Crime Scene Staging: Keeping The Suspect Perspective

Torn Screen

I define crime scene staging as efforts by the stager to introduce, alter, or destroy, evidence in an effort to conceal events or mislead investigators. Their goals may include altering the manner of death (suicide instead of homicide), providing an alternate suspect, or simply destroying enough evidence to prevent a successful prosecution, or even prove a crime was committed.  Lying to investigators does not constitute staging. There must be real physical alterations to the evidence and/or the scene.  Typically, there are three main factors that influence the “success” or degree of staging.  The first is time. The longer one has to alter or destroy evidence the more extensive the staging can become (in theory).

Second are the conditions of the scene.  This includes the location, extent of damage, and the amount and type of evidence. A crime in a public place is typically harder to stage than one in a private location. Cleaning up blood or disposing of a body is extremely difficult if not impossible for most people.

Third, and arguably the most important, is the sophistication  of the stager. Notice I say stager and not suspect. A stager may not have committed the act, or even a crime, but still wishes to conceal it. They may be a parent who tries to make a child’s suicide appear to be an accident. Aside from a desire to avoid arrest, a stager may be influenced by cultural, financial, or religious factors.

Speaking exclusively about crime; ask yourself this question. What does a murder scene look like? How does it differ from a suicide or accident. Hopefully, you don’t have a clue; and why should you? The same is generally true of suspects which is why staging is typically not that difficult to detect. As for your character, the degree and sophistication of the staging is directly related to their world view and experience.

Generally speaking a younger person won’t be as sophisticated as an older person. A mortician, police officer, or serial murderer will have a different perspective than an accountant, lawyer, or politician. Highly organized people are more likely to think the process through to a greater extent than a disorganized person. Someone who plans it out will probably think it through better than someone who tries to alter a scene “on the fly”.  This is all just common sense but when constructing your character you may need to lay a foundation to explain why they did what they did. If your character is a hot-headed mean drunk it will seem odd for him to stop after a crime and methodically plan out a staging.

Possible evidence of ransacking

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About forensics4fiction

Hi there. Thank you for visiting my BLOG for crime writers. I hope you will find it interesting. I would love to hear your questions and thoughts regarding forensics and criminal investigations. I hope that the information here will help answer your questions or ignite your imagination. I am a retired senior criminalist with 15 years of forensic experience. I have served as the president of the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, Rocky Mountain Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and the Rocky Mountain Division of the International Association for Identification. I am triple board certified in forensic related fields and one of only 40 board-certified bloodstain pattern analysts and 80 board-certified footwear examiners worldwide In addition to writing over 60 scientific papers, I have worked as the editor of the Journal of the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, been interviewed by and consulted for television, books, magazines, and newspaper articles including documentaries on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

Posted on June 3, 2011, in Characters, General, The Crime Scene and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Any thoughts on the Darlie Routier case? Investigators say she staged the scene, she says an intruder is responsible. Sorry, if this is a duplicate.

  2. Sorry, I haven’t been following the case.


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