Murder is a great tragedy for the survivors of the victim and society in general, and it is taken very seriously by law enforcement. Murder investigations are launched in any suspicious death, and a series of precise steps are followed during murder investigations while evidence is collected and suspects are interviewed so that the case can successfully be brought to court and prosecuted. Law enforcement officials who participate in murder investigations are specially trained so that they know how to handle and process evidence, protect a crime scene, and ultimately testify in court, if necessary.
All murder investigations start with the murder itself, which is usually reported by someone who comes across the victim. The person who finds the victim is asked to remain on site, and a law enforcement team arrives at the scene, along with a medical team. The first thing that occurs on any murder site is verification that the victim is actually dead. Usually paramedics arrive first, followed by the coroner, who pronounces death and turns the scene over to law enforcement. Next, an officer is put in charge of the murder investigation, and he or she sets about securing the scene to minimize contamination of evidence. An officer in charge has usually had prior experience with murder investigations.
A log of all individuals on or around the site is immediately established. Usually the medical response team will be finger and foot printed, along with any bystanders, so that markings found on the scene can be readily identified. The next step for murder investigations is to observe and photograph the scene. Nothing is moved, including the body, until the scene has been fully written up and photographed, to ensure that nothing is missed. As crews photograph the scene, they put tags on items that should be collected for evidence, such as bloodstained clothing, weapons, and other objects of interest on the site.
During all murder investigations, the people on site are very careful to avoid contaminating evidence by accident. Gloves and protective booties for shoes are worn, and suits are used to cover clothing so that fibers, hair, and other detritus from the investigators do not contaminate the scene. The scene is tightly controlled by the officers in charge, and once everything has been documented, the process of removing evidence is begun. The body is usually the first thing to be removed; the coroner's office takes it away for an autopsy. Next, evidence is collected, bagged, and sent to the crime lab for analysis.
An important part of criminal murder investigations is human interactions. After evidence is collected and reviewed, law enforcement officials interview people involved in the murder. Sometimes, a case is very clear cut: a man was witnessed shooting his wife, for example. In this instance, the husband would be interviewed, along with witnesses, so that law enforcement could be assured that no details were missed. In other cases, the identity of the culprit may not be as clear, and an investigation may drag on for a long time before more information is uncovered or the case is officially given up. During this period, law enforcement will follow up on tips made by citizens, and individuals who know anything about a murder are encouraged to contact law enforcement in an effort to bring the criminal to justice.