This month, Dean was a featured guest for the monthly PI Education webinar, hosted by friend and colleague, Hal Humphreys. Hal is not only the proprietor of PI Education, he is also for Pursuit Magazine - and more important, he is a fellow working licensed professional investigator of over 30 years - Find Investigations - and Certified Fraud Examiner.
Here is the link for the webinar - https://youtu.be/jJVqQrrAHlg. Not only was this a great experience, it was very informative for listeners and their questions. Unfortunately, an hour - even a day - doesn't cover all the most important facets of death investigation, and our passionate and important role in this expertise. What did we talk about? From our background to our passion, and our experiences to viewer questions, we covered a lot in one hour. This commentary shares some, but to get the full experience please watch the webinar. We have also added some important information to supplement the webinar - one hour was too short for such a passionate topic of great interest to many.
First - if you want to take the Equivocal Death Investigation course we developed for PI Education, and get a discount code - watch the webinar for more information!
We are passionate about what we do, our clients, and our profession. Dean started the agency in 1987, and Karen joined in 1996. They are a team personally and professionally.
Dean has extensive background in medicolegal-forensic and factual Investigations with law enforcement education, experience and relationships. He has testified as an Expert in Forensic Investigations of Pattern Injury Analysis and Private Investigations, and is currently consulting nationwide as an expert in criminal defense homicide and civil equivocal death investigations for law firms, investigative colleagues and families.
As a death investigator Dean was involved in the investigations of all manners of deaths and incidents, training under six Forensic Pathologists. From 2003-2008 he investigated over 150 scenes, assisted with approximately 400 autopsies and investigated nearly 600 additional non-autopsied cases. This does not include over 1,100 additional cases not taken for jurisdiction, in training or as the backup investigator (frequently in homicides and child deaths).
Over 6,500 hours of experience specific to death investigation and related injuries, negligence and causation - from investigation to forensic autopsy assistance. Education and Training from 2000-2008 includes over 600 hours in the Law Enforcement Academy and 1200 hours of general and forensic investigative specific training in multiple disciplines.
Karen possesses strong interpersonal skills and ability to reach out to people, she brings a unique perspective to cases, particularly lifestyle matters and mitigation. Her death investigation training and experience, together with her social work and general investigative skills and experience, are an asset to the medicolegal and criminal defense investigative processes.
With her education, training and experience as a death investigator, Karen was involved in the investigations of all manners of deaths and incidents, training under three Forensic Pathologists. From 2004-2006 she investigated and assisted with numerous death cases and scenes, and assisted with forensic autopsies.
Learn more about us at www.DeathCaseReview.com/principals-bios.html
As compelling and fascinating as this field may seem - it is not for everyone, and it takes experience, passion, and compassion. We often hear from families, attorneys, investigators and funeral homes representing families, looking for where to turn in understanding how the death of a loved one was (or should have been) investigated. They seek closure through answers.
To help families, funeral homes and others, we wrote a short guide, “Survivors' Guide to Understanding Death Investigations” as a basic introduction into the concepts of the official investigation of death, such as by a coroner or medical examiner office. It is our hope that understanding these concepts will help the process of healing and closure.
This guide is based upon extensive combined legal and death investigation experience. Specific to death investigation, this included responding to scenes and completing thorough independent investigations, and assisting with the autopsy. In addition, the most dreaded and responsible component of the process included the determination, location and notification of the decedent's next-of-kin.
This guide is first intended to provide survivors some of the knowledge and insight to informatively and intelligently understand the concepts and protocols of death investigation, and the ability to ask the right questions. Unexpectedly, the questions we received during the webinar can be answered with this guide. We hope this guide serves these purposes.
For details, please visit www.UnderstandingDeathInvestigations.com
How We Work with PIs, Attorneys, and Families
Specializing as Legal Investigators and Expert Consultants in Personal Injury, Negligence & Death in Civil, Criminal & Probate litigation, we work primarily with other professional investigators, and attorneys, throughout Colorado and nationwide. We have found that many attorneys and families will reach out to local investigators for assistance. Often, the investigator - specialists and experts in their own right - may not be prepared to factually investigate and evaluate evidence and circumstances of a death - or serious bodily injury (which is simply events that did not cause death).
For nearly a decade we have worked closely with others to speak for the decedent and give answers to the family. This may be in a private situation, such as an equivocal death - homicide vs. suicide for example, or litigation, even post- conviction. We become an extension of their team. As needed, we may bring in our own expert consultants.
Are you a professional investigator interested in taking more death and serious bodily injury cases - from equivocal deaths for families, to criminal defense and civil litigation? We offer the ability to be an expert extension of your services - please visit www.EquivocalDeathInvestigation.com for details and generous referral compensation.
Facts and Myths in Death Investigation
From the "CSI Effect" with juries, to misinformation to families - we have seen many myths of deaths and the investigation process. First, a couple facts:
1. We see things others don't want to see. We see what people do to themselves and each other. Although we may see something new, we are not surprised.
2. Evidence does not lie. It can be misinterpreted, misrepresented, not provided, or altered and manipulated (i.e. statements, photographs, etc.). We require a 'Forensic Trio' of records, reports, and photographs from all investigating agencies and prefer primary source.
3. Evidence includes medicine and science, and experience. There are no assumptions, or pre-determined outcomes, or desired outcomes.
As provided in last month's commentary, there are four possible outcomes to the reviews of equivocal deaths:
1. The official investigation was competent, with the official findings consistent with the facts and evidence
This really needs no explanation - all the pieces fell into place, and fit to form a clear picture of the event.
2. The official investigation was not competent, with the official findings consistent with the facts and evidence
The most common area of questioned competence here is the investigation did not follow a protocol, or was not complete - perhaps both. Too often, in any investigation, the investigator or team find evidence that supports a theory, or reaches a plausible conclusion, which ultimately lacks verification. This is not to state or imply the investigator was lucky. Variables from skill and experience, to the evidence, did mesh together sufficiently for the appropriate findings.
3. The official investigation was competent, with the official findings not consistent with the facts and evidence
Similar to #2, and seemingly the opposite - this is the next most common area, but of questioned outcome. These false or unverified findings are most often the result of not analyzing or interpreting the evidence correctly (see #4), whether by cognitive bias or experience. Two persons or teams may conduct the same investigation, review the same facts and evidence, and reach different conclusions. This is what is often seen the courtroom, with opposing investigators and experts; even witnesses who see the same event differently, through no fault of their own.
4. The official investigation was not competent, with the official findings not consistent with the facts and evidence
This is the worst of the worst, and rarest of findings. From the course of the investigation, to the findings - there is issues from beginning to end. Evidence may not have been found, collected, or tested - or any combination. Evidence includes, not only trace evidence - but scene response and investigation; witness development, contact, and interviews; evidence development, collection, and testing. This is not to say the full and entire investigation was not competently conducted; however, it is to show that any component of the investigation not competently conducted and the conclusions, therefore, were unreliable and without factual basis.
(learn more about this at www.DeathCaseReview.com/afi-llc-blog/findings-in-expert-consultations-of-death)
Here are a few common myths:
1. A person cannot or would not... enter act here - things are not always as they 'should' seem and it is important to let the evidence tell us.
2. A person was happy, had a new / good job, new house, child on the way, etc. and had no reason to commit suicide. These are great events in life - things which would seemingly make any person happy. If you look at them from a different perspective - they are also stressors, and multiple stressors - especially if there are other circumstances (depression, anxiety, etc.) can be an issue.
3. A person would not commit such a heinous crime as murder, killing their spouse, or killing their children, etc. If we remove the personal relationship of the client, and look only at the evidence there is a story being told (or not).
4. Similar to #3 - a defendant had a motive (financial, affair, etc.) to commit the murder (or suicide). A motive is not an element of a crime - the element being one of the factors for which all must be proven for a conviction. A motive is simply information that lends to suspicion. If a person were embezzling money from work, or having an affair - and then a suicide or murder happened - these acts make them no more guilty, then the absence would make them innocent.
About the Equivocal Death Investigations Course
This training course is designed to provide a basic introduction into the concepts of the official investigation of death, such as by a coroner or medical examiner office, and the role that the private investigator may play in an equivocal death investigation. As might be expected, there are similar roles, overlapping roles and, of course, different roles and responsibilities.
The course will provide the investigator currently working in, or interested in working in, the death and personal injury investigation fields the knowledge and insight to informatively and intelligently conduct a criminal defense or civil investigation in which serious bodily injury or death is the subject matter of the litigation.
Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to do the following:
- Identify and review the role of the private investigator in equivocal death investigations
- Understand the investigative procedures and protocol in a death investigation
- Compare the coroner system vs. the medical examiner system
- Provide the investigator currently working in, or interested in working in, the death and personal injury investigation fields the knowledge and insight to informatively and intelligently conduct a criminal defense or civil investigation in which serious bodily injury or death is the subject matter of the litigation.
For details, please visit https://pieducation.com/product/equivocal-death-investigations
(don't forget - to receive a course discount - be sure and watch the PI Education webinar for the discount code - https://youtu.be/jJVqQrrAHlg)
We hope you watch and enjoy the webinar. As a colleague, you play an important role in our justice system, helping families and businesses, and being a steward of honesty, integrity and intelligence. Feel free to contact us any time if we can help you further your skills and help improve our own.
With appreciation and honored to serve you and our professions, Dean and Karen Beers
Dean A. Beers, CLI CCDI CFI-FTER and Karen S. Beers, BSW, CCDI, CFI-FTER
Associates in Forensic Investigations, LLC
A Rocky Mountain West Agency
Legal Investigators and Expert Consultants
Personal Injury, Negligence & Death
Civil, Criminal & Probate Litigation