Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder and a Movie: The Jeffrey Lamb Case

New Clues

The medical examiner, Dr. Barbara Wolf, did an autopsy on Cathy's body to record and document the wounds, as well as determine the cause and mechanism of death. The cause was obvious: homicide. She had been hit reputedly with a blunt implement, and several clear impressions showed that, whatever it was, it had a hexagonal shape and made a repeat pattern. It had effectively crushed Cathy's skull, leaving deep wounds, which indicated that the perpetrator was strong, so probably male, and that the weapon was heavy. Wolf estimated that Cathy had been beaten between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.

While it's difficult to be precise about time of death estimates, the sooner after a death they're made, the more accurate they tend to be. Based on what Cathy had eaten that day for lunch and on other physiological indicators, such as developing rigor mortis and livor mortis, it appeared she had been dead for a while before the emergency call was made.

Detectives got busy canvassing the neighborhood. Since this crime had occurred in the middle of the day, they hoped to find area residents who had been home at the time and who might have seen someone they did not know, especially near the Lamb house. In case the intruder lived among them, investigators asked everyone about someone who might have recently received a dog bite. At each place where they questioned someone, they came away empty-handed. No one had seen anything and there were no injured men. That was discouraging, and precious hours ticked by without result.

The next task was to go through burglary reports to try to find someone who had used a similar MO, especially nearby. In the records they found a young man who'd been arrested in a home the day before Cathy's murder, close to her neighborhood. This looked like a very good possibility. Police tracked down the perpetrator to ascertain his whereabouts during the time in question, but to their disappointment he proved he'd been elsewhere. He had no cuts, scratches or bites that revealed a recent struggle or a tangle with guard dogs, so there was no reason to detain him.

Yet the more they considered the incident at the Lamb house, the more one thing that bothered them: A burglar had entered a home with two vicious dogs. Even with a weapon, it was a high-risk situation, and hardly worth doing just to come away with a few pieces of jewelry — especially with other homes around that did not have such protection. It just didn't add up.

The mouth swabs from the dogs came back negative for human DNA, so to acquire more information about how these dogs would act if a burglar came into the home, detectives consulted a specialist in canine behavior.

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