If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

September Interviews

9/2 Dianne Freeman, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

9/9 Ellen Byron, Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

9/16 Marilyn Levinson, writing as Allison Brook, Checked Out for Murder

9/23 Rhys Bowen, The Last Mrs. Summers

9/30 Sherry Harris, From Beer To Eternity

September Guest Bloggers

9/19 Judy Alter

WWK Weekend Bloggers

9/5 V. M. Burns

9/12 Jennifer J. Chow

9/26 Kait Carson


Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Snoopy's Poop Scores Crime Coup

That was a headline announcing the arrest of a suspect in Indiana for a triple slaying. It came about when the suspect stepped in dog poop at the scene of the crime, and when he was apprehended later, he claimed he’d been nowhere near the site. However, not only did he leave a foot print in the poop, there was just enough found on his shoe for the DNA of the only dog on the property to be a match.

The match was made in a small, three-person laboratory at UC Davis – the only accredited forensic lab in the country dealing with animal evidence. They use the same techniques and tools as human labs, although they use primers specific to the animal evidence being tested.  Urine, hair, poop, saliva or other animal evidence left behind can help solve animal cruelty, animal attacks on humans and human crimes like robbery, rape and murder where an animal left a mark behind. Beth Wictum, the lab director said “Some studies show you can’t go into a house where there’s a dog or a cat without picking up some evidence.” For instance, in one case the woman’s dog relieved itself on the tire of the man who tried to sexually assault her. Even though she couldn’t pick him out in the lineup, the dog’s pee on the tire linked him to the scene.

My California rag doll cats watching TV

Once upon a time, animal evidence might have been overlooked, but today’s investigators automatically collect any animal fur, hairs, feces, urine stains and tissue samples found at a crime scene. They also take mouth swabs from pets after they defend their owners against attackers, and increasingly they check the blankets, rugs and sheets wrapped around homicide victims.

On Christmas Eve 2002, Kevin Butler was murdered in his home by two men who broke into his apartment and started to beat him. His pet cockatoo – named Bird after basketball great Larry Bird – tried to come to his rescue. He repeatedly dove down on the attackers, clawing at their skin and pecking their heads. The police found Bird dead, stabbed to death with a fork, but the blood trails Bird created as well as human DNA found in Bird’s beak, matched the prime suspect and helped put his owner’s murderer behind bars for life.

This lab doing such great work is in a humble setup; one trailer parked on a dusty side road on the fringe of the Davis campus. The three lab technicians; Beth Wictum, Teri Kun and Christina Lindquist, have access to databases from years of research at the wider Veterinary Genetics Lab, which includes databases of dogs, cats, horses, cows, llamas, sheep, goats, pigs and alpacas. They help solve animal abuse cases, ownership disputes and have even debunked some Bigfoot cases proving the fur came from a bear or a chimpanzee.

In my first book, The Blue Rose, the police chief sent cat fur in for DNA testing. Because my books cover a one week period and DNA testing can take months, I gave him a longtime friend from college days, who works in a DNA lab and rushes everything through for him. Hey, it’s fiction. What else can I say?

Have you ever included animal DNA testing in your stories?


Jim Jackson said...

I haven’t but I can see the possibilities.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I love it. Our pets save us in so many ways. Thanks for bringing this lab and evidence to our attention, Gloria. So many mysteries contain animal characters. It will be useful to many writers. Fido saves the day!

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, there are a lot of possibilities. I was glad to read that fur tested debunked some of the Bigfoot sightings.

E.B. I thought the cockatoo story was quite touching. We always think of birds having bird brains - which can be true for chickens, but some birds have high intelligence and attachment to their human owners.

KM Rockwood said...

Our animals are such a big part of our lives, and many books have animal characters. You point out another way in which we can use animals in our stories!

Shari Randall said...

Fascinating possibilities, Gloria!

Gloria Alden said...

KM, that's true for many of us, and I always enjoy a book with animals in it, but I've also enjoyed many books without animals.

Shari, yes it is. As I said, I used it in my first book, but what I learned open up many other possibilities, too.

Warren Bull said...

Cool! You presented another element anyone can use in a mystery.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, it's always good to have new ideas, isn't it.

Patg said...

Wow, interesting Gloria. One small trailer on the edge of a campus. Sheesh. Oh well.
I, too, found the Bird story touching.
No animals in my stories.

Gloria Alden said...

Maybe not yet, Pat, but it's an interesting concept so maybe you will in the future.

Kara Cerise said...

What a great story about Bird. I've heard of dogs fighting to protect their human but not a bird. Animals are amazing. One more reason to adopt a pet.

Gloria Alden said...

Kara, pets can be a lot of work, but I think they're worth it, too. I'm not sure my dog would defend me. More than likely she would stand at a safe distance and bark. Maybe I should get a cockatoo for protection. :-)

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, I loved the story of brave Bird, who died defending his human. My dogs have always been very protective of me. One of them saved me and my baby from a murderer once.

I haven't used DNA in a book yet, primarily because it takes so long to get results.

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, that's because you want your books to be true to the facts. In my case, I fudged and had the police chief have a buddy, who worked in the lab and did it quicker for him. He probably couldn't do that in real life, but most readers wouldn't know or are willing to suspend belief. Consider in a three month period in my safe little town, there have already been seven murders. I'm competing with Cabot's Cove. :-)

Gloria Alden said...

Linda, I think it's great that your dogs are very protective of you. As I mentioned, my Maggie would bark at an intruder or evil doer from a safe distance. Brave she is not, but I love her anyway.

Polly Iyer said...

What an fascinating post, Gloria. I've only used an animal once in any of my books, and that was a seeing eye dog. I don't know why I include them more. My son is a vet, and we've always had a dog or cat. Now we have two dogs, and I love them. Surely something to think about. I'm going to send my son the link to your post. I think he'd enjoy it.

Polly Iyer said...

Goof correction: I don't know why I HAVEN'T included them more.