Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Daniel Williams

Initial Impressions

"It was pretty obvious he was a man dressed as a woman," Detective Kelly Baitx says.

Detective Kelly Baitx
Detective Kelly Baitx

The body had fallen next to a blue trash dumpster. Two .25-caliber shell casings lay on the ground nearby. Behind the dumpster, a wooden fence separated the street from one of the many businesses in the neighborhood.

The area around 12th and Compton is an industrial district, bustling during the day but deserted at night. Except for the street people — hustlers, dope peddlers, pimps, and prostitutes.

"It's a hell of a way to die, and a hell of a place to die," one of the homicide detectives later said.

A key characteristic of any good homicide investigator is the ability to simultaneously do two seemingly contradictory things: keep an open mind, one that allows for consideration of any potential avenue of investigation; and use his or her experience and knowledge of the streets to quickly narrow down the almost infinite number of possible scenarios that could have led to a body lying dead on a sidewalk on a cold and windy morning.

The average homicide cop in South Central L.A. carries eight to 15 open, active cases.

On average, each detective picks up a new murder case every four to six weeks. That kind of murder rate doesn't leave a detective with a lot of time to engage in wild speculation or flights of fancy.

The case of a man dressed in drag and found shot dead with a small caliber handgun on a street known for drug dealing and prostitution — both male and female — probably wasn't going to involve high-dollar contract killers, Middle Eastern terrorists, or international drug cartels. Those potential avenues of investigation could probably be closed right away.

Another clue that the case might be more pedestrian, lay unseen during the detectives' initial survey of the crime scene, but showed itself when the coroner's investigators rolled the body over to examine its underside.

Beneath the man's body, investigators found a used condom.


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