Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Genius Bomber: The Mormon Forgery Murders

The First Victim

The crime scene itself is marked off at the farthest point of the debris scatter, plus another 50% of that measurement for a safe radius.   Since bombs tend to obliterate evidence, the crime scene technicians must be extra vigilant in their search, especially with photographs.  But before they even get in there with their equipment, the scene must be determined safe.  That is, the bomb has detonated and no other bombs are evident in the area.  There are also no fires associated with the explosion, raw electrical wires or leaking gas mains.

At the Judge Building, the squad finally gave the all clear indication and took the dogs out, allowing investigators into the danger zone.

The sixth floor hallway appeared to have been the target of several bombs.   A doorframe was blown apart, the ceiling had crashed down in one area, and walls had collapsed.  Pieces of plasterboard lay everywhere, and the walls that still stood appeared to have been used for target practice.  That was the effect of the shrapnel.  It had been a powerful explosion.  Yet after a search of the floor, there appeared to be only the one fatality and he lay with debris on his back.  No one knew who he was yet, but it seemed possible that he had been briefly aware of his extensive injuries before he died.  A black substance, like soot, coated his face, obscuring his features, along with blood spatter from his injuries.  But that was the least of the damage. 

The mans right thigh was torn open through his pants, which had been ripped clean away; pipe shrapnel had hollowed out his chest; and a sturdy nail flying off the bomb had gone into his eye and pierced his brain.   Other nails had pierced his body as well, and the tips of the fingers from his right hand appeared to be missing.  His right foot was mangled, with both his heel and the heel of the shoe he was wearing blown away.  Blood pooled around his eyes and dripped down his face to the floor.

Apparently, hed been on his way to the office with treats.   Two six packs of Tab and ginger ale cans were exploded and smashed all around him, along with a bag of doughnuts.  Amid this debris were pieces of the bomb, which they would now have to gather and piece together.

The steps in this part of the investigation, after photographs are taken, include:

  • Find pieces of the bomb to identify the components
  • Determine the size of the bomb and how it was transported to where it was found
  • Decide if the bomb has a signature (the way it was made, initials on a piece, etc.) and check databases for similar incidents
  • Look for a transport vehicle and possible accomplices
  • Search for the means of entry for whoever placed the bomb
  • Identify possible motives to determine a suspect type

To take command, Special Agent Bob Swehla from the ATF arrived, as this was now a federal case.   They used a nearby office for a control center and began to map the bomb scene.  That involved a grid in which each piece of evidence could be located and marked on a map as it was photographed, mapped and picked up for preservation.  It was carefully labeled, with a label placed on the grid area.  This was the initial step of crime scene reconstruction.  They would have to know exactly where each item lay, what its position had been, who had handled it and where it had been sent.

The pieces, it turned out, consisted of a cardboard box that had been used to carry and deliver it; wires, batteries and nails.

At the same time, they had to identify the victim and try to determine if this person had been an inadvertent victim, just being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or the bombers actual target.

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