investigating a cold case: a 1989 homicide

Introduction
You will be investigating a cold case: a 1989 homicide that is being reactivated because evidence in a recent robbery has been linked to the unsolved killing.
This simulation is presented in the form of a binder that serves as your case file. To open the binder and begin your investigation, click on the arrows at the bottom right of the binder. Inside, you will find all the available evidence that was collected for the case in the investigation that took place immediately after the crime. Unfortunately, a fire in the police department file room in 1991 destroyed the original audiotapes and transcripts of the interviews. Only the summaries, which were in the police reports and stored separately, survived.
The binder is organized into tabbed sections: Police Reports, Forensic Reports, Evidence, Interviews, Scene Info, and Autopsy/Tox. In some instances, evidence and reports are subdivided under a tab (e.g., the police and detective reports on the homicide are separated from the robbery reports). To see a specific report, you will need to look inside the correct subfolder.
The icons at the bottom left will help you throughout the simulation. From left to right these icons represent Messages, Databases, Glossary, Help, Request Indictment, and Exit. Clicking on one of these will open a pop-up window. Details on the use of these icons can be found by clicking on the Help icon (police whistle).
Begin by examining the reports and evidence from the original investigation. Once you are familiar with the homicide case and the people involved, you may proceed to interview persons of interest. As the simulation progresses and you encounter new evidence, you will be able to submit that evidence for various types of forensic testing.
As you proceed with your investigation, you will gather evidence, test results, reports, and witness statements. These items will be placed into your binder as they are created or discovered. Your ultimate goal is to solve the case, and in doing so, to gather enough evidence to secure an indictment from the district attorney.
If your case is strong enough, the D.A. will grant you an indictment upon your request and will file charges against the perpetrator. If you file for an indictment without sufficient evidence to back it up, your request will be denied. You may continue your investigation, build a stronger case, and resubmit your request later. The simulation ends when you have secured the indictment.

CCJS 420 Medical and Legal Investigations of Death
Course-at-a-Glance

Course Description
Prerequisite: CCJS 100, CCJS 101, or CCJS 105. Recommended: CCJS 234. An intensive look at medical and legal investigations into causes of death. The objective is to perform investigative functions at a death scene, determine and apply forensic testing, and analyze and effectively communicate investigative information. Topics include the difference between the medical (or pathological) and legal (or criminal) components of investigations into causes of death, medical and investigative terminology, and the impact of ethics on prosecutions and convictions. Case studies illustrate practical applications of various forms of forensic styles and parameters.

Course Goals/Objectives
After completing this course, you should be able to
• analyze a death scene and determine appropriate investigative actions
• communicate complex forensic and investigative information in an accurate, ethical, and comprehensive manner
• function as an objective independent investigator within a collaborative, multi-jurisdictional team
• determine appropriate forensic testing and interpret the analysis results in relation to the death investigation

Course Introduction
In this course, we will discuss homicide and death investigation, moving from the death scene to the autopsy to the courtroom presentation. Because the death scene investigation is critical to the eventual outcome of the case, we will explore general and specific elements of death investigation in detail. We will look at various types of investigations, including homicide, suicide, sexually oriented, and equivocal death investigations. We will discuss the autopsy and its role in the death investigation as well as the identification of victims and the growing role technology plays in this process.
We will cover the identification of suspects, the use of computer databases, cold case investigation techniques, and criminal behavioral analysis as these subjects pertain to death investigation. We will also examine the practice of death investigation management and the processes of working within a death investigation team and with the public. The techniques and tools we will discuss in this course are fundamental to the successful resolution of a death or homicide investigation.
The course is structured around the following five modules:
• Autopsy
• Forensic Evidence in Homicides
• Forensic Databases Used in Criminal Death Investigations
• Cold Case Investigations
• Post Conviction Investigation, Exoneration, and Death Penalty Investigation

Project #1: Cold Case Action Plan
You will need to write a Cold Case action plan for the management and investigation of project #4, Cold Case Arrest Warrant Report. Review the cold case binder, become familiar with the mechanics of the simulation and conduct a preliminary review of the case. Based on the initial information prepare an action plan of how you are going to proceed with the investigation, what investigative steps will you utilize to solve it, types of evidence which may be of value and what skills and or abilities should a homicide/death investigator possess.
• 1-2 pages in length, APA format.
Review the instructions for the Final Cold Case Report and Interactive Case project in the Syllabus section under projects and in the Course at a Glance section.
• Create an Action Plan that details how you are going to complete the interactive cold case game. This could include an outline of actions you will take and a timeline of when you will complete each stage of the project culminating in completing the game and writing the report by the last week of class.
• From the syllabus:
• Short of investigating an actual homicide, participating in a virtual death investigation is perhaps the most effective way to acquire a deeper understanding of how investigators gather information and solve cases. In this course, you will participate in an interactive virtual homicide investigation. The crime scene simulation is located in the Course Modules area. As you progress through the investigation, you will conduct interviews and examine case files, an autopsy report, death scene photographs, and forensic reports. Your goal is to solve the case and to gather sufficient credible evidence to convince the prosecutor to issue an indictment for the perpetrator.
• You will have two assignments to submit in relation to this cold case. The first is an action plan for the management of the case. After reviewing the cold case binder, write out in approximately one page exactly how you will proceed in this case. What steps will you take to solve it? The action plan is due Week 2 of the class. The Final Project report is not due until the last week of the class.
Project #2: Case Study: External Briefing Report
Assignment:
As a medico-legal death investigator, you will work with many agencies and members of the public while performing your duties. An important consideration to keep in mind as you progress in your criminal justice career is the respect and understanding due to victims, family members, and next of kin. The interactions you have with these parties will shape the public’s opinion and support of forensics and law enforcement.
For this assignment, you will be given a case study to review. You will write an external briefing to be attached to the case report and the autopsy report. The briefing will go to the family of the deceased. Include the following:
• All aspects of the death scene, including location, conditions, and pertinent information
• All aspects of the property of the deceased that either was on the decedent when he or she was taken to the medical examiner’s office or was taken from the scene for evidence, and the disposition of any other property, such as residence
• Condition of the body as regarding the possibility of a funeral and options available to the family regarding funeral contacts, services, and methods
• Information you still need from the family and how would you like to get that information
• Explain and describe the investigative procedures which may have been or were used during the investigation (based on information discussed and learned in class)
In writing this report, be mindful of your audience. What do you think a family member would need to know or want to know, and how should the information be presented? Be mindful of ethical disclosure, legal implications, and level of discretion when writing your report.
The report should be organized in a logical manner and written with professional language with the following requirements:
• Between 3 and 5 pages in length.
• Business letter or memorandum format.
• Double spaced, 1” margins
Case Notes:
At 2:18am (0218) on July 18, 2014 John Michael Phillips was discovered by Duane NMN Johnson and Anthony Alonzo Capri. The body founders are self-reported to be friends of the deceased. The deceased was discovered with a needle in his arm and multiple contusions and lacerations to his face and scalp. The police are treating this death as suspicious. The discovery occurred at 64 Church Street, Virtual, MD, which is located next to the Westview housing project. This housing project has had multiple police calls and requested police presence over the past 12 months. In addition, the Narcotics Task Force has conducted multiple drug stings and other drug enforcement operations in the Westview Housing Project in the past 12 months. The police stated that there are two John Michael Phillips listed in their records. The record for each lists multiple charges of drug possession. Neither of the men who reported the body claims to know the birthday of their friend. The Phillips with a DOB of 07181991 is currently incarcerated in the Virtual Jail. Based on the booking photo of the other Phillips (DOB 01201992) the detectives made a preliminary ID. However, the multiple lacerations to the face are making a positive ID difficult.
The reason the police are treating the death as suspicious, despite the indications it is a drug overdose death, are the lacerations to the face, the contusions to the skull and the fact that the back of the victim’s skull is caved in. As the ground where the body was discovered is rocky, it is possible that the victim hit his head after overdosing. However, there was a lack of blood in the area the victim was discovered which made the detectives suspicious.
The victim was discovered wearing blue jean shorts, Levi’s, size 34, a white cotton t-shirt, size large, Calvin Kline briefs, medium, Sketchers athletic shoes, size 10, white with blue stripes and no socks. The victim also wore a gold-colored Citizens watch, multiple fabric (yarn) type bracelets, one beaded necklace and one silver colored ring on his right ring finger. The victim did not have a wallet or any type of identification on his person. The victim was carrying $117 in cash (5 $20 bills, 1 $10 bill and 7 $1 bills). The victim also had $1.45 in change (4 quarters, 3 dimes and 3 nickels). Except for the clothing, all other property was removed by the death investigator sent to the scene by the medical examiner’s office and turned over to the police.

Project #3: Case Study: Internal Final Case Briefing Report
Assignment:
As a medico-legal death investigator, you will be expected to complete reports regarding the cases that you have been assigned. These reports may be sent to a prosecuting agency, the law enforcement agency, special investigators, or governmental oversight boards. If you are an investigator in a small office, you may be able to get by with informal briefings given person-to-person or during meetings; however, if you work in a large metropolitan office with many cases, you will need to present your reports in written form.
For this assignment, you will be given a case study to review. You will write an internal final case briefing to be attached to the case report and the autopsy report. This briefing will go to the chief medical examiner (ME). Include the following:
• All case notes and pertinent information regarding the case
• All information collected from family members, witnesses, and/or other agencies regarding the death
• All testing results, evidence results, and information leading to the identification of the deceased and the identification of any evidentiary items; and the final results of any testing performed or used by the assistant ME to determine cause and manner of death (You may hypothesize the results of the appropriate tests for the report)
• Explain and describe the investigative procedures which may have been or were used during the investigation (based on information discussed and learned in class)
In writing this report, be mindful of your audience. What information will the chief ME need in order to sign off on the case? How should you present this information? Do any aspects of the case pose concerns or cause uncertainty? Be mindful of ethical disclosure, legal implications, and level of discretion when writing your report.
The report should be organized in a logical manner and written with professional language with the following requirements:
• Between 4 and 6 pages in length
• Business letter or memorandum format.
• Double spaced, 1” margins
• The audience is the boss of the organization, most probably the Chief Medical Examiner: make sure you are writing this report with that audience in mind.

Case Notes:
Victim has been identified as Sharon Jane Miller, DOB 10/07/1987. Per police report, victim discovered August 17, 2014 by her sister, Valerie Edith Anderson, DOB 08/22/1985. The 911 call was recorded at 11:38am (1138). Victim was discovered in her apartment, located at 16B East Locust Street, Virtual, MD. Per Anderson, the sisters were going out to lunch and Anderson had gone to Miller’s apartment to pick up Miller for lunch. This was confirmed by police via an examination of the cell phones of each sister (Anderson gave consent) and a review of the text messages on each cell phone. Per Anderson, Miller had recently broken up with her boyfriend of four (4) years. The family was happy the relationship was done, as boyfriend was abusive. Per police, boyfriend is Todd Nathan Hughes, DOB 02/14/1980. Per police, Hughes has an extensive criminal record, including multiple arrests for domestic violence and drug abuse. Miller also has a criminal record, for domestic violence and drug abuse, which start about same time she started dating Hughes.
Per police, Miller has an ex-parte against Hughes, which Hughes had been arrested for violating. Hughes was released from jail the day before Miller was discovered dead (08/16/14). Police interviewed Hughes, who stated that he had learned his lesson and did not go anywhere near Miller after being released from jail. Hughes’s mother backed up his story. However, according to police, Hughes’s mother looked scared and Hughes had bruises and lacerations on his hands, which Hughes stated he got in jail. The Virtual Jail did not have a record of Hughes being involved in any fights while at the jail. Hughes’s alibi for the time after he was released from jail is his mother.
Miller’s mother (Dorothy Edith Miller, DOB 04/30/1962), interviewed at home, stated that the family and that Miller did not know that Hughes had been released from jail. They are sure he had something to do with her death. Anderson also feels that Hughes had something to do with Miller’s death, as he threatened to kill her and get away with it when he was arrested the last time for violating the ex-parte. Miller’s father (Jeffrey Mark Miller, DOB 06/01/1960), interviewed at work, also felt that Hughes was responsible.
Victim was wearing a floral print summer type “sun” dress when discovered. No injuries or discernible cause of death was visible on victim. After being turned over, blood was discovered on the back of victim’s dress. Victim was not wearing any underwear and blood was discovered to emanate from vaginal area of victim. However, the amount of blood lost is not enough to cause death. In addition to the injuries surrounding the vaginal area discovered at the scene (lacerations and contusions) there were contusions on the facial and breast area of the victim. Palpitation of those areas did not produce any bone movement that would indicate breaking of the bones or any injury that lead to death.
One witness: resident of 16A East Locust Street, Edith Margaret Williams, DOB 09/16/1934. Said she heard loud voices from 16B at about midnight, but since this had been a common occurrence, she didn’t think anything of it. She took out her hearing aid and went to sleep. Williams was not sure if the voices she heard were of Hughes, but she was sure Miller was the female voice. She didn’t see anyone the night of June 16 and did not see Miller at all on June 17. Without her hearing aid, Williams is practically deaf.
Police had arrived at apartment at 11:45am. Detectives arrived at 11:55am. CSI’s arrived at 12:01pm. Forensic Investigator (FI) from ME’s Office arrived at 12:21pm. Victim transported to Virtual Hospital by the Foot Livery Company on June 17 at 1:34pm. Autopsy ordered by FI. Victim transported to ME’s Office by Office personal at 5:11pm June 17. Autopsy performed on June 18 by Dr. W. Young. FI performed time of death analysis at scene. Livor mortis was along back (victim discovered on back) and was fixed. Rigor mortis was fully involved in all muscles. Liver temperature was 81.3°F. Based on information provided by FI, Dr. Young determined TOD to be 11:30pm June 16 to 2:30am June 17.
Formal identification provided during autopsy using police file fingerprints. Victim positively ID’ed as Miller. During autopsy, Dr. Young discovered evidence of forceful sexual encounter. There were lacerations and contusions both of the thigh and outer vaginal area of victim as well as inside the vaginal cavity of victim. Ejaculate material was also discovered in the vaginal cavity of victim. Ejaculate was collected by Dr. Young and signed over to police detectives who attended autopsy. Detectives also collected dress victim was wearing. Victim was not wearing any additional clothing or jewelry when discovered. Dr. Young also collected a known blood specimen from victim, which was signed over to police.
During autopsy, Dr. Young discovered no visible reason for death. Although there were lacerations and contusions to the face and chest area of victim, none were deep or serious enough to cause death. None of the lacerations were deep: all were superficial. There was no breakage of bone under any of the lacerations or contusions. All organs were examined. Excepting the damage to the vaginal cavity, all organs were the correct size and shape for a 23/24 year-old female. There were no remarkable findings during the autopsy. Samples were removed from the body for toxicology, including blood from the heart, urine and vitreous humor. Also, multiple slices were taken from the heart, lungs and brain for further microscopic studies. Dr. Young has filed this case as undetermined pending the results of the microscopic studies and the toxicology studies.
The body was released to Smith Family Funeral Home on June 19, 2014 for burial.

Project #4: Final Project: Cold Case Arrest Warrant Report
Short of investigating an actual homicide, participating in a virtual death investigation is perhaps the most effective way to acquire a deeper understanding of how investigators gather information and solve cases. In this course, you will participate in an interactive virtual homicide investigation. The crime scene simulation is located in the Course Modules area. As you progress through the investigation, you will conduct interviews and examine case files, an autopsy report, death scene photographs, and forensic reports. Your goal is to solve the case and to gather sufficient credible evidence to convince the prosecutor to issue an indictment for the perpetrator.
Work the case carefully and take your time. Once you have successfully attained the indictment, write a final report that will serve as the basis for your arrest warrant of the suspect. In your report, be sure to identify the important forensic concepts, techniques, and practices from the textbook that are exemplified, illustrated, or demonstrated in the case investigation. The final paragraph of the report should reflect or discuss how your original investigative plan in project 1 “Action Plan” was different (or not) from the steps you actually took during the investigation (3-4 sentences).

Everything you received in information should be summarized in your report. You should hit all of the following subjects:
• Summary of Homicide
• Summary of Armed Robbery
• Summary of Witness/Suspect Statements
• Evidence
• Forensic Reports
• Determination of Facts
• Conclusions

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