Category Archives: Forensics

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER

A1Are you planning on murdering someone, but your only stop is the fear of getting caught? Or are you plotting a thriller where your serial-slayer stays steps ahead of that dogged detective who’s also top-tier in her trade? Maybe both? Well, I’ll give you a cake and let you eat it, too…if you’ll follow me on how homicide cops investigate murders.

Think about it. There are only four ways you can get caught. Or get away with it. All seasoned sleuths intrinsically know this, and they build their case on these four simple pillars.

Let’s take a look at them.

What Not To Do

A2# 1  Don’t leave evidence behind that can identify you to the scene. Such as fingerprints, footwear or tire impressions, DNA profiles, ballistic imprints, gunshot residue, toolmarks, bitemarks, handwritten or printed documents, hair, fiber, chemical signatures, organic compounds, cigarette butts, spit chewing gum, toothpicks, a bloody glove that doesn’t fit, or your wallet with ID (seriously, that’s happened).

A3# 2  Don’t take anything with you that can be linked. Including all of the above, as well as the victim’s DNA, her car, jewelry, money, bank cards, any cell phone and computer records, that repeated modus operandi of your serial kills, no cut-hair trophies, no underwear souvenirs, and especially don’t keep that dripping blade, the coiled rope, or some smoking gun.

A4# 3  Don’t let anyone see you. No accomplices, no witnesses, and no video surveillance. Camera-catching is a huge police tool these days. Your face is captured many times daily—on the street, at service stations, banks, supermarkets, pizza joints, government buildings, libraries, transit rides, private driveways, and in the liquor store.

A5# 4  Never confess. Never, ever, tell anyone. That includes your best drinking buddy, your future ex-lover, the police interrogator, or the undercover agent. Loose lips sink ships and there’ve been more crimes solved through slips of the tongue than any fancy forensic technique.

So, if you don’t do any of these four things, you can’t possibly get caught.

Now…

What To Do

A7Humans are generally messy and hard creatures to kill—even harder to get rid of—so murder victims tend to leave a pool of evidence. Therefore, it’s best not to let it look like a murder.

Writers have come up with some fascinating and creative ways to hide the cause of death. Problem is—most don’t work. Here’s two sure-fire ways to do the deed and leave little left.

A8# 1 Cause a Cerebral Arterial Gas Embolism (CAGE) This one’s pretty easy, terribly deadly, and really difficult to call foul. A CAGE is a bubble in the bloodstream, much like a vapor lock in an engine’s fuel system. People die when their central nervous system gets unplugged and a quick, hard lapse in the carotid artery on the right side of the neck can send an CAGE into their cerebral circulation. The brain stops, the heart quits, and they drop dead.

Strangulation is an inefficient way to create an CAGE and it leaves huge tell-tale marks. You’re far better off giving a fast blast of compressed air to the carotid…maybe from something like that thing you clean your keyboard with…just sayin’.

A9# 2 Good Ol’ Poison. Ah, the weapon of women. Man, have there been a lot of poisonings over the centuries and there’ve been some pretty, bloody, diabolical stories on how they’re done. Problem again—today there’s all that cool science. The usual suspects of potassium cyanide, arsenic, strychnine, and atropine still work well but they’ll jump out like a snake-in-the-box during a routine toxicology screen.

You need something that’s lethal, yet a witch to detect.

A10I know of two brews—one is a neurotoxin made from fermented plant alkaloid and the other is a simple mix of fungi & citrus. This stuff will kill you dead and leave no trace—however, I think it’s quite irresponsible to post these formulas on the net.

So there, I’ll leave it with you to get away with murder. But, if you have some crafty novel plot that needs help, I’m dying to hear your words.

Oh, and watch out for what’s in that cake you’re eating.

___   ____   ___

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I’m doing some self-promotion this weekend. Actually, I’m having Amazon Kindle do it and I’d really appreciate your support.

InTheAttic2In The Attic, my new psychological thriller is based on the true crime story I investigated. It’s FREE as a Kindle eBook.

Here’s the link if you’d like to download a copy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01I66L8S2

Here’s the Amazon description:

I’m so terrified that psycho’s going to kill me!

Maria Dersch prophetically predicted her death at the savage hands of her ex-boyfriend, Billy Ray Shaughnessy, who hid in her attic for two and a half days with an ax before sneaking down in the dead of night, chopping Maria and her new lover to death.

In The Attic is an intense, shocking, and unforgettable psychological crime thriller based on the horrific, true murder case Garry Rodgers investigated as an actual detective. It’s also told from the killer’s point of view through his lyrical, psychotic, and homicidal thoughts.

In this lightning-paced, mind-twisting, psychological ride, you’re suspended in a six-day investigation and search for Billy Ray after Maria reported a violent, knife-point, sexual assault committed by him on a Friday afternoon.

InTheAttic-e-readerOver the weekend, police and friends made a frantic attempt to lock Billy Ray from the house and track him down to prevent escalation. They failed. He’d been in the attic the entire time.

At 3 a.m., on Sunday morning and in the black of night, Billy Ray climbed down. He butchered Maria and her defenseless lover, committing unspeakable desecration to their bodies. Billy Ray aimlessly left the crime scene—a senseless scene sickening to the hardest of investigators—and was caught three days later, still caked with his victims’ blood.

Billy Ray confessed, allowing a terrifying yet fascinating access to his psychopathic, anti-social mind—a mind diagnosed as one of the most outstanding cases of mental disorder a team of forensic psychiatrists ever saw.

In The Attic is Free as a Kindle eBook: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01I66L8S2

GILBERT PAUL JORDAN—THE “BOOZING BARBER” SERIAL KILLER

A5The term “serial killer” makes us think of hi-profile monsters like Ted Bundy, who beat and strangled his victims, or the Zodiac Killer, who shot most with a gun. There’s Clifford Olson who used a hammer. Jack The Ripper who liked his knife. And Willie Pickton who drugged his ladies, cut them apart with an electric Sawzall, then fed their pieces to his pigs.

By nature, serial killers follow a specific Modus Operandi—an M.O. peculiar to their wares. Some strangle, some shoot, some smash, and some slash. But the most unique and unsuspecting method of serial killing I’ve heard of came from Gilbert Paul Jordan, aka the “Boozing Barber”, who got his victims comatose drunk then finished them off by pouring straight vodka down their throats. He intentionally alcohol-poisoned at least nine women—possibly dozens more.

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Gilbert Jordan was a monster from the 1980’s operating in the Down Town East Side of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Today, the skid row DTES of Vancouver is still one of the most dangerous, crime and drug-ridden inner cities of the world. In the DTES, the most popular drug of choice is still alcohol—ethanol as it’s known in the coroner and toxicologist world.

A6Jordan was born in 1931 and started a crime career in his twenties by kidnapping and raping a five-year-old aboriginal girl. He beat the charges and went on to commit more sexual assaults including abducting a woman from a mental institute and raping her, too. Jordan bounced in and out of jail. He continued to prey on the helpless and downtrodden, especially alcoholic women from the First Nations culture. Gilbert Jordan, himself, became a raging alcoholic and consumed over fifty ounces of vodka per day.

Jordan learned barbering skills while in prison. Between jail sentences, he set up a barber shop on East Hastings Street in the heart of Vancouver’s DTES, being a regular fixture in the seedy bar scene. He blended easily and was not at all intimidating—short, stocky, balding, with thick glasses.

Jordan was a well-known mark for buying vulnerable aboriginal women drinks and he’d take them from the bars to his barber shop or a room which he kept in a derelict hotel. Here they’d party till they passed out. It’s estimated that hundreds of women binge drank with Jordan during his spree from 1980 to 1987.

Overdose deaths in the DTES were common.

A7The majority were intravenous drug users, many having a lethal toxin level amplified with mixed use of ethanol. It’s still that way today. But overdose deaths from ethanol consumption alone are rare. Usually, heavy drinkers reach a blood-ethanol limit where they pass out—long before ethanol effects shut down their central nervous system. The few deaths from ethanol alone are almost always caused by an unconscious victim aspirating on vomit—not from reaching a lethal blood-ethanol-content. A BEC of 0.35% (35mg of ethanol per 100 milliliters of blood) is considered the start of the lethal range. Note that 0.08% is the standard for drunk driving.

During Jordan’s run, there were increasingly suspicious amounts of aboriginal women deaths from shockingly high BEC. They included:

  1. Ivy Rose — 0.51
  2. Mary Johnson — 0.44
  3. Barbara Paul — 0.47
  4. Mary Johns — 0.76
  5. Patricia Thomas — 0.51
  6. Patricia Andrew — 0.79
  7. Vera Harry — 0.49
  8. Vanessa Buckner — 0.50
  9. Edna Slade — 0.55

A8When Edna Slade was found dead in Gilbert Jordan’s hotel room, and it became apparent Jordan was the common denominator in many similar deaths, Vancouver Police put Jordan under surveillance. From October 12th to November 26th, 1987, VPD observed Jordan “search out native Indian women in the skid row area of Vancouver and take them back to his hotel room for binge-drinking”.

VPD officers listened from outside Jordan’s door and recorded him saying phrases like “Have a drink. Down the hatch, baby. Twenty bucks if you drink it right down. See if you’re a real woman. Finish that drink. Down the hatch, hurry, right down. You need another drink. I’ll give you fifty bucks if you can take it right down. I’ll give you ten, twenty, fifty dollars. Whatever you want. Come on, I want to see you get it all down. Get it right down.

On four occasions during the surveillance, police intervened and remove the comatose victims to the hospital.

A9Gilbert Jordan was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Vanessa Buckner. The prosecution used similar fact evidence from the other eight identified deaths. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. This was reduced to nine years on appeal and he served only six. When Jordan was paroled in 1994, he went right back to the business of stalking alcoholic aboriginal women. He was being watched by VPD and immediately sent back to prison for parole violation and an additional sexual assault. He served out his sentenced but was released in 2000, again returning to a life of chronic alcoholism and serial predation.

Gilbert Jordan, the Boozing Barber, died of the disease called alcoholism in 2006.

*   *   *

Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, has been used by humans for thousands of years for its relaxation effect of euphoria and lowering social inhibitions. Drinking ethanol is widely accepted around the western world and is an enormous economic force.

A12Ethanol abuse is a contributing factor in untold tragedies.

Despite ethanol’s popularity as a social interactor, the medical pathophysiology considers any amount of BEC to be clinically poisonous. Ethanol is metabolized by the liver at a rate of about 50 ml (1.7 fluid ounce) per 90 minutes. That’s like two beers or one 9-ounce glass of wine every hour and a half. Drink more than you can absorb and you’ll get drunk. Wake up still drunk and you’re hung-over.

A13The acute effects of an ethanol overdose vary according to many factors. The body mass and tolerance to the drug are primary as is the rate of consumption. Ultimately, acute ethanol poisoning depresses the body’s central nervous system, causing the respiratory system to shut down and the victim asphyxiates.

These are the average symptomatic presentations of ethanol poisoning in relation to BEC:

  • 02 – 0.07% — Intoxication and euphoria
  • 08 – 0.19% — Ataxia (loss of body control ), poor judgment, labile mood
  • 20 – 0.29% — Advanced ataxia, extremely poor judgment, nausea
  • 30 – 0.35% — Stage 1 anesthesia, memory collapse
  • 35 – 0.39% — Comatose
  • 40 +             — Respiratory failure, sudden death

A14In my time as a police officerthen as a coronerI attended lots of deaths where ethanol was a contributing factor. Very few were acute ethanol poisoning deaths, though. Many were mixed drug overdoses, especially mixing booze with prescription pills. Then there were suffocating on puke cases, suicides while pissed, fatal motor vehicle crashes driven by drunks, and violent homicides done during ethanol-fueled anger and inebriation.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not slamming the social use of ethanol. I’ve been around the booze scene my whole life and still enjoy decent wine and good scotch, although I’ve never had a taste for beer.

A15I grew up in a socio-economic environment where rampant alcoholism was common. It was accepted. Grant RobertsonI worked with Grant in my teensGrant was proud of his breathalyzer certificate proving he was caught behind the wheel at a 0.44% BEC. True story. I saw the paper. Grant was a die-hard—a chronic alcoholic with forty years of practice. I don’t think Grant ever went below two-five.

As a young cop, I brought an old guy in for a blow. I couldn’t tell if he was drunk but he’d caused a minor car accident and slightly smelled of liquor. Legally, I had to demand a breathalyzer test. He pushed the needle to a 0.36% and I’ll never forget the breathalyzer operator’s remark “You’re no stranger to alcohol, are you?

People have different tolerances to ethanol. And different physiological responses.

A16I’ve worked with cops who were drunk on duty, seen judges half-cut on the bench, had my pilot pass out before time to depart, and I’ve woken in places unknown. I’ve had countless laughs, spent way too much money on time pissed away, and have stories from nights in the bars.

But I still can’t get clipped in my buddy Dave’s chair without thinking of Gilbert Paul Jordan, the “Boozing Barber” Serial Killer of the Down Town East Side of Vancouver.

FORENSIC HYPNOSIS FOR MEMORY ENHANCEMENT

A6Forensic hypnosis is the scientific application of memory enhancement—an investigational aid to law enforcement leads and admissible courtroom evidence. Hypnotic recall assists witnesses to reliably relay hidden details of events and descriptions that aren’t extracted through conventional interview techniques.

In my police career, I’ve had many cases using hypnotic memory enhancement. Several had amazing success.

A5I’m fascinated with the human mind. I think modern medicine and psychiatry are just beginning to understand the complexity of how our consciousness works. Hypnosis is a tool to assist in entering our subconscious and unlock the vault where memory is stored. Its magic is the ability to alter the subject’s state of consciousness which is what Shamanism is all about. But, then, Shamanism is for another discussion.

The best forensic hypnotherapist I’ve had the pleasure to work with is Dr. Lee Pulos of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Here’s how Dr. Pulos explains it.

A1“Hypnosis is a natural state of consciousness that we drift in and out of quite regularly. For example, while driving along a highway and then suddenly discovering that you ‘lost’ several miles without being aware of it. This can also happen during reading when you may notice that you have ‘read’ a chapter or two without being mindful of the content. Hypnosis is basically a technique for focusing consciousness by entering a deep state of absorption. It allows you to shift from your outer to inner awareness and tap deeper levels of consciousness so we can re-educate and reprogram the subconscious with empowering suggestions or beliefs.”

The word hypnosis comes from the name of a Greek god Hypnos, who presided over sleep. In the late1700s, Anton Mesmer brought the technique into popular consciousness in Europe and in 1843 Scottish physician James Braid coined the term hypnotism for the experience that was passing in many circles as animal magnetism.

A8Hypnosis places a person in a trance state that can resemble sleep, but instead is an altered state of consciousness more akin to lucid dreams. Often, people in a trance are quite alert but focused in a way that differs from their normal conscious state. Contrary to popular notions, subjects in a light trance are aware of everything going on.

A7I’ve seen a rough and tough biker-witness under hypnosis who was instructed to play “patty-cake” by clapping his hands on his knees.  He couldn’t stop laughing at the fact that he couldn’t control his hands, though he seemed perfectly conscious in a way that ought to have enabled him to resist the instruction. His hands changed to patting his head and stomach at the hypnotist’s instruction. They looked at each other the whole time and even had a conversation with his hands patting about.

The trance-state, which has its own ebb and flow, is the result of a trusting and cooperative process between the subject and the hypnotist. It’s not one person controlling another and there’s no way the hypnotist can make the subject do something they would not do while they’re in a normal state, such as an illegal or immoral act.

A9“Hypnosis,” says Kevin McConkey, President of the Australian Psychological Society and co-author of Hypnosis, Memory, and Behavior in Criminal Investigation, “is essentially a phenomenon that reflects genuinely experienced alterations of reality in response to suggestions administered by a hypnotist. The subject’s testimony is what confirms the trance, although susceptibility varies among individuals. Those who are highly suggestive will behave as if going through truly significant cognitive alterations.”

Hypnosis involves concentration that is heightened to the point where one can recall details that seemed to elude that same person in a conscious state. It’s a powerful forensic tool for criminal investigation, although some researchers challenge the notion that hypnosis leads to significant increases in memory.

There are two basic purposes for using forensic hypnosis.

The most common is inducing relaxation when anxiety and stress may obstruct a witness’s ability to recall as much information as possible. The second occurs when retrieval of information from witnesses cannot be acquired through other means.

A4The first court case involving forensic hypnosis was Cornell v. Superior Court of San Diego in 1959. Although forensic hypnosis is mostly used by prosecutors, in this particular court case, it was the defense that used hypnosis as an aid in preparing its strategy. Since then, many famous cases have used hypnosis as an aid, including the Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy, and Sam Sheperd.

Currently, no overriding judgment has been handed down regarding the admissibility of evidence achieved through forensic hypnosis and the use of hypnotic evidence varies between jurisdictions. Adding to the reliability problem is that solid evidence can be devalued as a result of unprofessional circumstances in obtaining evidence through hypnosis.

I remember one judge rejecting evidence from a witness who had been subject to hypnotic recall stating “There’s nothing more unreliable than an eyewitness, never mind one who is tainted by hocus-pocus.” One the other hand, I recall another judge being fascinated by the process and readily accepting witness evidence, particularly because the information obtained under hypnosis was corroborated by independent facts.

As in all types of evidence, the key is reliability.

To ensure solid forensic hypnosis used in criminal investigations is not devalued, it’s become standard and vital operating procedure that all hypnosis sessions are video/audio recorded and the session is witnessed by independent observers. To strengthen the case, the hypnosis must be performed by a trained forensic hypnotist.

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Before a forensic hypnotist is allowed to begin a session, one very important condition must be met. The subject must be assured that during the hypnotic session no attempt shall be made to elicit any information that is not directly relevant to the investigation. In addition, the forensic hypnotist must also assure the subject that no information retrieved will lead to self-incrimination.

Critics of forensic hypnotism center their attacks on the accuracy and reliability of the evidence that’s obtained. The concern is that suggestion(s) implanted during hypnotism may create false memories through the use of leading questions.

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One thing that a forensic hypnotist cannot do, and is never called to do, is to help a suspect confess to a crime. Not only is this impossible, but any confession arrived at through hypnosis would never be admissible in court.

Here’s a true case I investigated where forensic hypnosis for memory enhancement led to a break through in solving the crime. It was conducted by Dr. Lee Pulos.

A12In wintery April, a lady was alone in her cabin on a remote gold claim in northern British Columbia. A masked man with a handgun appeared at her door, demanding she hand over her gold stash. She refused. He proceeded to blindfold and hog-tie her, then began torturing by burning her hands and ribs with a red-hot knife heated on her wood stove.

Now this lady was one tough old bird, as you’d expect a gold miner to be. She later stated she’d worked so hard to build her gold stash that she’d “rather die than turn it over to this asshole.” Realizing his interrogation technique was going nowhere, the bad guy quit in frustration. He set the cabin on fire with her still tied, blindfolded, and left her to die. She was able to wiggle over and boot the door, then crawl outside where she laid in excruciating pain on the snow in sub-zero temperature until her husband returned.

Because this was such a horrific crime, we “pulled the stops”.

A13We flew her to Vancouver to undergo hypnosis with Lee Pulos. He was able to extract two things that led to solving the case. One, she recalled the bad guy was using a two-way radio or ‘communicator’, as she called it. Second, he used the term for her gold stash as being ‘squirreled away’.

A14Now knowing an accomplice was involved, we focused the investigation on a neighbor who’d been involved with a gold claim boundary dispute. We identified the suspect as a Hells Angels striker who’d been hired by the neighbor, so we ran a wiretap which caught him using the term ‘squirreled away’. This led to an elaborate, clandestine sting operation resulting in his confession to an undercover agent. He was convicted and got twenty years.

Like I said, I’ve always been fascinated with how the human mind works. One thing I’m positive about—there’s more to consciousness than modern medicine and psychiatry know—except for the Shamans.

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Dr. Leslie Gray is a professor at UCLA Berkley and the Core Shaman who’s altered states of consciousness teachings inspired “No Witnesses To Nothing”. Her website is www.WoodfishInstitute.com in San Fransisco.

But, then, Shamanism is for another discussion.