Monday, January 11, 2016

Gathering evidence, disposing of bodies

Last week’s meeting of the Carroll County Chapter of Maryland Writers’ Association was not for the faint of heart. There was plenty of gore as Jeanne Adams spoke on “How Do Mystery Writers Gather Evidence and Dispose of Bodies?”

With a light, yet respectful tone, she talked about what happens to bodies (remains) in different situations and how writers can use this knowledge to extend their plot timeline and make sure they are using correct information in their story.

Adams is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and had worked in the funeral home and cemetery business for 13 years. She is familiar with funeral procedures and how the personal feelings of family members can affect these procedures. Emotions are high. A minor disagreement can result in fisticuffs in the hallway, she said.
CCMWA President Joelle Jarvis
and Jeanne Adams hold attendion
getting poster at the Finksburg location
of the Carroll County Library

She discussed what agencies would be involved in different situations, such as murders, industrial accidents, natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

“There is always an investigation,” she said.

Writers need details. For forensics, police procedures, etc.You can seek information from people who work in the fields, such as forensic experts, crime scene technicians and morticians.

She once called on a former colleague to ask if she could use a certain type of bomb to start a fire and blow up a house. As first, there was silence and then her colleague said “Let me get back to you on that.”

He did return her call later after refreshing his memory of who she was and what she did – write books. He gave her some advice that changed what she was going to write.

Be careful of being misunderstood. She mentioned something she read recently - Don’t judge me by my web searches. I am a writer, not a serial killer.

She gave details about body disposal including embalming, funeral services, cremation and storage. Writers need to know these details to find ways to increase time for their investigation. Can there be delays in the regular procedures. How can someone steal a body or make a murder appear to be a natural death?

Does the killer bury the body deep in a forest or have it go through the morgue so he/she can collect life insurance or inherit property. There must be a signed death certificate giving the cause of death.

“Funerals are for the living, not the dead,” she said. Despite last requests, the body becomes the property of the next of kin and could be cremated within 48 hours.

If you are a mystery or suspense writer, check out her blog,https:// If you can go to one of her presentations it is worth it. I learned a lot more than I needed, but it was eye-opening.

Do you know the difference between an autopsy and a necropsy? Do you know the difference between a coffin and a casket or what a “Full Post” is? Jeanne Adams gives the details and if you don’t have them correct in your story you will lose credibility.

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