Specialized Investigative Methods
Between 2015 and 2016, the town of Maryvale in Phoenix was gripped in fear following the emergence of a serial shooter who killed and injured several people. The unidentified shooter killed seven people, while two more were lucky to escape with serious injuries. Following investigations, the killings in Maryvale were first considered to be a triple homicide, with the deaths of Garcia, Verdugo-Sanchez, and Pena occurring in the same neighbourhood and carried out in a similar modus operandi (Staahl, Loew, & Rossi, 2017). Two people who narrowly escaped death following their encounter with the serial killer described him as a small-bodied, dark-haired man in his early twenties. According to the survivors, the man was a Latino of about 5 ft 10 inches tall. However, the law authorities have not ruled out the possibility that several people were involved in the murders, particularly given that a vehicle carrying more than one individual was seen driving away from the scene of two shootings, and three men were seen by witnesses carrying out the murder of Linner and Ellies. Regardless of all these clues, the police have yet to establish any active leads that would result in the arrest of the actual culprit, who may be still walking free.
Specialized Investigative Methods
While it is uncommon to come across a serial homicide with numerous accomplices, the case in Phoenix, Arizona is different. The neighbourhood of Maryvale experienced a number of murders between 17 March 2015 and 11 July 2016, when seven people were shot dead and two others fatally injured by an unidentified shooter (Staahl, Loew, & Rossi, 2017). The serial killer has been connected to a total of 12 shootings between 2015 and 2016, which resulted in the death of nine people and injury to three others. The initial killing happened on 12 August 2015 along East Colter Street in Maryvale; the killer fired several bullets into a 61-year-old man, Raul Romero, on his driveway. On 1 January 2016, Jesse Oliva, a 22-year-old man, was shot to death on 220 North 58th Drive in Maryvale. A few weeks later, a 16-year-old boy was fatally shot and wounded at 1100 East Moreland Street while taking a walk around 11.30 p.m., which was initially believed to be the first killing of the serial street shooter. By 11 July 2016, more individuals had become victims of the Maryvale serial killer, who is still believed to be at large.
So far, the police have identified two individuals as the possible Maryvale serial killer. In March 2017, the Phoenix police department publicly named Frank Taylor as a suspect in the Maryvale shootings (CrimeSider Staff, 2016). However, the suspect was shot dead while attempting to rob a female Maryvale resident a few weeks after the 11 July shootings. After the woman shot him with her own gun, Taylor was identified by numerous people as a potential suspect in the case. The second suspect was 23-year old Aaron Saucedo, who was identified by another felon. While the man was arrested on 22 April 2017 on unrelated charges, a 21 year-old person of interest picked out Saucedo in a line-up of six possible suspects (Yan, Moshtaghian, & Park, 2016). Saucedo had initially been arrested in the 2015 murder of Raul Romero, who was a friend of his mother. Ballistics confirmed that the weapon used in the murder of Romero was a 9mm Hi-pistol, which was similar to the one owned by Saucedo (Yan, Moshtaghian, & Park, 2016). Further, Saucedo had a car similar to one of the models witnessed at an earlier crime scene and looked a lot like the man on the sketch provided by the police. Even though the weapon was similar to the one used in the freeway shootings that occurred in Phoenix in 2015, the Arizona Department of Safety repudiated Saucedo from having any connections to those shootings, and considered another man as being a suspect in the killings. While Saucedo was arraigned in court for the murders, he pleaded not guilty to all the charges brought against him. Thus, the only two suspects in the Maryvale murders have not been found guilty of the serial homicides, and there is a strong possibility that the serial killer is still roaming free among the town’s residents.
Special Unit or Specialized Officers
A specialized unit of investigators will be involved in solving the Maryvale serial shootings. Instead of using officers that were initially involved in the case, the specialized unit will concentrate all its efforts and resources into developing a fresh perspective to the unsolved serial homicide case. The unit will be comprised of investigators with several years of experience in such cases, especially those who have built networks that will assist in acquiring the needed support while investigating the serial shootings in Maryvale. By using such investigators, the Phoenix Police Department will benefit from a new and unbiased perspective that will help them put to rest the unresolved serial murders in their jurisdiction.
- Documenting the Crime Scene
It is important to realize that most of the vital information about a serial homicide case can only be collected from the actual crime scene. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that the gathering of such evidence is done correctly. In the case of the Maryvale shootings, the investigators will have to rely on already collected evidence since there have been no more shootings since 11 July 2016.
- Gathering Evidence
While gathering evidence for the serial murders, it is important for the investigators to ensure that they do not only focus on the scene of the crime but instead, begin by assessing the boundaries and considering the approach used, including the entry and exit points from the crime scene (Palcu & Morostes, 2016). Before focusing on solving the crime, it is vital for an investigator to create a big picture of the crime scene in the mind or on paper, by considering the whole neighborhood, its inhabitants, roads, parks, and pathways. To carry out investigations into the crime, it is necessary for the police to first take control of the crime scene. In the case of the Maryvale shootings, a wider area needed to be cordoned off to allow the investigators to carry out their tasks.
Since the shooting ceased in 2016, an investigator seeking to solve the Maryvale killings cannot anymoe cordon the areas where the shooting occurred. Instead, the investigators should carry out an initial survey of the area by walking through the scene of the crimes, which will allow them to mentally take in the crime scene and create plausible scenarios in the mind (Morton, Tillman, & Gianes, 2012). At the same time, it is important for them to start taking pictures of the scene to compare with those taken during the initial investigations into the case. To establish the series of events or the cause of death of the victims, the investigators should use a personal recorder or take notes to document their discoveries that could later be used as testimony in court. Further, taking notes is essential to allow an investigator to slow down and become more deliberative while making observations.
A thorough description of the victim should be provided. Complete information regarding the victim should be given, including their background, age, sex, clothing, and any other visible injuries. A complete description of the surroundings should also be provided, including the position and location of the body in relation to other items in the crime scene (Sennewald & Tsukayama, 2014). Any obvious weapons within the vicinity should be noted down, including knives and firearms. The investigators at the crime scene should also be on the lookout for any other objects that could serve as potential weapons, including electrical cords, cooking utensils, and workshop tools. Exhaustive notes should be taken of any proximate weapons without touching them as doing so could contaminate the evidence. At the same time, any obvious signs of violence, including bullet holes, bloodstains, shell casings, and any medication bottles or vials, should be taken into consideration (Dutelle, 2016). At the initial stage of the investigations, no evidence should be collected. Instead, the investigators should focus on observing the scene and documenting anything that they consider to be relevant before personnel from the evidence lab can collect the evidence.
The most important feature while investigating a serial homicide is crime scene staging analysis. It is common for serial killers to manipulate the crime scene in a move to confuse and misdirect the investigator from the real motive for killing or the true cause of death (Brandl, 2017). Given that the Maryvale shootings occurred on the streets, the killer could be attempting to stage his serial homicides to look like accidents or random shooting. At the same time, the investigators should accept the possibility that the serial killer could have staged the bodies in a way that was intended to show contempt of the media and the police. Therefore, it is vital for the investigators in this case to consider who would be most likely to benefit from staging the crime scene as it appeared.
- Interview/Interrogation Protocols
Before conducting interviews of any suspects, it is important for the investigators to get a detailed account on what the on-scene police officer have seen and done. In most case, the officers at the scene of the crime are likely to be too enthusiastic to share their theories regarding the case, manner, and conditions that led to the death of the victims (Morton, Tillman, & Gianes, 2012). Taking these observations and opinions into consideration will be fundamental in guiding the investigators into making their own opinions and observations about the case. Even though most investigators are likely to rely on recognizing the patterns connecting the killing to each other, each homicide case is unique and might require developing a fresh perspective or approach to identify the culprit or possible perpetrators of the crime.
The most important interviews are those that are conducted at the scene of the crime. Therefore, it is important for the investigators to interview any potential witnesses at the scene of the crime to take advantage of their fresh memories from the occurrences (Morton, Tillman, & Gianes, 2012). When the investigators speak to witnesses at the scene of the crime, they are likely to be led to gathering more vital evidence that might have been earlier overlooked or destroyed. While some witnesses can be taken to the police station for additional questioning about the crime, there are some who would be good to revisit at a later date. Given that a majority of serial killers tend to focus on only a precise type of victims, the best way through which investigators can develop the profile of a serial killer is to understand his or her victims.
Since there are still no viable suspects for the Maryvale murders, developing a thorough assessment of the victim can assist the police to solve the case. Referred to as victimology awareness, developing an intricate understanding of the victim is integral in instances where witnesses are unable to provide any productive leads and when there are minimal clues in the crime scene to assist with a definitive determination (Roach, & Pease, 2016). Understanding the victims, where they lived, worked, and their social relations, would assist the investigators in determining whether they were victimized, who the serial killer is, and his ideal type of victim. Such form of victim identification plays an essential role in allowing the families of the victims to get closure following the death of their loved ones.
At the end of the investigative process, the investigators should make a written report of all their findings. Keeping an auditable record is an effective method of ensuing that the investigators provide fundamental reasons behind their choice of certain investigative actions. Through recording such information, the investigators are able to demonstrate a high level of accountability and integrity throughout the investigative process, which is considered to be an invaluable resource for both the initial and subsequent investigators and the police department as well (Palcu & Morostes, 2016). The report can also be used to indicate the options of the investigative actions that were used and the rationale for all the decisions that were made during the investigative process.
Implications for the Prosecution of a Criminal Case
While a preliminary investigation into a criminal case is conducted once a crime is brought to the attention of the law enforcement authorities, the prosecution only becomes involved in the case once a suspect has been arrested. In less serious offences, the police often carry out the entire preliminary investigations. On the other hand, the prosecutor is often considered responsible for making sure that the more serious crimes are investigated in the best possible manner (Butler, 2016). Thus, once a suspect in the Maryvale killings has been identified and arrested, the police will only conduct investigations based on the instructions given by the prosecutor. The information contained in the investigators’ report would be useful to the prosecution during trial upon the arrest of the suspect.
Despite the identification of two suspects in the Maryvale serial shootings, no one has been found guilty of the serial homicides that gripped the town for two years. While Aaron Saucedo has yet to be found guilty of the nine killings, there is a possibility that the prosecution might not find him guilty of the murders. Taking a fresh perspective into the case is more likely to result in the identification of other suspects and the identification of the actual serial street shooter.
Brandl, S. G. (2017). Criminal investigation. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.
Butler, J. (2016). The relationship between birth order and victim selection in serial killers. Doctoral dissertation, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
CrimeSider Staff. (2016). Phoenix police: 7 dead in 8 attacks by “serial street shooter”. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/phoenix-serial-street-shooter-police-believe-7-deaths-8-shootings-linked/
Dutelle, A. W. (2016). An introduction to crime scene investigation. New York, NY: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Morton, R. J., Tillman, J. M., & Gianes, S. J. (2012). Serial murders: Pathways for investigations. Washington, D.C.: National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
Palcu, P., & Morostes, A. F. (2016). Profiling as a logical form of reasoning in order to solve controversial circumstances on the crime scene. Journal of Legal Studies, 17(31), 46-57.
Roach, J., & Pease, K. (2016). Identifying suspects. In Self-Selection Policing (pp. 11-26). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
Sennewald, C. A., & Tsukayama, J. (2014). The process of investigation: Concepts and strategies for investigators in the private sector. New York, NY: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Staahl, D., Loew, M., & Rossi, D. (2017). ‘Person of interest’ identified in Phoenix serial street shooter case; DPS denies link to freeway shooter case. AZ Family. Retrieved from http://www.azfamily.com/story/35232692/person-of-interest-identified-in-phoenix-serial-street-shooter-case-dps-denies-link-to-freeway-shooter-case
Yan, H., Moshtaghian, A., & Park, M. (2016). Phoenix police: Suspected serial killer linked to 9 shootings, 7 deaths. CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/04/us/phoenix-serial-shootings/
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