Making Murder Look Like Suicide or an Accident

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MC:
If you believe CSI it's become almost impossible to get away with murder because of the advances in forensics, and the only way you can is to be a super-villain who's even smarter and cleverer than the cops and the Medical Examiner.
This seems to be borne out by high-profile real cases covered in the media.
But what's the reality? Do all deaths get investigated down to this level of detail or only the ones that the cops have serious suspicions about?
Is it still possible to make a murder look like a suicide and get away with it?
(I hasten to add this is on topic, not because I want to get rid of anyone!).

You cannot compromise an artist's vision.
Ed Wood
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Anonymous:
[nq:1]Is it still possible to make a murder look like a suicide and get away with it? (I hasten to add this is on topic, not because I want to get rid of anyone!).[/nq]
Wasn't there a recent thread about this, something about killing someone without rousing suspicion? Maybe looking there could help. But it'd be a difficult trick to pull off - modern forensics are pretty sophisticated. The villain would have to be a diabolical genius... I smell a thriller.
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Bert Coules:
Curously, I'm just in the middle of a script that features a murder disguised as a suicide. Happily, it's set in 1895, when forensic science wasn't anything like as advanced as it later became. Mind you, if you're a murderer whose fake suicide is being investigated by Sherlock Holmes, you still have to be mighty clever to be in with a hope of getting away with it.

Bert
www.bertcoules.co.uk
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MC:
[nq:2]Is it still possible to make a murder look like ... topic, not because I want to get rid of anyone!).[/nq]
[nq:1]Wasn't there a recent thread about this, something about killing someone without rousing suspicion? Maybe looking there could help. But ... off - modern forensics are pretty sophisticated. The villain would have to be a diabolical genius... I smell a thriller.[/nq]
The challenge for the writer (to say nothing of the murderer) is certainly a lot more difficult than it used to be.

The problem that arises is that the villain who gets away with it has to be either diabolically clever and that may not be in character or get very lucky. After all, not all cops and MEs are paragons of professionalism.

You cannot compromise an artist's vision.
Ed Wood
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nmstevens:
[nq:1]If you believe CSI it's become almost impossible to get away with murder because of the advances in forensics, and ... away with it? (I hasten to add this is on topic, not because I want to get rid of anyone!).[/nq]
The reason that the crimes in TV shows and murders are complicated is not because complicated, intricate crimes are more likely to succeed (any more than complicated, intricate machinery), but to satisfy the demands of drama.
The best crime, like the best machine, is optimally simple.

Get the potential victim someplace really high with access to the drop. Do it in a way that doesn't require you to lie to anybody about it. Make sure that you can push him without being observed by anybody and push him.
When you "realize" that he's gone presumably fallen then do exactly what you would do in the event that you'd discovered exactly that in real life. Run and try to get help.
If you're questioned, tell the truth (except for the part about pushing him). Any reason to believe it was a suicide? If not, then say so.

You'd be surprised, in cases like this, how many times it is the behavior of the killer, rather than any physical evidence, that sets off alarms. No remorse, or no affect, or obviously fake tears.

Doing it, per se, is technically rather easy. The trick is the "performance" that follows. How many people have you met in the immediate aftermath of a tragic, unexpected death? I imagine not many.

The police, on the other hand, deal with people in that state of mind constantly. The relatives of people who've been murdered, of people who've died in car crashes, of people who've committed suicide.

They see the real thing dozens of times a year. Do that for twenty years and you really get a sense of how real people really behave in those situations, such that something that is fake or put on really stands out.
Of course, if your behavior is off even if they suspect you so long as you stick to your guns, you may get through.

The trouble, of course, is that generally people have a motive for committing murder, other than simply getting away with it. They're sleeping with somebody else, they need the insurance money. they're covering something up.
And once they suspect you, they're going to be all over you.

You'd be amazed how many people who do this sort of thing will, for instance, get a million dollars of insurance, call the insurance company to confirm that the waiting period has passed, and then commit murder the next day (one guy even called the insurance company to confirm that the way he was planning to accidentally kill his "loved one" was specifically covered - and then went out and did it).

I think that one must understand most people, to start with, are pretty stupid. Under normal circumstances, committing murder in the first place, if pretty stupid. Generally, there are better ways to go. Beyond that, most people are rendered even more stupid when they have to act under stress, which, unless you're a sociopath, committing murder is highly stressful.
So in most cases, you have stupidity compounded by stupidity, compounded by stupidity.
NMS
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Apollyon:
[nq:1]If you believe CSI it's become almost impossible to get away with murder because of the advances in forensics, and ... away with it? (I hasten to add this is on topic, not because I want to get rid of anyone!).[/nq]
The ways and means of disguising a murder as a suicide was discussed in a recent thread (I still have the migraine to prove it). But you do raise an interesting point, one that I've often wondered whenever I watch CSI, and that is the accessibility of such high-tech resources in most criminal cases.
Flick through any newspaper and you will come across numerous reports of crimes which are unplanned and seem thoroughly unsophisticated to meticulous minds such as ours. It's probable that the assailant has given no prior consideration to whether he has left behind a fibre from his/her jacket or a minute flake of skin, or whether a bead of sweat dropped on the victim during the attack. And yet a great many of these crimes remain unsolved.
I have no doubt that programmes like CSI are very accurate in their portrayal of the methods of detection available, but I should think the cost of such equipment would be beyond the means of most PDs. And even if they did have access to such technology, the level of violent crime would probably prevent most murder victims from receiving the attention they deserve.
Of course, that then presents a problem for the crime writer. If the audience knows such technology is available, will they accept a modern murder mystery / police procedural which doesn't provide a dazzling array of gizmos at the cop's disposal?
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Marifasus lupinus:
[nq:1]If you believe CSI it's become almost impossible to get away with murder because of the advances in forensics, and ... deaths get investigated down to this level of detail or only the ones that the cops have serious suspicions about?[/nq]
I think the part of your question "Do all deaths get investigated down to this level of detail" is the real crux of the matter. Yes, if all deaths were investigated as rigorously as the deaths in the CSI shows, and if the murderer (i) had a relationship of some kind with the victim or (ii) had DNA on file somewhere, generally because of a prior conviction, then it would be very, very, very difficult to get away with murder.
However, 99.9% of murders do not receive that degree of attention and in real life it's a lot easier (though not easy, especially if (i) and (ii) obtain) to get away with murder.In New York City recently there was a very high-profile murder where a graduate student was killed and disposed of in a very lurid style. Because she was in a demographic that is not supposed to be murdered, because of the lurid details, and because the tabloids pumped the crime to high heavens, the police investigated it to the hilt. They got their man almost immediately (well, he hasn't been tried yet, but it's obvious he did it) and the crucial piece of evidence is biological he used plastic ties as part of his mistreatment of her body, and although he wiped them down so that none of her or his blood was visible, he did not realize that there were nonetheless clear plasma components still on the ties.

These were found by the forensics people, analyzed, and a match was found with his blood.

While it's tempting to count this as a victory of the sort you describe Our Amazing Crime Technology it was a spectacularly stupid crime. The man was an employee of the bar she last left and was in fact asked by management to escort her out. He was seen outside with her. His cell phone records showed he had made a call near the spot where her body was dumped, at around the time it was dumped. He had a serious criminal record and his DNA (or at least his blood type, I forget) was on file. So the P.D.'s success had a lot more to do with his imbecility than with Super Science.
-ml
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Otto Mation \Caroline Freisen\:
[nq:2]If you believe CSI it's become almost impossible to get ... only the ones that the cops have serious suspicions about?[/nq]
[nq:1]I think the part of your question "Do all deaths get investigated down to this level of detail" ... on file. So the P.D.'s success had a lot more to do with his imbecility than with Super Science. -ml[/nq]
I remember the case. However, had the presumed perpetrator been paying more attention to the crime detection information readilly available on TV, he would have known that wiping down the crime scene with chlorine bleach would destroy DNA, and assuming that was the identifiable componenet in the blood serum, police would have been reduced to purely circumstantial evidence, and he may not have been as easily nailed for the crime... But it WAS a clumsy and stupid execution of the deed.
Caroline
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Sammyo:
Captured killer statistics I remember reading
is around 50%. Seems like someone is getting
away with it.
The one I read recently, kid on a play field was
just 'in the way'. The killer raced off. No one in the community would testify. So find a community
that has an 'honor' code that precludes 'squeeling' and you may get away with about anything.
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