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It is now simpler to solve cases thanks to advances in forensic science over the past few years. (Kloosterman et al, 2015). They use a variety of techniques, such as examining the crime scene, speaking with anyone who may have pertinent information, and using technology to uncover any additional information that could help them solve the case. (Hess, Orthmann, & Cho, 2016). The police struggled to identify the killer in the case of Ashley, a young female victim, and they had to take a number of measures to ensure that the case was properly solved. An analysis of the report provides information about the crime scene and the evidence collected during the investigative process. The steps and strategies applied and the interviewing and interrogation of witnesses and suspects all provided useful information that contributed to solving the case. The investigators applied various scientific techniques and technology that helped solve the case.
Crime Scene and Evidence
The crime scene was in the woods near the parking lot of pizza hut restaurant which is located on Bendix road. The victim was discovered by two truck drivers who were making a U-turn and discovered a large puddle that looked like fresh blood. They check and discovered a partially clothed victim lying in a pool of blood. They then called the police and the patrol officers arrived at the scene a few minutes later and confirmed that the body belonged to a young deceased female. The face and the neck of the victim were covered in blood. The officers then called in units that are involved in the investigation of murder cases for the investigation to commence.
The scene had a large puddle of blood which appeared fresh and was just about two to three fit in between the parking lines of a parking space. There were small drops going south-west from the large puddle and two drag marks eight feet long and were directed in the direction of a cement curb. The body was found 15 feet into the woods towards the north. The victim was a white teenage female with long brown hair. The victim appeared to have been dragged either by her feet or ankles and had her arms raised over her head in the direction of the parking lot. Her head facing leftward and she had her eyes shut.
The victim appears to have numerous stab wounds to her neckline and abdominal area. The right side of the victim’s face and the neck were covered by blood. She also had stab wounds in her upper back. The examination of her t-shirt revealed that only two stab wounds had gone through it. This indicated that the abdominal wounds had been inflicted after she was dragged to the woods. Her jacket was discovered in a bush just near the body and she had no pants and shoes.
There was no evidence at the scene that could point towards the identification of the victim. The officers, therefore, collected attendance and absentee rolls from the local high schools. The blood on the victim's’ face made it difficult for the victim to be identified by comparing her to a photograph of a runaway report filled a few days before the victim was killed. However, the victim’s mother was contacted and she confirmed that her daughter was missing. The mother confirmed that her daughter was wearing a similar jacket to the one found at the crime scene. Since Ashley had no fingerprints on file, latent fingerprints were obtained from her bedroom and they were compared with the victim which confirmed that she was the one. Having established the identity of the victim, the officers now had to collect evidence to determine the killer(s).
From the autopsy, it was found that three of the stab wounds had enough force to fracture Ashley’s skull. The wounds on her abdomen were the confirmed to be the last to be inflicted. The murder weapon was established to a single-edged knife with blade dimensions of ¾ to 1 inches in the width and a length of 3 to 4 inches. Hemorrhaging and the bruising around the neck showed that she had been manually strangled and it was likely that it occurred before she was stabbed. The evidence pointed to a homicide by strangulation and multiple stab wounds. Swabbing taken from her body showed the presence of sperm from her vagina and anus. To collect DNA evidence, the crime scene technicians took swabbing of the victims bare ankles. Additionally, the knife was recovered from a citizen who had collected it the day Ashley was murdered and had handed it over to the police a few days later. Within a few feet from the victim, the crime scene technicians discovered two neoprene skull caps that were tied together this belonged to Jonathan and had his DNA. The knife was similar in dimension to the dimensions of the autopsy. Various witnesses identified the knife to belong to the suspects. DNA evidence collected from items on the scene and from the victim’s body matched that of the two suspects in numerous counts and thus helped solve the case. Confessions from the suspect- Jones added to the evidence and led to Jones and Jonathan being charged with first-degree murder. All this evidence was obtained legally as it was either collected with the consent of the suspects without the use of any methods against the law.
Steps and Strategies Applied in the Investigation
The steps and strategies involved in the investigations included the use of interviews, autopsy, interrogations, surveillance, testing, and verification of evidence (Hess, Orthmann, & Cho, 2016). The steps followed were based on a sequence that involved the follow up of any evidence uncovered and each was used to collect more evidence. They applied strategies such as offering rewards for any information that could be useful to the case. Considering the strategy, they guaranteed they provided as minimal information as possible to the media to ensure the preservation of credibility of any tips provided. They also had the suspects stopped for an equipment violation and they managed to obtain information about their identity.
Interviews and Interrogations
They, therefore, conducted interviews with the mother of the victim who revealed to the officers the names of Ashley friend, boyfriends and those she had dated around the area. Heather, Ashley’s best friend was then interviewed. The police received a call reporting a reckless driver at the crime scene at around 0750 hours, which was being driven by two black males. They then conducted an autopsy.
Once the victim was established as Ashley and an Autopsy was carried out ruling the case as a homicide by strangulation and stabbing, the officers involved embarked on the collection of evidence to determine the killers. The first step involved interviewing the mother, the best friends and other friends of the victim. They then re-interviewed the mother at her home where they asked her to describe the normal routine of the victim. She then described the events that occurred from the day that Ashley went missing to the day that she discovered about her death. She also revealed information about a subject that the victim seemed to have a long-distance relationship with and an about an old friend who has lived in Maryland. Later they conducted interviews with friends and acquaintances of the victim. The interviews would lead to an increase in the number of people to be interviewed but they did not reveal any useful information as most of the statements appeared to be just rumors. However, the interviews revealed that Ashley and her best friend Heather were interested in the same boy and thus the officers had to interview Heather a second time to determine whether the issue would have led to the murder. She denied having a relationship with the said boy but revealed that Ashley had been sexually active with him. The investigators had all the calls stored in the Smith’s caller ID recorded and they used them to identify all the persons in the call logs. They then used names to find out the relationship of the persons to either Ashley or Heather by asking Heather about the same. From the interview, the officers suspected that she was withholding useful information for cracking the case. They then went ahead to conduct interviews at Grand Senior high school where Ashley was a student and asked anyone with useful information to provide it. However, they did not manage to acquire any useful information from the students. Jason Phelps who had been identified by the caller Ids voluntarily reported at the station for questioning and he also agreed to a polygraph exam.
The results of the examination, however, showed that Jason was being deceptive (Violent Crimes Unit Incident report, 2000). He then states that he was in a relationship with Ashley for a week and that they had sex once. He stated that the night the runaway was reported, he had spent the night with Ashley. He seemed to be confusing his dates as he gave an account of the last time he was with Ashley. He stated that Ashley was afraid that she was in trouble with her mother and so he had volunteered to walk her home and explain to her mother. He, however, advised that the last time she saw Ashley was the afternoon before she was with her mother who was driving her back home. He then stated that he owned and in most occasions carried a red butterfly knife. He denied being involved in the murder or having any useful information about it. He was then asked to sign a consent to have his home searched for evidence related to the murder and have his blood drawn for the purpose of forensic testing which he agreed to. The detectives then collected the knife from his home but no additional evidence was found.
Interviews in the community were then conducted to identify any useful information for the case. The officer then collected information in form of number plates and video tapes from the funeral of the victim. Interviews were then conducted with her psych therapist. The areas around the crime scene were then searched. A citizen then turned in a knife that he had collected from the area around the crime scene. Later the evidence collected was then transported to Cellmark Diagnostics for DNA analysis. The results of the DNA analysis showed that victim’s blood matched the blood from the knife and male DNA showed up on several pieces of the evidence. They then compared the case with another case that had occurred in 1993 but they did not establish any relationship. Later they interviewed Heather for the third time and she was subjected to a voice stress exam. Afterward, they interviewed students at the high school.
The police offered a reward for information concerning the case and ensured they preserved the integrity of the tips through releasing minimal information to the media. The tips revealed three important leads that were worth following. They were able to establish four suspects who were mentioned in the tips and they started a follow-up and investigation of the suspects. They carried out surveillance without the knowledge of the suspects such as collecting the cigarettes they discarded, surveillance of their homes and even having the suspects stopped for equipment violation.
The investigators then met with the F.B.I and came up with the conclusion that the victim was killed by a person she knew, probably older who lived in close proximity and was not in her inner circle of friends. They then prepared and obtained search warrants for suspects identified by the anonymous callers.
The first suspect to be interrogated was Scott Jones and the interrogation was conducted as required by law. He was offered food and drinks, but he declined, the sound was audiotaped and he ignored his rights both verbally and in writing. He was informed that he was being questioned for the murder of Ashley but he was not informed that he was a suspect. The suspect was asked whether he knew the victim and he indicated that he only met her ones. He gave information that was very consistent with the tips which included Ashley being very sexually active, the possibility of her being drunk at the time and probability of harassment by the killers and most important he mentioned the stomach wounds, which had not been mentioned to any other person other than the investigators. When asked about the car that he drove, it matched the description given by the anonymous caller. He later admitted to having the victim in his car but insisted it was only one time three nights before the murder. The suspect, however, changed his statement and gave an account of the events that led to the death of Ashley but named Johnson as the sole murderer. He stated that Johnson had stabbed Ashley and dragged her into the woods on claims that she had bitten him and they had then agreed not to talk about the incident to anyone. But Jones had told Dannielle about it once they arrived at their home. However, the tips indicated that multiple suspects were responsible for the murder but the suspected denied the claims.
Based on the information provided by the suspect a search and seizure warrant was executed at the home of Scott Jones. Danielle who was also a suspect was interrogated on tape and she stated that Jones had told her about the murder the morning it had occurred. However, she mentioned that Jones and Jackson had murder Ashley according to the information conveyed to her by Jones. Later Jones gave a detailed account that included the mention of Stewart who owned the house where they had sexually assaulted Ashely. He, however, insisted that he had not been involved in the murder.
Jones mother and her sister confirmed that Jonathan owned the murder weapon and the sister told the investigators that Heathen had told her about Ashley being stabbed multiple times in the stomach (Violent Crimes Unit Incident report 2000). Jones later told an account of the events that led to the death of Ashley while other persons testified about the involvement of Jones and Johnson in the murder.
Motions to suppress evidence are a request made by the defendant for the judge to exclude some parts of the evidence from the trial and it is dependent on how important the evidence is to the case (Hess, Orthmann, & Cho, 2016). In the case of the murder of Ashley, there were no counter defense efforts made by the suspects. All the evidence gathered throughout the case was used in the trial of the defendants who were charged with first-degree murder.
The investigation was carried out according to the law as many interviews were conducted to collect as much information as possible concerning the case. The officers applied specific strategies that were very important in ensuring that quality information was collected to solve the case. In a criminal investigation, the officers are required to ensure the rights of the suspects and witnesses are respected as outlined in the case (Hess, Orthmann, & Cho, 2016). They applied the right processes and strategies in the collection of evidence.
Technology and Crime Investigations
As technology advances and covers every aspect of human life, criminal investigations have been greatly improved (Kloosterman et al, 2015). The solving of crimes has become somehow futuristic. Many developments in the field have been made which has made it easier to gather evidence and analyze it leading to more accurate solutions to cases (Kloosterman et al, 2015). Various technological devices have been introduced that easily analyze evidence such as DNA increasing the efficacy of the criminal justice system (Kloosterman et al, 2015). In the case of Ashley the use of technology is evident in the test for drug and alcohol use, the test for presence of sperms, the dimensions of the wounds and the crime scene and the DNA testing for various suspects. These allow for field investigations, identification of large and substantial amounts of evidence and increase forensic intelligence.
In summary, the case of Ashley was solved based on the evidence that was recovered which included the murder weapon as the knife, DNA evidence where the DNA of the suspects was found on most of the evidence items and the confession of the suspect. All these items were obtained legally using various investigative steps and strategies. The investigators interviewed many people and interrogated all the suspects named in the case before presenting the evidence collected to the court. There were no counter defense efforts in the case and modern and scientific methods were applied in the process which ensured its efficiency was improved.
Hess, K.M., Orthmann, C.h., & Cho, H.L. (2016). Criminal Investigation. Cengage Learning.
Kloosterman, A., Mapes, A., Geradts, Z. Koper. C., Verheij, S., Steen, M., & Asten, A. (2015). The interface of science and technology in forensic Science. The Royal Society Publishing.
Violent Crimes Unit Incident report. (2000).
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