Test Your Forensic IQ: The scene of a crime can tell a seasoned detective a number of things about the type of killing. These initial conjectures, hypotheses and questions give direction to the investigation.
Now, it’s your turn to play Armchair Detective.
Take a look at the case below. What do you notice? What are some initial conjectures you could test? What questions should you be asking?
Note your thoughts in the comments below:
armchair detective, body in the church
Where in the church was she found? Did she have a key to the church in order to unlock the church itself? Was her office in the church or in an adjacent building? Had she logged into her computer? What was her job for the church? What time of day was it? How did she die? Did she and the cleaning lady have issues?
The scenario seems to indicate that the reason she was killed had something to do with the church, so it would be important not to get sucked into that presumption.
Excellent questions, Rayanne! Yes, her office was within the church building. Her computer was on. Apparently rather than working, she was checking out profiles on dating sites!!
Great idea and development! How fun.
Glad you think so, Jacqueline. Hope you’ll consider sharing your thoughts.
Assumptions: the worker had entered the church, perhaps with her own key. She was most likely planning to work on the computer and had turned it on.
Questions: Did she have a key to the door? Did her computer have a password? Was she sitting at the computer? Were there any work papers at her computer? What was on the computer screen? Was she shot in the back or front? Where did the bullet enter her body? Was she sitting when she was shot?Where was the body in relation to the door of her office and the computer? Did she have a purse in the room, or was that missing? Were there signs of a struggle? Was the gun still in the room?
Conjectures to examine: Was the worker murdered or did she shoot herself? Was there something on the computer screen at the time of her death that could offer a clue for why she died? How long had the worker possibly been dead, based on examination of the body? Was the cleaning lady a friend of hers?
Fantastic questions and assumptions, Susan. It didn’t look like anything was missing. But the victim rather than working on her computer was checking out dating profiles!!
So, she wasn’t working! However, there still remains the question of how she died. Was there a jealous boyfriend, perhaps, who didn’t like the idea of her checking out a dating site?
Exactly, we’d need to find out. We’d also need to know if she was arranging a secret assignation with someone she’d met on one of those dating profiles. Could this have been a romantic encounter gone wrong?
It seems unlikely she would chose to have a romantic encounter in a church office. Also, if she had already arranged a tryst, then why would she have still been checking out profiles? She would already have made her choice. For those reasons, I’m still leaning toward the thought that someone felt betrayed and that led to her demise.
It does sound like a personal killing–someone had beef with the victim. Good assumptions!
That brings us to two more things to investigate: Was she followed to the church or did someone already at the church shoot her? It’s very important to study the position of the body, because that will give some clues on whether the victim had a chance to respond to the person who came in, or if this was a surprise attack as she concentrated on the computer screen.
Additional things to ascertain:
Was the door tampered with in any way? That might indicate that the worker had re-locked the door and someone broke in after she arrived.
Other than the cleaning lady, was there anyone else working in the church during this time?
Without more info to go on, my next step would be to examine her background and recent relationships to see if she was having problems with anyone. I still haven’t ruled out suicide because there hasn’t been enough detail on how and where she was shot and whether or not the gun was still present in the room. She might have been despondent about a recent relationship failure or maybe she saw her lover/husband on the dating site looking for a new romance and that pushed her over the edge. All these things must be investigated since the info we’ve been given is limited!
Delving into the victim’s background is a great place to start.
For all those playing, I’ll have an update on this case and the solution to it on Thursday.
Did the perp have a key or did the victim let him or her in?
Excellent questions, Deborah! We do know the victim had a key. She was a church employee. If she let her killer in, it was either someone she trusted or our victim was rather foolish and naive. If the killer had a key, that narrows our suspects down quite a bit.
Were others in the building who saw and are willing to admit seeing the victim arrive? Was it normal for the victim to be in the church on that day or at the time she must have arrived? Was the victim married or in a steady or committed relationship? What other persons were normally in the church? Was it the victim’s habit to lock the church door after entering? If the building showed no signs of forced entry, what other people had keys? Did the victim have a profile on the dating site, and if so, for how long had she had it? What responses had she received, if any? Was the victim the pastor, or if not, did the pastor have an account on any of the dating sites the victim had accessed? (Browser history should show what other sites had been recently visited.) Did the victim’s attire differ from what she normally wore when at the office? Did anything appear to be missing? Did the victim have sensitive files in that office? Marriage records? Baptismal records?
I would not assume that the victim had been visiting the dating site. The perpetrator could have brought up the site before leaving the scene, so that the site could be a blind. Again, the browser history might offer some insights. Also, I would want to know if the victim had access to a computer at home, and if so, who else had access to it. If the victim lived alone and had a computer at home, then she likely wouldn’t have come to the office just to use the computer dating purposes. If she had a home computer but lived with someone else, I’d want to know a lot about that other person, because it would suggest that the victim didn’t want the other person to know about her visiting a dating site (if she did).
Fantastic questions! The victim was an employee but not the pastor. She was trying to get her life together and hadn’t been at her job for very long.