Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder and a Movie: The Jeffrey Lamb Case

Blood Work

Blood pattern analysis is a complicated discipline that requires experience with many different situations to be able to perform an accurate reading. Even then, it's an interpretive art. Different types of bloodstains indicate how blood was projected from a wound. It may drip out, spray out, ooze, trickle, or be flung off a weapon raised to strike another blow. Scottish pathologist John Glaister formally classified blood patterns during the 1930s into six distinct types:

  1. Drops on a horizontal surface
  2. Splashes, from blood flying through the air and hitting a surface at an angle
  3. Pools around the body, which can show if it's been dragged
  4. Spurts from a major artery or vein
  5. Smears left by movement of a bleeding person
  6. Trails, either in form of smears when a bleeding body is dragged, or in droplets when it is carried.

Any of these patterns or shapes can be traced to their point of origin by considering such factors as the surface on which it fell, the angle at which it hit, and the distance it traveled from the source. Thus, bloodstain patterns can assist investigators in interpreting the positions of wounded bodies and the means by which a victim and suspect moved through a crime scene. A reconstruction of the scene helps the investigators determine which of the witnesses and suspects is telling the truth or lying. With Cathy Lamb, there was castoff from the implement striking her several times, and her own movement before she died. There was no evidence from blood that she had been moved from where she was killed. There was not much of any complication at this scene.

However, the blood on Lamb's jeans was a different matter. The shape of a blood drop, when it lands, can reveal significant information. The proportion can reveal the amount of energy needed to disburse droplets of those dimensions and the shape can illustrate the direction in which it was traveling and angle at which it struck the surface. Basic trigonometry enables investigators to develop a three-dimensional recreation of the area of blood's origin.

If blood falls a short distance—around twelve inches—at a 45-degree angle, the marks tend to be circular. If it falls several feet straight down, the edges may become crenellated, and the farther the distance from the source to the surface, the more pronounced the crenellation. If there are many drops less than an eighth of an inch across, it may be concluded that the blood spatter resulted from an impact. If the source was in motion when the blood leaked or spurted, or if the drops flew through the air and hit an angled surface, the drops generally look like stretched-out exclamation marks.

Blood pattern analyst Stuart James analyzed the clothing seized from Jeffrey Lamb and found numerous spots of blood. Lamb had said he'd wiped off his thumb after getting blood on it, but this was no wipe mark, or even transfer from contact with the body.

Under a microscope, it was clear that the bloodstain was made by blood in flight that hit the denim fabric hard and penetrated. It was a pattern of droplets that went into the threads. Thus, Lamb had not only lied; he'd also been near his wife when she was bludgeoned.

More interesting than this discovery, according to the Palm Beach Post, was what they found in the jeans pocket: the missing diamond earring. However, this evidence was not part of the trial record, at least as reported by the local press, so it's possible that the reporter got this part wrong, or that Lamb had said one earring was missing and this was the other one. In any event, no other article subsequent to this one noted it.

As investigators were exploring a case against Lamb, he drew attention to himself in a way he didn't want.

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