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On November 3, 2000, the dead body of a female was spotted along Old Annapolis road, Columbia. The body, which was later identified as that of Ashley Smith, was first spotted by two truck drivers, who immediately notified police officers. The first police officers arrived at the scene at 1051 hours, checked the victim, and concluded that she was dead. A crime scene perimeter was then established to allow for further investigations and collection of evidence before the body was moved. According to studies, the first action that police officers need to take once they reach a crime scene is to ensure that the scene is secured (Howell, 1999). This is usually in an effort to prevent any tampering of evidence, as well as to create room for further investigation. According to the case study, D/CPL Case was assigned the role of the primary investigator. Hence, it was his responsibility to ensure that all the persons responsible were brought to book. Crime scene investigators are persons in charge of the entire CSI operation. Apart from establishing identities of victims as well as suspects of a crime scene, it is also the responsibility of the CSI investigator to acquire witness testimonies, link suspects to crime scenes, and exonerate the innocent (Byrd, 2000). The case study intends to analyze the manner in which the homicide investigation was conducted in addition to lessons learned from it.
Reflection on Case Study
In my opinion, the homicide investigation was conducted in a fair manner. This is because all processes were followed sequentially and in the right manner — that is, in accordance with the crime scene investigation procedures. For instance, police officers swung into action the moment they received news about a body spotted along the Old Annapolis road. According to studies, the first action that police officers ought to take once they reach a crime scene is to set up a perimeter to prevent vital evidence from being tampered with. One of the reasons why the investigation was conducted smoothly was due to the proper organization of the police officers in charge. After receiving the report about a dead body that had been located, an investigation panel was established in which D/CPL Case was to act as the primary investigator. Through this organization, no conflicts were witnessed among the police officers since all of the officers were aware of their roles in the investigation.
Throughout the investigation, D/CPL Case was of great importance; this is because all his ideas were successful, and it was through him that the investigation was successful. For instance, during the early days of the investigation, progress was quite slow since all leads were hitting a dead end. D/CPL Case increased the pace of the investigation after he announced a reward of $8,000 to anybody who would come forward with information regarding the killing of Ashley Smith. By announcing an award, D/CPL Case knew that somebody withholding information regarding the homicide would eventually come out, which was true. Although the homicide was announced in the media, not all information was aired; instead, some vital information was withheld. For instance, the media did not mention the sections where the victim was stabbed or the number of wounds inflicted on the victim’s body. Apart from the stabbings, nothing was said about strangulation of the victim. This was a good move by D/CPL Case since these omissions were used as traps during the interrogation process.
In my opinion, the interrogations were conducted in the right manner; this is because D/CPL Case ensured that he interrogated all the people whose names were mentioned during the interviews. In order to ensure that the interrogations went smoothly, D/CPL Case used a number of items. For instance, apart from photos and sketches of the crime scene, D/CPL Case also relied on forensic analysts, as well as pathologists, who aided in reconstructing the crime scene, hence, easing the interrogation operations. According to the case study, it is evident that D/CPL Case remained calm throughout the interrogation process since he was never in a hurry. For instance, whenever he was not satisfied with the information obtained during an interrogation, D/CPL Case would set up another interrogation with the same witness and attempt to acquire more information. It is through this tactic that D/CPL Case managed to acquire more information from Scott Jones. Although most of the interrogations were conducted in an appropriate manner, the same cannot be said when it comes to Fredrick Johnson. Although Scott admitted that he was with Johnson during the night of the murder, D/CPL Case interviewed Johnson only once before accusing him of first-degree murder. In my opinion, D/CPL Case was not just in the manner in which he interrogated Johnson. Although the case was solved successfully, the case study does not talk about what happened to the $8,000 award that had been advertised in the media. In my opinion, since nothing is mentioned about this award, the award was just a set-up that lured possible suspects to come forward.
Crime Scene Investigation and Evidence Analysis
Investigation of the homicide started on 11/3/00 when two truck drivers spotted the body and reported it to the police. After setting up a perimeter, thorough investigation of the crime scene commenced. Investigation at the crime scene was thorough since several professionals were present. For instance, apart from police officers, there were also photographers, forensic scientists, and pathologists. According to Assi (2010), the reason all investigation specialists need to be present is to replicate the crime scene before launching an investigation. For instance, whereas the role of police officers is to search the entire crime scene and take notes, photographing and sketching the crime scene is also of great importance. Taking photographs and sketching the scene makes it easy to review the crime scene in case something arises during the investigation (Howell, 1999). When taking photographs of a homicide investigation, several factors need to be considered. The face of the victim ought to be photographed for the purpose of identification when official investigations commence. Apart from the face, photographs should be taken of all wounds inflicted on the victim, all unusual marks appearing on the victim’s body, and the particularities of the victim’s clothing (Assi, 2010). In the case study, it is evident that crime scene investigators adhered to these requirements. This is because there are photographs depicting the victim’s face, all wounds inflicted on her, and the manner in which the victim was dressed. According to the photographs taken at the crime scene, it is evident that apart from being stabbed in the neck and abdominal area, the victim was also strangled.
While still at the crime scene, a number of evidence materials were collected. For instance, apart from the two neoprene skullcaps located at the scene, the forensic scientists and crime scene technicians collected more evidence for further research in the lab. Other items collected included the victim’s blood sample, the victim’s clothes, and DNA swabbings from the victim’s ankles, mouth, vagina, and anus. After analyzing the evidence collected at the crime scene, the fact emerged that the victim had consumed alcohol prior to her death. Additionally, the victim had also engaged in a sexual activity moments before her death. This was discovered by the samples of sperms detected in her pants, vagina, and anus. According to the notes taken at the crime scene, the wounds inflicted on the victim were caused by knife stabbings. The murder weapon, which was later discovered by Richard Myers, was also forwarded to the laboratory for further forensic investigation. After the media announcement, the investigators took note of two names, Scott Jones and Fredrick Johnson, which had been mentioned in three of the calls received. After setting up surveillance on the two primary suspects, investigators managed to get the suspects’ fingerprints from the cigarette butts they had discarded. These butts were used by the analysts to identify whether the two suspects had any links to the homicide. By the cigarette butts obtained, the investigators realized that the suspects’ DNA matched with the DNA acquired at the crime scene, as well as the murder weapon found. This critical information prompted police officers to apprehend the two suspects for further interrogations.
Investigative Steps and Strategies
After successfully identifying the victim as Ashley Smith, the next step was to launch an investigation into the homicide, which would result in the arrest of the perpetrators. For the investigation to be successful, the investigating team used a number of steps and strategies. The first step was to get the full profile of the victim. Since she was still underage, her records were not available in the computer system; hence, it was D/CPL Case’s task to acquire this information from Mrs. Smith. After holding an interview with Mrs. Smith, D/CPL Case learned that, before her demise, Ashley had been a student at Grand Senior high school and had a female friend known as Heather Thomas. According to Mrs. Smith, Heather was the last person to see Ashley. Apart from Heather, Mrs. Smith also mentioned Jason Phelps, who had been Ashley’s boyfriend. The information marked the beginning of the investigation since more names were mentioned by Heather and Jason. Since most of the information acquired was not solid, the next step was to announce the homicide in the media and issue an award for anybody that would come forward with substantial information regarding the crime. According to the case study, this strategy was successful since more concrete evidence was obtained. Apart from the mentioning of names such as Scott and Johnson, this strategy also resulted in the identification of the murder weapon, which was a small knife. Richard Myers, the citizen who spotted the knife, presented the knife to a police officer after seeing the homicide report on television.
According to Assi (2010), when an investigation is still in the process, some information needs to be confidential. D/CPL Case applied this strategy by not releasing all information about the homicide to the media. Apart from D/CPL Case and the investigating team present at the crime scene, nobody else was aware of the number of wounds inflicted on the victim. Apart from the number of wounds, the media were also not told about the choking. D/CPL Case received many calls, but one call that caught his attention was the one he received on 11/30/00. On this particular day, a female caller claimed that, before her demise, Ashley had been in the company of three men, one of whom was Fredrick Johnson. The caller went on to state that Ashley had been raped by the three men before being killed by Johnson in a move to prevent her from reporting the incident. What made this call unique from the rest was that the caller claimed Ashley had been stabbed in the head and neck. The caller further said that two of the suspects were scratched by the victim during the process. It was this information that prompted D/CPL Case to establish a surveillance on the two main suspects. Although the investigating officers had pictures of the suspects, they were unable to verify the suspects accurately. Hence, with the help of P.O. Gummo, a traffic police officer, they were able to verify that, indeed, the suspects under surveillance were Scott Jones and Fredrick Johnson.
Interview of Witnesses and Interrogation of Suspects
According to Howell (1999), interviews and interrogations are part of the investigation process since more information is acquired during the process. Apart from interrogating witnesses, investigators also need interrogate all suspects whose names are mentioned. According to the case study, the first person to be interviewed was Mrs. Smith, the victim’s mother. Through this interview, it was noted that the victim had been fond of sneaking out of the house at night. Apart from sneaking out, the victim had also been in a number of love relationships, and her last boyfriend was known as Jason Phelps. During the interview, Mrs. Smith claimed that Ashley had had a close friend known as Heather Thomas. Apart from Mrs. Smith, D/CPL Case also interrogated Heather Thomas. During the interview, D/CPL Case noted that Heather was not telling the whole truth. D/CPL Case wished to apply a polygraph examination on Heather, but her parents were against this idea. Hence, D/CPL Case only asked random questions, which Heather answered. D/CPL Case took the record of the interview to Det. Shelly Madison, who later claimed that out of the nine answers given by Heather Thomas, four were wrong. This was enough evidence to show that that Heather Thomas had not been truthful. It was not until the fourth interrogation that Heather Thomas confessed to knowing Fredrick Johnson. D/CPL Case also interrogated Scott Jones and Fredrick Johnson, who was the primary suspect of the homicide investigation. According to the case study, Scott was interrogated more thoroughly than Fredrick. This is because Fredrick requested an attorney. Hence, he was never questioned. At first, Scott denied taking part in the homicide. However, after numerous interrogations by D/CPL Case, Scott finally confessed to taking part in the killing.
During the investigation, there were a number of motions aimed at suppressing some of the evidences. For instance, there was a motion filed to suppress the murder weapon located in the crime scene. The murder weapon, a knife, was brought in by Richard Myers, an American citizen. In my opinion, this item was legally obtained since it was brought in after an advertisement was placed in the media. Apart from the knife, another motion filed was that of illegal surveillance. According to studies, one is in violation of the fourth Amendment if he or she interferes with the privacy of a person by either watching or listening to the Person (Couenhoven, n.d). In my opinion, D/CPL Case and the investigation team went against the fourth amendment after they illegally placed surveillance on Scott and Fredrick. There was also a motion filed on some of the confessions made. It is against the fourth amendment for a witness to be interrogated for a long period (NCIDS, 2002). Due to this, it is therefore evident that Scott was coerced to make confessions during the interrogation, hence, there is high chance that not all the information provided by the suspect was accurate. In my opinion, the information provided by Scott was not legally obtained. It is also against the law for enforcers to acquire information from witnesses and suspects without a warrant (Find Law, 2014). In the case study, D/CPL Case and the investigation team acquired the DNA of Scott and Fredrick after illegally acquiring the suspects’ cigarette butts that they had discarded without the suspects’ consent. Due to this, it is therefore evident that the law enforcers did not acquire the item legally.
Lesson Learnt and the Applications
The case study has been quite beneficial since through it, I have been able to comprehend most of the lessons I acquired in class concerning the investigation strategies and procedures of a homicide. First, a crime scene needs to be secured by the first police officers to arrive at the scene. In the case study, PFC. Malcolm was the first police officer to arrive at the scene. After confirming that the victim was dead, he established a perimeter around the crime scene. Secondly, after securing the crime scene, investigators need to take photographs of the scene as well as the victim. Apart from taking photographs, they also need to produce sketches of the entire scene. In the case study, apart from sketches, there are also photographs of the victim as well as the crime scene. These photos showed the wounds inflicted on the victim, the posture in which the victim was found, and the manner in which she was clothed when she was first identified. After taking photographs, investigators need to ensure that they collect all the evidence required. In the case study, apart from the victim’s blood samples, other evidence collected included her clothes as well as swabs from her mouth, vagina, and anus. Finally, crime scene investigators need to interview all witnesses as well as suspects whose names are mentioned. These interviews are of great importance to the investigation since they enable investigators in identifying the main suspects. In the case study, it was through numerous investigations that D/CPL Case and his investigating team were able to identify the main suspects of the homicide.
On 11/3/00, a female body was found in Columbia along the Old Annapolis road. The body was later identified as that of Ashley Smith. During the investigation, it was noted that the victim was not only stabbed, but was also choked. According to tests conducted in the laboratory, prior to her death, the victim had engaged in sexual activities. This was due to the detection of sperms in her pants, vagina, and anus. After collection of evidence, an investigation was launched to identify perpetrators of the homicide. Apart from the victim’s mother, interrogations were also conducted on Heather Thomas, Jason Phelps, Ronnie Emden, Scott Jones, Fredrick Johnson, Michael Stewart, and Janet Jones and Crystal Jones. It was through the interrogations that the investigation team was able to identify Scott and Johnson as the main perpetrators of the homicide. In my opinion, the information addressed in the case study has been quite beneficial. This is because, through the case study, I have been able to fully comprehend the information learned in the classroom.
Assi, H. (2010). Homicide Crime Scene Investigation. Retrieved on 10 December 2014 from www.justiceacademy.org/iShare/Library-Training/Homicide-Scene-Manual.pdf
Byrd, M. (2000). “Duty Description for the Crime Scene Investigator.” Crime Scene Investigator Network. Retrieved on 9 December 2014 from http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/dutydescription.html
Couenhoven,P. (n.d). Suppressing Confessions: Involuntariness and Miranda. Retrieved on 12 December 2014 from www.sdap.org/downloads/research/criminal/confessions.pdf
Find Law. (2014). The Fourth Amendment and the “Exclusionary Rule”. Retrieved on 12 December 2014 from http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-rights/the-fourth-amendment-and-the-exclusionary-rule.html
Howell, J. (1999). Homicide Investigation Standard Operating Procedures. Retrieved on 9 December 2014 from www.policeforum.org/assets/docs/Free_Online_Documents/Homicide/homicide%20investigation%20standard%20operating%20procedures%201999.pdf
NCIDS. (2002). Chapter 14: Suppression Motions. Retrieved on 12 December 2014 from www.ncids.org/Defender%20Training/Drug%20Case%20Training/Supp_Motions.pdf