Crime Scene Investigation With Amateur Sleuth Ima Figuritout


Crime scene investigators have a huge assortment of tools at their disposal. And we’ve all seen the TV shows where detectives use fancy lights and magic wands to lead them to the mysterious killer of the week.

But what about the stampers, quilters, dog walkers, and realtors who stumble onto murders during their everyday routine? What about the part time PI’s? How do those civilian investigators go about solving crime? Are there any tips and handy tools of the trade that can be utilized by amateur detectives?

Sure there are, and they’re practical, really cool, and extremely cheap! And our top expert, Ima Figuritout, knows all the tricks. Such as…

Remember the last time the cops dusted your light switches for fingerprints?

What a mess, right? Black powder everywhere! Ima suggests having your sleuth show the boys in blue how to make a wall protector using a piece of cardboard.

Better still, advise the homeowner to make one for each switch in their house and keep them in a nearby drawer for future break-ins. It’s always best to be prepared, right?

Then, the next time your sleuth or the CSI team shows up to investigate, they’re all set. No walls to scrub down.

Next up…keeping floors clear of pesky footprints. But what if your sleuth is too tired to bend over to cover her pumps with shoe covers?

No problem. Have her sidekick place this handy device—the step-n-go—on the floor, and with two quick “steps” she’s all set.

Perfect for the investigator who simply doesn’t have the time to stand still even for a second.

Is the “Ima” in your book flustered because she can’t get to the fingerprint that’s trapped inside a piece of wadded tape? The one piece of evidence she knows will put the dastardly killer away for life?

Well, a quick trip to an electronics store can solve the problem. Simply send Ima’s assistant to the nearest mall to pick up a can of Component Spray.

A quick squirt and…

And there you go—the tape easily comes apart.

The spray freezes the tape to approximately -65 degrees.

Do NOT touch the tape with your bare hands.

Another trick is to place the tape inside a freezer for several hours.

What to do with those old unwanted CD’s? Hmm…

As always, Ima Figuritout is prepared for the rainy day homicide. Yes, Ima knows what a real pain it can be to keep her camera tripod steady on muddy surfaces, and that’s why she keeps a handful of old CD’s in her camera bag. You know, for the times when the weather just doesn’t want to cooperate with murder investigations.

By placing a CD under each of the tripod’s three legs, Ima quickly solves the problem. No more sinking into the goo. Works like a charm.

And that, my friends, is how Ima does it.

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Unlocking DNA In Your Own Home: The Onion Did It!

When thinking of solving a convoluted murder case we often picture highly-trained, highly-skilled scientists releasing DNA from a bloody glove or sock. On TV we see experts hovering over steaming vials, boiling test tubes, and genetic analyzers. We read about the protagonist who magically locates key pieces of DNA in the most improbable locations. Sure, the science of DNA is pretty interesting. But did you know you can actually extract DNA in your own home using everyday household items?

Every living thing has its own unique DNA, including plants. In fact, the last time I was in a DNA lab we extracted DNA from a strawberry. For the purpose of this home experiment we’ll use an onion, because the smelly vegetable produces a really nice strand of DNA that’s easily seen with the naked eye.

New Picture

First of all, you’ll need to collect the ingredients needed to unlock the DNA from the onion—approximately 100ml of finely chopped onion, a pinch of salt, meat tenderizer, rubbing alcohol, dish detergent, and 200ml of ice cold water.

Now place the chopped onion, salt, and ice water into a blender. Blend for approximately fifteen seconds (this separates the onion cells). Repeat the blending for another 20 seconds, or until the mixture becomes foamy, like the beginnings of a meringue.

Pour the foamy mixture into a glass container and add 1/6th of dish washing liquid as there is mixture (yields two tablespoons).

Swirl soap through mixture and then pour into test tubes until each tube is about 1/3 full.

Sprinkle a pinch of meat tenderizer into each tube. The tenderizer acts as an enzyme that cleans proteins away from the DNA.

Tilt the test tubes to one side and slowly pour in rubbing alcohol until the tubes are 2/3 full. The alcohol forms a separate layer at the top of the tubes.

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Onion DNA – Image by

Insert small stick or glass rod into the alcohol layer (the DNA will rise to the alcohol layer) and slowly twist in one direction (either clockwise or counter-clockwise). You know, like twirling spaghetti onto a fork.

DO NOT shake the test tubes.

New Picture (4)

Onion DNA – Image by

The onion DNA wraps itself around the stick, or rod (the DNA slightly resembles a sperm cell).

Remove the DNA from the tubes.

There you have it, your own DNA lab in the comfort of your own home. No back logs and no cross contamination from other scientists and samples. The question is, “Did the onion do it?”

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Concealed Carry: What’s In Your Underwear?

Are you having trouble concealing your handguns? Ladies, do you worry that tucking a .45 semi-auto into your unmentionables would leave a serious panty-line? How about it fellows? The elastic in those boxers not strong enough to support your weapon?

Indeed, both of the aforementioned potentially embarrassing problems are serious concerns. After all, there’s nothing worse than slipping on that curve-hugging, made-for-the-Golden-Globes Tom Ford dress only to discover the clear outline of your favorite smooth bore shot-firing pistol.

Well, your mind can now rest easy. Here are a few solutions to insomnia-inducing concealed-carry woes.

First up, is a company called UnderTech Undercover, a firm that manufactures undergarments and other wearing apparel designed especially for the fashion-conscious gun-toter.

Take a peek at UnderTech’s website to view what might prompt you to purchase a new addition to your wardrobe.

Next up is the belt buckle gun.

Then there’s a wide assortment of pocket holsters that are tailor-made to fit a variety of tiny handguns. Yes, they’re specially made to fit the pockets of pants or any other clothing hidey-holes.

Above photos – ATF

Here’s a short video about the pocket holster.

Of course, there’s always the briefcase gun and that always popular leather clutch (purse) that features a spot for lipstick and another for your favorite pistol.

*By the way, the pun near the top of the article was a product of my wacky sense of humor.

*     *     *

Registration for the 2014 Writers Police Academy is scheduled to open at 12:00 noon on Sunday, January 26th. That’s this Sunday.

Also, the schedule has been posted on the WPA website. Remember, though, the schedule is a “schedule-in-progress,” meaning parts of it could change, as well as workshops being added throughout the coming months leading up to the event. So please check it often.

See you in September!



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No Key, No Problem: How The Bad Guys Get In (Good Guys, Too)

Set of picks, tension wrenches, and a broken key remover.

Padlock shims. Used to open spring-operated padlocks.

PRO-LOK7 is designed to open any standard ACE 7-pin lock.

62-piece lock pick set

Manual pick gun. Insert pick. Squeeze trigger. You’re in!

Slim Jims and wire tools for vehicle entry


Window punch


Breaking car window glass is easy enough using a punch, but not everyone has access to the tool. But…everyone can certainly get their hands on a common, everyday spark plug, right? Well, here’s what a tiny piece of porcelain from the tip of a spark plug can do.


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Murder Solved By…A Mushroom?

Toss out the confessions, fingerprints, tire tracks, and DNA. After all, who needs them when you have perfectly good fungi just waiting to join you on the witness stand. That’s right, mushrooms and other fungi have taken their place in the world of crime-solving. In fact, investigators can use macroscopic and microscopic fungi to help determine time of death (TOD), the time since a body was placed in a particular location, and if the body has been moved since death.

In 2002, the bodies of two young girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were found lying in the woods near Lakenheath, Suffolk (UK). Without a clue to go on police called in forensic botanist Patricia Wiltshire, a former archaeologist, to see if she could “dig up” any evidence.

Patricia Wiltshire

Wiltshire agreed to help and traveled to the scene where she examined the foliage in the area where the girl’s bodies had been discovered. She noticed something a bit unusual with a group of stinging nettles growing in a ditch.

Stinging nettle plant

A closer look revealed the sprouting of new sideshoots on the nettles, something that only occurs when that particular plant has been damaged by trampling, or other such disturbances. Not only did Wiltshire’s find indicate that someone had walked there, the new shoots have a very specific growth rate—13 days at that particular stage. Therefore, Wiltshire was able to provide police with a time-line. The bodies of the girls had been dumped in the woods 13-and-a-half days earlier, which was when the girls were last seen.

When police finally located a suspect, Ian Huntley, Wiltshire was also able to positively match pollen found on his shoes and in his car to the type in the ditch where the bodies were found.

Connecting plant material and soil to the scene of the crime and to the murderer is nothing new. I once worked a murder in the 80’s where the only clues I had were two small pieces of dried, grayish mud found in the floorboard of a suspect’s car. Long story short, the mud matched the soil found only on a particular riverbank. The clumps of mud also contained a few seeds from plants also found only in that particular area. Guess what? Yep, the mud and seeds were from the area where the murder victim had been discovered.

Remember, fungi (trace evidence) grows just about anywhere, such as stone, leather goods, plastic, lumber and other wood, tile, brick, and concrete.  In fact, approximately 50-100 different species of fungi can be found in a single soil sample. So, the clues are there for the harvesting, and plenty of them. Someone just needs to do it. After all, a good investigator is a creative investigator.



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How To Tell A Cop’s Assignment Within The Department

There are many jobs within police departments and sheriff’s offices, and each of those duties require special skills. Some of the assignments even require a special “look.” However, many of the officers assigned to these special details have their own expectations of how they should carry themselves and which type of appearance is appropriate for the mission.

Over the years, police officers have developed a set of unwritten guidelines for working in the individual divisions. And, with one glance cops can usually tell another officer’s assignment. How? Well, certain little details give them away.

So, here’s a handy little guide to help you, the civilian, see how cops spot other cops. Especially one who’s new to a division.


-Immediately grow facial hair, tell everybody you were ordered to.

-Start watching every episode of Monster Garage.

-Buy a biker wallet with a big chain.

-Make every case involve overtime $$$.

-Buy bunches of boats, RV’s, and motorcycles with that overtime.

-Learn to play  golf drunk.


-Wear team T-shirts, Oakley sunglasses and boots everyday.

-Try to fit the word breach in to every conversation.

-Have a mirror handy to check hair, if you have hair.

-Never say hello to anyone who is not an operator, just practice your SWAT head nod.

-Subscribe to Soldier of Fortune and Muscle and Fitness.

-Learn to play golf wearing a gun.


– Shave head, and grow goatee (unless you want to be a management weenie, then make sure you are clean shaven, with short almost military style haircut).

– Wear 5.11 pants, and polo with agency logo (unless you want to be a management weenie, then make sure you always have a shirt and pants to which a jacket and tie can be quickly added for when the boss might be around).

– Arrive at work at 8AM, spend one hour answering useless emails, and 30 minutes checking your retirement investments. Then go with another agent to Starbucks “to discuss a new case.”

– After participating in your first warrant service (as outside cover) make plans to join the agency SRT, SWAT, etc, to “properly utilize your superior tactical skills.”

– After doing your first buy bust, immediately begin asking the boss about “long term undercover” jobs.

– Refuse to play golf with “the locals.”

Community Service Units

-Hate SWAT.

-Work to make everybody love you.

-Paint your office in pastel colors.

-Think Feng Shui.

-Subscribe to Psychology Today.

-Learn to play miniature golf.

Traffic units

-Write tickets to EVERYBODY.

-Spend every weekend cleaning your bike and polishing boots.

-Annoy everyone  on the radio calling out your stops.

-Talk about nothing but how many tickets you wrote in one day.

-Ride by a building with big windows to see your reflection.

-Golf is lame, motor rodeos are cool.

K-9 Units

-Become sadistic.

-Show pictures of your latest dog bite.

-Brag about your largest drug find.

-Smell like a dog.

-Workout 3 times a day.

-Show off your bruises.

Administrative Units

-Three-hour lunches everyday, tell everybody it’s a “meeting.”

-Upgrade  department cell phone every month.

-Tell everybody you are published in a national law enforcement magazine.

-Update your revenge list on a weekly basis.

-Golf Rules!  Play lots of golf.

Patrol Units

-Has nerves of steel.

-In a terminal state of nausea from department politics.

-Inability to keep mouth shut.

-Has defining tastes in alcohol.

-Is respected by peers.

-Beats the crap out of his caddy on any bogeyed shot.

FTO (Field Training Officer)

-Automatically grasps the door handle until knuckles turn white when car is put in gear.

-Considers a multiple-victim homicide in progress a “good training opportunity” and asks to take primary.

-Considers less than three hours of OT to be a quiet day.


-Come in at 0800.

-“Breakfast” from 0815 to 1030.

-Work from 1030 to Noon.

-Noon to 1400 Work out and Lunch.

-1400-1700 Sit in CID and talk about how many girlfriends you have and how the wife doesn’t know.  Plan your next RV, fishing, motorcycle trip.

Patrol Sergeant

-Remembers very well “how we used to do do it.”

-Always willing to tell his officers the above.

-Tries to fit the word “liability” in to every sentence.

-Talks about “what he’s hearing from upstairs.”


-Unable to grow facial hair.

-Watches every episode of Cops.

-Worships the ground the SWAT guys walk on.

-Arrives for work three hours early.

-Thinks the sergeant is thrilled to see him.

-Won’t drink on the golf course because it violates the open container ordinance.

New Corrections Officers

– Show up for work 15 minutes early.

– Buy only the best ink pens (Pilot G-2).

– Wear T-Shirts of your “dream department” under your uniform.

– Wear a full duty belt of gear even though you have to remove everything when you arrive at the facility.

– Become friends with every local police officer.

Court  Security

-Say you don’t want to work patrol anyway, but monitor dispatch channel while in courtroom.

-Have jail and courthouse cafeteria menus memorized.

-Have seriously thought of entering law school after sitting through three jury trials.

-Consider the Public Defenders’ Christmas party the high point of the year.

Defensive Tactics Instructors

-Starts stretching before making arrest.

-Can spend hours debating the advantages of ASP vs. straight stick.

-Has spent more than $50 on a wood baton.

-Giggles when a suspect starts to resist.

Firearms Instructor

– Responds to every question/statement with the word, ‘huh?’

– Has a % blood level higher than the current Chief’s approval rating.

– Operates under the assumption that the more beer you drink, the more of that alcohol leaves your system.

– Thinks a new tactical handgun is a great Christmas gift for the wife/girlfriend.

– Has an image of a custom 1911-A1 for a screen-saver.

– Wears the latest high-tech electronic hearing protectors during normal conversation.

*Thanks to Jerry Cooper for providing the information for today’s blog.

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