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What is it that sets writers of crime fiction apart from, well, everyone else in the entire world? Could it be that …

1. The worst murder scene in the world pales in comparison with the thoughts roaming through your mind at any given moment of the day.

2. You actually do wonder what human blood smells like.

3. Somewhere in your house is a book containing photos of crime scenes and/or dead bodies. (Click the book!)

51uTGkVA7kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

4. You want to ride in the back seat of a police car.

5. Your internet search history has a file all its own at the Department of Homeland Security.

6. At least once in your life you’ve asked your significant other to pose in a certain way so you can see if it’s possible/believable to stab, cut, shoot, hack, or strangle them from a variety of angles.

New-Picture-14

7. You own a pair of handcuffs, and they’re strictly for research purposes.

8. The cop who lives in your neighborhood hides when he/she sees you coming with pen and paper in hand.

sex in a graveyard

9. You attend more police training workshops than what’s required of the police officers in your town.

Lecture Hall – Writers’ Police Academy

10. While other people fall asleep listening to soft music or gentle ocean waves, your sleep machine plays the sounds of police sirens and automatic gunfire.

11. Your favorite bookmark is an actual toe tag from the morgue.

12. Writers in other genres listen to classical music while working. You, however, have a police scanner chattering in the background.

13. When using a large kitchen knife to chop vegetables, your thoughts drift to using an ax to dismember a body.

14. You see a cop and instantly know the caliber and manufacturer of the pistol on his side.

15. You’ve searched high and low for a perfume or cologne that smells like gunpowder.

16. You own a police flashlight.

17. Your screensaver is a photo of a police K-9.

18. The ringtone on your phone is the theme song for the TV show COPS.

19. You think you know more about crime-scene investigations than most of the cops in your city, and you probably do.

20. You’ve registered for 2021 Virtual MurderCon, a one of a kind event that takes writers behind the scenes to learn insider information about crime-solving from top forensics and law enforcement experts. And yes, we’re pleased to announce that spots are now available! So please spread the word.

 

 

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

 

Today I’d like to take a moment to recognize some of the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes of this blog. Yes, this site has tons of moving parts that require many creative minds and many hands to turn the dials, push the buttons, and flip the switches. So without further ado …

Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins is in charge of our patrol division. It is he who offers details of traffic stops, responses to various types of calls, training information, etc. His teams also provide security in and around our property.

Cap’n Rufus “Peanut” Jenkins

Our two sharp-dressed cops, Rusty and Willie, provide backup during all dangerous situations that may occur during the writing of blog articles.

Sharp-dressed cops Rusty and Willie,

Our in-the-field reporter, Jerry “Fake News” Journalyss.

Jerry “Fake News” Journalyss.

Animal Control Officer Chuck “The Chicken” Davis handles all calls involving runaway animals, cases of animal abuse, chicken theft, and more.

Animal Control Officer Chuck “The Chicken” Davis

Third Shift Watch Commander, Lt. L. Arge Rat.

Lt. L. Arge Rat

Larry “The Knife” Johnson, a master of disguise, plays the parts of a few bad guys on the site.

Larry “The Knife” Johnson

Paulie “The Painter” appears as himself.

Paul the Painter

Bad Breath Bill played himself during an article about edged weapons. Larry “The Knife” Johnson joined him in the post.

Bad Breath Bill

Major Mechanical serves as Chief Deputy.

Major Mechanical

O-R3 and Running Bad Guy, a regular on the site, teamed up to teach us about crime-fighting robots.

O-R3 and Running Bad Guy

Facilities manager, Rosie, maintains a clean website—no profanity and no discussions of hot-button issues, such as politics, race, religion, etc.

Rosie

The Man in the Moon supervises the daytime operations of Graveyard Shift.

Man in the Moon

For some reason, and we don’t know why, this weasel pops in from time to time.

Weasel “popping”

Today, nothing and no one are safe from scandal. These two, Betty and Billy, for example, have been at it for quite a while now. We’ve threatened to fire them but they cannot seem to control their emotions.

The “pucker factor” sometimes causes strange reactions.

Harry “Hot Sauce” McGee is our resident expert on non-lethal weapons.

Harry “Hot Sauce” McGee delivers the “Juice”

“The Hand” appears throughout the site. Here we see him demonstrating the proper procedure for “drawing” a gun.

“Drawing” a service weapon

As a precaution, we routinely sweep the site for things that go boom, and other hazards. Here we see Beauregard the Bomb Dog doing what he does best.

Beauregard the Bomb Dog

To teach us about Rigor and Livor, the Mortis Twins, we brought in world-renowned death expert Frankie Stein.

Frankie Stein

Our aquatics experts, Dewey D. Duck and Ronnie Raft.

Dewey D. Duck (upper right) and Ronnie Raft (lower left, bottom, sides, and rear).

Dewey’s 1st cousin, “Three-Eye” is our resident surveillance expert.

Three-Eye

Guarding us around the clock is Police K-9 Sha-Key. Never felt safer in my life.

K-9 Sha-Key

Tommy Turtle and Tiny Tom are on-hand to detail the effects of bioterrorism.

Tommy Turtle and Tiny Tom

Skeeter Simpson teaches us about bloodstain patterns.

World-renowned bloodstain pattern expert Skeeter Simpson

Of course, to maintain the grounds of the Graveyard Shift compound, we employ top professionals that include horticulture expert Gilly Goat.

Gilly Goat

Website repairperson and master carpenter Harry Hammer is never happy when links are broken.

Harry “The Frown” Hammer

Crime Scene Experts, Grant Greenfly and Bobby Blowflow, always know the finest of details. They’re like, well, flies on the wall.

Crime Scene Expert Grant Greenfly

Crime Scene Expert Bobby Blowfly

Sergeant Sam Stinkfeet is a real pro at evidence collection and preservation.

Sergent Sam Stinkfeet

Hematology expert O. Positive, along with a rare visit by renowned scientist B. Negative, provided much-needed information about blood evidence.

Hematology experts O. Positive and B. Negative

Officer survival expert Fred Fish taught us of the dangers associated with tunnel vision.

Fred Fish

The “Yelling Woman,” played by Laura Largelungs, is featured throughout the site as the person/witness who’s screaming nonstop … at crime scenes, he-said/she-saids, domestic calls, at, well, everywhere. She/he is the person who “loses it” no matter the situation. And they never fail to get in the way at every step.

Laura Largelungs screams, “Help, poleeeece!”

Larry Lipzipper – Miranda expert.

Larry Lipzipper rehearsing his lines. “You have the right to remain silent. Use it!”

The part of the villain is played by actor Carl Cockroach.

Carl Cockroach, in character.

Prison information provided by Calvin Convict.

Calvin Convict

Weak Walter often describes the thought processes and actions of criminal suspects who enjoy fighting the police, but aren’t very good at it.

Weak Walter 

Our staff of law experts, led by by Judge I. Have Power, are always on standby to weed through legal issues.

Judge I. Have Power

Howard Hacker, our cyber crimes expert, is on standby to answer all questions.

Cyber crimes expert Howard Hacker

As you can see, The Graveyard Shift is well-staffed by a slew of top experts. Without them we’d be just another blog.

Of course, there are many other experts who walk our hallways and occupy the offices of our elaborate compound. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time or space to showcase each of them today. And, there are many more characters experts on the way, and you’ll soon them and some of our regulars in places other than this blog. As they say … STAY TUNED!


MURDERCON

REGISTRATION IS OPEN!

2021 MurderCon takes writers behind the scenes, into actual murder cases where you’ll learn intricate crime-solving details, including how creepy-crawling insects assist detectives.

To help add a special twist to your crime novels, one of the world’s leading forensic entomologists, DR. JASON H. BYRD,  is scheduled to present a spectacular presentation called Forensic Entomology: Utilizing Insects in Criminal Investigations.”

In this session you’ll learn how “Insects that inhabit human tissue in postmortem situations can play a valuable part in death investigations. You’ll also learn how experts use medicocriminal entomology to help determine time of death, establish the geographical location where a death likely occurred, link suspects to victims, and even offer a different source of toxicology and DNA evidence. is an entertaining and educational discussion of the history of homicidal poisoning from the days of early man, down to the present, with case discussions of real poisoners drawn from criminal history. Also discussed will be the psychology of the poisoner, and poisons used by writers in their fictional works.”

Other MurderCon classes include forensic botany, cold cases, active homicide investigations, fingerprinting difficult surfaces (wet, sticky, etc.), case studies of the FBI, and much more.

I strongly urge you to take advantage of this rare opportunity to learn details not typically available for non-law enforcement.

MurderCon is a “killer” event!

www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Seats at this unique event for writers are LIMITED!

From the start of the Writers’ Police Academy over a dozen years ago, we’ve taken writers inside the typically closed world of law enforcement, forensics, EMS, and firefighting. We’ve introduced you to world-renowned experts. We’ve helped establish contacts between writers and experts, writers with agents and editors, and more. We’ve seen beginning writers grow, and we’ve seen seasoned authors expand their knowledge in ways that were once not possible.

It’s been a long and exciting journey, one that we’ve made together.

Our 2021 event, MurderCon, continues the tradition of delivering spectacular, unique classes. So without further ado … the fabulous 2021 lineup.

2021 Guest of Honor – Andrew Grant (Child)

Andrew Grant was born in Birmingham, England in May 1968. He went to school in St Albans and later attended the University of Sheffield where he studied English Literature and Drama. After graduation Andrew set up and ran a small independent theatre company which showcased a range of original material to local, regional and national audiences. Following a critically successful but financially challenging appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Andrew moved into the telecommunications industry as a ‘temporary’ solution to a short-term cash crisis. Fifteen years later, after carrying out a variety of roles—including a number which were covered by the UK Official Secrets Act—Andrew escaped from corporate life, and established himself as a critically-acclaimed author. He published nine novels under his own name, and in 2020 began a collaboration—writing as Andrew Child—with his brother Lee, to continue the internationally-bestselling Jack Reacher series.

He is married to novelist Tasha Alexander, and lives on a wildlife preserve in Wyoming, USA.

 

1. Rescue Your Characters from Sticky Situations: Fingerprinting Problematic Surfaces

Learn how experts process fingerprints on problematic surfaces, such as the sticky sides of various tapes, wet and/or textured surfaces, firearms, and more. Class includes instruction on forensic chemical processing and the use of powders and brushes to develop and capture prints. Attendees will receive training from one of the most knowledgeable experts in the field, who will lead the class in real-time, hands-on fingerprinting exercises using the kit supplied to attendees by Sirchie.

*All MurderCon attendees will receive the Sirchie kit in advance of the event!

Instructor – Andy Parker

Andy Parker has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology / Criminal Justice from Florida State University. He began his career in law enforcement with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. After seven years with FDLE, he worked crime scenes, analyzed latent prints and footwear evidence for the Tallahassee Police Department. In 2002 he began work with the City-County Bureau of Identification in Raleigh NC. At CCBI, he has held the position of Latent Print Examiner, Latent Print Section Supervisor, Deputy Director in charge of the Identification Division, Deputy Director in charge of the Laboratory and currently is responsible for the Investigations Division.  He is a certified Latent Print Examiner with the IAI. Andy is also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy.


2. “Spatter” or “Splatter?” Have You Written it Right, or Wrong?

Attendees will witness the real-time creation of various bloodstain patterns, and then learn to recognize each configuration and how investigators determine where an injury or bleeding event occurred.

Former FBI Special Agent David Alford, a founding member of the FBI Evidence Response Team, presents the key information to each type of design and shape, and how the volume of blood, amount of force, and directionality of the force can form consistent patterns while still producing individual flares to each stain.

Combining this incredibly detailed training with their own observations, the class will understand how bloodstain patterns tell a story. This session is certain to help your stories zing with realism, including correcting an often-misused term. Is it Spatter, or Splatter? One is appropriate. The other is not.

Short Story Contest – Bloodstain pattern posters will be provided to attendees, who will then arrange them in their own unique order to build a crime scene. Then, when the plot begins to thicken, use those mysterious details to write a short crime story of 500-800 words to be submitted to contest judges. Prizes will be awarded to the authors of the top three stories. Contest to be judged blindly. Participation is merely a fun exercise and is not mandatory.

Instructor – David Alford


3. Solving the Unsolvable: The Pandemic of Murder Cases Across the U.S.

With over 17,000 murders in the United States each year, and nearly 40% of the murders going unsolved, a quarter million unsolved murders remain in filing cabinets and databases across the country. As a member of the Vidocq Society that specializes in assisting law enforcement in solving the most complicated murder cases, the instructor details why cases “go cold” and how detectives can become more efficient and effective at solving the most violent and serious crimes committed in the United States.

Instructor – Dave Pauly.

David Pauly retired from The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command as a Special Agent-in-Charge/Commander and Forensic Science Officer. He performed duties in over a dozen states, and frequently worked with local, state, and federal agencies. He also performed duties in Panama, South Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Sinai, Egypt, Canada, Guam, and Nigeria. He holds a Master of Forensic Science degree from The George Washington University and is currently the Director of Applied Forensic Science at Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC.

David graduated the FBI National Academy (Session 195), Canadian Police College – Major Crimes Course, Miami-Dade Police Department – Bloodstain Interpretation Course, and National Fire Academy – Arson Investigation Course. He is a Fellow of The American Academy of Forensic Science, and is a current, or past member of the International Association of Identification, North Carolina Chapters of the IAI and FBINAA, International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, North Carolina Homicide Investigator’s Association, The Vidocq Society, American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC), and various other professional law enforcement and/or forensic science associations.


4. Case Study of the FBI

She had a lot going for her—living on the Presidio of San Francisco with a gorgeous view of the ocean, a husband in the US Army, two sons, and a good path forward. Little did she know, on one February day, people stood outside her front door waiting to kill her. When she opened it, she was shot seven times, beaten, and stabbed. If she’d had any hope of surviving the deadly encounter, those expectations were dashed when her attackers slashed her throat, from ear-to-ear.

This presentation is the story told by David Alford, the FBI agent who worked the case. You’ll see photos of the crime scene, and you’ll learn about the FBI investigation which took four years to unravel the convoluted details. Was the victim’s killer an upset boyfriend? Her husband, or his mother who was happy to “take care of her no-good daughter-in-law?” Were others involved? It took another six years to bring four defendants to justice.

The bloody crime scene was preserved the entire ten years, remaining much like it was found the night of her murder. The break in the case came during a call from Fort Worth, Texas, when a host of participants and witnesses relayed various pieces of information needed to solve the case, including a string of arsons, a heartless nurse and mother, a new wife, a box of money, a map from Germany, and sex games used to eliminate one of the witnesses. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Instructor – David Alford


5. Criminal Homicide: Viewing a Murder Scene Through the Eyes of a Seasoned Detective

Acclaimed homicide detective Jeff Locklear takes the class inside the barriers of crime scene tape, to a place where only police and medical examiners are permitted to go. This is a rare opportunity for writers to learn insider details of investigating suspicious deaths, and to pick the brain of a highly successful homicide detective who’s solved hundreds of murders, including high-profile homicide cases featured in the national media.

Instructor – Det. Jeff Locklear

Detective Sergeant Jeff Locklear, a 22-year veteran law enforcement officer, currently works with the Fayetteville North Carolina Police Department as a homicide police specialist and training officer.

As a homicide detective he’s been involved with over 350 homicide investigations. He’s also investigated hundreds of violent felonies including rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, and missing persons.

During his career he has responded to hundreds to death scenes such as suicides, homicides, accidental deaths, and natural and unexplained deaths.

Detective Locklear has conducted thousands of interviews of violent offenders, including cases featured on 48 hrs (The Kelli Bourdeaux murder), Swamp Murders, NCIS – The Cases They Can’t Forget: The Holley Wimunc Murder, Scorned Love Kills 2014, The Today Show, and numerous other news and media outlets, such as People Magazine and Time Magazine.

He’s a founding member of both the 2008 Fayetteville Police Homicide Squad and the 2016 Fayetteville Police Violent Criminal Apprehension Team (VCAT). In addition, he’s served as sheriff’s deputy , Forensic Technician, Patrol officer , Crimes against persons detective, homicide detective, gun and gang task force detective, and as a Violent Criminal Apprehension Team Detective.

Detective Locklear has presented cases workshops at a number of conferences and events, including the North Carolina Homicide Investigators Conference, North & South Carolina Arson Investigators Conference , Fayetteville State University (Criminal Justice), Fayetteville Technical Community College (Registered Nursing students), Methodist University, and more.

Having spent the majority of his career investigating violent crimes, Detective Locklear has a unique and vast perspective of being the first officer on scene, the Forensic technician processing the scene, the detective investigating the crime, and the detective whose task it is to track down and capture the suspects who committed the crimes. He’s a dynamic speaker who can “escort you” to a crime scene, “walk you” through what happened, “show you” who did it, and then “lead you” to where the suspect fled after committing the offense.

Detective Locklear is married and the father of three children.


6. Forensic Toxicology: Poisoners Throughout History

An entertaining and educational discussion of the history of homicidal poisoning from the days of early man, down to the present, with case discussions of real poisoners drawn from criminal history. Also discussed will be the psychology of the poisoner, and poisons used by writers in their fictional works.

Instructor – John Trestrail, the “Poison Detective”

John Harris Trestrail, known as “The Poison Detective,” is a practicing boarded toxicologist, and for many years, was a visiting instructor at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, on the subject of murder by criminal poisoning.

Mr Trestrail is recognized internationally, as the foremost authority on criminal poisoning and murder by poison. For 33 years (1976-2009), he served as the Managing Director of one of the nation’s certified regional poison centers. He now serves as the Director of the Center for the Study of Criminal Poisoning.

Since 1990, Mr. Trestrail’s seminars on“Murder by Poison!” and “Poisoners Throughout History”, have been received with wide acclaim by audiences throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.  Having presented over 300 seminars, he is a popular speaker.

As an expert consultant, Mr. Trestrail has served in many criminal poisoning investigations, to law enforcement and attorneys. He has been honored as a Fellow by the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, and is a Diplomate, by examination, of the American Board of Applied Toxicology. Mr. Trestrail founded the Center for the Study of Criminal Poisoning, as well as the Toxicological History Society, and has been featured in multiple episodes on The Discovery ChannelThe History Channel, The Learning Channel, and PBS.

He was the project leader for the forensic research project that was able to resolve the key question in the famous British, 1910 Crippen murder case, using DNA comparisons with living exemplars, and took part in London, England, as a member of the research team, in the making of the PBS documentary “Secrets of the Dead: Executed in Error”, on this infamous poisoning murder case. He has been an active participant in the International Program on Clinical Safety, of the World Health Organization (WHO), working for the establishment of poison control services in the world’s developing countries.

Mr. Trestrail is the author of the pioneering book Criminal Poisoning: An Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys, published by Humana Press, in 2000 (2nd edition in 2007). He is also one of the co-editors of the popular book Toxicology Secrets, published by Hanley and Belfus Publishers, in 2001. His third book The Poison Quiz Book(2nd Ed.), was published by McGraw-Hill, in 2006.

Graduating with honors, Mr. Trestrail obtained a B.S. degree in Pharmacy, from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan, in 1967, where he was initiated into Rho Chi (Pharmaceutical Honor Society). In 2010, he received the Ferris State University’s “Distinguised Alumnus Award”.  From 1967-1968, he attended graduate school, at the College of Pharmacy, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, majoring in natural product chemistry. Mr. Trestrail’s public service experience was as a Volunteer with the United States Peace Corps, from 1968-1970, where he taught chemistry at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture, in the Republic of the Philippines.

He is a member of the following professional organizations:

  • American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT)
  • American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC)
  • North American Mycological Association (NAMA) [Life Member]
  • Toxicological History Society (THiS)

7. Forensic Botany: Utilizing Plant Evidence to Solve Crimes

Instructor – Dr. Heather Miller Coyle

Heather Miller Coyle is an Associate Professor in the Forensic Science Department at University of New Haven, a small private University located in West Haven, CT. She obtained her B.S. in In Vitro Cell Biology from State University of New York –Plattsburgh in 1986 and her Ph.D. in Plant Biology from University of New Hampshire in 1994.

Her work experience includes employment in the pharmaceutical industry (Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals; Ridgefield, CT) and the DNA unit of a forensic science laboratory (Division of Scientific Services; Meriden, CT). She is also a private consultant for DNA review and independent quality control of forensic laboratory casework on request and is court qualified to testify in six states and federal court.

Dr. Coyle’s research interests focus on touch DNA cases, trace biological evidence and DNA quality control issues. She is a science and technical writer who has published numerous scientific and technical peer-reviewed journal articles both independently and with University of New Haven student research projects.

She is also the editor of a textbook on Forensic Botany and a separate textbook on Nonhuman DNA; both relate to criminal casework and use of scientifc methods. Her consulting on botanical evidence includes assessment of cases such as the homicide of Imette St. Guillen (People of the State of New York v. Darryl Littlejohn), a double homicide with an outdoor crime scene excavation (State of Kansas v. Luis Aguirre), and the St. George’s County homicides (State of Maryland v. Jason Scott).


8. Mantracking: Hunting Humans

With thousands of fugitives going on the run each year it takes a dedicated, persistent, and competent “tracker” to locate and successfully return the most violent and dangerous felons to law enforcement to stand trial for their crimes. Taught by a world-renowned tracker, this session will provide details to add to your one-of-a-kind story.

Instructor – Kyt Walken

Kyt Lyn Walken serves as an official representative of Hull’s Tracking School and is the first female mantracking lead instructor at a U.S. school based in Europe. In Poland, she received instruction led by C.R.O.W. (Conservation Rangers Operations Worldwide Inc.) and was certified as a Wildlife Conservation Ranger.

Currently, Kyt hosts and teaches “ManTracking” courses across Europe, collaborating with Survival Schools, S.A.R. Groups, and with Ballistic Experts. She is proficient in Tactical Tracking, Anti- and Counter-Tracking, Strategic Movement, and Deceptive Techniques.

Kyt has trained Slovenian, German, and Italian Law Enforcement Officers, and members of Special Forces. She is a regular feature writer for prestigious US and UK based webzines whose focuses are Survival, Off-grid Living, and Prepping.

Recently Kyt has been entitled Directora de la Escuela de Rastreo Umano Carcayú (Director of the Umano Carcayú Tracking School) – Spain.

She is author of the Manuals “The Importance of Being a Tracker”, “The Urban Tracker”, “Tracking Compendium”(with Andy Martin) and “Jungle Warriors: The SAS In Malesia and Borneo,” available in English and Spanish.


9. Carolina Homicide: Case Studies of the South

Southern charm can be inviting, warm, and welcoming, but it can also have a dark side. Taught by one of the south’s finest detectives, Jeff Locklear, this session offers rare insight into homicides committed in the All-American City—Fayetteville, NC.

Nestled next to Fort Bragg, home of the Airborne Special Forces and Delta-Force, Detective Locklear and his fellow investigators have their hands full working cases that easily rival those of The Big Apple.

Instructor – Jeff Locklear


10. Forensic Entomology: Utilizing Insects in Criminal Investigations

Insects that inhabit human tissue in postmortem situations can play a valuable part in death investigations. In this class, taught by one of the world’s leading forensic entomologists, you’ll learn how experts use medicocriminal entomology to help determine time of death, establish the geographical location where a death likely occurred, link suspects to victims, and even offer a different source of toxicology and DNA evidence.

Instructor – Jason Byrd

Jason H. Byrd, Ph.D., D-ABFE, is an associate professor within the University of Florida Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine and the associate director of the William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine.

In his capacity as a professor, Dr. Byrd directs programs in veterinary forensic sciences, wildlife forensic sciences, and forensic medicine. He has combined his formal academic training in entomology and forensic science to serve as a consultant and educator in both criminal and civil legal investigations throughout the United States and internationally.

Dr. Byrd specializes in the education of law enforcement officials, medical examiners, coroners, attorneys and other death investigators on the use and applicability of arthropods in legal investigations. His research efforts have focused on the development and behavior of insects that have forensic importance, and he has more than 20 years of experience in the collection and analysis of entomological evidence. He has also published numerous scientific articles on the use and application of entomological evidence in legal investigations.

Outside of academics, Dr. Byrd serves as a medicolegal death investigator within the National Disaster Medical System, Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, Region IV. He also serves as the commander for the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System.

Dr. Byrd is a Board-certified forensic entomologist and a diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Entomology.  He was the first person to be elected as president of both the American Board of Forensic Entomology and the North American Forensic Entomology Association.  He has also served as President of the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association and subject editor for the Journal of Medical Entomology.  Dr. Byrd is also a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.


11. Committing the Perfect Murder – an interactive discussion of not getting caught

Modus operandi, Motive, Signature, Trophy, and X-factors are intriguing concepts to consider when writing the perfect plot. But pulling off the perfect crime is rarely accomplished by even the most prolific and intelligent of offenders. Attend this special session to discuss how to conceptualize the perfect murder!

Instructor – Dave Pauly

 


12. Trivia “Myth Busters”

Test your CSI and forensics knowledge. Is the information you see on television and film correct? How accurate is the crime scene technology, evidence processing, and police procedure seen in crime fiction? This informative panel discussion and Q&A will “bust” all common myths, mistakes, blunders, and gaffes.

A must-attend session designed to help writers eliminate embarrassing missteps in their stories.


Registration opens at noon, Sunday March 14, 2021 (EST).
Seats at this virtual event are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
*Please direct questions to Lee Lofland at [email protected]

Sponsors, The Heroes that help make it all happen. You can too!

The Writers’ Police Academy needs your support!

Each year we rely on sponsorships to help offset the huge costs associated with the high level of programming we offer. Sponsor dollars also assist in maintaining affordable registration fees for writers at all stages of their careers.

Yes, sponsoring the Writers’ Police Academy is a worthy cause, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to showcase your books and other products through the WPA’s unique far-reaching worldwide community of thousands upon thousands of writers, readers and fans, television and film writers. There’s also the potential to reach audiences not typically within an author’s fanbase, such as the over 700,000 law enforcement officers in the U.S. alone. In addition are forensics experts, attorneys, firefighters, corrections officers and staff and, well, the list is practically endless. The Writers’ Police Academy is the ultimate means of developing previously untapped sources of customers and readers.

Sponsorships are also a vital part of helping the Writers’ Police Academy continue with its unwavering commitment to aiding writers in their quest to write “killer” fiction.

So won’t you please join us as a 2021 sponsor? I’d deeply appreciate it!

Several levels of sponsorship are listed on the MurderCon website. They range from the Hero Level to friends of the WPA at the other end of the spectrum. No amount is too small or too large, and every single dollar is much appreciated and very much needed.

The list of sponsorship levels and benefits is available on the WPA “Become a Sponsor”page. There, you may also select the level of your choice and then and submit the corresponding dollar amount via PayPal. Or, payment by check is also welcome.

Sponsors are featured and promoted on the WPA/MurderCon sponsor page, on social media throughout the year, and on this blog, The Graveyard Shift.

Please contact me with your questions at [email protected]

The Writers Police Academy, and the writing community, wish to extend a deep and heartfelt “Thank You” to each of our generous supporters. Without you, dear friends, this celebrated event would not be possible.

TODAY is the LAST DAY to sign up for a “Seat” at Virtual MurderCon’s interactive event, and only a few “seats” are available!

I urge you to sign up asap to reserve your spot at this unique opportunity, one that may never again be available. This is a live event, presented in realtime. Q&A is available at the end of each presentation. In addition, the final session is live panel and Q&A discussion with each of the experts. So have your questions ready, because this is the time to gather the extraordinary details that will make your book zing with realism.

Registration for the Writers’ Police Academy special event, Virtual MurderCon, is scheduled to end at midnight tonight, July, 31, 2020.

Virtual MurderCon is a rare opportunity for writers to participate in live and interactive, “for law enforcement eyes only” training.

This incredibly detailed, cutting-edge tutelage in classes taught by some of the world’s leading professionals, Sirchie’s renowned team of crime scene investigation experts, has never before been available to writers, anywhere. Until now.

Virtual MurderCon Classes, Instructors, and a Special Presentation

This fabulous, one-of-a-kind event opens with “How to Catch a Serial Killer,” a special presentation by Dr. Katherine Ramsland.

Katherine Ramsland is a professor of forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she also teaches criminal justice and serves as the assistant provost. She holds a master’s in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a master’s in clinical psychology from Duquesne University, a master’s in criminal justice from DeSales University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Rutgers. She has been a therapist and a consultant. Dr. Ramsland has published over 1,000 articles and 66 books.

Dr. Ramsland’s background in forensics positioned her to assist former FBI profiler John Douglas on his book, The Cases that Haunt Us, to co-write a book with former FBI profiler, Gregg McCrary, The Unknown Darkness, to collaborate on A Voice for the Dead with attorney James E. Starrs on his exhumation projects, and to co-write a forensic textbook with renowned criminalist Henry C. Lee, The Real World of a Forensic Scientist.

For seven years, she contributed regularly to Court TV’s Crime Library, and now writes a column on investigative forensics for The Forensic Examiner and a column on character psychology for Sisters in Crime; offers trainings for law enforcement and attorneys; and speaks internationally about forensic psychology, forensic science, and serial murder.


Art of Blood – Violent crimes and accidents frequently involve the interpretation of blood evidence. This class includes presumptive testing techniques of stains thought to be blood, as well as searching crime scenes for latent blood with luminol when circumstances dictate that the area was cleaned by the perpetrator.

DNA evidence collection is also a part of this detailed session taught one of the top experts in the field.

Child Abduction/Murder – Taught by the investigator who solved the high-profile case that drew national attention, this presentation follows the evidence to tell the story and will graphically show the connections which solved the crime.This child abduction/murder case involves a 12 year old girl who was kidnapped at knife point from her bedroom while enjoying a sleepover with two of her friends.

Instructor David Alford is a retired FBI Special Agent with 21 years of experience investigating violent crimes, terrorism and other cases. He was one of the founding members of the FBI Evidence Response Team (ERT) and conducted crimes scene searches on domestic and international violent crimes and bombings, including the Polly Klaas kidnaping and murder, the Unabomber’s cabin and the 9/11 Pentagon scene. He worked in the Denver and San Francisco field offices and completed his career at Quantico in the FBI Lab ERT Unit. During the 6 years in the FBI Lab, he was primarily responsible for overseeing and teaching basic and advanced crime scene courses throughout the US and many other countries.

In the 6 years before the FBI, David was a Forensic Serologist, Hair and Fibers Examiner and Bloodstain Pattern Analyst for the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab. After retirement, David taught crime scene courses around the world on behalf of the FBI and US State Department. David has been with Sirchie as an instructor and sales representative for Sirchie’s RUVIS and ALS products for the last 10 years. David loves teaching and allowing students to learn through hands-on training.


Drugs/Toxicology NARCAN By Noon – This session will explore drug trends and mortality of drug users, and how can they determine overdose versus foul play.

Instructor Sgt. James Yowell, a counter drug investigator who, as an undercover officer investigated international drug trafficking cases targeting Mexican organized crime.


Entomology: From The Inside Out– Bug and scavenger activity can tell a lot about a corpse. Using entomology and environmental information, a skilled investigator can determine relative time of death, if a corpse has been relocated, and many other key facts. Learn how nature works from the inside out.

Instructor Dr. Bryan Brendley’s specific areas of focus are cell biology, botany, and forensic anthropology. He has conducted years of research on the impact of insects on decomposing bodies with his students. He teaches a comprehensive forensic science program.

 

 

 


Fingerprinting: Who’s MARK – Attendees will receive instruction on developing impression evidence from dust utilizing a electrostatic dust print lifter, and on porous surfaces, including paper and cardboard utilizing chemical processes. Cyanoacrylate (“superglue”) techniques for non-porous surfaces will be addressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Jim Gocke is a graduate of West Virginia University and West Virginia College of Law. In addition, he completed a Fellowship in Forensic Medicine at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and earned a Master of Science in Forensic Sciences from The George Washington University. He was employed by Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories, Inc as Vice President/General Counsel and Director of Education and Training from January 1979 until March 2008. He was employed by Sirchie Acquisition Company, LLC as Director of Education and Training from March 2008 until his retirement in July 2015. Currently, Jim serves as an Independent Contractor to Sirchie, providing expertise in Education and Training, product development and evaluation and technical assistance.


Footwear Evidence: A Step In The Wrong Direction – Similar to fingerprints, footwear has unique and probative characteristics that are often used to track down criminals. Learn the tactics, techniques, and the one-off physiognomies that help lead investigators to the source of a crime du jour.

Shoes, Glorious Shoes: Lifting Footwear Impressions – This fascinating session provides details of the various techniques utilized to process areas conducive to footwear evidence. Instructor Andy Parker demonstrates the electromagnetic dustprint lifter, gelatin lifters, and other CSI techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Andy Parker has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology / Criminal Justice from Florida State University. He began his career in law enforcement with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. After seven years with FDLE, he worked crime scenes, analyzed latent prints and footwear evidence for the Tallahassee Police Department. In 2002 he began work with the City-County Bureau of Identification in Raleigh NC. At CCBI, he has held the position of Latent Print Examiner, Latent Print Section Supervisor, Deputy Director in charge of the Identification Division, Deputy Director in charge of the Laboratory and currently is responsible for the Investigations Division.  He is a certified Latent Print Examiner with the IAI. Andy is also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy.


Forensic Geology: “Sedimental” Journey– Think rocks and soil are boring? Not when presented by one of the few forensic geologists in the country who has testified in murder trials about her examination of soil collected as evidence from murder scenes that linked killers to known locations. Certain to be one of the most unique and intriguing sessions at MurderCon 2020, this session conducted by Heather Hanna will intrigue and inform attendees about the role of a geologist in mapping different soils throughout the United States—and a global level—and how forensic geology can prove useful as a foundation for comparison soil evidence in criminal investigations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Heather Hanna is a forensic geologist specializing in the analysis of rock fragments and mineral grains in soils as trace evidence. Since 2009, she has been involved in multiple forensic investigations and has testified as an expert witness in four first degree murder trials, the first of which set a legal precedent in Wake County for using geochemical analysis of mineral grains in court. As a result of her forensic work, she has been an invited speaker at many law enforcement conferences and continuing education programs including the Conference of District Attorneys, the North Carolina Criminal Information Exchange Network, the North Carolina Homicide Investigators Association, and the North Carolina International Association for Identification. She has also presented her forensic work at national and sectional Geological Society of America meetings and as an invited speaker for the Soils Science Society of North Carolina.


Gazing Into The Cloud – No one is anonymous. Your digital footprint is wide spread and mostly out of your control. The Cloud is an ominous vapor of data that can haunt the most cautious criminal or victimize most innocent of people. What can be found in the cloud? Learn how easy it is to mine the cloud and use this data for good as well as nefarious activity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Stephen Pearson combines more than 29 years of law-enforcement experience with in-depth expertise in today’s most pervasive Internet, computer, and digital device technologies. Stephen developed computer forensic tools and coursework for the US Army Military Police School, as well as served as a computer investigator with Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office (FL). As a founder of High Tech Crime Institute, he has developed and conducted courses for NATO, the Federal Government, and various law enforcement agencies. Stephen holds a B.S. in Computer Information Science as well as an MBA. He is also a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, an US Army Master Instructor, and a certified Cellebrite Trainer, in addition to holding various other certifications for digital investigation.


Homocide Or Homicide: You Decide – Have you ever wanted to spend time picking the brain of an experienced homicide detective? Well, here’s your chance. Having investigated a wide variety of murders, attendees will find this session fascinating in content due to the breadth and depth of homicides that will be discussed. Included in the “new” topic will be the discussion of why the United States suffers from over 200,000 unsolved murders. These “cold case” murders rarely get examined or investigated once they are “put to bed” due to a wide variety of causes and reasons. Learn from one of the best detectives around who has investigated several hundred murders!

Murder Case Studies – In this intriguing and highly-detailed workshop, Detective Jeff Locklear takes attendees on a behind the scenes journey into actual murder scenes. Learn the investigatory tools and tricks of the trade used by a top homicide detective as he sought and captured brutal killers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instructor Detective Sergeant Jeff Locklear, a 21-year veteran law enforcement officer, currently works with the Fayetteville North Carolina Police Department as a homicide police specialist and training officer.

As a homicide detective he’s been involved with over 350 homicide investigations. He’s also investigated hundreds of violent felonies including rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, and missing persons.

During his career he has responded to hundreds to death scenes such as suicides, homicides, accidental deaths, and natural and unexplained deaths.

Detective Locklear has conducted thousands of interviews of violent offenders, including cases featured on 48 hrs (The Kelli Bourdeaux murder), Swamp Murders, NCIS – The Cases They Can’t Forget: The Holley Wimunc Murder, Scorned Love Kills 2014, The Today Show, and numerous other news and media outlets, such as People Magazine and Time Magazine.

He’s a founding member of both the 2008 Fayetteville Police Homicide Squad and the 2016 Fayetteville Police Violent Criminal Apprehension Team (VCAT). In addition, he’s served as sheriff’s deputy , Forensic Technician, Patrol officer , Crimes against persons detective, homicide detective, gun and gang task force detective, and as a Violent Criminal Apprehension Team Detective.

Detective Locklear has presented cases workshops at a number of conferences and events, including the North Carolina Homicide Investigators Conference, North & South Carolina Arson Investigators Conference , Fayetteville State University (Criminal Justice), Fayetteville Technical Community College (Registered Nursing students), Methodist University, and more.

Having spent the majority of his career investigating violent crimes, Detective Locklear has a unique and vast perspective of being the first officer on scene, the Forensic technician processing the scene, the detective investigating the crime, and the detective whose task it is to track down and capture the suspects who committed the crimes. He’s a dynamic speaker who can “escort you” to a crime scene, “walk you” through what happened, “show you” who did it, and then “lead you” to where the suspect fled after committing the offense.


Murder-Mayhem -Session covers Cause, Manner, and Mechanisms of death, Coroner vs. Medical Examiner systems, differences in legal terminology for murder, homicide, and manslaughter, as well as, the realities in death investigations that are equivocal in nature. Physical, testimonial, and circumstantial evidence as introduced into the courtroom will be applied to death investigations. A case study of a very unique and rarely scene murder by hanging, and the forensic evidence obtained from the physical autopsy will be presented. This presentation includes a discussion of psychological autopsies and when they are utilized in criminal investigations.

Instructor David Pauly retired from The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command as a Special Agent-in-Charge/Commander and Forensic Science Officer. He performed duties in over a dozen states, and frequently worked with local, state, and federal agencies. He also performed duties in Panama, South Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Sinai, Egypt, Canada, Guam, and Nigeria. He holds a Master of Forensic Science degree from The George Washington University and is currently the Director of Applied Forensic Science at Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC.

David graduated the FBI National Academy (Session 195), Canadian Police College – Major Crimes Course, Miami-Dade Police Department – Bloodstain Interpretation Course, and National Fire Academy – Arson Investigation Course. He is a Fellow of The American Academy of Forensic Science, and is a current, or past member of the International Association of Identification, North Carolina Chapters of the IAI and FBINAA, International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, North Carolina Homicide Investigator’s Association, The Vidocq Society, American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC), and various other professional law enforcement and/or forensic science associations.


The event concludes with a live, interactive Q&A panel discussion with each of the instructors. So have your questions ready!
Sign up today while there’s still time, at www.writerspoliceacademy.com

Yeah, well, don’t let those click-bait headlines get your unmentionables all bunched up, because ALL, and I repeat, ALL killings of human beings by other humans are homicides. And certain homicides are absolutely legal.

That’s right, L.E.G.A.L., legal.

New Picture

Yes, each time prison officials pull the switch, inject “the stuff,” or whatever means they use to execute a condemned prisoner, they commit homicide. All people who kill attackers while saving a loved one from harm have committed homicide. And all cops who kill while defending their lives or the lives of others have committed homicide. These instances are not a crime.

It’s when a death is caused illegally—murder or manslaughter—that makes it a criminal offense.

Murder is an illegal homicide.

For example, in Virginia:

§ 18.2-32. First and second degree murder defined; punishment.

Murder, other than capital murder, by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or in the commission of, or attempt to commit, arson, rape, forcible sodomy, inanimate or animate object sexual penetration, robbery, burglary or abduction, except as provided in § 18.2-31, is murder of the first degree, punishable as a Class 2 felony.

All murder other than capital murder and murder in the first degree is murder of the second degree and is punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than five nor more than forty years.

Therefore, those seemingly dramatic headlines that read “Shooting By Cop Ruled a Homicide,” well, they’re often nothing more than words used to affect people’s emotions, induce a reaction, or to encourage people to click over to their website, which, by the way, is how many “news” outlets pay the bills.

So please, un-wad those unmentionables and don’t be a victim of media sensationalism.

By the way, how many of you clicked over to this blog because of the headline/blog-post title? Gotcha …


There’s still time to register for this extremely rare opportunity where you will attend the same training offered to top homicide investigators from around the world! This course of instruction is typically for law enforcement eyes only, but the Writers’ Police Academy, in conjunction with Sirchie, the world leader in in Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science Solutions, has made it possible for to attend this, the only event of its kind in the world!

MurderCon takes place at Sirchie’s compound located just outside of Raleigh, N.C.

Please, do your readers a huge favor and sign up today while you still can.

MurderConRegsitration

Did you know that not all sheriff’s deputies are police officers? How about that some sheriffs in the U.S., and their deputies, do not have any arrest authority? Is it possible that you, as writers, haven written scenes incorrectly based on not knowing the above facts? Well, there’s a super easy solution to fixing this lack of basic knowledge … Do Your Homework!

It takes a minimal amount of effort to check the policies, procedures, laws, and rules and regulations in the area where your story takes place. Of course, if your town is fictional then you’re the law-maker in charge. But if the setting of your latest tale is Doodlebop, Alaska, then you should conduct a bit of research to learn how things operate in Doodlebop’s town limits and surrounding areas. After all, what happens in Doodlebop, Alaska is most likely quite a bit different than the goings-on in Rinktytink, Vermont.

For example:

1. Use caution when writing cop slang. What you hear on TV may not be the language used by real police officers. And, what is proper terminology and/or slang in one area may be totally unheard of in another. A great example are the slang terms Vic (Victim), Wit (Witness), and Perp (Perpetrator). These shortened words are NOT universally spoken by all cops. In fact, I think I’m fairly safe in saying the use of these is not typical across the U.S. Even the slang for carbonated beverages varies from place to place (soda, pop, soda pop, Coke, drink, etc.).

2. Simply because a law enforcement officer wears a shiny star-shaped badge and drives a car bearing a “Sheriff” logo does not mean they are all “sheriffs.” Please, please, please stop writing this in your stories. A sheriff is an elected official who is in charge of the department, and there’s only one per sheriff’s office. The head honcho. The Boss. All others working there are appointed by the sheriff to assist him/her with their duties. Those appointees are called DEPUTY SHERIFFS. Therefore, unless the boss himself shows up at your door to serve you with a jury summons, which is highly unlikely unless you live in a county populated by only three residents, two dogs, and a mule, the LEO’s you see driving around your county are deputies.

3. The rogue detective who’s pulled from a case yet sets out on his own to solve it anyway. I know, it sounds cool, but it’s highly unlikely that an already overworked detective would drop all other cases (and there are many) to embark on some bizarre quest to take down Mr. Big. Believe me, most investigators would gladly lighten their case loads by one, or more. Besides, to disobey orders from a superior officer is an excellent means of landing a fun assignment (back in uniform on the graveyard shift ) directing traffic at the intersection of Dumbass and Mistake.

4. Those of you who’ve written scenes where a cocky FBI agent speeds into town to tell the local chief or sheriff to step aside because she’s taking over the murder case du jour…well, get out the bottle of white-out because it doesn’t happen. The same for those scenes where the FBI agent forces the sheriff out of his office so she can set up shop. No. No. And No. The agent would quickly find herself being escorted back to her guvment vehicle.

The FBI does not investigate local murder cases. I’ll say that again. The FBI does not investigate local murder cases. And, in case you misunderstood … the FBI does not investigate local murder cases. Nor do they have the authority to order a sheriff or chief out of their offices. Yeah, right … that would happen in real life (in case you can’t see me right now I’m giving a big roll of my eyes).

Believable Make-Believe

Okay, I understand you’re writing fiction, which means you get to make up stuff. And that’s cool. However, the stuff you make up must be believable. Not necessarily fact, just believable. Write it so your readers can suspend reality, even if only for a few pages. Your fans want to trust you, and they’ll go out of their way to give you the benefit of the doubt. Really, they will. But for goodness sake, give them something to work with,—without an info dump—a reason to believe/understand what they’ve just seen on your pages. A tiny morsel of believability goes a long way.

Saying This Again

If you’re going for realism, and I cannot stress this enough, please do your homework. Remember, no two agencies operate in exactly the same manner, nor are rules and even many laws/ordinances the same in states, towns, counties, and cities. Actually, things are never the same/uniform across the country. Therefore, it’s always best to check with someone in the area where your story is set. Again, rules and regulations on one side of the country may not be the same on the other. And the middle of the country may also be totally different from the other localities.

For example, there are 3,081 sheriffs in the U.S., and I can say with certainty that neither of those top cops runs their office in a manner that’s identical to that of another. Each sheriff has their own set of policies, rules, and regulations, and each state has their own laws regarding sheriffs and their duties.

The same is true with other agencies, including the offices of medical examiners and coroners. State law, again, dictates whether or not they utilize a coroner system or that of a medical examiner.

*By the way, three states do not have Sheriff’s Offices—Alaska, Connecticut, and Hawaii.

Location, Location, Location!

As when writing about a sheriff’s office, if your story features a medical examiner, or coroner, you should narrow your research efforts to the area where your story takes place.  Here’s why …

In some locations, typically rural, a medical examiner does not always go to the scene of a homicide. Instead, as is the case of many areas within in the Commonwealth of Virginia, EMS or a funeral home is responsible for transporting the body to a local hospital morgue where a doctor or local M.E. examines the victim. If an autopsy is to be performed, though, it is not the local medical examiner who’d conduct it. Instead, the body is transported to a state morgue which could be hours away.

In Virginia, there are only four state morgue locations/district offices (Manassas, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke). Each of the district offices is staffed by forensic pathologists, investigators, and various morgue personnel, and this where autopsies are conducted, not at the local morgue/hospital.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) is located in Richmond (the office where Patricia Cornwell’s fictional M.E., Kay Scarpetta, worked). This is also the M.E.’s office that conducted the autopsies on the homicide cases I investigated. The real-life Kay Scarpetta was our Chief M.E.

There are several local medical examiners in Virginia (somewhere around 160, or so) but they do not conduct autopsies. Their job is to assist the state’s Chief Medical Examiner. by conducting field investigations, if they see fit to do so, but many do not. Mostly, they have a look at the bodies brought to hospitals by EMS, sign death certificates, and determine whether or not the case should be referred to the state M.E.’s office for autopsy. They definitely do not go to all death scenes. Again, some do, but not all.

An example (one of many) was a drug-related execution where I was called on by a nearby county sheriff to assist his department in the investigation. Following the evidence, I and sheriff’s detectives located the killers. After interrogating one of the suspects he led me to the crime scene where we found the deceased victim after an exhausting search. The suspects carried and dragged the body several yards, deep into a wooded area. The local medical examiner did not attend. Instead, he requested that the body be delivered to a local hospital.

Above – Me standing on the left at a murder scene where a drug dealer was executed by rival gang members, who then hid the body in a wooded area. I was asked to assist a sheriff’s office with the investigation. The medical examiner was called but elected to not go to the scene. The body and sheet used by the suspects to drag the victim were placed into a body bag and then transported to the morgue via EMS ambulance.

Pursuant to § 32.1-283 of the Code of Virginia, all of the following deaths are investigated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner:

  • any death from trauma, injury, violence, or poisoning attributable to accident, suicide or homicide;
  • sudden deaths to persons in apparent good health or deaths unattended by a physician;
  • deaths of persons in jail, prison, or another correctional institution, or in police custody (this includes deaths from legal intervention);
  • deaths of persons receiving services in a state hospital or training center operated by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services;
  • the sudden death of any infant; and
  • any other suspicious, unusual, or unnatural death.

* Remember, “investigated” does not mean they have to go to the actual crime scene.

Again, me on the left as a sheriff’s office crime scene investigator points out the location of spent bullet casings, drag marks, and a blood trail. Pictured in the center are the county sheriff and prosecutor. The M.E. elected to not travel to the scene. As good luck would have it, we had the killers in custody at the conclusion of a nonstop, no sleep, 36-hour investigation.

After a lengthy interrogation, two of the four confessed to the murder. Of course, they each pointed to someone else as the shooter, and he, the actual shooter, placed the blame on his partners. But all four admitted to being present when the murder occurred and all four served time for the killing.

Take Two Bodies and Call Me in the Morning!

In the areas far outside the immediate area of Virginia’s four district offices of the chief medical examiner, officials rely on local, part-time medical examiners who may or may not visit crime scenes.

In those rural areas, once a death is confirmed, detectives call the local, part-time M.E. who typically defers to EMS to determine that the victim is indeed dead. They then advise the detectives to, once they’ve completed their on-scene investigation, have EMS bring the body to the local morgue where they’ll have a look at their earliest convenience..

Since most local M.E.s work full-time jobs they are not always readily available to visit a crime scene.

“Yeah, he’s dead, now gimme my money.”

The pay for local M.E’s in Virginia is a “whopping” $150 per case, if the case referred to the state is one that falls under their jurisdiction. The local M.E.s receive an extra $50 if they actually go to a crime scene. Again, many do not. Interestingly, funeral homes pay the local medical examiner $50 for each cremation he or she certifies.

The requirements to become a local M.E. in Virginia are:

  • A valid Virginia license as a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, Nurse Practitioner, or Physician Assistant
  • An appointment by Virginia’s chief medical examiner
  • A valid United States driver’s license

Once someone is appointed as a local medical examiner their term is for three years, beginning on October 1 of the year of appointment.

The four district offices employ full-time forensic pathologists who conduct all autopsies. Obviously, a physician’s assistant is not qualified to conduct an autopsy, nor are they trained as police/homicide investigators. They do attend some training courses, however.

And, Again …

Keep in mind, things are never the same/uniform across the country. It’s always best, if you’re going for 100% realism, to check with someone in the area where your story is set. The rules and regulations on one side of the country may not be the same on the other. And the middle of the country may also be totally different from the other localities.

Coroners

The same inconsistencies seen in the running of sheriffs’ and medical examiners’ offices occur in individual coroner’s offices. For example, in one Ohio county, one of four coroner’s investigators respond to a scene, if they believe it’s necessary. Then, after the body is brought back to the morgue by the coroner’s team, within the next day or so, a pathologist conducts the autopsy. The same or similar is so in many, many areas of the country … or not.

Per state law, a coroner in Ohio must be an MD, but they may or may not be the person who conducts the autopsy. In the office mentioned above, autopsies were typically performed by a part-time MD/pathologist who also works at the local hospital. The same MD there now was the pathologist who conducted autopsies when I was last there. I checked today, in fact.

Pathologists in the Ohio county are paid per autopsy. At the time I was there, the office received $1,500 per autopsy, with $750 of the sum going to the pathologist performing the exam. (the sum was $750 the last time I viewed an autopsy there) with remaining $750  going to the coroner’s general operating budget. The pathologist was not a full-time employees of the coroner’s office.

Oh, yeah, there’s a difference between a coroner and a medical examiner, but that’s a topic for another article.

Fun Fact – Some California sheriffs also serve as coroners. They are not medical doctors, obviously. Coroners are elected officials and could be the local butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, as long as they won the local election.

So, from me to you, here’s your homework assignment …

DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!

Believe me, your readers will love that you’ve “gotten it right.”

Speaking of doing your homework, here’s the ultimate training event for writers …



Register here!


Featuring David Baldacci – Guest of Honor

 

David Baldacci is a global #1 bestselling author, and one of the world’s favorite storytellers. His books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, with over 130 million copies sold worldwide. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. He has also published seven novels for young readers.

David is also the cofounder, along with his wife, Michelle, of the Wish You Well Foundation®, which is dedicated to supporting adult and family literacy programs in the United States.

David is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He lives in Virginia.

 

With special guests …

Judy Melinek, M.D. was an assistant medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and as CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. She and T.J. Mitchell met as undergraduates at Harvard, after which she studied medicine and practiced pathology at UCLA. Her training in forensics at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner is the subject of their first book, the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.

T.J. Mitchell is a writer with an English degree from Harvard, and worked in the film industry before becoming a full-time stay-at-home dad. He is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner with his wife, Judy Melinek.


Ray Krone is co-founder of Witness to Innocence. Before his exoneration in 2002, Ray spent more than 10 years in Arizona prisons, including nearly three years on death row, for a murder he did not commit.

His world was turned upside down in 1991, when Kim Ancona was murdered in a Phoenix bar where Ray was an occasional customer, and he was arrested for the crime. The case against him was based largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a supposedly “expert” witness, later discredited, who claimed bite marks found on the victim matched Ray’s teeth. He was sentenced to death in 1992.

 


With a special presentation by Dr. Denene Lofland – A Microbiologist’s Perspective of Covid 19 and the Spread of Disease.

Denene Lofland  is an expert on bioterrorism and microbiology. She’s managed hospital laboratories and for many years worked as a senior director at biotech companies specializing in new drug discovery. She and her team members, for example, produced successful results that included drugs prescribed to treat cystic fibrosis and bacterial pneumonia. Denene, along with other top company officials, traveled to the FDA to present those findings. As a result, those drugs were approved by the FDA and are now on the market.

Calling on her vast expertise in microbiology, Denene then focused on bioterrorism. With a secret security clearance, she managed a team of scientists who worked in an undisclosed location, in a plain red-brick building that contained several laboratories. Hidden in plain sight, her work there was for the U.S. military.

She’s written numerous peer reviewed articles, contributed to and edited chapters in Bailey and Scott’s Diagnostic Microbiology, a textbook used by universities and medical schools, and, as a professor, she taught microbiology to medical students at a well-known medical school. She’s currently the director of the medical diagnostics program at a major university, where she was recently interviewed for a Delaware public service announcement/video about covid-19.

Denene is a regular featured speaker at the annual Clinical Laboratory Educators Conference, and she’s part of the faculty for the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners.

She was recently named a Fellow of the Association of Clinical Scientists, an elite 200-member association of top scientists from around the world that includes pathologists, clinical chemists, molecular and cell biologists, microbiologists, immunologists, hematologists, cytogeneticists, toxicologists, pharmacokineticists, clinicians, cancer researchers and other doctoral scientists who are experts in laboratory methods for the elucidation, diagnosis, and treatment of human diseases. 

MurderCon registration opens Sunday, February 23, 2020, at noon EST. Therefore, to help the process go smoothly, I thought I’d post a few tips and helpful information.

Please hover your cursor above the bottom left of the graphic below, and then use the “Up” and “Down” arrows that appear at the bottom left to view each page of the newsletter.

As always, if we can assist you in any way please contact us at [email protected]

Remember, space at this incredible event is limited so please reserve your spot by signing up Sunday February 23, 2020 at 12 noon EST. And while you’re at it, you should also consider resevering your hotel room to receive our discounted rate. To do so, click the “Reserve Your Room” link on the MurderCon website. Breakfasts are included in your room rate. Many of the 2020 classes and festivities take place at the event hotel.
 
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The day to signup to attend MurderCon is now only three short days away!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the wildly popular event, MurderCon is the ultimate hands-on training event where attendees—writers, readers, fans, law enforcement, journalists, TV and film writers, etc.—receive the same instruction that’s offered to, and attended by, top homicide detectives and investigators from around the world.

It’s a unique juncture of fiction and fact that takes place at the headquarters and training facility of the global leader in crime-scene investigation technology, Sirchie. Together, Sirchie and the Writers’ Police Academy, assembled an elite cadre of top experts to present exciting and extremely detailed workshops and classes, all relating to the crime of murder and how the savvy detectives solve those cases. I cannot begin to stress the significance of attending classes at the Sirchie compound. This is a HUGE opportunity for you!!

MurderCon classes are far above the typical sessions offered at any other event. It’s the real deal, folks. MurderCon is where your stories are transformed from good, to “readers will not want to put down your book until they’ve devoured the final word.”

It’s one thing to read about police investigations and how cases are solved, but reading alone cannot deliver true physical and emotional sensations—sights, sounds, touch, smell, taste, etc. Attending MurderCon places attendees in situations and scenarios that real-life law enforcement investigators face each and every day.

The 2020 MurderCon is an advanced learning adventure. We’re offering to you, the level of instruction that many police officers only dream of attending. Those who do are often lead or upper level detectives.

Now, available to YOU, is a schedule of classes that are typically “for law enforcement eyes only.” Classes are all brand new for this exclusive 2020 event.

Please, I urge every writer to take advantage of 2020 MurderCon. This is your opportunity to take your writing to another level. You owe it to yourself and to your readers and fans.

So why not join the thousands of writers who’ve attended and benefited from the experience? The list is long and it includes authors such as Tami Hoag, Lisa Gardner, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Karin Slaughter, Christopher Reich, Lisa Regan, Heather Graham, Lee Goldberg, Charlaine Harris, Kendra Elliot, Melinda Leigh, Denise Grover Swank, Mary Burton, Deborah LeBlanc, and Marcia Clark, to name only a few. Attendees range from top bestsellers to the writer who’s just begun to plot and plan their very first tale.

2020 MurderCon Guest of Honor

David Baldacci is a global #1 bestselling author, and one of the world’s favorite storytellers. His books are published in over 45 languages and in more than 80 countries, with over 130 million copies sold worldwide. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. He has also published seven novels for young readers.

David is also the cofounder, along with his wife, Michelle, of the Wish You Well Foundation®, which is dedicated to supporting adult and family literacy programs in the United States.

David is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia School of Law.

He lives in Virginia.

Featuring Special Guests

Dr. Judy Melinek is forensic pathologist in Oakland, California. She’s also the CEO of PathologyExpert Inc. Dr. Melinek and her husband T.J. Mitchell are the co-authors of the New York Times bestselling books Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner.

Ray Krone, the 100th death row exoneree, delivers an emotional and captivating account of his arrest, trial, conviction, and life on death row, all for a murder he didn’t commit. After more than 10 years in Arizona prisons, including nearly three years on death row, the combination of another man’s DNA found at the crime scene, a discredited expert witness, prosecutorial misconduct, and faulty bitemark evidence were the keys that led to Ray’s exoneration.

2020 Classes

(click the titles below to read session description, and instructor details)

“Sedimental” Journey

Art Of Blood

Extraordinary Departures

Fido Finds A Femur

From The Inside Out

Gazing Into The Cloud

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Homocide Or Homicide: You Decide

How Trauma Affects Memory

NARCAN By Noon

Sex Crimes Investigations

Smoking Guns And Lasers

They Saw You Do It

Under The Trench Coat

Who’s MARK


A Murder to Solve!

Join us at MurderCon 2020 for a Crime-Inspired Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt and Clue Game.

From the time WPA attendees enter the host hotel (maybe even before arriving) authors must pay attention, listen carefully, and observe thoroughly, clues to solve a whodunit.

Book signing, anthology release, auction, raffle, short story contests, and MORE!

Please the MurderCon website for all details.

See how your story could be included in a traditionally published anthology along with those written by Reed Farrel Coleman, Heather Graham, Lisa Regan, Denise Grover Swank, Deborah Leblanc, Phoef Sutton, and many more. And, to sweeten the pot, the foreword is written by Lisa Gardner!

//writerspoliceacademy.com

Registration at 12 Noon EST, Sunday, February 23, 2020

Be Ready to Register at Noon EST this Sunday, February 23, 2020.
Space is limited and spots typically go quickly. Believe me, you do NOT want to miss this exclusive event of a lifetime.

As many of you know, each year the Writers’ Police Academy hosts a fun and challenging writing contest called the Golden Donut 200-Word Short Story Contest. Contest rules are simple. Write a complete story about the photograph we provide, using exactly 200 words—including the title.

Contest judging is completed blindly and in steps, with each step a means to narrow the entries to the top dozen finalists, with the exception of an occasional tie that left us with 13 or 14 stories as finalists. Then those top tales were sent to a final judge who selected their pick as the number one story. Past contest judges include bestselling authors Tami Hoag and Heather Graham, to name a couple. Yes, our contest judges definitely know a good story when they read it.

So, with that said, I’m extremely pleased and honored to announce that Linda Landrigan, editor-in-chief of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, will serve as judge for the 2020 Golden Donut 200-Word Short Story Contest. So sharpen your pencils, warm up the erasers, and be ready to trim your twisted tales into a mere 200 words, because one of the top pros of the mystery genre will soon be reading your work.

Linda Landrigan has published everything from whodunits to howdunits, noir and more. The prestigious magazine she helms, AHMM, has featured stories written by Lawrence Block and Bill Pronzini, and a practically endless list of other talented authors, such as my friends Rhys Bowen, SJ Rozan, Leslie Budewitz, Chris Grabenstein, Elaine Viets, and Jan Burke, to name only a scant few.

I grew up reading AHMM and, of course, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. As a kid, those stories were responsible for igniting a passion of wanting to become a police detective and/or a writer. I also longed to see my name in an issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. 2020?

About Linda Landrigan

Linda Landrigan

Linda Landrigan has had a longtime love affair with mystery. Earning her undergraduate degree from New College in Florida and her Master’s degree from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Linda held a variety of jobs before landing a position as associate editor of Hitchcock under the magazine’s previous editor, Cathleen Jordan, with whom she had the privilege of working for five years. Assuming the mantle of editor-in-chief in 2002, Linda has also edited the commemorative anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense (2006) and the digital anthology Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Thirteen Tales of New American Gothic (2012), and has found time to be active on the board of the New York City Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. In 2008, Linda and her “partner in crime,” Janet Hutchings – editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine – were presented with the Poirot Award from Malice Domestic for their contributions to the mystery genre.


2020 Golden Donut 200-Word Short Story Contest details TBA.

By the way, have you, in the past, entered a tale in the super fun Writers’ Police Academy’s Golden Donut Short Story Contest?

If so, would you like to submit your previously-submitted story for consideration to be included in a book published by the Writers’ Police Academy and Level Best Books? If your answer is yes, then dust off your copy and prepare to send it to us. Details are in the works.

Due to COVID concerns and precautions, the 2020 Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon is now a virtual event!

Mark Your Calendars! August 6-7, 2020.


In response to a huge number of messages, yes, there will indeed be a 2020 Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon. In fact, the 2020 event marks a full dozen years of bringing excellent and exciting programs to writers, readers, and fans of crime fiction and real-life crime-solving from around the world.

To celebrate the 12th annual WPA, we’re offering a prize that’s an over-the-moon opportunity of lifetime. I’m talking never before made available opportunity. Something that’s practically unbelievable. It’s heart-pounding. It’s nerve-tingling. It’s mind-blowing! It’s phenomenal! It is absolutely staggering! And it’s … well, it’s a secret for now.

Details as to how you could be the lucky and extremely fortunate person to win this rare opportunity are coming soon. I’m excited for you!

To add to the excitement, I’m extremely pleased to announce that the 2020 Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon will once again take place in Raleigh, N.C., hosted by the global leader in crime scene technology … Sirchie.

Attendees entering Sirchie headquarters.

About Sirchie

“Sirchie,” according to Dyer Bennett, Sirchie’s Vice President of Product Development and Training, “is a 90-year-old organization that’s a global leader in finding ways to fulfill law enforcement needs, including training in all types of state-of-the art forensics. In years past, Sirchie has supported the WPA by providing instructors and training materials.”

“Each year some 700 law enforcement professionals visit Sirchie’s Youngsville, N.C campus, just outside of Raleigh, NC, to attend renowned, extensive training courses. Most of the attendees come from sheriff’s departments and municipal and state police forces. However, they also welcome officers and agents from a variety of other state and federal agencies, including state prison systems, airport security, FBI agents, Treasury, and Secret Service agents. International students come from countries ranging from Italy to Mexico and Argentina to Qatar.”

Sirchie and the Writers’ Police Academy, a Partnership of Writers and Law Enforcement

“Currently, Sirchie offers over 30 courses on campus annually on a variety of forensic topics. Their initial training programs primarily focused on fingerprinting and crime scene evidence collection. Now the subject matter includes all types of evidence collection, analysis, and preservation. For example, advanced courses in clandestine grave recovery, blood stain analysis, death investigation, reconstruction of a shooting, chemical and DNA testing of blood and semen, testing of substances suspected to be drugs, and arson investigation. Of course, they still provide in-depth instruction related to crime scene investigation and fingerprint analysis. One of the most popular courses still is the five-day Crime Scene Technology course that covers a variety of CSI techniques.”

Bennett had this (below) to say about the Writers’ Police Academy’s special event, MurderCon held at Sirchie’s elite compound in Youngsville, N.C. a suburb of Raleigh.

“We train attendees the same way we train law enforcement. Writers who’ve attended prior WPA courses can expect the learn-by-doing philosophy to continue. Every course will have a hands-on component.”

“If they take the arson course, they’ll analyze burn patterns with an expert who has thirty years of ATF experience in arson investigation. If they take the clandestine grave course, they’ll learn the proper way to excavate bones and remains in the field. If they take a drug analysis course, they’ll be taught not only how to test a suspect substance, but the measures needed to protect themselves from exposure. The same, of course, is true of courses related to biological testing and blood spatter documentation and analysis. Fingerprinting and crime scene photography will definitely be hands on. They’ll see and do what officers see and do.”

“The difference from prior WPA events,” said Bennett, “is that at Sirchie the focus is entirely about homicide investigations and the science and forensic technology and analysis used to solve the crime. When attendees graduate from MurderCon, they’ll have the knowledge to describe what really happens—and doesn’t happen—in a homicide investigation.”

“When MurderCon attendees leave, they’ll know what it feels like to conduct an investigation. Having first-hand experience will allow them to portray crime scene details realistically; and it will let them share with their readers how it feels to investigate a homicide.” ~ Dyer Bennett, Sirchie

So please do mark your calendars with a bright red circle. Believe me, you do not want to miss this all new and wonderfully exciting program.

Writers’ Police Academy/MurderCon. August 6-9, 2020.


Two of the many in-depth workshops offered at the 2019 MurderCon event:

A Bloody Mess: Search, ID, and Document Blood Evidence


 FBI Special Agent (ret.) David Alford, instructor.

David Alford (above) is a retired FBI Special Agent with 21 years of experience investigating violent crimes, terrorism and other cases. He was one of the founding members of the FBI Evidence Response Team (ERT) and conducted crimes scene searches on domestic and international violent crimes and bombings, including the Polly Klaas kidnaping and murder, the Unabomber’s cabin and the 9/11 Pentagon scene. He worked in the Denver and San Francisco field offices and completed his career at Quantico in the FBI Lab ERT Unit. During the 6 years in the FBI Lab, he was primarily responsible for overseeing and teaching basic and advanced crime scene courses throughout the US and many other countries.

Buried Bodies

Buried Bodies. Instructor ~ Dr. Meredith Tise, above center wearing light blue shirt, holding a metal probe used to examine ground at a suspicious grave site.

Dr. Meredith Tise earned her PhD. In Applied Anthropology from the University of South Florida. She currently works with the Pinellas County (FL) Sheriff’s Office and consults with the Medical Examiner’s office in Largo, FL, where she assists in remains recovery and analysis. Dr. Tise was part of the team who researched and unearthed 55 graves containing the remains of boys buried at the Dozier School for Boys, about 60 miles northwest of Tallahassee.


Police Magazine Showcases MurderCon/Writers’ Police Academy and Sirchie

MurderCon/Writers’ Police Academy is an event that’s well-attended by writers, readers, fans, editors, agents, translators, and law enforcement professionals, all from around the world and from nearly every state in the U.S.

The event has been featured in hundreds of popular blogs, magazine articles, on local television affiliates, social media, the AP wire, and in 2019 the WPA was the focus of a wonderful article in Police Magazine written by the magazine’s editor, David Griffith. In the article, CSI: Helping Authors Keep It Real, Griffith captured the true purpose of WPA, to help writers by providing the details that help bring better realism to their stories.

In one section of the piece Griffith wrote, “One of the most notable attendees was Charlaine Harris, author of the books that inspired the TV series ‘True Blood’ and ‘Midnight, Texas.’ Harris has the kind of resume that would allow her to contact just about any law enforcement agency in the United States and get a response to her questions, but she prefers coming to MurderCon to learn the details that can give her law enforcement scenes credibility. ‘I would be embarrassed to interrupt real officers while they are working,’ she says.

Also mentioned in an earlier Police Magazine article, “Prior guests of honor, including best-selling authors Tami Hoag and Lisa Gardner, have enjoyed the event so much that they’ve returned as attendees.”

 


The release of the Writers’ Police Academy’s first anthology, After Midnight: Tales From the Graveyard Shift marked a wonderful milestone for each of the contributing authors. The already successful book is a compilation of tales written by dear friends who, during the past eleven years, helped push the WPA to the top of the ladder. With a foreword written by superstar Lee Child and edited by Phoef Sutton, well, it just doesn’t get any better.

In addition, we were we especially thrilled to include the stories of two contest winners, Ry Brooks and Emilya Naymark. Next year, we’re pleased to say, we’re publishing a second anthology. Details to be announced in January. I will say this, though – we’re opening spots for an additional contest-winning tale, for a grand total of three available spots!

Writers’ Police Academy anthologies are published by our dear friends at Level Best Books.

 


Lee Child – Writers’ Police Academy

Finally, speaking of Lee Child … remember the mention at the top of this article of the rare, phenomenal and absolutely staggering and mind-blowing opportunity for one extremely fortunate person? Well, here’s a clue.

Jack Reacher