On October 25, 2020 , at approximately 9:30 pm, the Jersey City Police Department received a 911 call to respond to NJCU on the report of a deceased person discovered in a vehicle parked in Lot # 7, adjacent to the West Campus Village Dormitory. The victim, a female student resident of the dormitory, was found sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, apparently strangled to death. The following pieces of information emerged from the crime scene:
There were no signs of a break-in and the car door was unlocked with the driver’s side window open.
The victim’s purse was missing.
A flower was tucked behind her ear.
The rear tires were slashed.
The crime scene has already been processed with the Crime-Scene Follow-Up sketching, photography, evidence search and collection having been completed. Fingerprints were lifted from the vehicle door. Blood and skin fragments were taken from the victim’s fingernails. Evidence found at the scene is now in custody at the Prosecutor’s Office or has been sent to the New Jersey State Police Laboratory for analysis.
You are now in the midst of the Continuing Investigation and have focused on a Prime Suspect.
The suspect has been identified as John Smith. Smith is a former student at NJCU. He last attended classes in the Spring 2020 semester. Smith has been linked to the victim, Linda Jones as a former boyfriend. The two dated briefly in the Spring of 2020 having met as classmates at NJCU.
Smith has a troubled past, having an prior arrest record for assault and narcotics offenses. He dropped out of classes following the Spring 2020 term. According to friends and family he dated Ms. Jones for a couple of months in what developed into a stormy relationship, with frequent arguments and periodic threats of domestic violence. The victim broke off the relationship in July of 2020, although the suspect attempted to reconcile on numerous occasions. In interviews with past associates and acquaintances of Smith, you have discovered similar past patterns of behavior. You have also learned that Smith is obsessed with flowers, having given them frequently as gifts to former girlfriends. In consultation with the Narcotics Task Force, you have also learned that Smith is suspected of being involved in continuing drug distribution activity.
With this information in mind, you have decided to focus your investigation on John Smith. After an initial informational interview in which he was evasive and generally uncooperative, you have strong suspicions but have decided that you want to develop a strong foundation of Probable Cause for your case by gathering more supporting evidence before bringing him in for a formal interrogation and possibly charging him with the crime. You are still awaiting laboratory results from the crime scene investigation. It should be noted that the victim’s purse and cell phone have not yet been found. You are now going to monitor Smith’s activities with the objective of linking him to the crime and finding incriminating evidence against him.
How would you proceed with this investigation to bring it to a conclusion?