The photographer and coroner are en route. As you arrive on the scene, you stop to look at the situation from outside the tape. The body is lying in a wide spot on a sandy trail. A female has taken a shotgun blast to the back of the head. Her pants are down around her ankles, indicating a sexual assault.
You have reached a critical decision point. Once you step under the tape, you are entering the crime scene. What you do from here determines whether valuable track evidence will be destroyed.
The actual investigator, a veteran detective who faced this real situation made the right choices. The first thing he did was stop and study the tracks going into and out of the crime scene. He asked the patrolman over and looked at his tread pattern. He noted the patrolman’s tracks going up to the body and back out. Fortunately, the patrolman was track aware and avoided stepping on any of the other tracks as he checked the pulse. He also knew to walk in and out without doing anything else. Because he had cordoned the area, the crime scene was still track pure. The only tracks other than his were those of the victim and the perpetrator.
The investigator sees the victim’s tracks going into the scene. To the left of the victim’s tracks are a set of Vibram boot tracks. He steps under the tape and studies the boot tracks. They look to be about size 12, probably work boots. Looking closely in the track, he sees a Red Wing logo. Work boots for sure. Looking closer at the track, he notices a slight notch or cut in the lug on the heel of the left foot - a positive identifier.
As he works closer to the body, he can see where the perpetrator stood still for a moment. He notices that at this point, the victim is forced to her knees. The tracks show the rocking movement from the recoil of the shotgun going off. The victim drops face down. The perpetrator then sets the shotgun down, butt plate and barrel leaving a mark in the ground. He moves to the side of the victim and disrobes her. He leaves his DNA when he is finished with the assault. Then the tracks show him stepping over, picking up his shotgun, and walking away down the trail the opposite way. Distasteful to say the least. But the tracks are there, and they tell the story.
The investigator made notations of his observations. As he stood, he saw several patrolmen holding back a curious crowd. He walked towards the crowd and just on a hunch, looked for Red Wing work boots. In fact, he saw a white male in his late twenties wearing work boots and observing the progress of the investigation. He pulled one of the officers over. He asked the patrolman to move the crowd, a few at a time, back across the parking lot, dictating the specific course for them to follow. Five at a time, the patrolman began moving the crowd across the sand parking lot. The investigator stood by his car and waited. When the man with the work boots was moved, the investigator walked out into the lot and looked at the boot prints. They were Red Wing with a particular cut on one lug of the left heel.
He instructed the patrolman to bring the man in question to the car where he was read his rights and arrested. In the interrogation room, the investigator played back the story. The man steadfastly denied any responsibility. But the investigator’s re-creation of the events was so accurate that the man believed he must have had an eyewitness. He then confessed to finding the body, and assaulting it, but not to the murder. After seeking legal counsel, he strikes a no-death-penalty plea and goes away for a 20 year to life sentence.