Disclaimer: I have never solved a murder, nor have I had any training on how to solve a murder other than my own internet research and what I’ve picked up on from hours of watching Dateline. This is just an overview law enforcement’s side of murder.
1. Arriving at the Crime Scene
The first thing law enforcement must do when they arrive at the scene of a crime is to disturb the scene as little as possible, as not to unintentionally destroy or tamper with any evidence. Law enforcement will also note the time of arrival.
If the victim is deceased, police will then photograph any evidence and the victim’s body, then begin to obtain physical evidence from the victim. They will then secure the scene and look for any witnesses.
2. Document Everything in the “Murder Book”
It is very important that everything, EVERYTHING, is documented as soon as possible, as memory is not reliable, especially as time goes on. That is why investigators use a Murder Book to record every step of an investigation, including forensic reports, crime scene photos, and witness statements.
The timeline is a key part of any investigation that can make or break a suspect’s alibi. Creating a timeline not only includes the day of the murder, but tracking down the victim’s habits, routines, and hobbies.
3. Follow EVERY Lead
This is one that has probably frustrated all true crime junkies at some point. We have all seen law enforcement receive a lead and not follow up on it because it didn’t seem significant or plausible. It’s so incredibly frustrating, because even if the lead is small, it could lead to key evidence to solving the crime
I applaud law enforcement who take their jobs a little more seriously than others seem to. In 2001, police in Illinois were still following every lead from eight years before.
4. Don’t Give Up
Even though the first 48 hours after a crime are the most important to solving a crime, sometimes crimes require time more time to solve. Investigators may not have all the tools or the technology they need to solve the case. DNA testing is an excellent example of technology that is necessary in solving many crimes, but it was not first used until 1986.
Other times, it can take time to convince a criminal to confess, like Doug Stewart did eight years after murdering his wife Venus.