Development before being promoted to vice president in 2014. Laura dedicates a tremendous amount of time and resources toward furthering AISOCC’s mission in support of cold case victims and their family in the pursuit of justice.


" is my hope that this book, the first one written on staging, will help investigators, prosecutors, and academicians to begin building a body of work that will bring more killers to justice. Laura Pettler has proposed new conceptual and practical theories here that I hope will get the readers’ creative juices flowing and aid investigators in convicting more of the guilty and sending more of the innocent home."
—From the Book’s Foreword by Michael D. Parker, Esq., Retired Former District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 20A, North Carolina, USA