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November 6, 2020

LAST GIRLS ALIVE by Jennifer Chase
Genre - Crime Thriller

Half-buried in the muddy earth and surrounded by puddles of water lies the naked body of a beautiful young girl. Her pale skin looks like porcelain in the early morning light. Her fragile arms bent and crooked like a broken doll.

When Detective Katie Scott is called to discover a young girl buried on the grounds of a former children’s home in Pine Valley, California, she’s hopeful it’s the end to a devastating cold case she’s been working on. No one has seen Candace Harlan since she ran away from Elm Hill Manor five years ago. Her death will be a tragedy, but it will also bring peace to those who miss her most. But the girl in the ground is not Candace.

The victim is almost identical to Candace in every way, but fear grips Katie as she takes in the black ink that decorates the girl’s back-a a terrifying message tattooed on her skin after she drew her last breath.

Forcing down traumatic memories of losing her own parents, Katie is certain someone mistook this poor soul for Candace and that this crumbling home for lost girls is at the heart of this terrible crime. She sets to work digging into the tragic history of the owners who lost so many children of their own and tracking down the last six residents and the staff who cared for them but. No one wants to talk, let alone remember.

The next day, as the second girl’s body is found down by the creek at high water, the same words etched into her skin. Katie’s worst fear is confirmed: someone is picking off the last of the Elm Hill girls one by one. But what does the tattoo mean? And what monster would target these innocent girls who have already been through so much?

Katie must dig deep to confront her own fears and protect the vulnerable-but as the body count rises further, will there be anyone left to save? 

Guest Post - When is a Crime Scene Staged?

For anyone who loves writing murder mysteries or reading them. Have you ever wondered when a crime scene is staged? There are actually many reasons. 

The most difficult task is to recognize some of the subtle appearances to indicate that a crime scene has been staged. Fires are an example of a type of potential staged crime scene; it’s usually to cover up a previous crime that had been committed, such as murder or insurance purposes for profit.

Every detective or forensic investigator must use their own subjective skills along with experience to determine if a crime scene has been staged. It’s important to preserve all evidence and document everything in proper order. Notes, sketches, and photographs are extremely helpful to help determine staged crime scenes.   

These signs from burglary and/or homicide investigations should alert detectives that something is potentially suspicious:

  • No sign of a forced entry
  • Forced entry is clearly evident
  • No search for any valuables is apparent
  • No items have been stolen
  • Only one particular item has been stolen
  • Drawers have been pulled out and dumped to make it look like a “ransacked” (out of the ordinary) appearance
  • Drawers have been pulled out carefully and neatly stacked in order to protect certain items
  • The victim had life insurance  
  • The victim’s death was profitable for family members other than life insurance

To simply illustrate what a staged crime looks like investigators must look for any evidence that appears as if it doesn’t belong.


Points of Entry

This is the most common staged crime scene element, usually an open or broken window.  Examine these areas closely and determine whether or not it’s plausible or if there are other trace evidence such as blood, fingerprints, broken glass, etc.


Weapons Left or Removed

A firearm is the most common staged crime scene weapon. Was this weapon left initially? Did it cause the injury? What’s its purpose?


Movement of Body

One of the least common staged elements is the movement of the body to a secondary crime scene. Examine the clothing, shoes, bloodstains, and hair of the victim to determine if the body has been moved and why. Rigor mortis (stiffening of joints), livor mortis (pooling of blood), blood and trace evidence, along with any type of drag marks, can help assist the investigator in determining if the body has been moved.

Jennifer Chase is a multi-award-winning and USA Today Best-Selling crime fiction author and a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor's degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind and her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with a deep personal investment in every story she tells. Also, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling. She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists and a member of the International Thriller Writers.

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