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When a Homicide Occurs

By Teresa Evans, Certified Grief Specialist

Homicide is a traumatic, complicated and confusing kind of death. Webster dictionary defines homicide as 1: a person who kills another 2: a killing of one human being by another.

Survivors of homicide victims go through a series of emotions unexplainable to them. The first being in shock, cannot believe this is happening to them.

Crime scene

The location where the homicide took place is known as the crime scene, the deceased is called “the victim” if the victim was murdered in the streets the body will remain in the streets until a full forensic investigation by crime scene investigators of the local police department.

The body is then taken to the medical examiner, known as the morgue for an autopsy, a full examination of a dead body to determine the cause of death by a forensic pathologist (coroner). Autopsies must be performed on all homicide victims. The body is then released to the funeral director selected by the next of kin .The family can request a copy of the autopsy report.

Death notification is not like what is seen on crime scene television shows. The next of kin is called survivors of homicide victims. Most families hear about the homicide first by friends of the victim or through the media. It is the duty of law enforcement officials or the doctor to provide death notification.

A homicide detective is assigned to the case for an investigation.

Personal belonging and anything collected at the crime scene may be held as evidence, including the victim’s clothing, personal belong and car. Survivors have a right to request the victim’s belongings.

Crime Victim Assistance

Each state has a crime victim compensation program that provides financial assistance with funeral and burial expenses, counseling and other services .A Claim must be filed and investigated to determine eligibility.


The homicide unit has specially trained detectives that will talk to witness, revisit the crime scene the following days. Gathering information is complex and confusing to survivors and witness not familiar with the criminal justice system, you may be asked intrusive questions. As a survivor, you may feel you are not given enough information about the investigation .Survivors must keep in mind it is a criminal investigation.

District Attorney

The case goes to the District Attorney when the detectives feel enough evidence has been gathered against a suspect to make an arrest. The prosecutor may ask for more evidence which could delay an arrest being made.

Unsolved homicides

Unsolved homicide means an arrest has not been made, that does not mean a case is closed.


When a suspect is arrested, the accused will be taken before a judge to be arraigned. The survivors have a right to be notified and present.

Crime Victim Advocate

The role of the crime victim advocate is to advocate on behalf of the survivors to provide support, inform you of your rights, the criminal justice system and inform you of community services.


Originally published in the September 21, 2011 issue of Challenger News. You can access print editions online at theChallenger News web site.