To take a journey back in time to retrace the footsteps of a police officer would be much akin to cracking the covers of a multitude of books, all of various genres from humor to horror, and then to combine each of the author’s voices along with their collective imaginations. But no tale could ever accurately detail, in writing, such bizarre goings-on created by man and woman, and sometimes beast, or any combination thereof.
Fortunately, crime writers are able to create wonderfully-told imaginary tales from tiny bits of factual intelligence they’ve gathered over a period of time. It’s what they do and to do it successfully they know how to effectively utilize scraps of information by transforming fact into a work of written art that is both realistic and entertaining—words that stimulate images in the minds of readers.
Real life is a writer’s university. It’s never-ending college study without graduation. Every day is a lesson and the world is the classroom.
Today’s convoluted (believe me, it is) article is about taking something very small and using it to transform a humdrum scene into a dazzling array of stunning imagery. Well, maybe not quite that grand, but it will help to take your writing to a higher level. First, though, you must allow your own minds to take you to deep into those crime scenes you write using terms such as fingerprints, gunshot residue, bullet trajectory and, of course, bloodstain patterns. It is the latter, bloodstains patterns, that is the focus of this blog post.
Everyone knows that when a liquid strikes a solid surface it immediately changes shape. Prior to hitting a surface, as they fall, water droplets constantly oscillate between a vertical and a horizontal elongation.
As a result of a water drop’s inertia, its viscosity, or surface tension, the heads of the drops resist changes of shape during a collision with a solid surface.
Of course, the type of surface the droplets strike affects how well, or not, the liquid “dances” across the impacted surface.
Blood behaves similarly … sort of. But then again, maybe not. How’s that for a definitive statement? But I was merely speaking about droplets of falling blood and water.
Actually, blood flows differently than water. It flows viscously and rather inconsistently. Its flow properties change, though, depending on surrounding conditions. For example, it becomes less viscous when pressure increases and it is this that allows blood to flow into the thinnest of capillaries. The flow of water, on the other hand, is largely constant.
Red blood cells account for about forty-five percent of the blood’s volume.
There is no DNA red blood cells
Blood plasma is the liquid in which the blood cells are suspended. It’s made up of approximately ninety-two percent water. Plasma plays an essential role in regulating how blood flows. Plasma displays a sort of elastic behavior when distorted, forming threads that cause it to exhibit an extensional viscosity, a trait that’s typically not seen in water.
And so on and so on and on. Yes, blood behaves differently than water … sort of.
I’ve mentioned all of the above to say this … there’s a new method of crime-solving using blood, which contains a lot of water.
Sure, there are bloodstain pattern investigations that tell us where a shooter stood when he fired a lethal round. Bloodstain patterns tell us where a victim was when he was killed and later dragged to a different location. Blood spatter shows us velocity and angle, and it even tells us if flies trampled through a victim’s blood and then transferred bits of it to a lampshade, an act that could cause a rookie CSI to confuse the groupings of tiny droplets/bloody fly footprints with those caused by high-velocity impacts.
High-velocity bloodstains are created when the source of blood is subjected to a force with a velocity greater than 100 ft/s.
Recently, Paul Steen, a Maxwell M. Upson Professor in Engineering, created a periodic table of droplet motions that was inspired by similarities between the symmetries of atomic orbitals.
An atomic orbital is:
- derived using the mathematical tools of quantum mechanics
- a representation of the three-dimensional volume (i.e., the region in space) in which an electron is most likely to be found
While an atomic orbital cannot be observed experimentally, it is possible to experimentally observe the density of an electron.
And, while it is not possible to define the exact location of an electron in an atom, the probability of finding an electron at a given position can be calculated.
The higher the prospect of finding an electron at a given location, the larger the electron denseness at that position.
Okay, I know that’s about as clear as mud, but the brains behind this new “periodic table” used this to atomic orbital gobblygook to measure the effortlessness with which droplets move back and forth across a surface.
The scientists then realized that the routine motions of specific types of droplets could be classified by their distinctive shapes and similarities. For example, droplets that form the shape of a orange stars would all be in one group, while droplets that form the shape of yellow quarter-moons would be in another group, and so on. They call those groups “motion-elements.”
Possible uses for this periodic table, for example, could help scientists and crime scene forensics experts understand where a particular droplet comes from by applying the table’s classifications to the found blood sample pattern, along with the relevant surface (from a list of standards) to identify the powers involved. Then they might have an idea as to what caused the spatter patterns found at a crime scene.
I have to say, writing this gave me a bit of a headache, thinking about what it took to come up with this method—all the research, atoms, tables, math, and chart, and science and labs and buzzing and whirring equipment.
Then it hit me.
They spent all that time, money, and energy to basically deliver a description of the marshmallow treats inside a box of Lucky Charms.
Why not stick with the old-fashioned method of … the hole in the dead guy’s forehead was caused by the gun found in the possession of the jealous lover. Works every time.
Atomic orbital … puhleeze.
In August, at MurderCon, renowned instructor David Alford will present a spectacular hands-on class on bloodstain pattern investigation.
A Bloody Mess: Search, ID, and Document Blood Evidence
MurderCon attendees will be exposed to proper methods to locate, identify, and enhance blood evidence. Also included in this workshop are chemical search methods using luminol and Bluestar. Attendees will also receive an introduction to blood patterns and what they can tell an investigator about a scene, as well as instruction regarding the identification of blood by using chemicals to enhance suspected blood patterns.
David Alford is a retired FBI Special Agent with 21 years of experience investigating violent crimes, terrorism and other cases. He was one of the founding members of the FBI Evidence Response Team (ERT) and conducted crimes scene searches on domestic and international violent crimes and bombings, including the Polly Klaas kidnaping and murder, the Unabomber’s cabin and the 9/11 Pentagon scene. He worked in the Denver and San Francisco field offices and completed his career at Quantico in the FBI Lab ERT Unit. During the 6 years in the FBI Lab, he was primarily responsible for overseeing and teaching basic and advanced crime scene courses throughout the US and many other countries.
In the 6 years before the FBI, David was a Forensic Serologist, Hair and Fibers Examiner and Bloodstain Pattern Analyst for the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab. After retirement, David taught crime scene courses around the world on behalf of the FBI and US State Department. David has been with Sirchie as an instructor and sales representative for Sirchie’s RUVIS and ALS products for the last 10 years. David loves teaching and allowing students to learn through hands-on training.
Sign up today while there’s still time. Believe me, you do not want to miss this rare and exciting opportunity. You may not have this chance again!