~ 25th Anniversary of Practical Homicide Investigation® ~


Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques,
Fourth Edition

Return to Book Information

Reviews of
Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, FOURTH EDITION

Vernon Geberth has done it again!

The 2nd and 3rd Editions of Practical Homicide Investigation were the "Bibles" for my generation of investigators. With his 4th edition, Vernon has created an incredible text, packed with a wealth of knowledge and "state-of-the art" information that will assist numerous investigators and others in the field of law enforcement and criminal justice for future generations. Vernon,

Thank You again for sharing your knowledge, experience, wisdom, compassion for the victims. I also thank you for your humor and camaraderie that so many of us have had the pleasure of enjoying after meeting you. Be Safe and God Bless!

Raymond Adornetto
South Euclid, Ohio Police Department

Top of Page

This encyclopedic text should be required reading not only for all police officers but also for those of us who are involved in homicide investigation. It not only shows step by well-illustrated step how the crime scene should be managed, but it integrates the teamwork now necessary for a successful outcome utilizing recent developments in the forensic sciences: the identification of the decedent, the autopsy, DNA, the crime lab, even how to handle the news media. From the perspective of the medical examiner, the numerous clear and crisp full-color photos and illustrations depicting various types of wound structures are extremely useful. It's hard to improve a classic but Vernon Geberth has done it again.

Michael M. Baden, M.D.
Chief Forensic Pathologist, New York State Police
Former Chief Medical Examiner, New York City

Top of Page

It has been ten years since the third edition of Practical Homicide Investigation was published. Most readers will feel the fourth edition was well worth the wait.

The most notable improvement in Mr. Geberth's latest offering is the image quality. Nearly all of the crime scene photographs are now presented in color. Updates of prior images, as well as new photographs and numerous professional medical illustrations, undoubtedly improve the quality of the book. Also, the text exhibits better formatting and wording than its predecessors.

There is a great deal of updated information presented. Expanded sections on both buried body cases and crime scene photographs are but two examples. Additional legal considerations for the homicide crime scene search are provided, with several cases painfully reminding law enforcement that there is no "homicide scene exception" to the Fourth Amendment. A section on IBIS is now included in the chapter on evidence collection.

New chapters addressing forensic DNA analysis and equivocal death investigations are included. While the former provides an exhaustive amount of information, much of it delves into the scientific and technical aspects of the procedures, thus going beyond the basic needs of collection and preservation for the crime scene examiner or detective. The latter offers four case studies in this intriguing "gray area" of death investigation.

This book continues to be a solid and necessary resource for anyone tasked with the responsibility of investigating not only homicides, but also other manners of death.

John P. Black
Columbia, SC
Journal of Forensic Identification
57 (1), 2007 \ 97-98

Top of Page

The 4th Edition of Practical Homicide Investigation is Vernon Geberth's best so far. I encourage every detective to read this book it provides best practices and the knowledge that thousands of detectives have learned from handling thousands of homicides and death investigations. If you follow the procedures outlined in the 4th Edition of Practical Homicide Investigation you can be assured that you covered all the bases.

Practical Homicide Investigation 4th Edition should be the first thing a new detective buys. Not only will it prepare the new detective for what to expect and what to look for in death investigations and at homicide scenes. It is a reference book that the detective will use for the rest of their career.

Phil J. Cline
Chicago Police Department

Top of Page

I was fortunate to have been selected to be a reviewer for both the Second and Third editions of Vernon Geberth's "Practical Homicide Investigations". I thought then and still do today that they were the most thorough and informative resources on this subject ever written. The only change that I would have made would have been to the title, which I thought should read "Practical Death Investigations" since all aspects of death are reviewed.

However, as I was reviewing the Fourth Edition, it occurred to me that not only does Vernon continue to be a great teacher, but he also continues to learn and share new and valuable tactics and procedures, which is the sign of the ultimate authority. The International Association of Chief's of Police and the National Sheriff's Association should require that every law enforcement agency in America have at least one copy of this very valuable book.

Tom Cronin
Criminal Profiler
Commander (Retired)
Forensic Services Division
Chicago Police Department

Top of Page

This new edition is not just a re-print or repackaging of outdated material. It contains new and accurately researched material essential to the resolution of a homicidal or death related investigation. Mr. Geberth provides current information and investigative considerations needed for the continuously changing types of homicides as well as the ever-evolving profile of murder and sex related crime offenders.

The Fourth Edition is an exciting expansion of the fundamental "Bible" of homicide investigation. I believe that every homicide investigator, supervisor, and crime scene technician who is involved in the investigation of sudden and violent death, should read this book cover to cover. Previous editions of this book have been utilized as required reading by colleges and universities offering instruction at both the undergraduate and graduate level in Violent Crime investigation. This book will undoubtedly replace the prior editions, and rightfully so.

Mr. Geberth provides practical and clinical case studies compiled from thousands of investigations he conducted while affiliated with the New York City Police, and as a consultant to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. He graciously accepts case submissions from investigators wishing to educate other agencies on the particularities of unique investigations. Mr. Geberth continues to provide ample credit to those who's material or cases his utilizes.

This book will take the reader where many an author dare not tread. Geberth pulls no punches, this book is the real deal and not for the squeamish or weak of heart. Its' content is not meant to shock the reader, but to emphasize the cold cruel reality of murder and sexual assault, and the importance in solving these crimes. The book has been updated to include advanced techniques for working crime scenes. As criminals become more educated in their trade via the internet, television programs on Crime Scene Processing and through incarceration in jails and penitentiaries, it is compulsory for homicide investigator to keep pace with the daily advancements in crime fighting tools that are available to him or her.

At 1000 pages, it is a stunning publication, well organized and thought out. It is brilliantly laid out with full color medical grade illustrations and contains hundreds of fully detailed and updated color photographs, which are easy to view and illustrate and expound on theories or techniques expressed in the text. This book is one of only a handful of law enforcement related texts, which is completely illustrated in full color. It is vitally important to use color photographs when dealing with wounds occurring on the human body. Color photographs can illustrate the level of violence or force used as well as determine to some extent, the post mortem interval or approximating time of death.

The 4th edition begins by taking the reader step by step, from the first officer arriving at the scene, the handling of the crime scene, expanding the investigation, the specific nature and duties of the "first responders,' through the arrival of the follow up investigators.

Throughout this text, Mr. Geberth continually stresses the central theme, "Do it right the first time, you only get one chance" for both the first responders as well as investigators. Second or third chances are not an option.

By studying case histories and the psychology and motivation of offenders, as documented in this book, investigators can add additional tools to their crime solving skills, and successfully resolve these unthinkable acts of violence perpetrated on thousands of innocent victims each year.

As 'murder cops," we all have to remember, "We Work for God," and Vernon Geberth continues to validate our search for justice.

Detective Mark J. Czworniak
Area Three Homicide Sex Crimes Unit
Evidence Response Team
Chicago Police Department

Top of Page

If you want to get started in forensic odontology or have been involved in the field for years, this book is a "must have" for your library. All fields of forensics are discussed so that knowledge of all aspects and branches of the discipline will be enhanced. The beginning, odontologist will become familiar with all the different branches of forensics and how they relate to each other. The expert forensic odontologist will be able to use this as their "go to" reference for forensics. The field of forensic odontology is discussed as to its relevance to modern forensics and how it fits with the flow chart of solving cases. All forensic libraries need this book, as their cornerstone from which to build and forensic odontologists will benefit from its broad range of topics discussed.

Dr. Kevin M. Dugan
D.D.S. Dentist and Forensic Odontologist

Top of Page

"Vernon Geberth has provided the definitive roadmap for those who wish to successfully investigate homicides, and are smart enough to realize that murder is far too serious, for the traditional, learn as you go, detective route. Vernon was the Commanding Officer, of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, when murder in New York City, was at an all time high and has an uncanny understanding of what is essential, for the investigation of murder or suicide. Geberth states, "The homicide crime scene is, without a doubt, the most important crime scene a police officer or investigator will be called upon to respond to" Geberth delves into the intricacies of death investigation without hesitation. There's not a single aspect of an investigation that Geberth neglects in this exhaustive manual. Geberth has seen it all and is more than willing to share his own personal experiences and case histories, which he utilizes to instruct the reader and make a point relating to the dynamics of conducting death investigations. If you follow the procedures and tactics in this book, you will be able to sleep well, knowing no murderer has escaped justice because of a poor investigation."

Thomas P. Fahey, Assistant Chief (Ret.)
New York City Police Department
Chief of Manhattan Detectives

Top of Page

Vern Geberth is the Avenging Angel of Homicide Victims - his book Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques – Fourth Edition is both practical and comprehensive. Sharing his 40 plus years of experience and diligently tapping into the expertise of others, the book is the A through Z of homicide investigation. The list of acknowledgements reads like a who’s who - of criminal investigation. Practical with a capital “P”- the book addresses the: who’s, what’s, when’s and where’s running them down by the numbers and reinforcing them with easy to follow checklists. The book is a truly comprehensive text for the student of police science as well as a - must have - ready reference for the police practitioner. A passionate mentor as well as an effective writer, Geberth is mindful of the solemn responsibility that homicide investigators and police are entrusted with and deeply reverent in his approach to always doing things right because of it. At the end of the day, Geberth’s work should empower and motivate police investigators to remove more murderers from our communities and bring comfort to the families of homicide victims.

Pete Gagliardi
Vice President - Corporate & Marketing Communications
Forensic Technology
Quebec, Canada

Top of Page

Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques should be required reading for all criminal investigators. This NEW Fourth Edition textbook actually makes you feel like you are in the scene and Vernon is walking you through all the steps as he is conducts the homicide investigation and answers your questions before you ask them.

The colored pictures are clear and detailed and the reader is able to visualize the homicide scene. Vernon, as usual does not take all of the credit for the contents of this professional book. Instead, he has made sure that he acknowledges all of his sources for their contributions and provides the reader with additional citations. This fantastic book is Vernon's contribution to everyone in law enforcement.

Captain Frank Griffin
Executive Officer
Connecticut State Police
Eastern District Headquarters

Top of Page

I have had an opportunity to review the newly revised Practical Homicide Investigation, Tactics, Procedures and Forensic Techniques, Fourth Edition. I would like to congratulate the author for this most recent update. Vernon J. Geberth is the only person in the country, that I am aware of, who has continued to incorporate the latest investigative techniques, forensic procedures, innovative theories and updated real cases illustrating these and compiled them into a book that should be in every police department library and every detective's desk.

The law enforcement community owes Geberth tremendous thanks for continuing to be the country's most highly regarded and respected authority on homicide and death investigations.

Thomas N. Jordan
Magisterial District Judge, District Court
Past President of the Pennsylvania Homicide Investigator's Association

Top of Page

In the past 20 years, there has been a plethora of books on criminal investigation, crime scene investigation, and homicide investigation attempting to explain recommended procedures utilized in homicide investigations. Vernon's previous editions of Practical Homicide Investigation have always been in the forefront. His new completely revised Practical Homicide Investigation FOURTH EDITON is not just another book on homicide investigation. Commander Geberth has created the ultimate work on homicide investigation ever constructed. Within the book's 24 chapters, guidance on investigating virtually all deaths that the detective may encounter is highlighted.

Practical Homicide Investigation should be required reading for all detectives, prosecutors, and police officers working in the death investigation arena. It presents valuable instructions and duties by the first officers at the scene, detectives performing the preliminary investigation, and provides an investigator's checklist of activities specific to investigative duties at the crime scene.

The construction of the book is immaculate. It is thinner in size than the third edition, but it is larger in dimensions, with very finely printed pages with utmost quality. What is most noticeable is the clarity and brightness of the photographs, far better than other previous texts.

Practical Homicide Investigation is written from the investigator's perspective. Geberth presents an in depth analysis of investigating the homicide scene and poses direct questions when considering if the scene is a suicide, homicide, or staged homicide. All of the forensic techniques associated with homicide investigations are discussed in detail with an exceptional and understandable chapter about the uses of DNA evidence at crime scenes. In most chapters, Geberth cites interesting case studies that illuminate the points he wishes to get across. Geberth has given the reader invaluable information about investigating sex-related deaths, equivocal death investigations, criminal personality profiling, and serial murder investigations. The chapters covering these subjects are exceptionally documented and written. Geberth has a highly efficient and effective grasp of how to get across to detectives the procedures involved in those investigations.

Commander Geberth's finest work comes in the chapter covering the Identification of Suspects. It is this chapter that deals specifically with solvability and finding out who the killer is. From bite mark identification, hypnosis, latent prints on human skin, polygraph examinations, psycholinguistics, psychics, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, theft of a fetus, stalkers, VICAP, to the Homicide Investigation Tracking System, Geberth reveals to the detective practically all of the possible methods used to identify and catch the killer.

Practical Homicide Investigation concludes with specific guidelines for the supervision and management of the homicide investigation. It puts the final touches on understanding the homicide investigation from a supervisor's and manager's perspective.

Within each chapter, Commander Geberth has included references and selected readings, which will prove invaluable to homicide detectives. Geberth has keenly supplemented his text with proper attribution to those individuals he has quoted. He respectively gives proper credit to those who have provided him with information about cases or investigative procedures.

For detectives, homicide supervisors, police officers, prosecutors, and other professionals who evaluate, investigate, legally try, or seek to understand the murderer, this text is a must read because Commander Geberth has handled the subject with a thorough and comprehensive approach to homicide investigation.

Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, by Vernon J. Geberth (CRC, 2006, 4th Edition), 999 pp.

Dr. Robert D. Keppel, Ph. D
Associate Professor
Seattle University

Top of Page

"Vernon Geberth a 40+ year Homicide Detective and Commanding Officer retired from the New York Police Department shares his life experiences with us.

His book is one of the most comprehensive homicide investigation textbooks I've ever seen.

The book is full of important tips, procedures and case examples. It is a must read for students and police officers interested in modern police investigation."

Dr. Henry C. Lee, Ph. D
Professor of Forensic Science
Chief Emeritus Department of Public Safety, Meriden, CT

Top of Page

Vernon Geberth's prior work on the subject of death investigation is universally recognized as being so thorough and well done it was thought to be nearly impossible to improve upon it. Well, Geberth has accomplished the impossible with Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fourth Edition.

This is truly a brilliant and exhaustive presentation of the subject matter that remains absolutely faithful to its title. The color photos and life-like illustrations (over 600) provide the reader with a most realistic presentation of the homicide investigation from arrival at the crime scene through the autopsy never losing sight of the ultimate goal of a successful court room presentation and prosecution. The reader is served a hefty 2-inch, choice prime cut portion of how to respond to, work, and manage the homicide scene and investigation. Whether you are a veteran boss, seasoned detective or new on the job; whether you are a rookie Assistant D.A. or an experienced prosecutor, this book is a must for your professional library. This text is a no nonsense, rich source for the 21st Century practitioner to refer to with confidence time and time again. Whether you catch a grounder or a full-blown mystery, Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, Fourth Edition will empower you to be faithful to your solemn obligation to speak for the deceased and their families.

Anthony Magnetto
Captain, Troy, New York Police Department

Top of Page

Vernon J. Geberth's Fourth edition of Practical Homicide Investigation will be a tremendous aid to homicide and crime scene investigators, prosecutors and serious students of forensic identification procedures and abnormal human behavior.

His innovative and time proven methods offer the reader a realistic overview of numerous homicide and equivocal death investigations and the all important step by step approach to the initial and follow up investigation. His methodical approach provides the seasoned and less experienced investigator every opportunity to, "Get it right the first time."

From the superb quality of paper to the perfectly detailed color drawings and photographs, this new edition was carefully crafted to clearly highlight the necessary investigative points of each case study. This publication is an invaluable asset to law enforcement and will be considered the Bible of homicide investigation.

Raymond M. Pierce
Criminal Profiler
Detective 1st Grade, Ret. NYPD

Top of Page

The "Bible" and definitive tome on homicide investigation is bigger and better than ever. This "must read" for homicide investigators and prosecutors alike has been updated to provide the latest information on DNA technology. A new chapter also provides a comprehensive and in depth look at equivocal death scenarios.

Extensively illustrated with color photographs and medical legal drawings, it is not a text for the faint hearted but is absolutely foundational for those interested in understanding the technical aspects of homicide investigation and those serious about conducting an effective and comprehensive inquiry into sudden and violent death.

This clearly is the best teaching text on homicide out there for those serious about the field of homicide investigation.

Ms. Donna Pendergast
First Assistant District Attorney
Criminal Division
Michigan Attorney General's Office

Top of Page

It's often the case that when an author offers another edition of the same book, it's been updated with new information but little has changed in the rest of the contents. Geberth is much more conscientious. He goes through the contents - even the 901 pages of the Third edition of Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques - to make necessary changes, both for accuracy and clarity. He listens when people tell him their experience of reading the book or when they offer something new about a case that he didn't know. Even better, if readers point out that Geberth has mentioned an idea or phrase that originated with them, he's quick to add the correct attribution. For him, the name of the game is teamwork, and that has been his motto since he published the first edition in 1982. In fact, thanks to professionals around the country who share their information with Geberth, there are several new cases in this new edition. As well, he offers the latest DNA technology and more information (much needed) about equivocal death analysis, as well as a revised checklist for homicide investigators. The bibliography, too, includes more resources and the glossary more terms.

But, actually, the best thing about this new edition is the replacement of black-and-white with color photos and illustrations - 675 of them. They're graphic and shocking at times, but they have impact. I noticed pictures as I looked through this edition that I had barely glanced at before, and found a number of new ones that refined my understanding of wounds, manner of death and investigative analysis. Others who participate in medicolegal testimony will find these new illustrations to be quite valuable, and the full-color crime scene sketches and reconstructions are particularly instructive. Geberth is to be congratulated for all the work he clearly put into this new edition, but also for urging the publisher to go all-out with high quality glossy photos. This book now stands out even more clearly as the definitive guidebook for homicide investigators. It will be difficult for anyone to top it.

"This new completely revised textbook is finally in the format that I had strived for after many years and three prior editions," Geberth says. "All the figures and illustrations, as well as crime scene photographs, are in full-color to show the investigators exactly what to expect, what to look for and how to evaluate the various scenarios and modes of death as they are presented. The book has not only been completely revised with new forensic techniques and excellent photographs, but has also been expanded to 24 chapters. State-of-the-art crime scene collection procedures as well as a compete chapter on DNA technology (written by a microbiologist) have been added. For the researcher, additional citation and sources have been included to assist in examining homicide.

"I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to include information on the forensic and investigative subjects contained in the other books in my series. Just like when I was a Homicide Commander in the New York City Police Department, where I handpicked the best investigators to work with me in my unit, I have surrounded myself with the best of the best between the two covers of this book.

Throughout this text you will see the names of many professionals, as well as the citation of a number of sources, to assure the accuracy and integrity of the text."

As Geberth often states in the seminars he offers around the country, "The successful investigation of sudden and violent death is based on teamwork and mutual cooperation. I am proud of the long list of acknowledgements in this book, which represent a lifetime of professional friendships and affiliations, and which makes this text 'The Bible' of homicide investigation."

There's no doubt that investigators will find this fourth edition to be a valuable asset for learning about the varieties of suicide and homicide, as well as the protocols involved in difficult and complex investigations.

Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.
Professor of Forensic Psychology at DeSales University
and author of "The Human Predator". Written for Court TV's Crime Library.

Top of Page

I first met Vernon J. Geberth back in 1979 when I was serving as a criminologist and Behavioral Science Unit Instructor at the FBI Academy located at Quantico, Virginia. Vernon was a selected student representative of the New York City Police Department who had enrolled in my elective course entitled, Applied Criminology from the Police Perspective I noticed that Vern was a Detective Sergeant in the 7th Homicide Division in the South Bronx, which routinely handled over 220 homicide investigations a year. I thought to myself, "I'd better be on my toes during this course as this guy probably has more homicide experience than the entire class of 50 experienced law enforcement officers."

In reality, Vernon may have had more experience in death investigation and violent crime matters than the entire total 250 attendees of the FBINA. In fact, Vern later went on to become a Lieutenant Commander and as well as the Commanding Officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, which conducted over 400 homicide investigations a year.

Vernon sent me an autographed copy of his First Edition textbook Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques in which he had included a segment on criminal personality profiling. I found it to be the most authoritative text in the field of homicide and death investigation at the time of it's printing in 1982. Since that time Vern has updated the book with three additional editions of his text.

It is now in it's FOURTH edition and still leads the pack as the "Bible of Homicide Investigation." The full-color photos and illustrations within this book make this text an absolute necessity for the practitioner as well as the student. I have personally taught thousands of professional investigators here within the United States as well as across the world and I can state unequivocally that this text is without a doubt the most comprehensive death investigation manual in the world.

I know that Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques FOURTH EDITION will to be THE definitive source of homicide investigation and is the recognized protocol used by investigative divisions of major police departments throughout the world. The text is used in most police academies, including the prestigious FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia and is routinely used by the FBINA, which trains over 1,000 law enforcement officers annually.

Whereas his first book was far beyond that which would be necessary to prove his expertise in the field of homicide, Vernon's Fourth Edition is without comparison. This amazing book transcends his earlier efforts, especially in the area of criminal investigative analysis. It is truly a chronicle of practical and clinical case studies, combined with invaluable investigative guidelines. It takes the reader to another level of knowledge in this unique field and represents an accomplishment that no other author has yet achieved.

In summary, I can only say that Vernon J. Geberth has done it all in the field of homicide and death investigation. Yet, he has gone beyond that outstanding achievement by passing on his knowledge and expertise to other law enforcement and related professional and academic communities with the publication of this brilliant book. This is a feat that is rarely accomplished by others in his field. I congratulate him on his unique contribution.

Robert K. Ressler
FBI Supervisory Special Agent (Retired)
FBI Behavioral Science Unit ('74-'90)
Quantico, Virginia

Top of Page

"Vernon Geberth's Practical Homicide Investigation in its first edition has been the backbone of my research shelf for years, and I have turned to it hundreds of time. This Fourth Edition is a spectacular upgrade, the ultimate 'Bible' that every homicide investigator, criminalist, medical examiner, and those in dozens of other professions must have. It is the gold standard in advanced techniques for working crime scenes in all classifications--from fire deaths to lust murder, and everything in between. At 1000 pages, it is twice as long as the original edition, and has hundreds of color photos. Beyond his own considerable experience working crime scenes and following through to convictions, Geberth has consulted with virtually every homicide expert in America (whom he acknowledges graciously) so that he can give the reader the benefit of their knowledge, too. I am tremendously impressed with the scope and detail in this meticulously researched book. It is a triumph for Geberth and a bonanza for the investigator!"

Ann Rule, PhD.
Author of "The Stranger Beside Me", "Green River", "Running Red", and two dozen more books on true crime cases

Top of Page

The new FOURTH edition of Practical Homicide Investigation is a Must Have. This is the recognized "Bible" in homicide investigation. Once again, Mr. Homicide retired N.Y.P.D. Lieutenant Commander Vernon Geberth has hit a home run.

I strongly recommend this new edition, which has been completely revised and updated. It doesn't matter if you are a seasoned investigator or a rookie officer. P.H.I. covers every aspect of homicide investigation from the first officer on the scene to the complex forensic processes involved in the investigation of murder.

Al Sheppard
Detective (Ret.)
NYPD Major Case Squad

Top of Page

The Fourth edition of Practical Homicide Investigation Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques by author Vernon Geberth is an excellent book. The book does justice to Geberth's understanding and knowledge of homicide investigation. The new and updated material keeps the reader current with homicide investigation procedures. The addition of color photographs while graphic; do depict the reality of the subject matter. A must read for those in the criminal justice arena, who want to stay abreast of the times.

Marvin Skeen
Investigator, Washington State Attorney General's Office

Top of Page

Congratulations on your outstanding Fourth Edition of the standard textbook Practical Homicide Investigation! As the Coroner of DuPage County, IL, and having been doing death investigations with this office for 30 years, I appreciate it when excellent instructional books are published. There are many books in the field of death investigation. However, all too often, they become outdated, both by the examples used for illustration and by lacking the current state-of-the-art technology.

It is refreshing to see an edition that is really just not a re-print of outdated material. Moreover, from my point of view you took a huge step forward with this publication by publishing the photographs in color. --- This is extremely important and I am surprised that it hasn't been done years ago. When teaching topics which deal with evidence such as powder burns, stippling, lividity, and the hue of blood itself, to name just a few, this can only be accurately portrayed when illustrated in color!

Color is critical to differentiate physical evidence. --- Nice job! ---- Maintaining current information on the forever changing types of homicides gives the investigator the leading edge. In this most recent addition, I noted cases presented which, prior to just a few years ago, never occurred. Kudos' Mr. Geberth! - This is an excellent resource.

Peter A. Siekmann
Coroner of DuPage County, Illinois
Illinois Coroner's Association

Top of Page

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review Practical Homicide Investigation, 4th Edition, authored by Vernon J. Geberth. It is the most outstanding and comprehensive treatise on the subject.

For over thirty five years I have participated in the New York State Criminal Justice System as a Prosecutor, Defense Attorney, and Judge.

During my seventeen years as a Prosecutor in the Bronx County District Attorney's Office, I was the Bureau Chief of the Major Offense Bureau, the Supreme Court Bureau, and the Homicide Bureau. As Chief of the Homicide Bureau, I supervised, investigated and prosecuted more than one thousand homicides in Bronx County, New York.

During my tenure as Homicide Bureau Chief, I had the great pleasure of working closely with Vernon J. Geberth, when he was the Commanding Officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force. Commander Geberth's extensive knowledge, unmatched expertise, and boundless creativity with homicide investigations was responsible for the successful prosecution of countless homicides in Bronx County. I had the good fortune of having Commander Geberth, during my watch, supervising the homicide investigations. Geberth's, publications in the field of homicide investigations, afford all professionals, the benefit of his vast knowledge and experience on the subject.

Commander Geberth has succeeded in the impossible task of taking his forty years of experience investigating literally thousands of homicides, and consulting nationwide, with experts in forensic science and criminal investigation, and putting together a comprehensive and practical resource text that will serve as an investigation guide to the homicide professional.

Commander Geberth's Practical Homicide Investigation, 4th Edition, explains every aspect of a homicide investigation with an easily understood, how to approach, from a professional who has been there. He takes the reader from the homicide scene and covers every possible situation that may be encountered during a homicide investigation, complete with do's and don'ts, right up to the apprehension and arrest of the homicide fugitive. This 4th Edition covers the basics, as well as, the cutting edge forensic techniques available to the homicide investigator.

To my surprise, Commander Geberth was able to improve upon the previous editions of his treatise, that I have repeatedly referred to and relied upon throughout the years. This 4th Edition has had major revisions to every chapter and has been augmented by many additional pictures and full color illustrations, which have graphically enhanced this treatise. Also, there are new chapters covering the current application of DNA technology to the investigative process and the issue of equivocal death investigations involving staged crime scenes and when there is no clear-cut determination of homicide or suicide. This latest edition of Practical Homicide Investigation is the one that Commander Geberth so richly deserved, as it is able to showcase, in the most comprehensive and professional manner, all of the tactics, procedures and forensic techniques of a homicide investigation.

In my opinion, it is essential that the professional involved with the investigation and prosecution of a homicide have a copy of Vernon J. Geberth's Practical Homicide Investigation, 4th Edition. This is the most outstanding and comprehensive encyclopedia on the tactics, procedures, and forensic techniques of homicide investigations.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to review Vernon's 4th edition. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Philip G. Schnelwar, Esq.
Homicide Bureau Chief (Ret.)
Bronx District Attorney's Office
Attorney-At-Law and Judge

Top of Page

Practical Homicide Investigation FOURTH EDITION is by far the best book written on homicide investigation. Commander Vernon Geberth is meticulous in his research and clearly outlines how to investigate all types of deaths. There is no doubt that forensic scientists, criminologists, investigators, prosecutors, homicide supervisors and even the crime buffs must have this book.

This revised edition is full of new material. This is not the same old book. There are brand new topics covered in depth and the latest techniques in forensic science. Written by a former homicide commander, this book offers a unique insight. It perfectly balances hands-on techniques with criminology theories. Everything is well documented and presented.

Practical Homicide Investigation FOURTH EDITION not only focuses on investigative processes and perpetrators, but also spotlights victimology. Commander Geberth does not leave anything out. If you are involved in death investigations, you should have this book on your desk.

Deborah-Schurman-Kauflin, Ph. D.
Violent Crimes Institute, President

Top of Page

The latest edition of Practical Homicide Investigation, starts with reemphasizing the basics of homicide investigation, expands upon the coverage of practical methods of solving your murder cases and adds new information that addresses some of the newest, most crucial innovations of homicide investigation that will help us in our pursuit of justice for the victims and their surviving families. Even if you have memorized the first three editions, the 4th Edition of Practical Homicide Investigation needs to be on your "must read" list if you want to be an effective murder cop.

The textbook opens with the five components of practical homicide investigation and demonstrates the investigative strategies to be a successful homicide investigator. The addition of the color photographs to the 4th edition is a great compliment to the text, especially the coverage of wound structures and crime scenes. The images will help any investigator recognize and evaluate the potential significance of various wounds that you will encounter as a homicide investigator.

In this business, we all recognize the impact of DNA technology in our cases. The new chapter on DNA technology explains the science in a manner that murder cops can understand and utilize when evaluating homicides and the evidence associated with the cases. Being able to evaluate and understand the importance of this evolving forensic field can save you time as an investigator, prioritize the analysis requests for your forensic examiners to avoid delays due to examination requests backlogs and possibly save the lives of future potential victims as well.

The new chapter on equivocal death investigation is another worthwhile addition to the homicide investigator's bible. The fact that the deaths are equivocal means that the homicide investigator must use advanced tactics in reviewing the circumstances surrounding the deaths. The case studies in this chapter demonstrate the importance of evaluating all of the components of practical homicide investigation to ensure that wrongful deaths are not overlooked.

My favorite chapter in this latest edition of Practical Homicide Investigation is the chapter on Profiling and Investigative Assessment. The expanded coverage in this chapter reinforces the importance of behavioral evidence at the crime scene and how to utilize the collection of this "intangible" evidence in your overall homicide investigation.

The new Practical Homicide Investigation textbook could be called "4th Addition" rather than "4th Edition" as you will see when you read it. You will find newly added cases and updated information throughout the pages from cover to cover.

When you finish reading the last chapter of the 4th Edition and think that you have finished the textbook, you flip the page and find a newly revised glossary of the terms and definitions related to homicide investigations. This glossary is not only a great resource for your understanding of the terminology, but will enhance your ability to properly document your investigation in professional, well-written reports. Another important benefit of the glossary will be recognized after the arrest of the perpetrator(s) when it is your time to testify. You will be able to discuss your case in a manner that will demonstrate to the people in the judicial system, especially the jury, your dedication to your profession and to the victims of crimes. Reading and understanding this book will give you the confidence to ensure that homicide victims will get what they deserve - a thorough investigation by a professional, dedicated investigator.

I have been a PHI disciple for many years and as I read the 4th Edition text, I could hear the words of Vernon Geberth, "Follow every lead to its ultimate conclusion." - "All murder cops are cold case detectives." - "Remember, do it right the first time. You only get one chance." These directives will act as cues to keep you focused as you investigate any death cases.

All of the great additions to the 4th Edition of Practical Homicide Investigation lead to the most remarkable point of all which is that Lt. Commander Geberth took the time to improve his book for us. It demonstrates his perpetual passion for the profession of homicide investigation and is why he is known internationally as "Mr. Murder." Even though the author's name is followed by the word "retired" in parenthesis, the truth is that Vernon Geberth may have retired from NYPD, but he has never retired from the business of being a murder cop. The fact that he continues to revise the Practical Homicide Investigation textbook is a testament to his dedication to solving homicides and an example that all of us in the business should strive to achieve.

Larry Thomas
Assistant Director, Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI)
KBI Special Agent in Charge - BTK Task Force

Top of Page

Vernon Geberth has taken his experience, education and expertise to a new level in the Fourth Edition Practical Homicide Investigation. His step-by-step approach to investigation techniques accompanied by real life color photos of actual crime scenes makes a "one-size fits-all" text for responding patrol officers to supervisors overseeing the investigatory process.

This text is as close to real life experience as most investigators will be exposed to in their career. Practical Homicide Investigation Fourth Edition should be mandatory reading for all investigators.

Laren Thorson
Detective Sergeant (Ret.)
Michigan State Police

Top of Page

Vernon Geberth has given homicide investigators another gift with this fourth edition of the "Homicide Bible." This text is academic, surprisingly unique and, most importantly, practical. The author's vast experience in homicide investigation combined with his vast technical knowledge and the result is a text that is both comprehensively informative and useful.

Geberth's use of clinical and historical vignettes and case examples result in a book that often reads like a novel and holds the reader's attention.

Practical Homicide Investigation has been revised to include the very latest techniques of criminal investigation and psychological inquiry. The author utilizes other basic texts on forensic techniques and appears to have a working relationship with many of the contributors who have made major contributions to the study of homicide investigation. Beyond the academic text we find the advice of a person who has investigated thousands of homicides and who knows firsthand the road to be followed for success. He writes: "Personally speaking, if you begin to look upon that body as your wife or husband, daughter, son, mother, or father, you are going to lose that professional objectivity that is so necessary in the murder inquiry." This advice along with the author's belief in the "order of things," the need for strong ego defense mechanisms and emphasis on teamwork provides a modality for the investigator to deal professionally with the difficult tasks at hand. Avoiding direct emotional involvement and focusing on the dynamics of the event are hallmarks of Geberth's unique and successful investigative technique. His guidance regarding avoiding pre-judgement in the search for the truth, teamwork, patience, flexibility, openness to new suggestions and being prepared to change the focus of an investigation is a literal guide for a successful investigation and what he calls "information seeking." He encourages advocacy for the victim and the surviving family, "All real murder cops are cold case detectives because we never forget our victims and their families." The homicide investigator must be "street smart and book wise."

Initial actions at the homicide scene are emphasized and the "do it right the first time, you only get one chance" approach is determinate of a successful outcome to any investigation. These ideas resonate throughout the text as the reader is drawn into ever more complex details.

Although the author emphasizes that DNA work will never replace the homicide detective, the chapter on DNA analysis and application is the best I have read in any medical or forensic textbook. This excellent discussion on molecular biology is clear and concise and the diagrams and photographs are part of the major revision from previous editions.

There is an updated section on crime scene photography techniques, equipment and application, which is very useful and consistent with the fabric of collecting all other evidence. The "Total Station Technique" is described as an important adjunctive advance in homicide investigation.

We learn that there are now "CSI" criminals and, not surprisingly, the obstacles presented in any investigation by the police and political bureaucracy. The heart of the text, however, is in the details and lucid descriptions of the methods and techniques of investigation such as recent techniques of blood splatter analysis and updated fingerprint techniques. The types of evidence at the crime scene and collection procedures are basic to investigative "know how," along with an updated understanding of ballistic evidence.

The section on sex related homicide has been expanded to include the psychodynamics of the event and the "signature" aspects of the crime. Homosexual related homicides are discussed in a respectful and sensitive manner recognizing legitimate differences in lifestyle. Narcotics related homicides are given a separate section as well. No stone is left unturned with such discussions as police related shootings and homicides involving theft of a fetus-the murder of pregnant women to obtain unborn babies.

Psychological issues such as the Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP), psycholinguistic profiling, specific subcultures, stalkers, profiling serial murderer's and the use of criminal personality profiling are described as a significant focus of some investigations. The author even discusses the use of "psychics" in homicide investigation providing guidance and cautionary comment. Terms such as piquerism, geographic profiling, malignant narcissism and the psychology of evil are clearly explained.

Every chapter of the book is illuminated with updated photographs and drawings that mesh well with the text under discussion. The glossary of terms has also been updated and expanded. The Homicide Investigation and Tracking System is described in detail for analysis of murder cases as well as the guidelines for disseminating information to the news media.

This comprehensive book is a "must read" for anyone involved in homicide investigation. It is truly a remarkable gift.

Ronald Turco, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor, Oregon Health and Sciences University
Past president-American Academy of Psychoanalysis

Top of Page

Vernon Geberth, with the new fourth edition of his "Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques, gives us the New Testament to go with the Old Testament in "The Bible" of homicide investigation.

It appears the author has revisited every chapter, but this latest revision especially provides new forensic coverage; in particular recent DNA developments. Considerable weight has been added to the original text, And I do not merely refer to accuracy and authenticity. I mean weight, literally.

Many new photographs and illustrations have been included and nearly all of them are in bright, graphic color. As usual with Commander Geberth's literary efforts, the faint hearted should proceed with utmost caution.

The homicide investigator, experienced and neophyte alike, will, as always, benefit greatly from Vernon's expertise, experience and education, and will better understand why "We Work for God".

Larry Welch, Esq.
Director, Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI)
Topeka, Kansas

Top of Page

In the modern world of homicide investigation and prosecution the "CSI syndrome" at times plagues us. The new 4th Edition provides the remedies and tactics for dealing with CSI - It is called PHI, Practical Homicide Investigation.

In this new 4th Edition Vernon Geberth presents THE cutting edge resource book for all criminal investigators and prosecutors. This new 4th Edition takes the reader step by step, from the first officer arriving at the scene, through identification of the nature of the crime, the handling of the crime scene, expanding the investigation, through laboratory analysis of the evidence and up to the successful prosecution of the suspects. In addition, the cutting edge technology and its limitations are explained.

New, detailed illustrations are provided in the 4th Edition to aid in explanation of the tactics, procedures and forensic techniques discussed. This new 4th Edition of Practical Homicide Investigation is a "must study" for all who are involved in the investigation and prosecution of homicides and other serious crimes. The investigative techniques and procedures center on homicides but apply to all criminal investigations. Prosecutors must understand the investigation tactics and procedures as well as the forensic techniques before they can effective present a homicide in court and explain these to the jury. Practical Homicide Investigation provides a clear, detailed outline for investigators and prosecutors, both of whom only get one chance to do it right.

Jim Yontz, Assistant District Attorney
Potter County, Texas
Lead Prosecutor on the New Mexico Sex-Slave Case

Top of Page

This book is a "must" for anyone involved in law enforcement and forensic investigations including seasoned homicide investigators, police personnel, forensic investigators and forensic pathologists.

Unquestionably, Geberth has fully succeeded in his mission to provide a comprehensive and practical resource text that will serve as an investigational guide for the homicide professional. Although previous editions of Practical Homicide Investigation were often referred to as the homicide investigator's "Bible", Geberth, outperformed himself with the Fourth Edition, which is undisputedly the homicide detective's "BIBLE". The book is a compendium that has been completely revised and literally "bulges" with vast amounts of new information and techniques that have revolutionized homicide investigations. In this regard it is a literal library that provides a comprehensive resource for homicide investigators, forensic scientists, coroners, and medical examiners.

Geberth has masterfully organized the chapters to begin with the homicide crime scene, and then slowly details each stage of the investigation, chapter by chapter in logical sequence beginning with the First Officers general duties, then his specific duties, the preliminary scene investigation by the detectives, the specific scene investigative duties, the crime scene photos, the crime scene sketch etc., etc. and continues the stages, chapter by chapter to conclude with chapter 24, "Investigation, Supervision and Management of the Homicide Investigation".

An important addition is the inclusion of several check-off lists that greatly simplifies an investigation with the added advantage of obtaining all the information critical to the investigation. For example, he includes a First Officer's Duty Checklist, a Patrol Officer's Checklist, an Investigators Checklist, a Supervisors Checklist, a Police Manager's Checklist, etc. For example, the First Officer's Checklist is utilized to assist him in refreshing his memory in order to recall what information he must collect at the scene. The Supervisor's Checklist is particularly invaluable in the coordination and direction of activities at crime scenes and a Police Managers Checklist is of paramount importance for documenting crucial information for use during department reviews particularly to challenge legal actions garnered against the police.

Geberth has picked the brains of the "cream of the crop" in the homicide field and has subtly incorporated this information. He has also included new chapters; a newly revised chapter on DNA was essentially updated and expanded by Dr. Pasquale Buffolino, a prominent DNA expert from the Nassau County Medical Examiner's Office who had previously worked under Dr. Robert Shaler. The revisions are important because of the multiplicity of uses of DNA in forensic investigations. Another chapter is included on equivocal death investigations in relation to staged crime scenes where it may be unclear as to whether the investigator is dealing with a homicide or suicide. Since these investigations are open to interpretation, the investigator is fully alerted so he doesn't fall prey to a clever offender who is attempting to stage a crime scene.

A major feature of this new edition that is really impressive derives from his use of numerous color photographs throughout the book. In my field of forensic pathology, color photos are a sine qua non because black and white photos may be seriously misleading and in many instances subtle changes are missed. It is one of the major reasons why autopsy photos and victims at crime scenes are usually shown in color to juries.

Geberth properly warns against "the CSI Effect", a term he coined to stress the fact that various television shows such as CSI, Forensic Files, Law and Order and etc. Although very informative to the public can complicate the investigation of a law enforcement officer by showing a criminal how he can avoid leaving evidence at a crime scene, how to hide or destroy bodies, using gloves to avoid fingerprints and ways to remove evidence.

His oft repeated warning, "Remember: do it right the first time. You only get one chance," echoes throughout.

Frederick T. Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D.
Emeritus Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, N.Y.
Emeritus Adjunct Associate Professor of Pathology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Top of Page

Return to Book Information

Home   Biography  The Books  PHI Seminars  Current Involvements  Research Materials  Curriculum Vitae  PHI Distribution  Sites of Interest

"We work for God."®