Ashley’s Murder Crime Scene Investigation
Crime scene investigation is one of the critical tasks that require the investigators to have extensive understanding and knowledge in the collection and analyzing of the evidence. The investigators, should make sure the crime scene is well preserved and carry forensic analysis as soon as possible before the available evidence is destroyed. This paper uses CJJS 341 homicide case provided in the project to explore how law enforcers investigated and collected the evidence from the crime scene. The case involved the murder of Ashely, a crime that was reported by two truck drivers, the first responders. The police on patrol confirmed that the victim had died of stab wounds. In the crime scene, there was a range of the material evidence, for example, knife and DNA evidence that the investigative team relied upon to prosecute the suspects. Ideally, the investigators are required by the law to obtain evidence with the observance of the legal provisions. However, the evidence used by the prosecutor in this case, was challenged by the defendant for having not been acquired legally. Based on the defendant argument; this paper seeks to determine whether the materials evidence presented by the investigation officers in the court was legally obtained. In resolving the puzzle surrounding this investigation, the paper discusses the criminal investigation and crime scene evidence analysis. Secondly, it examines all the investigative procedures and tactics involved in this investigation. Third, it discusses the interviewing of the witnesses and suspects’ interrogation. Fourth, it explains the constitutional challenges exhibited by the defense side. Fifth, provide the personal opinion on the applicability of the knowledge acquired in class in the case under analysis.
Crime Scene Investigation
Keen and extensive analysis of this case shows that the crime scene investigation was a detailed and a comprehensive one. It involved deep examination and forensic analysis of both physical and DNA evidence. Ideally, each scene investigation has unique characteristics that call for the detectives to employ suitable approaches to collect and analyze all the available evidence (Weetman & Williams, 2013). However, it always advised that upon reaching the crime scene, the investigative officers should first trace any material evidence such as paint, soil, glass, hair, fiber, blood stains, saliva, cigar remains, footmarks and other materials found in the crime scene. It is also advisable for the detectives to take the photograph of the crime scene before doing anything else. Likewise, the detectives investigating the Ashley homicide case began the investigation by taking photographs and videotaping both the air and the ground. This first step has two major advantages. First, it helps the investigative team to collect all the available evidence at the crime scene. Secondly, the previous cases have proven that crime scenes themselves form the evidence that can be used in the court of law to prove that the suspect committed the crime. This is because the crime scene may be needed to prosecute the suspects. Therefore, with the photographs and videotapes, it will be easy to relocate the scene.
The photographing of the crime scene should be followed by identifying the scene entry and exit points. It is always necessary for the detective officers to make sure the exit and entry points do not interfere with the paths used by the suspects. This case has do not show whether the detectives had designed specific entry and exit points that could not interfere with the footmarks and path used by the suspect. Instead, the investigators seemed to have begun their investigation at the parking lot and traced the suspect’s movement till they reached the scene where the deceased victim body was laying. The victim’s body was examined by the professional doctor while still at the crime scene. Based on the surroundings and the nature of Ashely body, the detectives made the judgment that her body had been dragged by her ankles and feet. Ashely ankles and feet had marks, an indication that she was dragged after being murdered. The investigators swabbed the marks on Ashley’s ankles and feet as part of the evidence to be used in tracing the suspect. At the same time, the investigators carried out the body check and found that it had several wounds in the upper back, abdominal parts and neck all as a result of multiple stabs. The clothes worn by Ashley also provided important evidence since her T-shirt indicated that she had been rolled up and also had two holes on the back. The condition of Ashley’s T-shirt proved that the victim suffered several stabs before being dragged into the woods. Besides, Ashely clothing, T-shirt, bra, and pants were found in the nearby bush. This was clear evidence that the victim’s area of death was not exactly where the body was lying. Locating all areas where the victim of homicide could have had contact with, helps the investigating team to collect all crucial evidence that could be used to prosecute the suspect in the court of law (Weetman & Williams, 2013).
At the crime scene, there was also two skullcaps that were tied together to Ashly’s body. The investigating officers collected these skullcaps as part of the evidence. The analysis of the evidence found at the crime scene helped the investigating officers to locate the exact spot where the crime occurred. For example, the blood in the parking lot was a clear indication that the first stab occurred there. Further analysis showed that Ashely was first stabbed in the throat and as she tried to escape from her attacker she was stabbed on her back. The parking lot was the ideal place where the crime had been committed. The blood in the parking area showed that Ashley had fallen there after being attacked and then dragged into the woods. In-depth evidence analysis in the woods indicated that Ashely was stabbed 32 more times and this was evidenced by her T-shirt that had a few holes because it had been rolled up as the body was being dragged through the woods. Ashely’s ankles, feet, and skullcaps contained the first DNA samples from the suspect. Up to this point, this paper perceives that the investigation officers had collected all the available evidence that could be used to prosecute the suspects. Besides, the collection of the evidence at the crime scene was well orchestrated and also legally obtained since it did not violate any evidence collection law. The search and collection of the biological evidence should be in line with four core aspects; use of the light source to trace the samples, tracing of the sample, size of the sample and confining the sample collection in a specified location (National Forensic Science Technology Center, 2013).
Investigative Steps and Strategies
Successful investigative procedures and strategies require extensive planning, organization, and control mechanism to make sure the investigation objectives are achieved (Weetman, & Williams, 2013). Similarly, the investigative team bestowed with the responsibility to investigate Ashley’s murder employed quick and effective investigation that led to the arresting of the suspects. Apart from the evidence they found at the crime scene, the detectives made quick decision to obtain suspects information as fast as possible before they could escape. For example, they promised a reward of $8,000 to any individual you might have the information about the suspects. The case analysis shows that the officers were able to conduct several interviews based on the leads they got as a result of the tip. Additionally, leading information from the three individuals helped in arresting of the two suspects. The approach using the reward to solicit information from the individuals influenced media and community to offer any available information that could help in the arresting of the suspects. As a result, the two suspects from Grand Senior Community were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
The $80,000 tip could not be successful without the crucial investigation steps that the lead investigator and his team carried out at the crime scene. First, the team searched for the weapon that could have been used to murder Ashely, but it was not found. However, this did not discourage the investigative team from executing their responsibilities. As noted by Brookman & Innes (2013) the investigative officer should never give up even when the possible opportunities fail to work. The investigative team continued to be present even during the autopsy process. Ashely’s body autopsy results revealed that the last ten stabs where in the abdomen. This conclusion was based on the excessive bleeding that exhibited that Ashley was stabbed in the stomach while alive. The hemorrhage evidence was further cemented by the fact that deceased victim body was full of blood. Thirdly, the investigative team traced evidence using sample collected at the crime scene. The sample from the victim’s body comprised of swabbing in the anus, vagina, and anus. The sample obtained from the crime scene included head hair, pubic hair, fingernails, scrapping, and clippings. Fourth, with the help of the Medical Examiner, the investigative team found that sperm sample in the victim’s vagina and anus. The sperm sample was very crucial to the investigative officers since it gave them a DNA evidence that they could compare with suspects’ DNA.
Having analyzed the evidence collected in the scene and samples from the victim’s body, the investigators went ahead to trace Ashely’s identity. They started by looking at the missing person reports and matching the description details with those of Ashley. Ashely’s mother, Mrs. Smith, was informed of her daughter’s death, but she was had to wait until Ashely fingerprints in the bedroom matched those of her remains. The investigation task force was well organized that all reports pertaining the investigation were easily obtained and channeled to the right department. The reports from the reward tip given to the community and media were very effective in arresting the suspects. The detectives used these reports to trace the suspects before Ashley’s death based on the last time seen alive, where she was seen, what she was doing and she was seen with who? The detective was also concerned with the passive data that they would later use to know all Ashley’s friends. Passive data was collected by photographing and videotaping all visitors who attended Ashely’s funeral. Additionally, with the help of Mrs. Smith, the investigative officers were able to know all Ashly’s friends. The information availed by Mrs. Smith helped the detectives identify Ashely’s friends and classmates whom they eliminated from the list suspects through interviews and interrogations. During the investigation process, a community member handed over a weapon which he claimed he had picked near the crime scene. The case analysis shows that he was not aware that the knife had been used to murder until he received news of Ashley’s murder. Based on the facts the knife had been found not far from the location where Ashly’s remains were found, the investigation team carried the forensic test on the red remains on the knife and fingerprints.
Interviewing the Witnesses and Interrogation of the Suspects
Ideally, in any investigation process, interviews and interrogations are used as the major methods of collecting information about the crime (Brookman & Innes, 2013). The witnesses who were close to Ashley were interviewed to establish the movements of the victim before she died. Mrs. Smith, Ashely’s mother, was the first person to be interviewed, and she told the officers who were Ashley friends. Mrs. Smith told the detectives that a day before Ashley death she (Ashley) had gone missing. Mrs. Smith went ahead to advise that she looked for her and found her in the company of two white males whom Ashley identified one of them as Kyle. When asked where she had spent a night, Ashley told her mother she had spent a night in Kristen Williams, her friend’s home. The interview with Mrs. Smith provided information which led to the interviewing of Heather, one of Ashely friends. Heather had not been told of Ashely death instead she was informed that the officers were investigating a runaway case. However, towards the end of the interview, she suspected Ashely had died and started crying. After being told of Ashley’s death, Heather confessed that she was Ashely’s best friend and the last time she had spoken to her was the evening of a day before her body found in the woods. Heather went further to report that of late Ashely was close to Jason Phelps and Kristen Williams. The interview with Jason Phelps eliminated him from the criminal investigation after admitting that he was in a sexual relationship with Ashley. To prove his innocence, Jason agreed to carry voluntary blood test and polygraph test and also permitted police officers to search his room.
Scott Jones was another suspect who was interrogated by the detectives. Unlike other suspects, Scott was informed of his constitutional rights as outlined in the Arizona vs. Miranda case. However, the officers did not tell Scott whether he was a suspect. The lead detective asked Scott whether she knew Ashley and whether she had heard of her murder. Scott connected Ashley’s murder to Fredrick Johnson alias Jay, his friend. It is important to note that Jay had called Ashley’s home after the morning Mrs. Smith reported having found her in the company of two young white males. Scott went ahead to tell the detectives that he heard rumors that Jay stabbed Ashley in the stomach because she was pregnant. However, this information was only availed to the investigating team which was interested in knowing about the stabs in Ashley’s stomach. This gave the limelight to the team because with over hundred interviews, and no one had talked of stomach stabs except Scott. When asked whether she knew Ashley, Scott advised that she had seen Ashley ones and she had never hanged out with her since she was too young. However, later Scott appears to recant this statement.
Later, the detective team informed Scott that together with his friend Jay, they were suspect of killing Ashley. The team went ahead to tell Scott that anonymous callers had identified them as the individuals who killed Ashley. As the interrogation proceeded, Scott gave detailed information on how they committed the crime but shifted the crime to Jay by saying he was the one who was holding the murder weapon. The interrogation of Jay was not detailed as that of Scott because he invoked his self-incrimination constitutional rights. Instead, Jay requested to be interrogated in the presence of a legal counsel. Interviews with suspects’ friends and family members confirmed that weapon used to commit murder belonged to Jay. This was cemented by Crystal Jones who admitted to having been with Jay when purchasing the weapon. The interrogations and interviews revealed that Ashley had been killed by Scott Jones and Fredrick Johnson alias Jay when she refused to have sex with both of them. Additionally, it was found that both Scott and Jay had stabbed Ashly in the stomach as she begged them to let just let her die. The arresting of Scott and Jay as the crime suspects conformed to the call that was made on the day when Ashley murdered to report a reckless driven Toyota car which was occupied by the two young black males and seen within the area of the crime scene.
Defense Efforts to Challenge the Evidence
The defense legal counsel always uses constitution to dispute the evidence provided in the court to prosecute the suspects (Brookman & Innes, 2013). Similarly, the defense, in this case, used the constitution to refute the evidence being used by the prosecutor to charge the suspects. In this case, the collection evidence including the passive data, DNA, and knife was within the provisions of law. The submission by the defense counsel that the knife used to commit crime belonged to Ashley was baseless because it was confirmed that the suspect had used it to stab her stomach. Besides, the investigative team observed the chain of custody as outlined in the § 10-1002 Chain of Physical Custody or Control. The adherence to this provision could not be challenged since the investigation team had the full control of the evidence. Secondly, there was no violation of Fourth and Fifth Amendments resulting from the Miranda case. The knife used to commit murder was voluntarily handed over by the citizen. Therefore, there was no force used to obtain this evidence.
Almost over half of the evidence used in the case came from the crime scene and victim’s body. The DNA samples obtained from the suspects were used to check whether they matched with the sample evidence obtained from the crime scene. Besides, even if in the case the suspects may have been compelled to provide the evidence it was in accordance with the Fourth Amendment of public interest exception. Additionally, the DNA evidence was admissible since it was in line with the Maryland legislation. Maryland’s section 10-915 provides that DNA evidence can be used to determine to identify the suspect. Therefore, no law was violated in the collection of the DNA evidence. Besides, all the DNA evidence was carried on with the approval of the court. Finally, they suspect presented in the court were not compelled to make self-incrimination and were also informed of their constitutional rights before making the confessions.
Course Knowledge vs. the Case
The fundamental information contained in the book readings offer essential investigation principles that can be applied in the collection of evidence and crime investigation. For example, the course reading teaches on the importance of securing the crime scene until the investigators arrive to avoid the entry of unauthorized persons who may interfere with the evidence. Secondly, the course materials offer evidence collection steps conform to the real-life steps that were employed in this case. For example, the investigators in this case examined all the materials they found at the scene. Alternatively, the course materials offer the investigation process that should follow after collecting the evidence from the crime scene; this includes interviewing and interrogating the suspects. However, the real case fails to observe investigation of the crime based on certain circumstances. Ideally, different investigation techniques are suitable for particular types of crimes.The deep analysis of this case depicts that investigative officers obtained evidence in line with the legal requirements. Secondly, the evidence was well utilized by the law enforcers to charge the two suspects with the first-degree murder. This paper has taken this position through exploration of crime, scene investigation, and collection of evidence, investigation methods used by the investigators and collection of crucial information through interrogation and interview, especially the passive data. With the solid evidence, it was easy for the prosecutor to suppress the submissions of the defense legal counsel. Therefore, it is indisputable that this case was one of the well-investigated cases which helped to arrest and to charge the suspects within a short span of time.