AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

August 30, 2011

SPECIAL REPORT—Crime Writers’ Homicide School

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 7:08 pm

Sgt. Derek Pacifico examines the slide on his Glock

“Peek under the shirt and see if there’s a spot of green on the belly. If so, he’s at stage-one decomp. ”

“A decomp-smoothie isn’t something you buy at Jamba Juice.”

“DA’s are horrible at bifurcating these two ideas: probable cause versus proof.”

Overheard at Crime Writers’ Homicide School.

Below: A “Super Glue Body Tent” erected at a real homicide crime scene to capture latent fingerprints from the body. The shadow of the decedent can be seen inside the tent.

Below: Image from “How to Re-create Rolling Tire Tracks.”

Below: Real-life homicide scene in the middle of a card game. The gunshot victim was seated right. Note the “void” of blood where he was seated.

Below: A portion of the August, 2011 class poses for the camera.

Left to Right: Gobind Tanaka, Marjorie McCown, Diane Vallere, Melissa M. Garcia, Sybil Johnson, Andrew Pierce, Sgt. Derek Pacifico, Mar Preston

Derek welcomes feedback in the comments section and would like to hear the courses and topics readers would like to see offered. He’s very open to suggestions, so please let your views be known. Elaine Ash



  1. “To spend this much time with police detectives, I would’ve had to commit a felony and get arrested. ”

    I love this, Elaine and you’re right. I got to ask perplexing questions like “What does a Detective call his boss? And what does a Detective call the car he drives around in?”

    Those kind of questions are really hard to find out and try calling up the police station and asking.

    I’ll never forget the story about the morgue assistant offering a newcomer a skull cap filled with decomp brain tissue. No need to reproduce it here.

    All in all a great time. See my own enthusiastic write up at

    Comment by Mar Preston — August 30, 2011 @ 7:55 pm

  2. I can’t express to you just how much fun I had with this class. I’ve been teaching cops for a dozen years now and have traveled coast to coast presenting my material; writers are way more fun. The attendees enthusiasm during the course and afterward is unmatched by the often jaded police audiences. With the response I received from all those in attendance, I am feverishly making plans for the next course date, new titles and conference dates for 2012.

    Please be on the look out for emails and check in periodically at

    Until next time, please be safe. (I already got one email from someone who indeed accidentally cut her finger in the kitchen and threw some blood around the sink to see how it landed as per our discussion in class. Totally had me laughing out loud.)

    All the best,

    Comment by Derek Pacifico — August 30, 2011 @ 9:56 pm

  3. So lots and lots of people out there are getting trained in how to kill folks and get away with it. But they’re all writers. Or ARE they? 🙂

    Comment by charlesgramlichCharles Gramlich — August 31, 2011 @ 5:05 am

  4. I just had to put my booger-pickers on the keyboard to comment on this. What an opprtunity for a writer!

    Comment by Al Tucher — August 31, 2011 @ 7:32 am

  5. Hi guys! Actually, when I saw all the methods of detection available to homicide squads, I called off the murder I was plotting against my husband for next week. (Er, that is, if I had a husband, theoretically, I might be plotting to kill him. Isn’t that a common female fantasy?) But I digress…the course would be a deterrent to me. It’s very difficult to pull off a successful homicide, and although people can and do get away with it, the risk is really high. So the payoff has to be even higher. There are easier ways to get rid of someone than by killing them, it seems to me, and the course affirmed it.

    Comment by ashedit — August 31, 2011 @ 8:30 am

  6. I’ve been thinking about questions I would have asked if I had been there, and they tend to concern the legalities of what police may or may not do. For instance, many times on Law and Order and other police shows, investigators take fingerprints of people who had legitimate business at the crime scene for purposes of elimination. Are the police entitled to those fingerprints, or may they merely ask for them?

    Comment by Al Tucher — August 31, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  7. Hi Al, well the answer to your question is that we ask for them. I have never been turned down in all my years by someone who was unwilling to have their fingerprints eliminated from the crime. Those who are innocent surely don’t mind and indeed want their prints used to eliminate from comparison so we can catch the real criminal.



    Comment by Derek Pacifico — August 31, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  8. Thank you Derek, you’re the best. I’d also like to add that the free tote bags you gave out to participants in the class were also very welcome, (with the Global training Institute logo). Inside, was a heavy-duty measuring tape. Nice swag!

    Comment by ashedit — August 31, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  9. Sounds like a really interesting class. Although those photographs would have made me go light at lunch. Like maybe a glass of water.

    The saddest pic was the poker game. No amount of money is worth killing over, but it seems worse when there’s only one dollar bills and coins on the table.

    Comment by Mark Boss — August 31, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  10. Mark, you are echoing a comment that we raised in class. It looked like a pretty sorry little game to us, too. But very instructive.

    Comment by ashedit — August 31, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

  11. @Elaine thanks for the plug about the gifts. I always give out something at my classes and so far, no one has been disappointed yet. It’s a little bit of Christmas at everyone of my events.

    @Mark, you can’t be that squeamish and be a mystery or crime writer can ya’? You’ll have to come to one of my classes and get “de-sensitized”. Once you can watch and autopsy and then go out for lunch and eat lasagna, you know you’ve got the right stuff.

    Comment by Derek Pacifico — August 31, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  12. I have always found this grisly stuff really interesting and I’m drawn to the Dark Side. Maybe it’s because I’m such a Goody Two Shoes in real life.

    You tell people you’re fascinated with crime scene photos and they look at you funny. Do any of you have these reactions from people?

    Who knows? Maybe it’s something else weird about me that I’m not even aware of. Oh, dear.

    Comment by Mar Preston — August 31, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

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