Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LA Forensics: The Signature Murders

The First Crime Scene

Luis Garcia's body lay near a daybed in the living room, his head nearly underneath. Given the apparent spattering of blood in various places, and the fresh bruises on the victim's face, it appeared that he'd put up a fierce struggle against his attacker. He'd been strangled with the cord of a clock radio — a weapon from the scene — so it seemed possible that the killer had intended only to burglarize the place, not to commit murder. Still, he didn't flee or disable his victim; he killed him and then took his time ransacking several rooms. But how had he gotten past the locked doors?

Nichols Crime Scene
Nichols Crime Scene

The apartment's rear west window was partially open, with the screen removed and placed inside, suggesting that this was the killer's likely point of entry. A sheet that lay over the couch in front of the window appeared to have been slightly disturbed.

Below the window outside were a row of gas meters. The detectives spotted a folding knife lying on top of one, with the blade exposed, suggesting it had been used to pry off the screen. They made a note to look for footprints and fingerprints outside.

All of this implied that the intruder was a stranger, not someone who could have gained entry to the home more easily. He'd probably left through the front door, which accounted for it being unlocked and partially open.

In support of the burglary-gone-bad theory, the door of a cabinet in the living room stood ajar and a jewelry box sat open on a love seat; there was nothing inside. In addition, a television and VCR had been removed from a shelf and left on the floor. Apparently, the burglar had decided against taking them.

Next to the daybed was a desk, on which there were splotches that looked like blood. The desk chair was on the floor, knocked over, and the top of the desk was cracked, as if during the hypothesized struggle, someone had fallen heavily onto it.

There were more red spots on the cuff and arm of a shirt and a denim jacket, and several in multiple locations around the room. Oddly, near the victim's right foot lay a black leather belt, loosely coiled, which had no apparent purpose. Perhaps the perpetrator had thought about using it to strangle the victim and decided instead on the clock radio cord. In that case, he might have left his fingerprints on the belt.

In the bedroom, dresser drawers had been pulled, with the contents moved around. In some, there were bloodstained items. A coin holder was knocked over and pennies were scattered around. Of the two beds, one was turned down as if someone had been sleeping in it. It appeared from the position of several empty hangers that items of clothing had been taken.

A trail of blood drops in the hall, along the wall, led Detective Thacker to the small bathroom, where he found blood drops on the sink. It appeared that the intruder had cut himself, which was good news, because they could collect blood samples to match to a suspect, whenever they developed one. This was the type of evidence that solved cases.

"Based on the totality of the circumstances," said Detective Small, "with the scuffle and all the blood throughout the crime scene, we were pretty confident that the suspect had left his blood inside this location."

The kitchen was the only room that appeared untouched. Once the detectives checked out the scene, which they considered "evidence rich," they turned it over to the criminalistics team.

 

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