Practical Homicide Investigation Checklist and Field Guide: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Practical Homicide Investigation Checklist and Field Guide

2nd Edition

By Vernon J. Geberth

CRC Press

168 pages | 52 Color Illus.

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pub: 2013-10-08
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This book provides protocols for suicide and equivocal death investigation, police action shooting investigations and a homicide supervisor's checklist. It contains state-of-the-art anatomical graphics in full color to assist the investigator in describing any injuries or wounds to the body.


"There are many practical recommendations made in this field guide that will contribute to thorough, quality investigations. I personally highly recommend that dedicated homicide cops avail themselves of this invaluable resource."

— Det. Mark Czworniak, Violent Crimes Unit, Area North Detective Bureau, Chicago Police Department

"Using these checklists will ensure that a proper and complete investigation is undertaken at the death scene. … As a former Deputy Chief of the NYPD working in the Office of the Chief of Detectives, I would encourage and recommend that detectives who are charged with the responsibility of conducting death investigations have this Practical Homicide Investigation Checklist & Field Guide, Second Edition in their hands at the scene of the crime.

—Edwin T. Dreher, Deputy Chief (Ret.), Office of the Chief of Detectives, New York City Police Department

" … should be required equipment for every cop."

— Lt. Larry Hallmark, Criminal Investigation Division, Grapevine Police Department, Grapevine, Texas

"I have owned and utilized the first edition of the Checklist and Field Guide for many years in my career of homicide investigations and rely on it for almost every investigation. The second edition has brilliantly expanded on the "best practice" philosophy and incorporated explanations, references, and full color medicolegal illustrations to make the information and principles easily understood. … The addition of the medicolegal illustrations and inclusions for electronic and digital evidence is an example of Vernon Geberth’s dedication to providing the most current information available to advancing technologies. indexed and laid-out in a logical and chronological order to quickly reference the material and guide the reader through a checklist of considerations and techniques that are instrumental to insure a proper and complete investigation."

—Sgt. Mark Reynolds, General Investigations Division, Homicide Unit, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Houston, Texas, USA

" … sets the standard for homicide investigations with examples, algorithms, options to consider, and tasks to perform. … built for the rigors of the field with laminated pages, wire spiral binding, and large print. … I would recommend the Practical Homicide Investigation: Checklist and Field Guide, Second Edition for anyone who is responsible for processing, investigating, supervising, or prosecuting homicides."

—Sheriff Heath Taylor, Russell County Sheriff’s Office, Phenix City, Alabama

"This newly revised Practical Homicide Investigation Checklist and Field Guide is one of the most useful tools that an investigator can utilize at the scene of an unattended death. … a no-nonsense practical approach from Mr. Geberth, who is considered The Master of practical death investigations."

—Anny Sauvageau, Chief Medical Examiner, Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

" … a comprehensive and easy to use companion to Lieutenant Commander Geberth’s definitive texts on medicolegal death investigation, Practical Homicide Investigation, Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques and Sex-Related Homicide Death Investigation. This step-by-step guide provides checklists highlighting the key points necessary for the thorough investigation of many different death scenarios. The elegant color illustrations and diagrams are also very useful references. … an invaluable resource for law enforcement officers and all crime scene and medicolegal death investigators."

—Barbara C. Wolf, M.D., District Medical Examiner District 5, Florida

"Whether you are a long time veteran or rookie cop this field guide is a must have tool for your day to day operations. … Vernon is a true professional and will not steer you wrong, add this to your investigative library today."

—Sgt. Sam Todd (Ret.) Kent, Ohio Police Dept.

"Simply put, if you aren't using the principles and methods taught in these text books you're probably doing it wrong. Vernon's ability to get your attention, keep it and then have you retain the information is top shelf to say the least. The information is written in such a manner that a rookie patrol officer could very easily take the checklist to an active crime scene, employ the techniques and principles provided within and then later testify in court as to what he did and why."

— Det. Jeff Locklear, Police Specialist, Fayetteville Police Homicide

" … very practical with its color illustrations and pages which are weather proof and also writeable. No agency should be without them."

—Marvin Skeen, Chief Criminal Investigator, Office of Attorney General State of Washington, Homicide Investigation Tracking System

Table of Contents

The Checklist Approach to Homicide Investigation

The Homicide Crime Scene


The Patrol Officer’s Duties

First Officer’s Duties upon Arrival

Patrol Officer Establishing the Crime Scene

The First Officer Initiates the Homicide Investigation

The Patrol Officer’s Checklist

The Preliminary Investigation at the Scene

The Detectives

Prior to Leaving for the Crime Scene, Instruct Patrol to

Arrival at the Scene

The Investigative Checklist

Documentation of the Initial Report

Duties of the Detective Supervisor upon Arrival at the Scene

Specific Investigative Duties at the Scene

The Suspect in Custody

Evaluation of the Suspect’s Demeanor and Mental Capacity

Obtaining a Dying Declaration

Suicide Investigation

Three Investigative Considerations in Determining the

Manner of Death (Homicide or Suicide)

Suicide Notes

Suicide Checklist

Psychological Aspects

Final Exit Suicides

Investigative Checklist for Final Exit Cases

The Plastic Bag

Suicide-By-Cop Scenarios

Some Suicide Indicators

Autoerotic Fatalities

Investigative Considerations

Autoerotic Checklist: Determining the Involvement of

Sexual Asphyxia

Investigative Fatal Fires Checklist

Investigative Considerations

The Fire Incident

Suspicious Designation: General Determination Factors

Maintenance of the Fire Crime Scene

Investigation at the Scene

Determination of Arson

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS )

Investigative Checklist

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Warning Signs

Crime Scene Documentation

Documentation of Crimes Scene Photographs

Recommended Crime Scene Photographs

Photographs of Deceased Subjects

Videotape Protocol

Taping Protocol Checklist

Documentation of the Crime Scene Sketch

The Title Block

Formulating the Search

Examination of the Outdoor Crime Scene

Investigative Questions

Examination of the Body at the Scene

The Wound Chart

Gunshot Wounds

Cutting Wounds

Blunt Force Injuries

Asphyxial Deaths

Recommendations and Guidelines for Proper

Death Notifications to Surviving Family


Sex-Related Homicide Investigation

Investigative Considerations

The Crime Scene Investigation

Sex-Related Crime Scene Checklist

Medicolegal Considerations

Examination of the Crime Scene

Descriptive Information

Anatomical Figures

Supervisor’s Homicide Checklist

Supervising the Preliminary Investigation at the Scene:

The Checklist

Directing Specific Investigative Duties

Supervising a Homicide Crime Scene Search

Crime Scene Considerations

Release of the Body

Release of the Crime Scene

Investigation of Police-Related Shootings

Officer-Involved Shootings (OIS s) and Use of Deadly Force


The Protocol

Investigation of OISs and Use of Deadly Force


Supervisory Responsibilities—Checklist

Incident Scene Investigator(s)—Checklist

Interview of Employee(s) Involved

Follow-Up Investigation

Background Investigation

Preparation of Investigative Report

Appendix: Procedures for the Collection of Evidence

Collection of Specific Types of Evidence

Body Materials

Blood Stains (Dry)



Spittle or Saliva










Cigarette or Cigar Butts

Displaced Furniture





Documents (Letters, Notes, and Papers)



Tool Marks

Newly Damaged Areas

Collection of Bite-M ark Evidence at the Scene

Blood Stain Pattern Analysis (Examination of Blood Spatter)

Crime Scene Collection of Electronic and

Digital Evidence

Investigative Considerations

Additional Investigative Considerations


Cellular Phones


About the Author

Commander Vernon Geberth is a retired lieutenant commander of the New York City Police Department with over 40 years of law enforcement experience. He is a nationally renowned lecturer, author, educator, consultant, and expert witness on the subject of death investigation. He has appeared on numerous local, national, and international television programs to answer questions on the subject of murder and provide insight, analysis, and commentary with respect to all aspects of homicide and death investigations. Geberth has been referenced as a media consultant on myriad national major cases across the United States and Canada. Over 69,500 members from over 8,000 law enforcement agencies have attended Geberth’s Practical Homicide Investigation seminars. In his seminars, Geberth focuses on his textbooks stressing advanced tactics, procedures, and forensic techniques and presents equivocal death, suicide, and missed investigations as well as serial murder investigation and the application of abnormal psychology to the investigative process.

About the Series

Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations

Learn more…

Subject Categories

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