Here is a checklist for a homicide investigation. This is intended to be only a guide. Use what you can from the form. This is a great tool for the beginning investigator.
HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION CHECKLIST
OCPD HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION SCHOOL 1997
A. ARRIVAL AT SCENE:
1. Enter scene by route least likely to disturb evidence, noting route of travel.
2. Check victim for signs of life (breathing, neck area for pulse).
3. Note time of arrival
B. LIVING VICTIM:
1. Summons Medical Assistance
2. Dying Declarations
a. Conscious Victim – If victim is conscious, attempt to obtain the following information:
1. Who did this to you?
2. If name of assailant not known to victim, commence identification by description: man, woman, race, height, weight, color of hair, eyes, type of clothing, etc.
3. Establish the fact that the victim knows that he/she is dying.
C. Unconscious Victim
1. At scene – If victim unconscious on arrival at scene,
MAKE SURE THAT A POLICE OFFICER REMAINS WITH VICTIM AT ALL TIMES, INCLUDING TRIP TO HOSPITAL SO THAT ANY DYING DECLARATIONS MADE DURING CONSCIOUS PERIODS CAN BE NOTED.
2. At Hospital – Upon arrival at hospital alert medical personnel to possibility of dying declarations. Request them to note same if made during operative period.
3. Notification – Request to be notified if victim regains consciousness so that you will be present when any dying declarations made.
C. Removal of Victim from Scene
1. Before removal
a. If possible, photograph victim’s position at scene before removal.
b. If time and circumstance do not permit photos before victim is removed
carefully note the position of the victim in your report.
D. Obtain physical evidence from victim
a. Officer accompanying victim to hospital should collect victim’s clothing and personal effects as they become available.
b. Officer receiving items should carefully note time received and the identity of person from whom items were received.
c. If Necessary for identification items handled by physicians, nurses should be marked by those persons and the chain of custody noted. This is particularly important with items such as bullets, etc. Medical personnel should not attempt to identify caliber or types of firearms used.
NOTE: – A failure to follow up on collecting items that left the crime scene with the victim may cause their loss or render them useless as evidence.
E. Notify command of situation
1. Notify command of your agency, REQUEST ASSISTANCE.
2. Notify or request notification of DA representative (Only for legal questions, do
not allow a lawyer to get involved in the actual investigation. Their training limits them to the providing advise on legal issues only).
3. Notify or request notification of medical examiner.
F. Secure Scene
1. Block or rope off scene (ABigger is better”).
2. Persons at Scene
a. Clear unauthorized person from the scene. NOTE: You cannot worry about hurting someone’s feelings. If they do not belong tell them to leave. This must include any unauthorized police command.
b. Prevent anyone from touching the body or disturbing anything pending the arrival of the medical examiner, identification personnel,and investigative officers.
1. Note name and address of persons present.
2. Obtain brief statement from each person present.
3. Hold witnesses until arrival of investigators.
4. Keep Witnesses separate to prevent conversation.
3. Prevent Destruction of fragile evidence such as footprints, tire tracks, etc.
G. Process Scene
CAUTION – Be aware that there are search and seizure problems in this area. If in doubt you may wish to contact your DA regarding a warrant or other advise.
NOTE: – At night – Obtain adequate lighting before scene processing commences. Artificial lighting used must be adequate for photography and for minute detail search for items such as hair, cartridge cases, etc.
WHEN LIGHTING NOT AVAILABLE – secure scene under guard and wait for daylight before processing is commenced.
H. Identification Personnel (Technical Investigators)
1. Note time of arrival
2. Note weather conditions, especially at outside crime scenes.
3. Check perimeter of scene to insure that all of scene is secured.
4. Obtain summary of situation from officer in charge.
5. Photograph scene
a. Photograph scene
1. Take color photographs of the scene from all angles. Work
from the perimeter to center.
2. Include photographs of entrance, exit routes to scene.
REMEMBER – There is no such thing as too many photographs of a crime scene.
3. Make sure that all possible locations relevant to scene are photographed. Particularly important that all rooms at scene are photographed.
REMEMBER – Something may have happened in an adjoining room that will be of critical importance as the investigation develops.
4. Photograph specific items of evidence such as footprints, cartridge cases, weapons, etc. as observed in place at scene. Where scale is important (footprints, tire tracks use ruler scale to show size).
5. Overhead photographs
a. Should be taken of outdoor scenes, including streets, intersections. These can be invaluable in constructing scale representation of scene.
b. Extension ladders, power company and fire trucks should be utilized for this purpose.
6. Video tape
a. Video tape recordings should be made of scene where possible.
b. Include video tape shots of collecting evidence, examining victim at scene.
c. Also video tape defendant, witnesses.
7. Photograph victim at scene
a. Color photographs should be taken of deceased from all angles.
b. Photograph deceased as items are removed from body, identification, clothing, etc.
c. Photograph substances on body and clothing of deceased such as blood, seminal fluid, powder residue, etc. These should include full length and close-ups.
d. Photograph wounds, injuries – include close-ups. This should be done step by step as body examined, disrobed by medical examiner at scene.
8. Make careful note of following:
a. Position of body
b. Position, condition of clothing
c. Location of substances on deceased and his clothing
d. Any alteration of deceased’s position before your arrival as determined from witnesses or officers.
9. Survey Scene
a. Take careful measurements of the scene. Measure each room in a house (NOTE: it is very hard to return later to a scene if you do not have a warrant).
b. Use a reference point that is permanent.
10. Search of Scene
a. Before removing examine deceased for physical evidence (Example: loose hairs, fibers, etc.)
b. Place deceased on a cloth sheet, move body shortest possible distance.
c. Examine the ground underneath the victim
d. Examine deceased for additional physical evidence that may become visible after movement.
e. Collect physical evidence from deceased to include personal effects, clothing, shoes, weapons, etc.
B. Scene area
a. Organize scene search by adopting specific plan, assign tasks,areas of search to individual officers.
b. Assign ONE officer to collect, mark and transport items found.
c. Execute search by carefully following plan of assigned tasks.
d. Note, mark and photograph location of objects found such as latent fingerprints, footprints, tire tracks, tool marks, hair, fragments of cloth, buttons, cigarette butts, cartridge cases, bullet holes, bullets, bloodstains, etc.
e. Collect, mark evidence.
REMEMBER – When collecting evidence DO NOT overlook such items as room furniture, doors, etc. that can be used to reconstruct crime scene in court.
f. Preserve items of evidence individually.
i. Do not place separate items of evidence in same container. (Example: mixing items of clothing in one bag can compromise evidence such as head or pubic hair when the location of such items on a particular garment is critical.
ii. Use correct container – molded plastic container for blood. Paper bindle for hair or fiber. Paper bag for bloody items. Never put evidence that may decompose or deteriorate into a plastic bag.
iii. Provide information to lab personnel concerning source of item, what test you desire performed. Make contact with the lab personnel and give a brief account of what your investigation shows.
11. Process Defendant
A. Photograph Defendant
a. Show any injuries or lack of injuries
b. Show his clothing and general appearance
c. Show hands (both sides)
d. Show any tattoos or scars
B. Take any evidence that you are entitled to
a. Pubic combing if a rape case
b. Any item that is on the clothing and could be lost
c. Obtain warrant for blood and hair samples
12. Autopsy Processing
a. Arrange through the medical examiner the transportation of the victim to morgue.
b. Medical Examiner investigator or police officer should be present during the autopsy
c. If possible before autopsy take finger and palm prints of deceased. If not then once the autopsy is completed get the prints.
d. Pick up any evidence that was obtained during the autopsy (blood samples, hair samples, fingernail scrapings, bullets)
NOTE: Place each item in a separate container. Paper bags are best. Each container should be marked, dated and initialed.
13. Investigative Personnel
a. Obtain summary of situation from officer at scene.
b. Check scene security and take steps necessary to correct and errors or omissions, if any.
c. Review all actions of officers on the scene
d. Initiate Investigation from the beginning
e. Determine identity of deceased
1. Identification on person of deceased
f. Attempt to reconstruct events at crime scene by use of the following:
1. Position of body
2. Number, location of wounds
3. Trajectory of bullets
4. Bloodstains, substances
5. Other signs of violence
6. Other physical evidence at scene
g. Organize Investigation
1. Assign specific tasks to individual officers.
2. Supervise execution of assigned tasks.
3. Receive, Record and Index information received from investigators
A. Establish case book to include the following:
I. Index of contents
ii. Initial reports
iii. Follow up reports
iv. Evidence reports
v. Medical reports
vi. Witness statements
vii. Defendants statements
viii. Background on defendant
ix. Background on deceased
x. Evidence Log Book
xi Books of photographs
B. Provide Copies of case book for
I. Principal investigators
ii. DA’s office
C. Keep case book current by distributing new reports, etc., as available
D. Communicate information
I. To you investigators
ii. To other agencies
iii. To PIO
14. Obtained Detailed Statements
a. Advise of MIRANDA RIGHTS using card.
b. Have defendant initial or sign rights card or get a verbal acknowledgment that defendant understands rights.
c. Video tape or record the defendants statement.
I. Your choice if you tell defendant he/she is being recorded.
ii. Turn tape from the start.
iii. Questions should be designed to answer the unanswered questions that you have about the case.
iv. If lawyer is present you must control the interview.
a. Use your discretion as to video a witness or not.
I. Do tape if witness is reluctant
ii. Not necessary if witness is cooperative
iii. Unfortunately cost of tapes must be considered.
15. Establish movements of deceased prior to death to determine:
a. Time last seen alive
b. Who with
c. What doing
16. Examine deceased’s background, including the following:
d. Possible criminal record or activities
f. Possible romantic involvements
g. Possible use of narcotics
h. Gang involvement
A. Consider deceased’s background
B. View scene information for evidence indicating motives such as:
b. Theft of money or property
d. Mental Derangement
18. Determine actions of defendant before homicide
A. You may be required to cover period days, weeks or months before homicide, depending on circumstances, including motive.
B. Pay attention to any unusual actions of defendant, trips, absences from work, home, etc.
C. Cover any activities such as surveillance of victim, purchase of weapons, etc.
19. Determine actions of defendant after homicide
B. Destruction or concealment of:
a. Clothing worn at crime scene
b. Weapons used
c. Vehicles used (including cleaning of same to remove bloodstains, etc.)
20. Practical tips.
A. Call upon experienced investigators to assist.
B. Question thoroughly those concerned.
C. Be careful in questioning witnesses- they may turn to be principals in the crime.
D. Do not divulge critical information carelessly to witnesses – it may get back to the defense and you may end up with what you have told the witness instead of what he actually knows about the event.
E. Separate witnesses
F. Confer with your co-workers.
G. Cooperate with fellow officers
H. Be courteous and tactful.
I. Give constant attention to dissemination of pertinent information to other agencies.
J. Do no disclose valuable information to press or unauthorized persons.
21. Report Writing
A. Facts of case must be reported. No investigation regardless of how competently executed is complete unless accurately reported.
REMEMBER – Reports are your channel of communication to command, DA, fellow officers. Your case is never better than your report.
B. Contents of Report must include at least the following:
a. Summary – A brief, concise summary of operative case facts at beginning of report. This puts case in narrative form, enables reader to grasp picture before examining balance of report for details, witnesses’ statements. Summary should not contain verbatim recital of witnesses statements.
b. List of Evidence – List items seized, using consecutive numbers for each individual item. Specify following:
b. Where seized
c. From whom
d. Where stored
e. Action taken – Specify if item given to lab personnel for testing, and, if so, to whom.
c. Action Needed – Specify any processing remaining to be done such as latent prints, lab testing, etc.
d. List of witnesses with brief statement of what testimony concerns; connection with case.
e. Witnesses Statements
f. Do not include:
i. Your opinions concerning the value of case.
ii. Irrelevant Material