Homicide School Offers Killer Course
Former New York cop gives tips to Metro detectives on solving crimes

Article from Las Vegas Sun, May 23, 2000
By Jace Radke

Return to Current Events

Credited with writing the book that has become known as the bible for homicide investigators, former New York City Police Lt. Commander Vernon Geberth says it's the little things that make a good detective.

"You've got to be able to notice the little things, and then be a person that perseveres and always keeps after something," Geberth said. "Many times it's the smallest details that become the most important."

An eye for detail and a tenacious attitude are two attributes that Geberth picked up in his 30 years of law enforcement, and it's some of what he tries to pass on in his talks with detectives that could best be described as homicide school.

Geberth, whose book "Practical Homicide Investigation" has become required reading for detectives, is in Las Vegas through Wednesday teaching his latest homicide school.

About 100 detectives, FBI representatives, district attorneys and coroners from as far away as Honolulu and New Orleans have gathered at the Flamingo Hilton to get an education in homicide investigation.

On Monday they learned the importance of sugar from the retired commander of the Bronx homicide task force, who now serves as a homicide and forensic consultant and expert witness.

Geberth related the story of a homicide in a New York City social club where a man was shot and killed in an apparent gang killing, and how a detective didn't think collecting spilled sugar at the crime scene was important.

"As the first officers arrived three guys were walking out, and all of a sudden all three had amnesia and wouldn't talk," Geberth said. "Inside there was a dead guy with a broken sugar container on the ground next to him.

"Pretty soon some guys from the victim's crew showed up with baseball bats, and we told the witnesses that they could talk to us or go have a chat with the baseball team."

The witnesses chose to give Geberth the name of a suspect, and when police arrived at the suspect's house they found sugar on the gas pedal of the man's car.

"That sugar got us a search warrant, and eventually got us our guy," Geberth said. "It's very hard to focus in on something as small as spilled sugar, but everything is important at a homicide scene."

All of Metro Police's homicide detectives have been through at least one of Geberth's schools, and on Monday gang unit detectives were among the audience, Metro homicide Lt. Wayne Petersen said.

"We try to get detectives out for this because we may have some candidates for the homicide section from other areas in the department," Petersen said.

Geberth gives exacting detail about the cases, and more importantly the victims, he has come across over the years when he teaches the ins and outs of solving homicides.

"I want to make the people what they were before the homicide, so that they are living and breathing," Geberth said. "To be a good detective you have to have a strong belief in helping people and families, and realize that you have a responsibility to bring them justice."

All contents copyright 2000 Las Vegas SUN, Inc.

Return to Top    Return to Current Events

"We work for God."®