I tell my students that crime scenes tell a story. If you take it all in, almost as though you were watching a movie, the facts will appear, the story will be revealed.
The crime scene must be analyzed. Experts must know the who, what, how, and why and of the events of the crime. Once these answers are clear; cases can be linked together. This is where a solid understanding of MO and Signature are vital. For example, is the Natalee Holloway case linked to the Stephanie Flores case?
It’s important to remember, MO’s can change. For example, a car thief breaks out the driver’s side window to enter car, but, later down the road he acquires a slim Jim. His “MO” will change because the method of entering the car has changed. Criminals learn to work better, faster and without detection. Criminals, like any other professional, can develop better skills and techniques for their craft. The way a victim responds can also change the MO of a crime. For example, a rapist that has never harmed a victim in the past suddenly stabs a victim repeatedly. Maybe the victim was the first to resist or maybe the victim said something cruel to the offender. This scene may show rage where other scenes did not. However, it’s the same perpetrator.
The Signature of an offender differs from the MO in one very important way - the Signature is a constant with the offender. Unlike the MO, the Signature never changes. Often the offender goes beyond what is necessary to commit the crime. In a nutshell, the offender has characteristics and unusual behaviors based on what occurred at the scene. For example, excessive force is an aspect of signature. The signature can evolve. For example, an offender can mutilate a victim and down the road cause major post mortem injuries. He is evolving and gaining more confidence.
Stephanie Flores had her neck broken. You certainly do not have to go to that extent to steal money from a victim. What does this fact alone say to you about the killer? Is this a Signature or an MO? Let’s look at more details from both crimes to see if these crimes can be linked:
Natalee Stephanie1. Date of crime: May 30 Date of crime: May 30
2. Met suspect at casino met suspect at casino
3. Sus. got V away from friends Sus. got V away from friends
4. Sus. Last person seen with V Sus. Last person seen with V
5. There is a video of Sus and V There is a video of Sus and V
6. Drinking w/ V prior to crime Drinking w/ V prior to crime
7. He said V did “coke” Drugs found in her system
8. Uses a car that is not his Uses a car that is not his
9. Said someone else did it Said someone else did it
10. Sus claims he sold V then denies it Sus says he killed her – then denies it
11. Extorts money from Holloways Steals cash from victim
12. States he had sex with V V’s pants were removed
13. Says he will tell where v is Says he will tell what went on
14. He writes a book Says he is getting married
15. Speaks V’s language (English) Speaks V’s lanuage (Spanish)
16. Appears to co-op w/ police Appears to co-op w/ police
17. Blames police Blames Police
18. Calls V a bitch Claims V hit him; invaded privacy
Do you see a pattern? Is there an MO or Signature in these two crimes? Do you believe law enforcement should be looking into other missing or unsolved murders in other countries?
Sheryl McCollum, MS
Cold Case Investigative Research Institute