False Narratives

One of the most common instances in which crime scene staging is encountered is in a domestic homicide in which a spouse is murdered at the family residence. In these cases, perpetrators are aware that if the spouse’s body is discovered at the unaltered scene, they will immediately become the primary suspect. Richard Walton, Cold Case Homicides:  Practical Investigative Techniques


When a scene is staged, the game has been set in motion. It pits the offender against a society represented by the investigator. Richard Kocsis and George Palermo, Offender Profiling: An Introduction to the Sociopsychological Analysis of Violent Crime


No mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore. Sigmund Freud.


Every crime scene tells a story. A staged one tells conflicting narratives, one of which is false. The perp plays a cat-and-mouse game. Because he can’t keep a secret or because his behavioral traits are fixed, he leaves thought-prints. An amateur with no idea what a real crime scene looks like makes mistakes. Under pressure to act fast, he makes more. If he’s gamey to begin with, he overthinks and overworks the problem.

Betty was killed in what looked like a burglary gone bad. Her house was in disarray, and she was found face-down on the garage floor. Near the garage’s overhead door were a couple of TVs and two garbage cans which had been taken from the utility room to cart away loot. The cans held a wrapped gift, kitchen items, an electric shaver, an open bottle of shampoo, a pair of clip-on Ray-Bans and three electric clocks. The killer was careful: he used gloves and wiped everything clean. But he blew it with the clocks. When each was unplugged from the wall, it stopped: the master bedroom’s at 11:22, the kitchen’s at 11:23, and Greg’s clock-radio at 11:27. The clocks shadowed him through the house. They also showed when Betty was killed. To deposit the loot in the garbage cans, her murderer tracked through her blood.  

Burglars are different from killers. Furtive and conflict-avoidant, they target residences during the week and businesses on weekends. Before breaking in, they make sure nobody’s home. If confronted, they run. This crime occurred just off a busy intersection in a bustling subdivision on a beautiful Saturday morning in June. The front door was unlocked but the killer apparently entered and left by a street-side gate that had been wired shut from the inside.

A staged crime scene physically manifests a lie. Like a ventriloquist dummy’s, its voice is the perp’s. Cops are trained skeptics, not human lie detectors. DAs and defense lawyers each have a dog in the fight. Courts are concerned with a larger truth: justice. Telling and accepting lies—letting ourselves be deceived—rests with us. He couldn’t have done it, he’s not the type, how could a smart guy like him make such stupid mistakes? But crime has no secrets. Eventually the game is up.

What secrets do you live by? What false narratives do you accept?


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