During my tenure in homicide, I have become keenly aware of just how colorful peoples’ lives are through years of investigating murders. What people kept hidden or not well-known while they were alive, the skeletons in their closet, often come to light during the investigation into their deaths.
Not all of these skeletons are ominous, but we pay attention to them during murder investigations as we work towards identifying the person responsible for their death. Moving through this process inevitably leads to the identification, and subsequent elimination, of persons of interest. This cycle of try/fail can be frustrating in the pursuit of the person responsible, but eliminating people of interest is simply the evolution of an investigation moving forward; from “failure” as people are cleared, to success when the perpetrator is identified and found.
A half dozen years ago I was called out on a Wednesday morning after a young man had been found dead in a parking lot of a strip mall in a residential area on the south side of town. In the investigation that followed, we learned a lot about this victim and his life. First, he was a “low risk” victim, a simple man who lived with his parents, had several adult siblings, no girlfriend and no criminal history with the police. However, he had an entrepreneurial spirit and although not a lawyer, he provided legal advice to people who were navigating the legal system and suing others. In some of the cases he took on, the associates he was working with had colourful and sometimes shady backgrounds.
Early in the investigation we had a lot of information, a lot of leads to follow and eighteen persons of interest to be either eliminated or focused on more closely. We began the process of systematically investigating each. The list eventually dwindled down to two, the two known criminals. This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but almost every case requires it. But through this process, the case against the two individuals indirectly became stronger every time one of the other eighteen were eliminated through alibis and forensics.
It was through that process of “failure,” eliminating sixteen of the original eighteen persons of interest, that the evolution of success could happen. In my view, we should look at failure as simply a stepping stone or prelude on our path to the outcomes we strive for.
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