Recollection of a case by Richard Bleil
Every murder house that I visited during my short tenure as a forensic lab director was unique. Some had a darkly humorous twist, and typically I would give the cases a little nickname. I didn’t go to every murder site, but I would show up if it felt like it might be politically dangerous or messy. Politically dangerous means I wanted to have “eyes on” so if anybody claimed that my people weren’t doing their job, I could honestly stand up for them and state what I had personally witnessed.
Yes, I protected my people.
Messy is just how it sounds. Some crime scenes were spread out, and some were just messy. In these cases, I basically showed up as another pair of hands. I always recognized their expertise and followed their orders so as to not only avoid getting in the way, but also because I wanted to be helpful and knew they had their process. In this instance, I walked into an apartment that was a complete mess. I called it the “naked murder”. A murder-suicide (which we always treated as a murder in case somebody was trying to make it look otherwise), the victim was a man, completely naked, and sitting in a kneeling position in front of the couch, leaning back as if reclining. When I walked in, my forensic scientists made the comment, “why is it that there is always somebody naked in these cases?”
The wall behind where the man was apparently sitting, the wall was riddled with thirteen bullet holes. One of them had hit the victim in the chest. The bullet did not hit a critical organ, but apparently nicked an artery causing him to “bleed out”. The “suicide”, his girlfriend, fired fifteen times down a hallway from the doorway of her bedroom. The gun was a six-shooter revolver, meaning she had to literally stop and reload at least six times assuming she reloaded the revolver completely each time. Three unfired bullets were still in the revolver, one was in his chest, and one in her own head. Behind the wall was a utility room for the apartment building, including a water heater, tool storage, washer and dryer. We had to dig the slugs out from around the room.
One of the bullets apparently shaved a china cabinet as it passed on a little ledge that cropped out from the cabinet, almost like a little window ledge. The wood splintered and many slivers of wood ended up impaled in the victim, one of which looks as if it had intentionally pierced his right ear, resting peacefully still in the earlobe.
I mentioned that the apartment was not a mess, but not from the altercation. It was a case of excessively poor housekeeping. Trash heaps were found in various locations, broken items were left sitting around, including a shot glass that seems to have been struck by another bullet. On the television stand, a flat screen television was laying flat with a broken screen. One of the officers at one point asked me how that could have happened since it was not “line of sight” in the direct line of fire. I glanced and said that it was not affected by the shooting. He asked me how I knew.
Minor observations are critical for crime scenes such as this. There were really two reasons that I knew it wasn’t related to the shooting. First, the whole apartment was a mess from the manner in which they lived. To have a broken television that they never bothered to removed would not have been out of place. But more important than that was the dust.
A sheen of dust covered the television, frankly, rather thick. It’s clear that the apartment had not been dusted in a while, which I can’t really be critical about since I’m don’t dust often enough myself. However, this layer of dust could not have gotten on that television, at least not that thick, if a bullet had knocked the television over. Upright, the dust would not have collected, and had it been knocked over it would not have had time to collect.
The bigger mystery were the casings. Three fired casings were in the gun, so there should have been a dozen casings from fired bullets. In a crime scene, it is important to locate every bullet, and every casing. The casings are important because they can be dusted for fingerprints, but in this case, they were missing. The bullets had to be removed so the gun could be reloaded. In an automatic, they would have been flung free by the action of the gun, but in a revolver the casings remain in the gun until they are removed. So, where were they?
On the far side of the bedroom from where she had fired was, sitting on the floor, what looked like the headboard from a waterbed. It was being used as a nightstand of sorts, but the bed in the bedroom was not a waterbed. My guess is that the headboard was removed and being used for storage and light. Then I noticed it; the bedroom was packed, there was barely room to walk around the bed, but this headboard was not pushed up against the wall. Maybe this was because of the window. Perhaps it was out away from the wall (about a foot) to make room for the curtain, but, really, would people with this kind of disregard for their living space worry about curtains? I made my way (as it really was not easy) to the headboard and looked behind it. There, behind the headboard was a pile of garbage. Apparently, one or both of them threw trash behind this headboard where it was hidden rather than taking it out. On closer scrutiny, I saw a casing. Then another. As she emptied the gun, she was throwing the casings over the headboard into the garbage pile. My analyst, who was ready to wrap up and go home for the evening, was not terribly happy with me because this was when he had to climb into the trash heap and search for a dozen shells (which he did find).
The one mystery that remains unanswered? What did he say to her that made her so angry? I would love to know the answer to this one so I can be sure to NEVER say it to a woman!