At this moment, you are probably experiencing such a state of shock and anguish that it is hard to think clearly - not to mention the difficult task of making funeral arrangements. In some cases, the death of our loved ones may not be handled with the appropriate attention by law enforcement possibly leaving a victim's family to investigate their loved one's death themselves. For this reason, the following suggestions provided may prove to be invaluable in time as you work to advocate for your loved one.
Going forward, it is pertinent that you get a large notebook for which you may keep notes of all information that you may come across such as the last known location and last individuals that your loved one may have had contact with, time frames, statements made by potential witnesses, and even information you might obtain through media or law enforcement. It is also important that you get the investigating officer's name and contact information and even their supervisor's name. it is helpful to also write down any questions that you may have for investigators, etc. It is necessary that you maintain contact with the investigating officer as they may not maintain contact with you. When communicating with an investigating officer, it is important to document when and what is said. It may be beneficial to get some of the communication in writing as well, if you can. Additionally, throughout your efforts to advocate for your loved one, it may prove helpful if another family member, or other trusted individual, keeps notes as well in order to capture as many details of the circumstances surrounding your loved one's death. You can then compare notes throughout this process.
This part is hard to even fathom doing, so IF you can get help. If the crime scene is accessible and if you can enlist the help of a strong, trusted individual who is willing to go to the scene, it may be helpful to obtain your own pictures of the scene at various angles. The sooner this is done, the better.
Should this action be taken, DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN DANGER. It is important to use extreme caution so as not to disturb any overlooked potential evidence. It is also important that caution is used by the individual(s) visiting the site so as not to endanger themselves with any structural or geographical hazards or interactions with any potential suspects.
Your ability to obtain certain documents related to your loved one will depend on whether the investigating officer decides to treat your loved one's death as a homicide. Usually, if a death is immediately considered a homicide, various reports may not be released until the case is completed. Obtaining these reports may help you to better understand what happened and allow you to possibly identify discrepancies in the claims surrounding the circumstances of your loved one's death.
911 CALL REPORT
If a 911 call was made regarding your loved one at the time of their death, there should be a record of the date, time and brief explanation of the call. An internet search may help you to identify the 911 call center located closest to the location of death. You may call the office number of the call center to request a copy of the 911 call report. They will inform you whether they can release the report or not. You will need to be prepared to provide them with your loved one's name, date and location of death and approximate time. You will also be required to present a picture I.D.
MEDICAL EXAMINERS REPORT
There may be an initial Medical Examiner's Report that is completed. This report is not the same as the actual autopsy report. The Medical Examiner's report is an initial finding and is not as comprehensive as an autopsy. Obtaining the Medical Examiner's Report may take at least three to four months, if not longer, and depends on the number of cases awaiting review. To request this report, contact the Medical Examiner's Office for your state. Requests may be limited to only next-of-kin and you will be required to submit an official written request and proper identification.
The Autopsy Report is more detailed and thus more lengthy than a Medical Examiner's Report. This report is also obtained by contacting your state Medical Examiner's office. You will be required to provide information specific to your loved one as well as proper identification. The timeframe for obtaining an Autopsy Report is similar to the Medical Examiner's report and also depends on the amount of cases requiring review.
Death certificate of a loved one will provide a manner of death which should be the same as that which is listed on the Autopsy Report. It is important to compare them to insure there aren't any inconsistencies.
You may obtain a Death Certificate by contacting your state Department of Vital Statistics.
You will need to contact the law enforcement agency that is handling your loved one's case. They may require that you complete a Request for Information. You will need to be prepared to provide your loved one's name, date of death, the investigating officer's name, as well as provide proper I.D.
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