MurderCon is a writers’ conference sponsored by Writers Police Academy to help fiction authors “get it right” as far as crime writing is concerned. This year was my third time at this conference, but we were at an entirely different venue — Sirchie Global in Raleigh, NC.
Sirchie is one of two manufactures of crime and forensics investigation equipment and tools in the United States. I was lucky enough to be included on the Sirchie factory tour where they produce evidence cones, evidence tags, evidence paint, flags and fingerprint brushes, tape and powders. They also have many walls of the insignias of the law enforcement professionals trained at their facility. Sirchie is accustomed to training law enforcement but for four days this August they schooled fiction writers on the basics of how to investigate a crime scene.
Special Guest Speaker, Graham Hetrick shared personal experiences from his position as Dauphin County Coroner and his involvements with the popular Discovery Channel television reality series, The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead.
Writers Police Academy brought in a group of expert instructors working in fields that investigate crime. We had blood spatter experts, arson investigators, interrogation specialists and forensic anthropologists, just to name a few. One of the most unexpected speakers for me was forensic geologist, Heather Hanna, who can take soil from a suspect’s shoe and associate it to the exact place of the body dump using spectral analysis. Speaker David Alford, a founding member of the FBI Evidence Response Team and a retired Special Agent, lectured on shoe prints, showing various cases were a match had placed the suspect at the scene and presented an interactive workshop on Blood Evidence in which we were able to perform a simple chemical test to detect the presence of blood on various items. I got a positive sign on a rock and was relieved to learn they use sheep’s blood for instruction.
A speaker who I never miss is interrogation expert, screenwriter and television personality, Paul Bishop. With thirty-five years with the Los Angeles Police Department, he as earned his credentials having interviewed and interrogated countless witnesses and suspects. His workshop alone is worth the cost of the conference.
If you want to speak to an ATF officer, chat with a homicide detective, or swap stories with a biological weapons expert, then this is the conference for you. Can you lift a print off a rose petal? I don’t know, but the certified footwear and latent print examiner might have your answer.
In addition to the workshops and a chance to meet other like-minded writers, this conference includes breakfast, a cocktail hour and one banquet which features a huge raffle, silent auction and culminates with a book signing for featured authors, guest authors and the keynote speaker. This year’s keynote was Heather Graham whose speech was funny and informative. Finally, there is the presentation of the winners and finalists of the Golden Donut Contest, the shortest short story contest that I know. It’s 200 words including title. The hotel was located directly across a street from a shopping mall with a Barnes and Nobles Bookstore, a food court and many great restaurants.
MurderCon 2019 - Writers Police Academy has changed its focus slightly from experiential to informative and I like the changes. I walked away with so much useful information, anecdotes and case studies. Perhaps equally valuable, were the contacts with the instructors who were gracious with their time and providing us with contact information for future exploration as specific questions in our writing arise.
This conference is like no other and I am already looking forward to next year!