Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fifth Edition, 5th Edition (Hardback) book cover

Practical Homicide Investigation

Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fifth Edition, 5th Edition

By Vernon J. Geberth

CRC Press

1,296 pages | 917 Color Illus.

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Hardback: 9781482235074
pub: 2015-05-12
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Renowned for being THE definitive resource for homicide investigators, Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniquesdetails the recognized protocols used by investigative divisions of major police departments throughout the world. The text is used in most police academies, including the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Now in its fifth edition, the book begins with a comprehensive discussion of homicide crime scenes and moves chronologically from initial police notification, the correct police response that follows, and the subsequent steps necessary to conduct an intelligent investigation. It then delves into the more technical aspects of homicide investigation, augmented with numerous pictures and full-color illustrations that involve pertinent case histories.

This latest edition includes three new chapters along with fully revised chapters with new case histories and techniques that reflect the latest forensic methods and modern investigative procedures.

Highlights of the Fifth Edition Include:

  • Newly revised "Homicide Investigator’s Checklist"
  • A new chapter on the latest DNA technology
  • A rewritten chapter on equivocal death investigations that includes staged crime scenes
  • Additional information on modes of death
  • Fully updated chapters on death notifications, sex-related homicide, management for police administrators, suicide investigation, and narcotics-related and homosexually based homicides
  • Over 920 photos and illustrations, 250 new photographs, and several new case histories

Eminent author, lecturer, consultant, and expert witness Vernon J. Geberth incorporates his more than four and a half decades of real-world law enforcement experience in this quintessential reference. This classic and must-have resource provides the most vital information needed by detectives and police investigators responsible for cases in violent and sudden death.

Remember: do it right the first time. You only get one chance.

—Vernon J. Geberth, M.S., M.P.S., Homicide and Forensic Consultant, Author of Practical Homicide Investigation, and Series Editor of The Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations


"Geberth has succeeded in the impossible. … Practical Homicide Investigation, Fifth Edition, explains every aspect of a homicide investigation, with an easily understood, how-to approach from a professional who has been there. In my opinion, it is essential that the professional involved with the investigation and prosecution of a homicide have a copy…. This is the most outstanding and comprehensive encyclopedia on the tactics, procedures, and forensic techniques of homicide investigations."

—Philip G. Schnelwar, Attorney at Law, White Plains, New York

"This book leaves no question that now more than ever, a homicide investigation must be based on a mix of the practical and the scientific. In fact, the new chapters and revised materials, along with the descriptive photos in this text … will place this edition in the category of a police text classic, an authoritative standard on the subject, and make this book the most complete homicide textbook available on the market today."

—Pierce R. Brooks (Deceased), from the Book's Foreword, Writing about the Previous Edition

"One of the most difficult aspects of homicide investigation…is to keep current and up-to-date with techniques, laws and procedures. Vernon Geberth continues to update and review critical matters…relating to the ever-changing world of homicide investigation. If you do not keep up to date with the latest techniques and investigative practices as Vernon explains them, you will wish you had when you are confronted with them on the witness stand at trial. I have prosecuted murder cases for over thirty years in New Mexico, Texas, and Colorado. This book and its accompanying Field Guide are used by me and our local investigators constantly."

—James Yontz, Deputy District Attorney, Pueblo, Colorado, USA

"Vernon Geberth, a retired NYC homicide detective, is a prominent forensic consultant and the recognized clearinghouse for all things related to death investigations. The 1st edition had become a veritable bible for investigators, so I could just imagine what a 5th edition offered. I couldn’t wait to see it. At a crime scene, investigators should observe, describe, record anything they find, and use proper procedures to collect the evidence. This book goes over every known scenario: inside, outside, typical, atypical, straightforward, ambiguous, staged…you name it. In short, this book is impressive. Geberth leaves no stone unturned. I pride myself on my collection of unusual suicide cases, but he includes some in this book that riveted me."

Psychology Today’s "Shadow Boxing" blog June 2015, Katherine Ramsland. Katherine Ramsland, PhD, an expert on murder and serial crime, teaches forensic psychology and has published 46 books.

"This newly published 5th edition ofPractical Homicide Investigation is 1226 pages in length, and … is a collaboration of information made possible by the author, who has dedicated his life to providing the most up to date reference tool to homicide and death investigators and prosecutors throughout the country. This behemoth of a text continues that legacy …which make this latest edition a valuable tool for any investigator charged with the ‘profound duty and awesome responsibility,’ of conducting a homicide or death investigation."

—Detective Mark J. Czworniak (retired), Chicago Police Department, Area North - Homicide Sex Crimes Unit

"This edition not only provides the scientific basis for homicide investigation, it also describes in intimate detail the procedures and techniques necessary for a comprehensive and successful investigation. The text is replete with photographs, drawings and illustrations … including multiple case examples that are very clearly written and pertinent to the science as well as the practical procedures of homicide investigation. This is the most complete text available on the subject … I highly recommend it to any officer involved in homicide investigation as well as forensic scientists."

—Ronald Turco, Past President, American Academy of Psychoanalysis and The American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians, Former Reserve Police Officer of 30 years

"This is a must-have reference for all homicide detectives. This comprehensive opus is nothing less than a masterpiece. The amount of information packed into 1200 pages is astonishing …truly a wonderful resource for all persons investigating and seeking to gain an understanding of every aspect of homicide. No question this text is the gold standard in the field. Truly a remarkable resource."

—Donna Pedergast, First Assistant District Attorney, Michigan Attorney General’s Office

"Geberth, the world-wide expert on homicide investigation, is the real thing. His chapter on DNA is one of the most readable and comprehensive treatments on the subject. His expertise and clarity make this a must read. All of the twenty-four chapters have been excellently written and revised to make this textbook the continued recognized ‘Bible of Homicide Investigation’ for all members of the criminal justice and legal system."

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

"The best book on death investigations just got better. I love the new book … it has been significantly expanded and goes into even greater detail than Geberth’s previous editions. The use of case studies to explain the importance of the different steps is magnificent. The information has been updated to acknowledge the increased role technology plays in death investigations. This is the ultimate manual for death investigations; every homicide investigator should own a copy and use it like a physician’s desk reference."

—Larry Hallmark, Detective Lieutenant, Grapevine Texas Police Department

"Practical Homicide Investigation, Fifth Edition, will be your one-stop shopping resource for successful death investigations. The updates and additions are massive … the incorporation of today’s forensic and technological advances will keep you on the cutting edge of death investigations."

—Larry Thomas, Assistant Director, Kansas Bureau of Investigation (Ret.), BTK Serial Killer Task Force Supervisor

"Once again, Vernon Geberth has set a new standard for learned treatises in homicide investigation … (the) Fifth Edition is thoughtful, provocative and, most of all, provides an expert guide for the men and women of our police forces."

—Charles S. DeAngelo, Esq., Attorney-at-Law

"Practical Homicide Investigation, Fifth Edition contains just about everything there is to know about death investigations and is a must read for anyone that investigates deaths and homicides."

—Heath Taylor, Sheriff, Russell County, Alabama

"[With] the first edition to this textbook … and each successive edition, Practical Homicide Investigation has exemplified the most comprehensive and up-to-date compilation of homicide and death investigative knowledge available. This fifth edition is similarly an unsurpassed reference."

—Joseph A. Bobak IV, Ph.D., Professor of Criminology and Forensic Investigation, Mount Aloysius College

"This intelligent, all-encompassing book is a veritable encyclopedia for successful homicide investigations."

—Marvin Skeen, Chief Criminal Investigator, Office of Attorney General of Washington

"Vernon Geberth’s Practical Homicide Investigation, Fifth Edition leverages his 46 years of experience with that of many colleagues to put everything you need to know about murder investigation in one place—at your fingertips."

—Pete Gagliardi, Author, The 13 Critical Tasks: An Inside-out Approach to Solving More Gun Crime, www.triplebarrelstrategies .com

"This comprehensive book is a must-have item for every detective and investigator to use as a guide and reference. Vernon’s Fifth Edition successfully ties together the old-fashioned principles of good investigative police work with the latest advances of forensic science and technology."

—Tom Jordan, Judge, District Court, Center Hall, Pennsylvania

"Practical Homicide Investigation is to the police profession what the Physicians’ Desk Reference is to the medical profession. In the Preface Geberth writes, ‘A homicide investigator is street smart and book wise.’ This Fifth edition is a one of a kind source that provides professionals the ‘street smart’ with ‘book wise’ in a very practical way."

—Anthony D. Magnetto, Police Commissioner (ret), City of Troy, NY Police Dept.

Table of Contents

The Homicide Crime Scene

The Five Components of Practical Homicide Investigation

The Crime Scene

The Preliminary Investigation at the Primary Crime Scene


Equivocal Death Investigations

Most Common Errors or Missteps in Death Investigations



Selected Reading

First Officer's Duties: General

Notification of a Possible Homicide: The Official Notification to the Police

First Notification of Homicide Received in Person by Patrol Officer

First Officer's Duties on Arrival at the Scene

The First Officer Initiates the Homicide Investigation

Dealing with Emergencies at the Scene



Selected Reading

First Officer's Duties: Specific

The Suspect in Custody

Transporting the Suspect

Examination of the Suspect for Evidence

The Dying Declaration

The Victim Removed to the Hospital

The Victim Pronounced DOA at the Hospital

The Officer's Duties at the Hospital

The Victim Confirmed DOA at the Scene

Handling Witnesses at the Scene

Additional Officers at the Scene

Handling News Media Personnel at the Scene

The Documentation of Events by the First Officer

The Changing Sequence of Command

Patrol Officer's Checklist

The Preliminary Investigation at the Scene: The Detectives

Initial Receipt of Information

Arrival at the Scene

Preliminary Steps to Be Taken by Detectives upon Arrival—Checklist

Describing the Scene

Implementing Crime Scene Procedures

Direction of Uniformed Personnel at the Scene

The Teamwork Approach

Directing the Investigation at the Scene

Duties of the Detective Supervisor on Arrival at the Scene

Preliminary Interview of the First Officer

Interview of Ambulance Personnel

Handling Curious Onlookers

Handling Witnesses at the Scene

The Canvass

The Preliminary Medical Examination at the Scene

Special Procedure to Follow in Specific Cases


Selected Reading

Specific Investigative Duties at the Scene

The Suspect in Custody

Interview and Interrogation of the Suspect in Custody

Examination of a Suspect for Evidence

Evaluation of the Suspect’s Demeanor and Mental Capacity

Homicide Calls and Statement Analysis

Obtaining a Dying Declaration

Handling Buried-Body Cases

The Investigative Checklist


Selected Readings

The Crime Scene Photographs

The Value of Crime Scene Photographs

Crime Scene Photography and the Investigator

Admissibility of Photographic Evidence

Photographing the Homicide Crime Scene

Type of Film

Recommended Crime Scene Photographs

Practical Application of Crime Scene Photography

Digital Video Recording



Selected Reading

The Crime Scene Sketch

The Sketch

Preparing the Crime Scene Sketch

Utilizing Aerial Photographs for Mapping Outdoor Crime Scenes

The Total Station Crime Scene Reconstruction Program

The Homicide Crime Scene Search

Legal Considerations

Physical Evidence

The Concept of Linkage

Methods of Crime Scene Search

Formulating the Search

The Homicide Kit

The Search

Examination of the Body at the Scene

Bloodstain Pattern Analysis

Documenting Bloodstain Patterns

Release of the Body

The Scene

Physical Examination of a Suspect in Custody

Release of the Scene

Crime Scene Process Protective Equipment and Clothing

Crime Scene Protocol for Protection from Airborne Pathogens and Other Biohazards

Exposure of First Responders

Exposure to Blood-Borne Diseases

Infection Control Techniques



Selected Readings

Estimating Time of Death

The Process of Dying

Body Changes after Death

External Agents of Change

Information Derived from the Scene



Selected Reading

The Identity of the Deceased; Resources for Missing and Unidentified Persons Cases

The Identification

Mass Fatality Events

The Iceman Case

The Teeth

The Bones

Forensic Art

Resources for Missing and Unidentified Persons Cases



Selected Readings

Death Notifications: The Surviving Family as Secondary Victims

Psychological Reactions to Death

The Normal Grieving Process

The Stages of Grief

Psychological Reactions to Murder

Psychological Reactions to Murdered Children

Psychological Reactions to the Murder of Police Officers

Notifications of Death by the Homicide Detective

Recommendations and Guidelines for Proper Death Notifications to Surviving Family Members

Providing Information to the Surviving Family

Guiding the Surviving Family through the Criminal Justice System



Selected Reading

Modes of Death

Gunshot Wounds

Cutting Wounds

Stabbing Wounds

Blunt Force Injuries

Deaths by Asphyxia

Deaths by Fire



Deaths Caused by Injection

Sexual Asphyxia: The Phenomenon of Autoerotic Fatalities


Selected Reading

Suicide Investigation

Suicide Risk Factors

Depression: A Clinical Perspective

Other Motives for Suicide

The Investigation

Staging a Scene

Investigative Considerations

Chemical Suicides in Automobiles

Bizarre Suicides

Equivocal Death Investigations

Motives and Intent

Suicide Notes

Background Information

Psychological Autopsy

Final Exit Suicide Investigations


Seven Major Mistakes in the Investigation of Suicide

Suicide Investigation Checklist Protocol


Selected Reading

The Investigation of Sex-Related Homicides


The Crime Scene Investigation

Human Sexuality and Sexual Deviance

Paraphilic Disorders

Determining Motivation

Significance of Fantasy in Sex-Related Incidents

Technology and the Sex Offender

The Identification of the Victim

Modus Operandi and Signature

Organized and Disorganized Offenders

Four Classifications of Sex-Related Homicides

Interpersonal Violence-Oriented Disputes and Assaults

Rape- and/or Sodomy-Oriented Assault

Deviant-Oriented Assault—”The Lust Murder

The Serial Murder



Selected Readings

Homosexual Homicides


Homosexual Relationships

Homosexual Lifestyles: Investigative Considerations

Interpersonal Violence-Oriented Disputes and Assaults

Murders Involving Forced Anal Rape and/or Sodomy

Lust Murders and Other Acts of Sexual Perversion

Homosexual Serial Murders

Investigative Assessment and Analysis of Case History

Investigative Significance

Psychological Considerations

Robbery-Homicide of Homosexuals

Homophobic Assault and "Gay-Bashing" Incidents



Selected Readings

Forensic Application of DNA Analysis: Introduction

An Introduction to Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)

Cells: Structure and Molecular Biology

Structure and Function of DNA

Techniques and Procedures in Forensic DNA Analysis

Techniques and Procedures in Forensic DNA Analysis

Admissibility of DNA Evidence

Laboratory Accreditation

Relatedness Testing

Familial DNA Analysis

Touch DNA

Ancestry Determination

Forensic DNA Case Studies



Collection of Evidence

Procedures for Collection of Evidence

General Types of Evidence

Classifications of Physical Evidence

Collection of Specific Types of Evidence


Selected Readings

The Autopsy

The Medical Examiner/Coroner

Investigation of Death

Purpose of the Autopsy

The Medicolegal Autopsy

Human Anatomy


Selected Reading

The News Media in Homicide Investigations

The Changing Media Dynamic in the New Millennium

Establishing a News Media Policy

Homicide News Release Policy

Offering Rewards

Handling the News Media at the Scene

Preparing the News Release


Selected Reading

Identification of Suspects

Bite-Mark Identification


Latent Prints on Human Skin

Polygraph Examinations



Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Homicides Involving Theft of a Fetus


ViCAP, and Statewide and Regional Information Systems



Selected Reading

Investigative Assessment: Criminal Personality Profiling


Early History of Profiling

Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP)

The Application of Abnormal Psychology

Criminal Personality Profile

The Investigative Approach to Profiling

Investigative Assessment: The Profiling Process

Clinical Considerations and Descriptions of Behavior

Crime Scene and Profile: Characteristics of Organized and Disorganized Murderers

The Organized Offender

The Disorganized Offender

Criminal Personality Profiling: The Signature Aspect in Criminal Investigation

Geographic Profiling

A Psychology of Evil

Interview Strategies and Techniques for Dealing with a Serial Killer



Selected Reading

Equivocal Death Investigation

Initiating the Investigation

Case 1: An Equivocal Death and Staged Crime Scene—Making a Homicide Appear to Be a Suicide

Case 2: An Equivocal Death Investigation with Staged Crime Scene Death Classified as Undetermined Manner

Case 3: An Equivocal Death Analysis—Homicide or Suicide?

Case 4: A Staged Crime Scene—Homicide or Suicide?


Selected Reading

Narcotics-Related Homicides


The Drug-Related Murder: The Investigative Dilemma

The Drug-Related Murder and the Investigative Reality

The Three-Phase Strategy


Selected Reading

Practical Homicide Investigation: Supervision and Management of the Homicide Investigation

Management Policy

Police Department Policy

Criminal Investigation Management

Supervisor's Homicide Checklist

Providing for the Effective Documentation of Events

Conducting the Investigative Conference

Investigation of Police-Related Shootings (Officer Involved Shooting/Use of Deadly Force Incidents)

Apprehension of Homicide Fugitives

Planning the Apprehension

Cold Case Investigations




Appendix—Supervision and Management: How to Be an Effective Homicide Commander


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