Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Friend's Betrayal: The Murder of Tammy Epperson

A Different Kind of Detective

Ron Raquel
Ron Raquel

A criminalist who was an expert on blood splatter had arrived and would be able to piece together what had happened. Ron Raquel had his work cut out for him — analyzing the bloodbath would ultimately take him almost seven hours, just at the crime scene, and a number of hours afterwards, processing and organizing what he had discovered.

Blood covered the walls in the bathroom. However, Tammy's body was found in the living area, so Raquel assumed that the assault started in the bathroom. One of the bathroom walls had bloodstains in the pattern of hair, as if Tammy was suspended and slammed against the wall. The pattern was repeated at three different levels up to five feet high. There was also a long smear, as if her body had been brushed against the wall on the way to the next place where she was beaten. The opposite wall had castoff spatter, as did the toilet and the back of the door, meaning that the door had been closed when the attack occurred.

Ballington Plaza Apartments
Ballington Plaza Apartments

In the hallway leading to the bed, several droplets were evident. Raquel concluded that the attacker likely carried Tammy at that point because the blood looked like it fell straight down, rather than coming from a person who was walking forward. Then, blood covered three walls by the bed and surrounded her body where she lay. This was where she died, Raquel concluded.

Another part of the criminalist's job is to photograph, document and gather any evidence that could be a murder weapon. In this case, there was a lot from which to choose. The glass fragments and wood pieces would be put back together at a lab.

"There was an ottoman chair," Raquel said. "At first we didn't know what it was because it was splintered all in little pieces. There was what I thought was a lamp, but it was actually a flower vase that was very heavy. It was broken into three parts and all of these had blood stains ..."

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