Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

The Graveyard Shift extends our condolences to the families of the officers who sacrificed everything to keep us safe.

Deputy Sheriff Scott Ward, 47

Baldwin County Alabama Sheriff’s Office

November 23, 2012 – Deputy Scott Ward was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance call. Two other responding deputies were wounded during the gunfire.

Deputy Ward is survived by his wife.

Trooper Kyle W. Deatherage, 32

Illinois State Police

November 26, 2012 – Trooper Kyle Deatherage was struck and killed by a tractor trailer while conducting a traffic stop. He is survived by his wife, 4-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son.

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Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home

Police officers and other emergency response personnel have the unpleasant task of working with the dead. They’re the first responders—the life-savers and the crime-solvers. But when their job is done they go about their duties of finding new lives to save, and new criminals to apprehend. The crime scenes, however, are left behind, as is, with blood, tissue, brain matter, and other such macabre tid-bits left lying around.

Someone has to clean up the mess, and the police certainly aren’t going to do it. That’s where companies like AFTERMATH, INC. of Oswego, Illinois, and Crime Scene Steri-Clean of Southern California come in.

Crime scene clean-up companies employ teams of highly-trained employees who come to the scene of a homicide, suicide, etc., and clean up and decontaminate every single surface in the affected areas. They completely remove all body matter from the scene. They’re also trained to clean up fingerprint powder, tear gas residue, and odors associated with decomposition.

All body fluids are considered biohazard waste and must be treated accordingly, as potential sources of infection. Crime scene clean up companies must have all the required permits required by law to transport and dispose of hazardous waste.

These companies have on-call staff members who are required to respond to a scene within a reasonable amount of time, usually within minutes if the scene is located in the company’s home territory.

The costs associated with cleaning up a crime scene can be costly, but many homeowner’s policies will cover much of the expense. Some states will absorb some of the clean-up costs for homicide cases. Crime Scene Steri-Clean promises to work with any budget, stating they’ll accept payments as little as one dollar per month if that’s all the victim’s family can afford.

All of AFTERMATH’s vehicles (they have offices all across the country) are certified by the EPA to haul medical waste. Their technicians are all blood-born pathogen certified. FYI – Many police academies require police officers to undergo blood-born pathogen training.

Some of the equipment used by crime scene clean up companies:

– non-porous disposable suits, gloves, respirators, and spill proof boots

– ozone machines for odor removal

– bleach and other disinfectants

– deodorizoers

– enzyme solvents to kill bacteria and viruses

– wet vac

– scrapers for removal of brain matter and tissue

– steam injection systems to soften dried matter

– standard tools, such as hammer, screwdrivers, shovels (snow shovels for large amounts of wet tissue)

– camera

*These clean up companies are not in all locations, and not everyone uses them in the locations where they are available.

* For an interesting read about crime scene cleanup, I recommend:


Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home

by Gil Reavill

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A Federal Offense: How Much Time Will You Serve?

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that determine how much, or how little, prison time a federal judge may impose on a defendant who has been found guilty of committing a federal crime. First, though, attorneys and probation officials must determine where the defendant fits in on the Federal Sentencing Table (below). To do so, they must assign the defendant to a criminal history category (I-VI), and to an Offense Level (1-43).

A defendant’s criminal history points are determined by:

– assigning 3 points for each prior sentence of 1 year and 1 month

– adding 2 points for each previous sentence of 60 days to 13 months

– adding 1 point for a prior sentence of less than 60 days

– adding 2 points if the defendant committed a crime while already under another sentence (probation, parole, etc.)

– adding 2 points if the current offense was committed within two years of completing a previous sentence

– etc. (there are several other factors that add or subject points—too many to list here)

For example, using the chart above, a defendant who has a final total of 13 criminal history points will be in category VI.

Next, officials must then decide the defendant’s offense level. To do so, they refer to Chapter 2 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, where they’ll find a a base number assignment for each crime. For example, First Degree Murder has a Base Offense Level of 43. Therefore, 43 is the starting point for determining the defendant’s final Offense Level.

Let’s say our defendant was convicted of Aggravated Assault, which has a Base Offense Level of 14. Officials must then determine what factors were in play during the commission of the crime, such as use of firearms, etc. For example, the use of a firearm during the assault would increase the offense level by 4 points, making it a level 18. If the assault was premeditated, add 2 points. If the firearm was discharged, well, that’s another 5 points. If the victim received serious injury during the attack…yep, that’s worth 7 points. A minor injury…3 points. Get the idea?

Let’s add it up and see where our bad guy falls in the guideline.

– Aggravated Assault = base level of 14

– He shot at his victim = 4 points

– The victim suffered a serious injury = 7 points

Total = 25 points

Therefore, our guy, a repeat offender with a criminal history category VI, and an offense level of 25, will be in Zone D, subject to receive anywhere from 110 to 137 months in the federal penitentiary.

Easy enough, right? Well, it doesn’t stop there. Other factors are still waiting to be applied, such as downward or upward departures from the guidelines. For example:

– points may be subtracted if the defendant assists the government with ongoing cases (provides substantial information). There are, of course, many other factors that allow for a downward departure. Another example of a reduction of points is when the defendant accepts full responsibility for the crime. If so, the prosecutor may file a motion for a downward departure. This normally occurs when the defendant pleads guilty.

– points may be added for things like wearing a bullet resistant vest during the commission of a drug crime, and abuse of a position to further the commission of the crime (a politician who uses his position and power to commit a crime—a governor who uses his position to sell a seat in the senate left vacant by the president of the U.S.). Again, there are far too many to list here.

So back to our crook who wound up with the offense level of 25. Well, let’s say he entered a guilty plea and accepted responsibility for his crime.

The guilty plea/acceptance-of-responsibility earned him a downward departure of up to 3 points. Take 3 points away from the original 25 and that leaves him with an offense level of 22. Back to the chart we go. His sentencing range at level 22 is a much lower 84-105 months…well over a year less. And that’s a nice little reward for owning up to the crime, which, by the way, saves the government a lot of money—no trial.

So, is this as clear as mud, or do you now sort of understand how sentences are handed out in federal court?

One thing’s certain, a 36/VI is going to prison for a long, long time.

Well, there’s that 3 point deduction, and that other 2-pointer…oh yeah, let’s not forget the four 1-point deductions. And our bad guy did help out by telling the government who sold him the machine guns…

I think our crook now has total of 6 points to the good. Hmm, with all those extra points, does that mean he can now commit one free crime?

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What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is any type of bullying that takes place on devices such as computers, cellphones, tablets, etc. Those devices are used to transmit mean text messages and/or emails, or similar messages via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Other examples of cyberbullying include transmitted rumors, extremely embarrassing videos and/or photos, and even fake profiles.

Cyberbullying can be a bit more difficult to escape than in-person bullying because it can occur 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Cyberbullies can post anonymously, and they can reach an audience of unlimited numbers.

Effects of Cyberbullying

Kids who are cyberbullied are more prone to:

– health problems

– poor or lower than average grades

– skip school

– use alcohol and/or drugs

–  experience in-person bullying

How You Can Help

– know what your kids are doing online

– know the sites your kids visit

– know the passwords used by your kids

– “friend” or “follow” your kids (but don’t intrude or embarrass them by posting to the sites)

– encourage your children to come to you if a problem develops. Reinforce the fact that you will not take away their computer or punish them in other ways simply because they’ve become a victim of a cyberbully.

– teach children about what they should and should not post online.

– teach kids how to post privately, or only to certain people, such as family and close friends.

– be sure your kids know that you’ll be monitoring their online activity. It is your duty as a responsible parent to do so.

*Monitoring the online activity of your kids is extremely important, not only to prevent your child from becoming a victim to a cyberbully, but to prevent your child from becoming the bully. Remember, for every victim, unfortunately, there is a bully.

*WikiCommons photo


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Creating And Writing Believable Villains

Villains. They’re the bad guys of our stories who are devoted to wickedness. They have specific goals and will stop at nothing to reach them. Are you as driven to write them as compelling characters?

The hero of the story is a stumbling block for the villain. He’s in the way, therefore the villain must do all he can to eliminate the him.

An antagonist (someone who merely opposes the hero) simply makes waves for the hero.

Villains are used to create tension in a story. They also provide much-needed hurdles for the hero to overcome during his journey.

Unlike antagonists, villains are sociopathic, narcissistic, and can be quite unpredictable. And they often use fear to get their way.

And they absolutely must have a reason to do what they do.

Think of real-life villains… What makes them so creepy, and scary? Yep…they’re real.

Readers must be able to identify with the villain. Perhaps he has an interest in animals, or children. Maybe he’s a devoted church member or the hero’s letter carrier. Maybe the villain is the babysitter for the hero’s children.

– Villains are extremely motivated to do what they do.

– Over the top villains are unbelievable.

Believable make-believe should be your goal.

When should you first bring your villain to the page?


Those were just a few basic guidelines for creating a compelling villain. If all else fails you could follow a simple recipe I concocted. It goes something like this (Of course, like all good cooks I’ve kept a few secret ingredients to myself).

*This post is part of a Powerpoint presentation I use at conferences. Please do not copy without permission.

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Murder Really Bugs Me: The Insects

When investigators find maggots on a body that are in their early larvae stages, say…oh…when they’re 5mm in length, well, officers will then have a pretty good idea that the victim has been there for only a day and a half, or so.

Even the mere presence of certain insects is quite telling.

Now, please do enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner!


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