Life and Death > Police Procedures

Jurisdiction Question Again


Hi, all. I'm new to the forum and I have a jurisdiction question.

Let's say a homicide occurs in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their local police begin an investigation. Then another homicide happens in Nevada. Local police investigate that. Then the killer sends a letter to someone in Los Angeles, confessing to both homicides. At that point, does it become an FBI investigation? Would the FBI field offices in Utah, Nevada and California carry out individual investigations coordinated by the DC office, or would one of those offices lead the investigation? Ibe hot to nail this down so I know where my protagonist comes from.


Dave Freas:
Each PD would investigate the murder in their jurisdiction.  The person who received the letters might contact both PDs to inform them of it.  The two PDs then might  compare notes and exchange information.  They also might enter the information into the FBI's VICAP program to see if there are more crimes similar to the ones they're investigating.
The FBI as a rule does not investigate simple murders.  However they might /would offer technical assistance in the form of evidence analysis.  It's possible, too, that if a detective or officer on one of the PDs had a friend in the FBI, that friend might go 'above and beyond' to help the officer solve the crime.
If the killer/letter writer identifies himself by name in letter, it's just a matter of the local police (or a state-wide police force) arresting him.  If he uses a moniker like 'The Nimble Killer,' that would complicate things.

Thanks for replying.

In the letter the killer leaves, he writes "there will be more." Would that plus the killings in different states...what I'm getting at is I would like there to be 1 person heading up the investigation. I thought at some point the FBI would take charge of the investigation,  especially since a serial killer was killing in multiple states.

Dave Freas:
It's my understanding, as I said before, (and I could be wrong), the FBI doesn't investigate murders, even serial killers.

Also, 2 murders does not a serial killer make.  I believe the criterion is 3 or more with some aspect or aspects of each one identical in all three.  Once they have established that the murders are in fact the work of a serial killer, they may assemble a team of investigators from every jurisdiction to coordinate and distribute information as it comes in.  And if your killer is killing each person in a different state, it may take some time for the police to realize he is indeed a serial killer unless they check VICAP as I suggested in my earlier post.  In that case, they would only find crimes that matched theirs in some way or another.  The more detailed information they can provide VICAP, the more accurate returns they will get.

I've checked several reliable websites regarding the FBI, and nowhere on any of them does it say the FBI investigates serial killers.  They primarily investigate crimes like terrorism, organized crime, and threats to national security.

Also, contrary to what you see on TV, the FBI does not ride into town and hijack cases from local police.  They will assist if asked, but they are too busy  to get directly involved in murders of any kind.


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