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No, I’m not talking about the spirit world, or of zombies. I’m talking about how the living use a victim’s body to help determine the time and cause of death.

First, what happens when a person stops breathing and their heart ceases to beat? The skin begins to pale (pallor) and the muscles immediately begin to relax—all of them, which can produce some pretty unpleasant effects around the south end of the body.

Then come the Mortis brothers, all three of them—Livor, Algor, and Rigor. These guys show up to the party, one at a time, and when they arrive … well, let’s just say the host is the center of their attention. And boy do they ever “spoil” him.

Algor mortis is simply the cooling down of the body after death. A pretty good rule of thumb method to determine the time of death is to take the rectal temperature of the deceased (#neverusethethumb, for obvious reasons—say NO to the rule of thumb!), subtract that number from 98.6 (average, normal human body temp), and then divide that number by 1.5 (the average cooling rate of a body per hour under average conditions). The result is the approximate number of hours that have passed since the victim kicked the bucket.

Livor Mortis, or lividity, is the pooling of blood in the lowest portions of the body. Lividity is caused by gravity and begins immediately after death. The telltale signs of livor mortis, the purplish discoloration of the skin, begins the moment the heart stops pumping. This process continues for approximately 6-12 hours, depending upon surrounding conditions, until it becomes fixed, permanently staining the tissue in the lowest parts of the body. When large areas become engorged with lividity, the capillaries in those areas sometimes rupture causing what’s known as Tardieu spots. Tardieu spots present as round, brownish blacks spots.

Rigor Mortis, the contracting and stiffening of the muscles after death, takes a couple of hours to begin and completes in approximately 8-12 hours. The process starts in the smaller muscles of the head and face and moves downward to the larger muscles. When rigor is complete, the process reverses itself starting with the lower large muscles and ending with the smaller face and head muscles. The entire process can last for approximately 48 hours. The body will quickly begin to decompose after rigor is complete.

A person’s body goes stiff in the position they were in at the time of death.

Therefore, if a person died while lying on his back with one arm held straight up and the other straight out to the side, and the police discovered that same body in a bathtub, they’d probably conclude that someone moved the victim after death had occurred. After all, no one sits in a bathtub with their arms in those types of positions … do they? By the way, cops should not automatically rule out things simply because they’re different. Still, in the bathtub with one hand aimed skyward and the other pointing to a tube of Preparation H, a clump of tangled bobby pins, and a tin of ear wax remover. Yeah, somebody moved this one.

– Rigor mortis can cause contraction of the muscles in the epidermis, which also causes goose bumps to appear.

– Hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after someone dies. The skin around them begins to recede after death, which gives the appearance that they’re still growing.

– Age, illness, ambient temperature, fat distribution, and physical exertion just prior to death can all affect the rate of rigor mortis.

 


MurderCon’s focus is homicide investigations!

The Writers’ Police Academy’s super-special event, MurderCon, features actual homicide investigation sessions in a first-ever, rare opportunity offered to writers. The material and venue are typically for law enforcement eyes only! For example …

David Pauly’s class:

Murder-Mayhem

This workshop deeply delves into Cause, Manner, and Mechanisms of death, Coroner vs. Medical Examiner systems, differences in legal terminology for murder, homicide, and manslaughter, as well as, the realities in death investigations that are equivocal in nature.

Physical, testimonial, and circumstantial evidence as introduced into the courtroom will be applied to death investigations. A case study of a very unique and rarely-seen murder by hanging, and the forensic evidence obtained from the physical autopsy will be presented during this detailed workshop. This presentation is a rare behind the scenes look and discussion of psychological autopsies, and when they are utilized in criminal investigations.

 

David Pauly retired from The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command as a Special Agent-in-Charge/Commander and Forensic Science Officer. He performed duties in over a dozen states, and frequently worked with local, state, and federal agencies. He also performed duties in Panama, South Korea, Afghanistan, Haiti, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Sinai, Egypt, Canada, Guam, and Nigeria. He holds a Master of Forensic Science degree from The George Washington University and is currently the Director of Applied Forensic Science at Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC.

David graduated the FBI National Academy (Session 195), Canadian Police College – Major Crimes Course, Miami-Dade Police Department – Bloodstain Interpretation Course, and National Fire Academy – Arson Investigation Course. He is a Fellow of The American Academy of Forensic Science, and is a current, or past member of the International Association of Identification, North Carolina Chapters of the IAI and FBINAA, International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, North Carolina Homicide Investigator’s Association, The Vidocq Society, American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC), and various other professional law enforcement and/or forensic science associations.


MurderCon’s 2019 Special Guest Speaker, Graham Hetrick, is the

star and host of the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel’s TV series, THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, now in its second season.

Graham Hetrick is a subject matter expert on drug abuse, child death and child abuse, organ tissue donation, violent crimes, medical legal death investigation, forensic methodology, and the grieving process. He has advanced training in blood pattern analysis, crime scene management, forensic sculpting, and shallow grave recovery.

Graham advises the news media and consults attorneys on the investigative process for cases facing litigation. He lectures widely on forensic autopsy, crime scene management, and critical thinking within the investigative process. He is an adjunct professor of forensics and human anatomy at Harrisburg University School of Science and Technology.

Over the last 35 years Graham has written and lectured on grief and loss recovery to the medical community, hospice groups and loss recovery organizations. He is also a motivational speaker for students and troubled youth who are trying to get control of their lives through a speech entitled “Doors.” Graham’s upcoming book explores improving the relationship between forensic evidence collection and organ tissue donation. His case studies are featured on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel in THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, now in its second season.

Graham has served as the Dauphin County Pennsylvania Coroner since 1990. During his time there, he has supervised investigations of over 600 homicide cases, supervised the certification of over 13,000 deaths. He has also supervised the Forensic Science Internship Program for over six colleges and universities.

Since 2005, Graham, as an adjunct Professor of Forensics, teaches Crime Scene Investigation, Medical Legal Investigation, Introduction to Forensic Science, Forensic Case Studies, Human Anatomy, and Forensic Taphonomy & Human Identification.

Graham is the president of  the La Voz Latina Central, a bilingual newspaper serving six Central PA counties. He has been the president for the past seventeen years.

He grew up above a funeral home, with his father being the founder and owner of the Hetrick Funeral home in Harrisburg, Pa. and, from 1975 – 2003, Graham held the position of President and CEO of the family business, where he managed operations and developed after-care programs. The Hetrick Funeral Home is one of the first funeral establishments in Pennsylvania  to introduce funeral prearrangement.

In 2013, Graham was co-developer and consultant for Graham of Evidence, a TV pilot produced by A&E.


 

Reserve your spot today!

MurderCon Registration and Details

Each year, the Writers’ Police Academy reaches for the stars to offer writers the opportunity to learn and to train as law enforcement officers. The event is unique in that sessions involve hands-on training classes.

We’ve seated authors behind the steering wheels of patrol cars during pursuits. We’ve placed rifles and pistols in their hands and we’ve taught how to properly and accurately shoot them. We’ve set off C-4 charges and we’ve set things ablaze. Writers have learned to stop bleeding from gaping and blood-gushing gunshot wounds, and they’ve used battering rams to gain entry into buildings where armed bad guys were hiding.

Attendees have seen first-hand what it’s like to be involved in heart-pounding hostage and active shooter situations. They’ve seen mounted patrol officers and their horses and they’ve been on the receiving end of bites by an actual police canine (while wearing a bite sleeve, of course).

We’ve exposed writers to practically every aspect of police training. However, what we haven’t done in the past is to narrow the focus of the Writers’ Police Academy to a single, fine point, the subject matter that brings readers back to your books, time and time again—the solving of a murder.

Sure, readers love your characters and they love a well-described setting. And they love you, the writer, and your story-telling abilities. But what many readers and fans truly desire is to solve the case before your protagonists wrap up their investigations. To do so, readers need details. Many details. They need and want to see, hear, feel, taste, and touch (in their minds) every aspect of a crime scene. They want and need to experience the tales you’ve concocted and set to page, not to simply read strings of words.

In addition, your fans want to believe what it is you’ve offering as a means to take them deep into your fictional world. Therefore, the descriptions you provide must be accurate because, for goodness sake, nearly every breathing human on the planet has watched some sort of crime TV show and the cops on those programs use all of the latest tools, gadgets, and gizmos.

With this in mind, we’ve developed the most unique, spectacular, and exciting program ever offered to writers. This year, during our special event—MurderCon—we’re taking you to the source of crime-solving and crime-solving-tools and equipment—Sirchie.

Yes, we’re taking you on a tour of a large, one-of-a-kind manufacturing facility where all types fingerprint powders are made. It’s where drug testing kits are developed and assembled, and where fuming chambers are manufactured. It’s the place where, well, it’s where ideas for the latest crime-solving gadgets are conceived, manufactured, and then distributed to law enforcement agencies worldwide, whose investigators solve crimes ranging from the smallest to the most complex, high-profile murder cases.

Sirchie’s staff of esteemed instructors also train top investigators from all around the world. Sirchie instructors are the best in the business, and detectives, officers, and agents from a variety of local, state and federal agencies attend high-level sessions at the Sirchie Compound in N.C. These instructors also educate and advise investigators from state prison systems, airport security, FBI agents whose focus is on counter terrorism, and Treasury and Secret Service agents. International students come from countries ranging from Italy to Mexico and Argentina to Qatar.

Again, Sirchie is second to none when it comes to crime-solving products and training. We are fortunate to have them as our partner in this extremely special event for writers.

I’m beyond thrilled that you have this opportunity to train in a place that’s never been made available to the public. I’m also over the moon excited that you’ll attend the same training classes attended by some of the best homicide investigators in the world.

MurderCon attendees will see how crime solving products are made. Then, you’ll learn how to use those cool tools. And, finally, you’ll use the equipment in live-action settings, such as outdoors at a clandestine grave.

Anyway, we’ll release details very soon. Our website guru is working behind the scenes on a brand new website which we plan to launch on or very near to February 4, 2019. Registration for the Writers’ Police Academy’s MurderCon event opens in mid to late February.

Event Hotel

The official hotel for the Writers’ Police Academy’s Murdercon is:

Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley

4500 Marriott Drive
Raleigh, North Carolina 27612

We encourage you to make your hotel reservations by using the online reservation link (below).

WritersPoliceAcademyHotelReservations

Individuals may also make their reservations by phone by calling Hotel’s toll free Reservation Line, 1- 800-MARRIOT.
To receive the established Group rate, you must identify yourself as a member of the Writers’ Police Academy 2019 event when making the reservation. All reservations must be received by the group’s Cutoff Date of on or before July 10, 2019. Reservations made after the Cutoff Date will be subject to availability and the most available rate.
*You’ll definitely want to reserve your hotel rooms well in advance for this unique event! We expect the room block to fill quickly. The same for spots at MurderCon. So please, please, please be ready to sign up when registration goes live. We’ll announce the date and time very soon.

Here’s a sample of what you can expect to see and do at MurderCon 2019:

 

  • Learn proper methods to locate, identify, and collect physiological fluid stains, including the use of alternate light sources, and chemicals such as luminol and Bluestar. WPA attendees will learn how to presumptively identify the type of stain using chemical reagents. Collection and preservation methods will be reviewed based on the latest best practices for DNA.
  • Develop latent prints on porous surfaces, including paper and cardboard, utilizing iodine fuming, ninhydrin, and silver nitrate. WPA attendees will learn the proper process sequencing for the maximum retrieval of latent prints and review the chemical principles of how they work. Cyanoacrylate (“superglue”) techniques for non-porous surfaces.
  • Attendees will learn the fundamentals of fire science, recognition of fire behavior including burn patterns and aftermath, and how fire is utilized by perpetrators during the commission of violent crimes and murder by fire. This is an outdoor session with “live” burns to highlight the effects of burning various pieces of evidence.
  • Search and recovery of remains from clandestine graves.

  • Determining race, sex, and other biological factors from found skeletonized remains.
  • Differences between civilian law enforcement and military L.E. investigations, procedures, and nuances.
  • How a forensic geologist uses previously mapped data, as well as, newly sampled evidence to show the uniqueness of soil to a given geographical location, and ultimately to a suspect and victim. The usefulness of soil in linking a subject to a victim, and/or crime scene. Session taught by one of the top forensic geologists in the world.
  • Footwear and Latent Foot Impressions – hands-on exercises to search for, document, and collect various forms of footprint and shoe evidence.

And, well, there are many more super-exciting sessions and workshops, but we’ll save those for later. In the meantime, yes, these are the same classes taught to law enforcement professionals and experts worldwide!!

Instructors include a wide array of renowned experts that include a founding member of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team, FBI Special Agents, a former Army JAG Corp attorney, forensic botanists, medical examiners, toxicologist, forensic geologist, forensic anthropologist, LAPD and NYPD detectives, Bioterrorism expert, SANE nurse, Certified Fire Investigator with both the ATF and The International Association of Arson Investigators, certified footwear expert, Deputy Director of the City County Bureau of Identification (CCBI), Wake County/Raleigh, NC., forensic pathologists, one of the country’s top interview and interrogation experts, and many more.

Special Guest Speaker!

Now for the icing on the cake.

I’m pleased and honored to announce that the 2019 MurderCon’s Special Guest Speaker is Graham Hetrick, the star and host of Investigation Discovery (ID) channel’s hit television series, THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD.

Graham Hetrick

Graham Hetrick is a subject matter expert on drug abuse, child death and child abuse, organ tissue donation, violent crimes, medical legal death investigation, forensic methodology, and the grieving process. He has advanced training in blood pattern analysis, crime scene management, forensic sculpting, and shallow grave recovery.

Graham advises the news media and consults attorneys on the investigative process for cases facing litigation. He lectures widely on forensic autopsy, crime scene management, and critical thinking within the investigative process. He is an adjunct professor of forensics and human anatomy at Harrisburg University School of Science and Technology.

Graham is also a motivational speaker for students and troubled youth who are trying to get control of their lives through a speech entitled “Doors.” Over the last 35 years he has written and lectured on grief and loss recovery to the medical community, hospice groups and loss recovery organizations. Graham’s upcoming book explores improving the relationship between forensic evidence collection and organ tissue donation. His case studies are featured on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel in THE CORONER: I SPEAK FOR THE DEAD.

*Bio Source – GrahamHetrick.com

Keynote Speaker

The WPA and I are absolutely thrilled and honored that superstar author Heather Graham is joining us in 2019 as our Guest of Honor/Keynote speaker. Heather will attend many of the sessions throughout the weekend and then she’ll address the entire group at the Saturday night banquet.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Heather Graham, majored in theater arts at the University of South Florida. After a stint of several years in dinner theater, back-up vocals, and bartending, she stayed home after the birth of her third child and began to write. Her first book was with Dell, and since then, she has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult, sci-fi, young adult, and Christmas family fare.

She is pleased to have been published in approximately twenty-five languages. She has written over 200 novels and has 60 million books in print. Heather has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, and she is the proud to be a recipient of the Silver Bullet from Thriller Writers and was awarded the prestigious Thriller Master Award in 2016. She is also a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA.  Heather has had books selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, and has been quoted, interviewed, or featured in such publications as The Nation, Redbook, Mystery Book Club, People and USA Today and appeared on many newscasts including Today, Entertainment Tonight and local television.

Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water, and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing. Each year she hosts a Vampire Ball and Dinner theater raising money for the Pediatric Aids Society and in 2006 she hosted the first Writers for New Orleans Workshop to benefit the stricken Gulf Region.  She is also the founder of “The Slush Pile Players,” presenting something that’s “almost like entertainment” for various conferences and benefits. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.


August 1-4, 2019

Raleigh, N.C.

Sirchie Compound and the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley

*Please make your calendars for this unique opportunity. In the past, the WPA event has sometimes sold out within the first hour after registration opens. Due to the nature of MurderCon’s unique training sessions and high level of behind the scenes type of instruction that’s typically for law enforcement eyes only, we anticipate spots filling quickly. The same for the event hotel. I strongly urge you to make your reservations as soon as possible.