The Dollhouse Murders: A Forensic Expert Investigates 6 Little Crimes

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9780131451650: The Dollhouse Murders: A Forensic Expert Investigates 6 Little Crimes

The Dollhouse MurdersA Forensic Expert Investigates 6 Little CrimesThomas P. Mauriello With Ann Darby/Photographs by John Consoli Ever wonder what it's like to walk into a real crime scene? Inside The DollhouseMurders lies a strange world of razor-sharp stories that show exactly how serious crimesare investigated. Walk through these miniature rooms with the Detective, who thinks instinctsjust get you into trouble, and his younger partner, who seems to have them all the time, towitness the state of the art in modern forensic techniques and the simple genius of aneffective investigation. Eleven years ago, preeminent expert on crime scene forensics Thomas Mauriello built sixdioramas to help him teach his crime lab students how to "peel" a crime scene. He inventedscenarios and then meticulously fabricated the clues and their setting. Over the years thesebizarre dioramas have been featured in men's magazines, a medical institute bulletin, aminiature-collector magazine, and an array of popular science media.But now, in collaborationwith the brilliant novelist and science writer Ann Darby, Thomas Mauriello has produced thestories that go with his dioramas and thus made his science more accessible than ever before. Together with over 40 of John Consoli's ingenious full-color photographs, this is a uniquewindow into the gritty, imperfect world of solving crimes. As these hard-boiled compelling narratives demonstrate, a strategic investigation harnessesthe talents of a variety of teams, from the uniformed officers and detectives to the evidencetechnicians and medical examiners. When they begin their work, the lab results are not in, andno one can be certain exactly what crime has been committed or even if one has been committedat all. Nevertheless, the "manager"-the ranking detective first on the scene-is the personwho determines whether the key evidence is noticed or not. The questions he asks set the wholearmy of criminal investigators on the right track or the wrong one. Time to get out the crime scene tape. It's another day on the job for the Detective of TheDollhouse Murders-a book that takes criminal investigation to a new level of exquisite detail."In these simple stories, the fundamental questions of all crime scenes are set out. Andtheir dollhouse resolution is often-like human justice-only the best we can do." -from the Preface Praise for THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS "In The Dollhouse Murders, Thomas Mauriello, an outstanding authority in thefield, has produced an excellent way to understand how crime scene investigation reallyworks. I recommend it to professionals as well as armchair sleuths. These stories and photographsaren't just instructive-they 're exquisite." -Dr. Gerald W. Lynch President of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice "I've seen a lot of creepily fascinating stuff in my years as a forensic writer, butnothing quite as mesmerizing as Tom Mauriello's graphically detailed miniature crime scenes. Ifwe can't all attend Tom's renowned laboratory exercises, at least we can delve into TheDollhouse Murders." -Jessica Snyder Sachs Author of Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to PinpointTime of Death

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About the Author:

About the Authors and Photographer

Thomas P. Mauriello has taught crime scene investigation and managed the Crime Laboratory forthe University of Maryland at College Park, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, forthe last 26 years. A former police officer and investigator for the state of Maryland, he isalso employed by the U.S. Department of Defense, and is presently the Director of theInteragency OPSEC Support Staff. He is the author of the legal text, Criminal InvestigationHandbook: Strategy, Law, and Science, which is now in its 13th edition. He and his family livein Howard County, Maryland.

Ann Darby is a critically acclaimed bestselling fiction writer and author of the novel TheOrphan Game. She is also a science writer and was an editor at Scientific American Medicine.She lives in New York City.

John Consoli is an award-winning photographer. He lives in Maryland.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Preface

"I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see."

-From The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Since 1980, I have taught a course that I designed for the Department of Criminology andCriminal Justice at the University of Maryland at College Park, titled "Introduction toCriminalistics." Criminalistics, more commonly known as forensic sciences, is the scientificexamination of physical evidence so that it can be made most useful in a court of law.Initially most of the students signing up for the class were undergraduate criminal justice andpre-law students, but very soon biology and chemistry majors began enrolling. Many of them werethinking about working in a crime laboratory when they graduated, and indeed, many of them arenow doing so.

The course was designed to take a strategic look at the scientific methods used in theinvestigation, detection, and resolution of criminal activity. As a class, we have explored allthe vital phases of the forensic sciences and the criminal investigation process by means ofclass lectures, audiovisual presentations, crime laboratory exercises, text readings, and theopportunity to learn from visiting forensic scientists who were experts in their respectivefields. Although the course was popular with the students—especially with the addition of ourcrime laboratory on campus—after about ten years, I realized there was something missing. Thestudents' lack of understanding of how to apply the theories they were learning still affectedtheir ability to integrate their newfound knowledge into a practical setting. Academia tends toteach each topic of study separately, and as a result students cannot grasp how each topicdepends on others.

In early 1992 I had an insight about how we could improve the situation. I visited the MedicalExaminer's Office of the State of Maryland in Baltimore, and while I was there, I came upon aroom that had a series of dollhouses displayed in elaborate settings. I learned that aneccentric millionaire who founded Harvard's Department of Legal Medicine, the nation's firstuniversity program in forensic pathology, donated a number of her dollhouses to the MedicalExaminer's Office. International Harvester heiress Francis Glessner created these miniatureone-inch-scale death scene dollhouses in the 1940s and 50s and named them "nutshell studies."She used them in an annual homicide investigation seminar that trained homicide investigatorsfrom all over the country. Those seminars are still being hosted today by the state of Marylandsome 40 years after her death. This concept appeared to be the answer to my problem. For myclass, I decided to create dollhouse dioramas focusing on the crime scene investigation processand demonstrating the importance of a strategic investigation that marshals a variety ofprofessional teams.

I immediately went to work on my "Crime Scene Cases." The University of Maryland's Departmentof Criminology and Criminal Justice commissioned Nathaniel "Doc" Hodgdon of Doctor's Dollhouseof Severna Park, Maryland, to design and construct the dioramas. Doc, his wife, and daughterbuilt the dioramas with Plexiglas ceilings and front walls. Doc's assistant, Sherry Zadow, didthe interior design. Each diorama is a one-inch-scale, miniaturized crime scene, representingan exact replica of how a crime scene would appear according to the scenario I wrote.

Doctor's Dollhouse worked closely with me to ensure that each diorama was constructed toprovide a realistic setting, consistent with each pre-written scenario. The final stages calledfor the assistance of two of my criminal justice students, Frank Mort and John Shoemaker, whohelped me with the final crime scene scenario development and selection of specific physicalevidence exhibits to be left at each crime scene consistent with the scenarios. I created thephysical evidence representations with the assistance of graphic artists Arthur Green andPamela Shaffer; sculpture artist Candace Beck; and decorative artist, my lovely wife, LaurieMauriello. All the physical evidence is simulated in each scene except for latent fingerprints.At a one-inch scale, it would be impossible to see fingerprint ridge details; therefore, theyare not present in the scenes.

The dioramas were first used in my class during the fall semester of the same year, 1992. Theyhave been in use as a teaching aid ever since, and have proven to be an excellent method oftesting students' specific knowledge of the crime scene investigation process and physicalevidence recognition. During the laboratory exercise, the students conduct a crime sceneinvestigation, and in doing so they must examine the crime scene, identify all the evidence,and ask the right questions of victims and witnesses.

Watching crime dramas on television is a passive experience. My students must place themselvesin the mindsets of ordinary characters and crime scene professionals. Because the crime sceneis the first stage of the investigation, crime laboratory results are not available, butnevertheless, the process begins—either on the right track or the wrong one. Uniformed policeofficers are usually the first responders representing the legal process. They take the initialreport, determine what crime has been committed, and then turn it over to the detectives if itis determined to be a felony. Meanwhile, EMTs (emergency medical technicians) arrive to rendermedical assistance to injured victims.

And then there are the detectives, who are responsible for conducting and managing theinvestigation of felony cases. Under their management, the evidence technicians (on the WestCoast they are referred to as the criminalists) process the crime scene by searching,photographing and sketching the crime scene then finding, identifying, collecting, packaging,and transporting all physical evidence to the crime laboratory. Finally, there is the medicalexaminer, who is responsible for examining a body at a crime scene and subsequently autopsyingthe body to determine the manner, mode, time, and cause of death.

Forensic science as depicted on television can give the impression that everything done in aninvestigation—from responding to the crime scene and identifying and examining evidence tointerviewing witnesses and arresting suspects—is done by one group of players, who happen tobe the stars of the television show. This is an unrealistic view of a process that requiresmany different teams and kinds of professionals. Of course one of the most important is thefirst detective on the scene, the person who sets in motion a strategic investigation. And itis this character who is at the beginning, middle, and end of the narrative versions of thedioramas that have been written for this book.

Following the detective in these pages—no particular detective, no particular doll, just anoff-camera guy doing his job—and looking at what he looks at will enable readers to get abetter idea of how modern crime investigation really occurs. In these simple stories, thefundamental questions of all serious crime scenes are set out. And their dollhouse resolutionis often, like human justice, only the best we can do.

-T.P.M.

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