Crime Scene Staging

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Crime Scene Staging

Sometimes a perpetrator will attempt to confuse the forensic investigators by staging a crime scene. This involves altering the scene to try to disguise what really happened. When reconstructing the crime scene, the investigating team must always be on the lookout for staging. Typically, evidence or bodies will be moved, or there will be signs of a break-in that did not actually happen.

A crime scene is often staged to make a murder appear like an accident or suicide. In historical cases, assailants have carefully placed a gun in the victim's hand, but the nature of the victim's wounds were found not consistent with being self-inflicted. A murderer may move a body into the bathroom and pretend the victim fell when he or she got out of the bath or shower. Removing bloodstains with a cleanser like bleach is also not uncommon. However, invisible traces often remain which can be subjected to forensic analysis.

Staging a burglary on top of a murder is a common form of crime scene staging; the assailant may break a lock or a window, turn over drawers, and remove valuable items. Staged burglaries may also be set up as part of an insurance fraud where the owner pretends a valuable item has been stolen when he has actually removed it himself. Should they leave trace evidence from their own bodies or clothing at the break-in site, with no evidence present from the supposed robber, then the story will be called into question.

It takes a particular type of criminal to set up a successful staging. Sometimes the forensic psychologist can help with a profile of a suspect. A man who kills his wife in a fit of jealousy, for instance, and then tries to make it look like a burglary can give himself away unless he is calculating and careful. Crimes of passion often involve excessive violence, like multiple stabbings or gunshots. Most burglars are opportunists and will kill only if they panic. Such murders will generally not be as violent as those where anger against the victim is the motive. When a victim has died in a violent manner and it looks as if the motive is burglary, the investigator always considers the possibility that staging has taken place.

see also Criminal profiling; Crime scene reconstruction.