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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Crime and Science Radio Tomorrow at 10 a.m. PST: Interview With Forensic Specialist Lisa Black

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Working the Crime Scene: An interview With Forensic Specialist Lisa Black

Join Jan Burke and DP Lyle as they discuss working the crime scene with forensic specialist and crime fiction author Lisa Black, a forensic specialist who is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, the International Association for Identification, the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and is certified by the American Board of Criminalistics. She has testified in court over 50 times. And, oh yeah, an excellent fiction writer.

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/02/06/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-lisa-black

 

Lisa photo

 

LINKS:

Lisa Black Website: http://www.lisa-black.com

Crime Scene Investigator Network: http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net

How Crime Scene Investigation Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/csi.htm

The Crime Scene Investigator: http://www.feinc.net/csi.htm

Criminalistics Information from CAC: http://www.cacnews.org/membership/criminalistics.shtml

How Blood Stain Pattern Analysis Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/bloodstain-pattern-analysis2.htm

Bloodstain Tutorial: http://www.bloodspatter.com/bloodstain-tutorial

A Simplified Guide to Bloodstain Pattern Analysis: http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/SimplifiedGuideBloodstainPatterns.pdf

Crime Library: Trace Evidence: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/trace/1.html

FBI Trace Evidence Lab: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/scientific-analysis/trace

A Simplified Guide to Trace Evidence: http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/SimplifiedGuideTraceEvidence.pdf

Forensic Science Central: Trace Evidence: http://forensicsciencecentral.co.uk/traceevidence.shtml

Smithsonian Institue: Catching Killers: Trace Evidence:

http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/sc/web/series/1003122/catching-killers/3375550/trace-evidence

Trace Evidence Powerpoint: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CFcQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fphs.psdr3.org%2Fscience%2Fforensics%2Fforensicppt%2FTraceEvidence.ppt&ei=qGfMUsjMCNjmoASWjoKACQ&usg=AFQjCNEbGhd8x0QLHhl8oCPkIpjW7IbGVA&sig2=MDnlZM7IZBLM1CykZuztIw&bvm=bv.58187178,d.cGU

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Does a PTSD Vaccine Exist?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an increasingly recognized disorder not only among returning military personnel but in others who have suffered ongoing highly stressful situations. The various forms of psychotherapy that have been used for this disorder have led to mixed results and the numerous medications available have side effects that often prevent their use. Not to mention that they don’t always work.

But what if there was a vaccine that eliminated or reduced the effects of PTSD? One that lessened the fight or flight response these memories often illicit?

A group at MIT believes they might have developed just such a treatment. They discovered that a stomach hormone called ghrelin, which has been implicated in helping generate anxiety responses, is released during highly stressful situations, and the more stressful the situation, the more hormone released. The new “vaccine” tends to block the receptors for this hormone and therefore lessen its effects. It is important to note, that the goal of this treatment is not to alter the person’s personality or memories but rather to blunt the psychological and physiological responses to these stress and panic-producing memories. Hopefully with further study this new form of treatment will pan out.

 

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Stress Fracture, the first in my Dub Walker thriller series, dealt with PTSD and new drugs for its treatment. Not vaccines but rather spinoffs of current forms of treatment. Of course the drug in my fictional story is itself fictional but new drugs are continually being produced for this disorder. If this “vaccine” does indeed prove to be effective and with acceptable side effects, the need for developing new drugs would be decreased. We’ll see.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues

 

ThrillerFest/CraftFest Savings End In 3 Days

ITW Black-Red

 

 

Your ThrillerFest team is working hard on what we hope will be the best conference yet.  Please register at www.thrillerfest.com before midnight EST on Friday, February 28th  to take advantage of the savings.

FBI seminar:  Join us for a full day workshop at the FBI headquarters in NYC on Monday, July 7th.  The roster is filling up quickly, so please sign up soon.

Master CraftFest:  An intensive day of study with the Masters:  Steve Berry, Steven James, John Lescroart., D.P. Lyle, MD, and David Morrell.  You won’t want to miss out on this incredible opportunity.   There are fewer than five spots left.

CraftFest:  We have four concurrent tracks of lectures on craft all day Wednesday and Thursday morning.  Whether you are a new writer or an experienced author, let the talented teachers at CraftFest take your writing to the next level.

ThrillerFest:  Panels, workshops, interviews with 2014 ThrillerMaster Scott Turow and 2014 Silver Bullet Award recipient Brenda Novak—join us for two days of non-stop celebration of the thriller genre.

FACEOFF/FanFest:  Join the contributors of ITW’s newest anthology, FACEOFF, along with sponsoring ITW FanFest authors and their fans for a memorable evening of fun.  If you are an ITW author and want to host fans at FanFest, please contact ThrillerFest Executive Director at kimberleyhowe@me.com

Banquet:  Get your tickets now to a night of celebration and be among the first to hear who wins the 2014 Thriller Awards.

As you can see, we have a phenomenal week planned, and we’d love to see you there!

Warmest regards,

Kimberley Howe, Executive Director, ThrillerFest

DP Lyle, ITW VP for Education/Member Services; CraftFest Director

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Writing

 

Book Review: The Bubble Gum Thief by Jeff Miller

Bubble Gum Thief

 

 

The Bubble Gum Thief by Jeff Miller

Thomas & Mercer

December 4, 2012

ASIN: BOO7RZ0716

426 pages

This is my first crime. My next will be bigger.

“This is my first crime. My next will be bigger.” So begins The Bubble Gum Thief. This message is found on a card to which a stolen stick of gum is taped. What follows is a series of crimes that escalate is horror and body count. Solving the crimes falls to FBI agent Dagny Gray, who has a handful of personal issues, not the least of which is severe anorexia. Dagny must fight through her medical problem, an FBI bureaucracy that hinders her every step, and a serial killer that is increasingly cleaver and brazen. Well written and fast paced and populated with interesting characters, especially Dagny who is well drawn and likable. A good read.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Book Review, Writing

 

Q and A: How Would the Time of Death Be Determined in a Corpse Found in Snow?

Q: In my story, the body of a young woman is found by cross-country skiers in high-mountain country. (Average temps in December: 20 degrees/low to 40 degrees/high;  elevation about 9000 ft.) If the person had been dressed in heavy clothes, and the body had been there about 24 hours, would it be completely frozen? Partially? Would there be any way to determine when death had occurred?

MT, Albuquerque, NM

Jack-Frozen

A: The corpse would be at least partially and could be completely frozen–perhaps with some of the deeper internal organs only partially frozen. It depends on the clothing, exposure, moisture, wind, etc. Also the old rule that whatever happens, happens comes into play here. So the freezing could be either complete or partial.

Under these conditions, rigor and lividity would be delayed to an unpredictable degree so these would be very crude indicators and not very useful in determining the time of death (TOD). Body temperature might be more useful—emphasis on might—but this would not be very accurate either. If the core body temp had reached the ambient temperature, this determination is of no use, since once the corpse reaches the ambient temperature it will remain stable at that temperature, making body temperature useless. For example, if the corpse reached the ambient temp after 18 hours then 24 hours would look like 36 or 48 as far as body temp is concerned.

But if the corpse hasn’t reached ambient temperature, core body temp can be used to estimate the TOD. Not very accurately but at least in the ballpark. Under “normal” circumstances, a body loses heat at about 1.5 degrees per hour, but this depends on many variables. Your scenario is definitely not “normal,” so temp would be lost more rapidly. Could be 2 or 3 or 4 degrees per hour if there is wind or cold rain for example. Let’s say the ME found the core temp was 40 with an ambient temp of 30. This means the body is still cooling since it has not yet reached ambient temperature. Let’s also say that in his experience he believes (educated guess at best) the body would lose about 3 degrees per hour under the circumstances he sees at the scene. If so, subtracting the measured corpse temperature (40 degrees) from the normal body temperature (98) and dividing by the rate of loss (3 degrees/hour) would yield the estimated TOD.

The math: 98-40 = 58; 58/3 = 19 hours.

Based on these calculations, your ME might conclude that the death occurred approximately 19 hours earlier, give or take a couple of hours.

Of course the major flaw here is that the actual rate of temperature loss might vary from his estimate so, despite the math, his assessment remains a best guess. He would likely suggest a broad range—maybe saying the TOD was between 16 and 24 hours earlier. That’s really the best he could do.

So your corpse could be partially or completely frozen and the time of death could be difficult to determine. Except for one more trick: stomach contents.

Let’s say the corpse is frozen so that temp, rigor, and lividity are of no help yet it was known that the victim had eaten a certain food at a certain time prior to his disappearance. It takes the stomach 2-3 or so hours to empty after a meal so if the ME found the undigested meal in the victim’s stomach and knew the time of this final meal from witnesses, he could then more accurately place the time of death as within 2-3 hours after that meal. Let’s say he had lunch around noon, went skiing, and was then found dead 24 hours later. If the ME found that last meal still in his stomach he might suggest that the TOD was between 1 and 4 p.m. the day before. This might be your best bet for narrowing down the TOD.

 
 

Nip, Tuck, Jump: An Anesthetic Death?

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Beverly Hills is famous for plastic surgery. And famous plastic surgeons. Like Dr. Brian Novak, one the surgeons to the stars. But recently, things didn’t go so well with one of his patients. Like something from the TV series Nip/Tuck, where odd happenings were common, the recent suicide of a 53 year old woman was bizarre and unexpected. Seems she and undergone a face lift, after which she recuperated at the North Camden Drive clinic. At some point she became agitated, confused, ripped off her gown, and now naked climbed to the 10th floor roof where she threatened to jump. Ultimately she did, despite the efforts of a crisis negotiation team.

 

BH Clinic

 

How and why did this happen? I would suspect her tragic behavior had to do with drugs. Not those kind. The medical kind. Anesthetics and pain meds, drugs that work on the brain, the former to induce deep sleep and the latter to reduce the perception of pain. But these drugs can also cause confusion, disorientation, and bizarre behavior. Even delusions and hallucinations. These reactions can be part of the drug’s effects or a reaction to withdrawal or “coming down” from the drugs’ effects. These reactions are often unpredictable and come on quickly, as seems to be the case here. Sad.

 

 

Reputation Books Launches With A Book Giveaway

Reputation Books launches 2-14-14 with a big book giveaway that begins at midnight tonight. Visit the Reputation Books Blog and pick up a copy of MURDER & MAYHEM, my first Q&A book, long out of print but now available as an e book, or one of the other great books they are offering.

 

M&M-RP

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Writing

 
 
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