Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Crime Scene Staging Dynamics in Homicide Cases

1st Edition

By Laura Gail Pettler

CRC Press

416 pages | 20 Color Illus.

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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.


"…it 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

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


About the Author

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.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Criminal Law / General
LAW / Forensic Science