Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cold Case: Bullets in the Field

by Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman
authors of How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, available on Kindle and Nook
Thank you to Joseph Giacalone for hosting us today. We’re honored to be guests of the Cold Case Squad blog.
We are two private investigators, co-owners of Highlands Investigations & Legal Services, Inc. in Denver, Colorado (http://www.highlandsinvestigations.com). Several years ago, we were hired by an attorney to investigate a crime scene, comprised of 800 acres of ranch land in Colorado, a month after law enforcement had processed it. We were tasked to find bullet slugs that proved the defendant, a rancher, had fired warning shots when two men trespassed his property and threatened him.
The men, however, claimed the rancher had shot directly at them. When the sheriffs didn’t find any bullet slugs to confirm the rancher’s assertion of self defense, the D.A. charged the rancher with attempted first-degree murder and a $300,000 bond. This rancher, who had no criminal history, not even a speeding ticket, faced two counts of attempted first-degree murder. If found guilty, he’d get a mandatory/minimum 24 years per victim, or 48 years in prison.
To solve this case, two words came to our minds: metal detectors.
Fortunately, we knew a crime scene expert who specialized in metal detectors. After he educated us on their use and calibration, we leased two detectors and headed to the ranch. Based on our research, we believed the bullets would have traveled a half-mile from the point where the rancher had fired the warning shots, and were possibly embedded an inch or so below the ground given the type of dense sandy soil that was on this ranch.
It was grueling work. Belatedly, we learned a portion of the ranch had once been a junkyard, so our metal detectors kept beeping as they found buried metallic objects, from rusty bed springs to sections of barbed-wire fence. Burrs worked their way up through the soles of our shoes. The weather conditions were another challenge as November on the high plains means cold temperatures and bone-numbing winds. And did we mention we’d never come face to face with a buffalo before?
It took four all-day visits to the ranch, during which we meticulously swept sections of the land with our metal detectors. Sometimes we’d look out at the seemingly endless high plains and worry we’d never find the slugs, but we didn’t want to give up, couldn’t give up. A man’s life was in the balance.
Finally…we found one slug. Then a second, a third, the fourth. As we had surmised, the slugs were only a couple of inches below the surface. Their placement in relation to where the actors had stood proved the rancher had fired in self defense.
On Christmas Eve, the D.A. reduced the charges and the rancher was released on a reduced bail to go home to his family. And his buffalo.
Photos of the ranch land and the bullet slugs:




The Authors
Colleen Collins co-owns Highlands Investigations in Denver, Colorado. Her articles on private investigations have appeared in PI Magazine, Pursuit Magazine, PInow.com and other publications. She's written 20 novels for Harlequin and Dorchester and has spoken at regional and national conferences about writing private eyes in fiction.

Shaun Kaufman co-owns Highlands Investigations, and has worked in and around the criminal justice field for over 30 years as a former trial attorney and a current investigator. He's published articles in PI Magazine, the Denver Law Review and other publications, and has presented workshops on a wide variety of investigative topics, including crime scenes, how PIs effectively testify in trials and gang evidence.
The Book
Available on Amazon http://amzn.to/o5dfoa

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