Fancy Plans Guide to Homicide Investigation

September 26, 2009
Homicide detectives are particularly proud of their special-issue "Mickey Mouse" gloves.

Homicide detectives are particularly proud of their special-issue "Mickey Mouse" gloves.

Hi. I’m Detective James Morniwheg, Homicide.

I have some information to pass on to the newest members of our precinct. As you know, we field our fair share of homicide investigations. The world is not a pretty place and you’ll need to get used to it real soon. As quickly as I can, I would like to hand out a few pointers on how to handle a homicide investigation.

First of all, you need to have the proper tools. Every detective should be prepared for a homicide call. Here’s a list of items you should have on you at all times:

  • Gloves
  • Evidence bags
  • Ballpoint pen (for picking up empty casings; occasional writing)
  • Notepad
  • World-weary cynicism
  • Desire to help people (rookies only)


  • Unlit cigar
  • Sunglasses
  • Pet theories
  • Desire to hurt people

Every crime scene you deal with will contain all matter of evidence. Some criminals, especially drug dealers, will have thoughtfully pre-bagged some evidence for you.

Mark any evidence appropriately, for easy identification. For example:

  • “Ditch weed”
  • “Black tar”
  • “B.C. chronic”
  • “Ragweed”
  • “Baby laxative”
  • “To be planted”

Most forward-looking police departments have realized that it is most efficient to have individual policemen secure evidence in their own homes, storage units or bus station lockers. This leaves the evidence in an area where it can be easily accessed as needed, rather than at a central location staffed by an officious and nosy prick.

If you find yourself with a surplus of evidence, especially during Internal Affairs’ investigations, feel free to ditch some of it at your current crime scenes. The other responding officers will appreciate your generosity and it may help take the case in a surprising new direction.

The Smoking Gun
The most famous form of evidence, the smoking gun can often refer to other things metaphorically. We will be dealing only with the literal interpretation.

If you find a gun on the scene, pick it up and sniff the barrel thoughtfully. Has it been fired recently?

If it hasn’t or is still “undetermined,” go ahead and fire a few shots into the wall or available corpse. Try out some creative angles to confuse the boys in forensics. Mark gun as “recently fired.” Place in evidence bag. (Allow time to cool.)

Be sure to indicate, when asked, that the gun was fired “circa the time of death,” rather than, “shortly after I got here.”

Officer McCloskey prevented anyone from entering the rent-controlled apartment until his deposit check cleared.

Officer McCloskey prevented anyone from entering the rent-controlled apartment until his deposit check cleared.

Shell Casings and the Importance of Pen Selection
Choose your pen carefully as it will be serving a greater purpose than dressing up your shirt pocket or staining your shirt pocket.

The main purpose of your pen will be to pick up empty gun shells at the crime scene. You’ll want to have a thin pen with a low center of gravity. This act is harder than it looks. You may want to practice at home, using any of the “evidence” guns you have secured. Fire a few rounds into the wall or available corpse. (This will also help you get the sense for the “recently fired” smell.)

Once proficient with this maneuver, you should be able to pick up casings in one smooth move.

(Important note: never use your hands to pick up shells, gloved or not, as this will probably “tamper” the evidence. It is a serious crime scene faux pas. This is a “rookie mistake,” and you will be the butt of jokes in the precinct for months to come.)

Dealing with the Coroner
As someone who deals intimately with death, day in and day out, your average coroner will often be a pasty, emotionless, wise-cracking weirdo who will insist on eating something no matter how gruesome the homicide.

He will often use phrases and ask questions full of words you won’t understand. Just nod and ask occasional leading questions, such as:

  • “Any signs of foul play?”
  • “What do you think for a time of death?”
  • “Would this ‘recently fired’ gun have anything to do with it?”

If stuck for words, you can always defer to the responding officer. A second tactic is to remove your sunglasses and chew on them thoughtfully while gazing over the scene, perhaps guesstimating the wholesale price of the Persian rug that is now completely ruined. I know this tactic sounds ridiculous, but do it in front of a mirror a few times and you’ll see how “thoughtful” it can make you appear.

Distracted by some rowdy urban youths, Officer Carlington was unable to remember whether she was on the outside or the inside of the crime scene.

Distracted by some rowdy urban youths, Officer Carlington was unable to remember whether she was on the outside or the inside of the crime scene.

Dealing with Responding Officers
Your normal, workaday cop will most likely be the first responder to a homicide call. They are often unimpressed with your position and will try to undercut your authority at every opportunity.

Send them out to “knock on doors.” This will keep them out of the crime scene and thus unable to show you up with their “attention to detail” and “logical conclusions.” Also, their street smarts will clash badly with your world-weary cynicism/desire to help people.

Motives & Suspects
You will often be called on to draw a bead on a most likely suspect and motive. In order to get the ball rolling, observe the crime scene, victim and neighborhood. You should be able to get a “jump” on some conclusions by following these simple guidelines:

Black victim/Lousy neighborhood “Gang-related”
Possible suspect: Gangbanger

White victim/Mainly black neighborhood“Possibly gang-related;” “Wrong place at the wrong time”
Possible suspect: Gangbanger

Black or white victim/Drug paraphernalia“Drug deal gone bad”
Possible suspect: Tony Montana

White victim/Upscale neighborhood“Crime of passion”
Possible suspect: That guy whose wife you’re banging; local retard

White victim/Influential parents“Accidental”
Possibly due to: “Ingestion of two .38 bullets in the back of the head”

The First 24 Hours
90% of homicides are solved in the first 24 hours.

Whether this is actually true or not doesn’t matter. Everyone already believes that it is, so act accordingly.

This would seem to indicate that you will have a hectic day (and night) beginning with the homicide call. Look at it this way: you only have to look busy for 24 hours before you can return to your normal schedule of playing computer solitaire and ticketing your ex-wife’s vehicle.

If you can make it past those critical hours, you are out of the woods, so to speak (even if your victim hasn’t even made it out of the woods yet). Label the paperwork “Cold Case” and throw it in the precinct fridge for some cheap laughs.

Coming up:
Advanced Taser Techniques – Your Quickstart Guide to Subduing the Handicapped and Elderly
Your New Partner – How to Deal with These Goddamn Conscience-Ridden Little Go-Getters
The Last 24 – Making it to Your Retirement Alive



  1. I really learned a lot from that; gee thanks CLT! As you know I have an on-line degree in the exciting criminal justice field. So far I haven’t had any luck with the job search yet, but I’m keeping a stiff upper lip. That may be because I drink so much gosh darned milk and it tends to coagulate in my porn-stash though. I think this information will take me right over the top.

    Since all the questions on my final exam had to do with my credit card info, I have a little confusion that I hoped you can clear right up. I really only have books to go off of but…..

    I thought nobody was aloud to do crime scenes except expertly trained crime scene investigators like Amelia Sachs in Deaver’s books. I thought a hot neurotic chick would always come and ‘walk the grid,’ collecting evidence to tie the killer to a single apartment building based on the fact that it used to be a slaughtering house back in the 1800’s. Or some such result.

    I thought the coroner was always a hot, only slightly neurotic, but most likely closeted lesbian like Kay Scarpetta in Cornwell’s books. And I thought the lead investigator was always a depressed, fat, alcoholic who smoked like 5 packs of Marlboros a day, and went from bad relationship to bad relationship like Mr. Marino. And everybody in the periphery of the case was suicidalely (not a word, surprisingly) depressed and filled with angst.

    Also they told me at the ‘university’ that my lengthy rap sheet, poor vision, and substance abuse problem would not be a problem. It won’t, will it?

    • Stiff upper lip, eh? That may need to be added to the “optional” list, especially if you do your police work in the UK.

      You pose some interesting questions. Pending the arrival of your credit card info, I will attempt to shine some light on the subject.

      What we have here is a difference in investigative techniques. I think that Morniwheg may be more of an East Coast dick while those you are referring to operate in a definite West Coast style. Your lesbian coroner would, of course, represent the Dirty South.

      Good old CLTU is more than happy to give drug-using felonious glaucomacs (not a word either, but that never stopped Nora Roberts) a second-chance with the correct credit card limit.

      Great to see you again, Scott.

  2. Cops have the best dope.

  3. What about the hot, sexy co-detective? Every good detective has one of these. It provides for constant sexual tention plus she can remind him to “keep it real”.

    Also, to clarify, are you saying the the guy whose wife you are banging is a local retard? Or is this actually two potential suspects? Seems kind of complicated.

    • I’m sorry about the omission of the sexy co-detective. I was operating under the conceit that this was an old-school, all-male PD. The kind that didn’t take kindly to their new chief, Catherine Bach.

      As for your follow-up question: the answer is yes. He was just the guy whose wife he was banging, but at the trial he plead “not guilty” due to “high levels of retard.”

  4. Professor Detective,

    Another reminder is that the cops always take the bribe.


    No questions asked.

    Even if it’s just a donut and a cup of coffee.

    • I’m beginning to sense this post is in need of an overhaul. I was severely remiss in my cliche-gathering, which I will now blame on my research team, one Edna Morton.

      I may swing a bottle or two at James as well. I’ve also extrapolated pi to 231 digits. That should cause him to lapse into a catatonic state.

      Thanks for the pointer, CC.

  5. Inncorrect, preacher kids are the most wild in bed.

  6. Oh…

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