Archive for the ‘Death Investigation’ Category

PostHeaderIcon OMG! Death of Person Shot By Cops Ruled a HOMICIDE!

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Yeah, well, don’t let those click-bait headlines get your unmentionables all bunched up, because ALL, and I repeat, ALL killings of human beings by other humans are homicides. And certain homicides are absolutely legal.

That’s right, L.E.G.A.L., legal.

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Yes, each time prison officials pull the switch, inject “the stuff,” or whatever means they use to execute a condemned prisoner, they commit homicide. People who kill attackers while saving a loved one from harm have committed homicide. And cops who kill while defending their lives or the lives of others have committed homicide. These instances are not a crime.

It’s when a death is caused illegally—murder or manslaughter—that makes it a criminal offense.

Murder is an illegal homicide.

For example, in Virginia:

§ 18.2-32. First and second degree murder defined; punishment.

Murder, other than capital murder, by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or in the commission of, or attempt to commit, arson, rape, forcible sodomy, inanimate or animate object sexual penetration, robbery, burglary or abduction, except as provided in § 18.2-31, is murder of the first degree, punishable as a Class 2 felony.

All murder other than capital murder and murder in the first degree is murder of the second degree and is punishable by confinement in a state correctional facility for not less than five nor more than forty years.

Therefore, those seemingly dramatic headlines that read “Shooting By Cop Ruled a Homicide,” well, they’re often nothing more than words used to affect people’s emotions, induce a reaction, or to encourage people to click over to their website, which, by the way, is how many so-called news outlets pay the bills.

So please, un-wad those unmentionables and don’t be a victim of media sensationalism.

By the way, how many of you clicked over to this blog because of the headline/blog-post title? Gotcha…


PostHeaderIcon Effects of Hanging and Strangulation



Hangings have been a staple in mysteries for as long as we can remember. The Wild West featured them at high noon. Even the United States government used them as a means of execution, the last being a fellow from the state of Delaware named Bill Bailey, which finally answers the never-ending question from that song. He’s not coming home, so feel free to stop singing.

Most writers who attempt to pen death by rope or other “twisted” cord have never seen a victim of strangulation, or hanging (sometimes they’re the same). And that, of course, makes the task a little more difficult, relying on books, TV, film, and the word of experts. So before we look at an actual photo straight from the morgue (I snapped the image), let’s take a moment to discuss why something as small as a shoelace has the ability to end a human life.

The neck, although looking pretty sturdy perched on a set of nicely toned shoulders, is actually quite vulnerable to life-threatening injury.After all, there’s a lot of important stuff packed into a fairly small space—spinal cord, airway, and major blood vessels. And there’s not a lot of protection surrounding those vital body parts. There’s no bony encasement, such as our ribs, that circle around the interior of the neck. Nope, it’s basically just a little muscle and skin that separates the spinal cord, airway, and major blood vessels from harm.


Did you know that hanging is actually a form of strangulation? Well, sometimes hangings may include some spinal cord or bone injury, but basically the death is by strangulation.

Hangings are either complete—the entire weight of the body is suspended by the neck, or incomplete—a portion of the body is touching the ground/floor.

A judicial hanging (execution) is normally a death by internal decapitation, where the weight of the body combined with the fall causes the neck to break, separating the head from the body (a separation at C2 is the classic hangman fracture). No, I’m not talking about someone’s head popping off like a champagne cork. Instead, the separation is entirely internal. The head stays with the body, connected by muscle and skin.


Rarely, as I’ve often read in novels, does a complete, external decapitation occur. However, it is possible to see an external decapitation (the head completely separates from the body—two individual pieces) in cases where the drop is much further than the length of the victim’s body. For example, the victim is 6′ tall and is dropped from a height of 30 feet, or more, before the rope tightens, well…POP!

The muscles of the neck, such as the sternocleidomastoid muscle, remain intact during an incomplete decapitation.


Strangulation by ligature, tool, or mechanism is a little different, however. Death caused by those methods are normally caused by obstruction of blood flow to the brain, which causes loss of consciousness followed by a loss of muscle tone and finally arterial and airway obstruction. Naturally, other things occur during the time of strangulation, but those are probably of the most concern for writers.

However, pressure applied to the neck for mere moments doesn’t always cause death. Martial arts “strangle holds” often involve a compression of the major neck arteries, causing a temporary unconsciousness. The trachea (windpipe) is not compromised during the application of these techniques. This technique is the “chokehold” once taught to police officers. Again, the airway is in no way affected when the technique is properly applied. The person to whom the hold is applied is able to breathe easily at all times. It is the restricted blood flow to the brain that causes unconsciousness.

The below post-autopsy photo shows a deep ligature mark on the neck (upper left). Note the stitching of the “Y” incision, post autopsy.


The murder weapon used to kill the victim above was an extension cord, the type typically found in many homes.



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