Kitsap County’s local
detectives are acutely aware they’re on the clock when called to
the scene of a mysterious death.
“If you haven’t ID’d a suspect in the first 72 hours, the
chances of solving a case dramatically decrease,” said Bremerton
Detective Sgt. Kevin Crane.
I interviewed Crane and other investigators for
Sunday’s story and database about
Kitsap’s cold cases. We used the information I gathered for a
graphic in the paper, but I wanted to go into greater detail.
Here’s what I learned.
Day or night, Crane, and other detective supervisors are on call
for the city’s most serious crimes. He’s ended vacations early to
get to the scene of a fresh and suspicious death.
Homicide investigations most often start with the line officer
who’s responding to a 911 call. If the victim is alive, the
priority is saving a life. But if deceased, with no hope of
resuscitation, the scene is “frozen” — no one comes and goes
without police permission and a log is kept of those who do — and
crime scene tape secures its perimeter, Crane said.
Detectives arrive and are briefed by patrol officers. Two crime
scene investigators begin from the perimeter of the scene and
moving inward, documenting with video and camera and looking for
anything out of the ordinary. Yellow markers are placed at any
point — shell casings, clothing, blood spatter, for instance — they
see as suspicious. Every piece of evidence is eventually sealed and
and placed in evidence at the police department. The name and date
of each person who examines it is kept in a log.
Investigating the body won’t begin until the scene is
“processed” by the crime scene investigators. At that point,
detectives, who manage the crime, bring in the Kitsap County
coroner’s office, which manage the body. They investigate it
together, Crane said.
The wound or wounds are examined, photographed and measured.
Investigators look for “defensive” wounds that would indicate a
A critical task is identifying the deceased. Seemingly simple,
it’s not always apparent and may require investigating in its own
right. Perhaps they’re not carrying ID, or more gruesomely, they
can’t be identified because of a fire.
Meanwhile, at least two detectives is busy with interviews,
talking with those who may have witnessed the crime or the area
They’ll also set out to canvass the neighborhood, attempting to
find anyone who heard or saw anything.
While technology has rapidly advanced in homicide
investigations, there’s one way they haven’t changed.
“It’s people,” Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Chief of
Detectives Dave White said. “We’re still talking to people.”
Detectives will ask if the witnesses knew the deceased, and
begin to establish a so-called “victimology.” Detectives will seek
to paint a picture of the victim working backwards from their
moment of death. Where did they go? Why were they there? And of
course, who were they with?
“These can be very long, tedious investigations,” Crane
At various points during the investigation, detectives stop and
exchange information. Crane then compiles a new task list.
From there, it’s a matter of chasing down leads. All day and all
night they work, stopping sometimes for a few hours’ sleep in those
first critical three days.
Investigating a homicide is really no different than any other
crime, only “they’re more tedious and you leave no stone unturned,”
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