Quarterly by
web mystery magazine

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."
Sir Walter Scott

Winter 2003
Volume I,
issue 3


Marianne Petit's first book, A Find Through Time, a Native American time travel, was given four stars by Romantic Times Magazine. NY Times best-selling author Janelle Taylor deems Ms. Petit "a rising star in the Native American sub-genre."

Past President of the Long Island Romance Writers, when she is not writing, Ms. Petit works with her husband in his Long Island chiropractic office.

She is currently working on a murder suspense set in New York. Visit Ms. Petit's website; direct email to Marianne Petit or to

photo of Marianne Petit

Investigating the Crime Scene

          OK. You've started your thriller. Murdered off a character. The police are on their way. Now what?

             Readers demand accuracy. Feed them the wrong information and they'll let you know you've made a mistake. So to the best of your ability you'd better know who does what and what happens at the crime scene if you are going to write about one.

             Sherlock Holmes said: "Whenever you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." In other words the truth is present at every crime scene. And if it's your character's job to find it, make sure he's doing his job correctly.

             Keep in mind that precincts vary in their allotment of duties. Not all houses have a large enough staff to divvy procedures out. In a small town, the local sheriff may do it all; whereas in a larger precinct, the Patrol division, Identification section, Scene of the Crimes officer, and detective will likely all be called in to investigate.

             The following is the procedure used at a crime scene, in a homicide case, by a large precinct.

             The primary responsibility of those people involved is the isolation and protection of the crime scene. This is very important. Any discrepancy, any contamination of evidence jeopardizes the case.

             If this is an outdoor crime scene, conduct all examinations as soon as possible due to weather and light changes.

             The patrol division usually gets the initial call and goes to the scene to determine the situation.

             Upon arrival the first officer at the scene should preserve its integrity until the patrol division supervisor can arrive.

             Responsibilities of first officer:

             1. Record exact time of your arrival and or notify Communications that you are on the scene.

             2. Enter immediate scene using one path of entry.

             3. Check victim for signs of life.

             4. Secure and define the scene by assessing the entire crime scene noting all exits and paths of entry.

             5. Isolate a perimeter with a type of barrier.

               6. Isolate witnesses and remove all persons from the immediate area.

             7. Ascertain whether or not any evidence is present and control collection.

             8. Request additional units as needed.

             Responsibilities of patrol supervisor:

             1. Take an initial survey of the area, developing a mental image to ensure the scene is preserved.

             2. Record names, addresses, dates of birth, and telephone numbers etc of all persons present.

             3. Set up a command post if police are to be at the scene for a long period of time.

             4. Start a crime scene log to enter everyone who enters the crime scene.

             5. Interview witnesses.

                6. Notify the homicide division and record time of notification and who was notified.

             Important: Don't touch anything; unless there's an injured person. Once backup arrives, if the victim is removed from the scene, an officer should accompany the victim, in the ambulance, to the hospital.

             Upon arrival, the detective takes over. It is now the officer's job to assist the detective.

             The detective will:

             1. Record exact time of his or her arrival.

             2. Interview witnesses.

             3. Canvass the area. Note the surroundings, who's loitering around. Everything should be considered as evidence.

             4. Record everything from the time, to the weather, the lighting, to the amount of people on the scene, which includes ambulance personnel, family members, witnesses and police personal.

             5. Interview first officer and other police personal at the scene to determine sequence of events.

             6. Arrange transport for witnesses to be sent to headquarters and takes written statements. It will be his job to follow-up on the investigation and write follow up reports, as well as make any subsequent arrests.

             7. Record location, and complete description of the body, including a detailed account of their clothing. Note condition of body.

             8. If identity of victim is know, get a background check.

             9. Ascertain whether or not there are any suspects in custody.

             A few details the detective looks for: foot/finger/palm prints; clothing fibers; hair strands; blood; paint chips if a vehicle is involved; tire tracks.

             All "trace evidence" is collected by the use of tweezers or other appropriate instruments. The name of the officer who found the evidence and the name of officer who receives the evidence at the evidence locker is noted.

             Remember- all personal must wear gloves.

             Photographs of the area are shot from the four corners of the scene, long distance, close up, etc., as well as photos of the body. This is done before the ME examines the body.

             Now portions of the body which were not visual prior to photos can be photographed. This is done by the identification officer of the crime scene division, or the detective. Some departments hire civilian employees to be a technical and they will take the pictures.

             Physical evidence is taken and transported to the laboratory for further assessment. An initial crime-scene sketch at location and another sketch at headquarters is performed. Fingerprints are taken which will be compared to the prints of known suspects.

             The ME (Medical Doctor), EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), or Coroner examines the victim and pronounces dead at the scene. He determines cause and time of death. Time of death is usually determined by taking the internal temperature of the body. The victim's location/position of body is marked. Body is then wrapped in a clean white sheet and placed in a body bag. Hands of the victim are covered with paper bags to preserve any trace evidence under fingernails.

             It is critical that all evidence is collected, i.e., photos, initial examination, etc., before the body is released.

             Remember: the truth is present at every crime scene. And if it's your character's job to find it, make sure he's doing his job correctly.

Copyright 2003 by Marianne Petit

The Web Mystery Magazine is an on-line quarterly journal dedicated to investigating the mysterious genre in print, in film, and in real-life. The Web welcomes well-researched, well-written articles and reviews. Writers are invited to send letters and inquiries to


Quarterly by
web mystery magazine

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."
Sir Walter Scott


Copyright 2003,