What is a Homicide Investigation?

Patrick Lynch

Homicide is another term for the killing of one person by another. A homicide investigation is the gathering of evidence in order to determine the perpetrator of the crime. The investigation is conducted to find out the motive of the killer, the circumstances surrounding the murder as well as the identity of the felon.

A homicide investigation evaluates evidence related to a killing.
A homicide investigation evaluates evidence related to a killing.

Intent is not enough to gain a conviction. People sometimes have a motive and an opportunity, but there must be evidence that they both committed the crime and that their act was the cause of death. In the court of law, the prosecuting team must be able to prove that the defendant’s actions were a substantial factor in the death of the victim and that the deceased would be alive but for these actions. Therefore, it is the purpose of the homicide investigation to find evidence of these facts.

A homicide investigation seeks to identify the perpetrator of the crime.
A homicide investigation seeks to identify the perpetrator of the crime.

In order to do this effectively, there are a few things that must be accomplished. The first officers to be alerted must rush to the crime scene so that all available evidence is not tampered with. Everything in and around the area needs to be cordoned off and considered as evidence. At this point, statements are collected from eyewitnesses — if there are any — and any suspects are to be apprehended.

The first officers at a crime scene must make sure that all available evidence is not tampered with.
The first officers at a crime scene must make sure that all available evidence is not tampered with.

After the scene has been secured, it is time for the homicide investigation team to arrive. These officers must document all evidence at the scene via photographs and video recordings. Everything must be carefully scrutinized, and the investigators must tread carefully so as to not contaminate the scene or disturb evidence such as fingerprints.

Homicide investigation relies on autopsies to help find some facts.
Homicide investigation relies on autopsies to help find some facts.

Their duties also include identifying the victim and establishing a time and cause of death. In general, the majority of homicides are committed by someone who is known to the victim. Random murders usually are extremely rare. Possible motives for homicides include sex, financial need, crimes of passion, blackmail and self-defense, and there occasionally is no motive at all. Establishing the cause of death is extremely important in any homicide investigation, because it usually provides the investigators with valuable evidence.

Eyewitness statements can often garner a list of suspects, or identify a perpetrator.
Eyewitness statements can often garner a list of suspects, or identify a perpetrator.

The cause of death in a homicide might be something such as asphyxiation, stabbing, gunshot wounds or poison. It is up to the criminal investigation team to ascertain whether the crime was accidental, a momentary loss of control on the part of the accused or a premeditated act, or perhaps it actually was suicide. The angle of entry of a bullet or knife gives investigators a clear picture regarding the intent of the accused. Obviously, a bullet in someone’s back from a distance usually rules out suicide. An autopsy of the victim typically reveals many truths about the case.

Homicides are classified as either justifiable, excusable or criminal.
Homicides are classified as either justifiable, excusable or criminal.

As well as reviewing the deceased’s background for potential suspects, the investigative team also must interview all witnesses and suspects to ensure that what they saw is relevant to the case as well as to determine whether they’re telling the truth. Those involved in the homicide investigation must write a detailed report and should avoid divulging too much information to the media. Failure to do all of the above might compromise the case if and when it goes to trial.

Police officers usually set up a perimeter at crime scenes to prevent evidence tampering.
Police officers usually set up a perimeter at crime scenes to prevent evidence tampering.

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