Missing Pieces

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

Just read.

The sound of single gunshot in the bckyrd woke his fmily. The uncomfortble proximity lso bruptly pulled him wy from his erly-morning ptio coffee. Pushing his mug side he stepped cutiously to his fence nd peered into his neighbor’s yrd. There ws Joe lying on his lwn, with gun in his hnd. The 911 Opertor received two ner simultneous clls reporting   shooting.

Every death investigation first determines the cause: accident, suicide, or homicide. In this case, every piece of evidence suggested suicide. One piece, however, remained absent.

The investigation had gathered the elements needed to explain what happened that morning. But when you read a paragraph with a vowel omitted from use or assemble a jigsaw puzzle only to find one piece missing, you get frustrated . This kind of thing just gnaws at an investigator. While, in itself, a lack of evidence is not evidence, a casing does not get up and walk away by itself.

Analysis indicated a semi-automatic handgun fired the fatal shot. A spent casing would eject from the weapon. Yet several searches of the thick St. Augustine lawn, using varying search patterns and metal detectors, yielded no casing.

But the fictional super-detective Sherlock Holmes did say, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” Further inquiry revealed the missing casing had indeed walked out—in the boot tread of a responding Emergency Medical Technician at the scene. Case solved. Thank you Sherlock!

I suppose it would be cool if a divine being divulged the secrets of every crime scene with clear, precise, no-pieces-missing detail when I walked in. That is not a reality I currently enjoy. Unless we blatantly refuse, most of us do have the ability to fill in the blanks and read the first paragraph.

I have worked several crime scenes in my career in which physical evidence was minimal. But the fact it wasn’t there was a fact. In training investigators to deal with frustration I use the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle. We have more than enough pieces of the puzzle to see what the picture is. Look for the missing piece but don’t get frustrated if you can’t find it. Sometimes it’s not humanly possible. Frustration only hinders other aspects of the job.

I could have obstinately refused to continue the investigation because one piece of missing evidence. The need for a new career would quickly follow the epic stupidity. But as in all choices, I could have. Instead, by using the God-given ability to reason, my capacity to analyze crime scenes increased. The gift to determine truth for myself grows with each scene I work.

Faith works in a similar manner. But in the exploration of faith, there is a Divine Being willing to walk us through the mysteries of creation pointing out clues in written scripture and personal revelation.

Most people desire a deep understanding of the truth in the universe around us. The Spirit of God plants a seed of faith deep inside us. We instinctively know something or someone exists beyond just us.

I am no different. But the reason I have the faith I do, as noted many times on this blog, is because I objectively investigated the statements and claims of the Holy Bible for myself. My faith in them has only grown. God has given me the investigative capacity for examining the clues He has provided, “no matter how improbable.”

This yearning to know drives the growing field of Christian apologetics. Christian apologetics has been around since Christianity began. The Apostle Paul adeptly defended his faith on Mars hill in the book of Acts. The field holds great importance because some refuse even the possibility of biblical truth. They fear a revelation and actively oppose it. Cultural dominance of social media and global connection makes a defense of our faith, with gentleness and respect, more important than ever.

As with the ability to read the first paragraph, God gives most people sufficient investigative ability in matters of faith. I am, as the writer of Hebrews 11:1 related, assured in my faith because the evidence I have found convicts me of the truth it reveals.

I have been blessed by being part of the book launch group for the revised and updated edition of: Evidence That Demands A Verdict by Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence is a deep archive-level “bible” of Christian apologetic knowledge. Navigation through the greatest mysteries in existence could be greatly aided by this book. It might provide you with the missing pieces of  your  puzzle.  I encourage everyone to read it upon publication.

Please allow the same advise I give new Crime Scene Investigators. Just because you don’t have all the pieces to complete the picture puzzle at once, don’t get frustrated. You can enjoy the picture you do have immensely. Earlier I said it might be nice if answers to all the questions were handed to us with no missing pieces. I think that would rapidly become boring though. I do love working my way through a good mystery. Do you?

The Good Confession

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,…. —  1 Timothy 6:13

Ecce_homo_by_Antonio_Ciseri_(1)

The word interrogate, meaning to ask questions in a thorough and often forceful way, does not necessarily imply physical force.

I have witnessed many interrogations in my career. They have never been influenced by physical means. Often, revealing evidence from a crime scene investigation garners a confession of crime from a suspect.

In law enforcement a “good confession” is revelation of truth answering questions about a crime.  In 1 Timothy, the Apostle Paul refers to the “good confession” made in Pontius Pilate’s interrogation of Jesus Christ.

A CBC program, THE FIFTH ESTATE – The Confession, (video below) documents the 2010 interrogation of Russell Williams by Detective Staff Sergeant Jim Smyth. It is one of the best managed and beneficial interrogations in Canadian law enforcement history.

The 19th chapter of John’s Gospel narrates an interrogation between Pontius Pilate and a man brought before him as a criminal—Jesus of Nazareth. It is the most important interrogation in history.

The two interrogations both ended with “good confessions”. They have much in common and answer the same question. What happens when a man who believes he is in control is not?

 

This video contains graphic language and descriptions. 

Pontius Pilate was such a man. He was the Roman Prefect in control of Judea. A politically empowered authority who held the power to grant life or death. He was credited with many violent acts against the Jewish nation of Israel.

Another, a man of our time—Russell Williams, a Colonel holding a command position in the Canadian armed forces. He is a psychopath who believed he had similar authority to fulfill his desires.

The interrogation of Russell Williams lasted about 10 hours. Tire track and she impression evidence tying Williams to the residence of a rape and murder victim, Jessica Lloyd, is revealed to him (at 24:10 in the video above) in a confrontation.

  • At this point a visible difference is apparent.
  • The shoe and tire impression is revealed to him.
  • The atmosphere in the room changes.
  • Williams realizes he has no way out.
  • His perceived control of the situation is gone.
  • A bottomless void opens up in front of him and he realizes he is not in control. His interrogator is. He is lost.

I referenced how the Roman authorities knew exactly what was going on in Jerusalem in my previous post. Pontius Pilate was aware of the Nazarene but he did not know Him. Evidences were revealed to Pilate in a confrontation face to face with Jesus of Nazareth

  • He knew the Sanhedrin were manipulative and power hungry.
  • They did not respect Rome or his authority yet they feared this man Jesus of Nazareth and His following.
  • His wife warned him to have nothing to do with the judgement because of a dream.
  • He was amazed at the steadfast countenance of Jesus even after being flogged.
  • The Sanhedrin advised him that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. The atmosphere in the room changed.
  • The result of this brought fear to his heart. What if this really was the Son of God?
  • A bottomless void opens up in front of him and he realizes he is not in control. His prisoner is. He is lost.

While the two interrogations had differences in that the ones who believed themselves in control (a suspect in one and the interrogator in the other). They both found out they were not in control and realized who was.

Detective Jim Smyth offered Russell Williams a ray of hope in how he would be remembered (26:10 in the video). In truth this was a way of gaining more critical information.  Williams is currently serving two consecutive life sentences in prison.

Jesus did offer Pontius a ray of hope in that the greater sin belonged to those who had demanded his crucifixion. Pontius Pilate faded into history.  I cannot imagine Pontius could not have realized the truth before his meeting was done. Tradition holds he was either executed by the Roman Emperor Caligula or committed suicide. It is also believed he may have converted to Christianity after he met Jesus Christ.

The question remains for us all to answer. It is the same question placed on the hearts of the Williams and Pilate. What will you do when you realize you are not in control?

A CSI Guy Book Review: God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace

God's Crime Scene

It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. – Luke 21:13 (NASB)

Occasionally I will read a book that moves me to write a post from a Crime Scene Investigator’s point of view, a CSI guy book review. I just finished reading one of those books.

Even in my first few days of Crime Scene Investigation training I was taught to prepare for court testimony. The jury is a CSI’s audience. Everything done in a crime scene investigation is ultimately for their benefit. I ingrain this concept into every trainee I have.

The first time I took the stand in front of a jury was as a witness for the prosecution in a burglary case. I had developed and collected fingerprints at the scene. I later matched those prints to a suspect, the defendant.

The judge, jury, and defense scrutinized me. I was nervous. How is it said—as a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs?

After 25 years in the field and many, many, many appearances in court I am not so nervous. Primarily because training and experience give me certainty that what I testify is true and accurate. I also know what kinds of tactics will likely be used against me in cross examination. I am ready.

 In his book Cold Case Christianity, Los Angeles PD detective J. Warner Wallace uses cold-case skills to investigate the claims of Biblical Gospels. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and following the meticulous investigation. I found his writing detailed, understandable, and well researched.

Then I heard in his newest book God’s Crime Scene, J. Warner Wallace continues to use cold-case skills. This time investigating Divine design in our universe. I did not hesitate to pre-order it.

When I received and read it I found no disappointment. Granted, Wallace covers some intellectually deep areas of study (e.g. the origin of life, signs of design, consciousness, free will, and the existence of evil). He uses a precise “inside or outside the room” technique.

However he augments his academic-level thinking, observations, and conclusions with understandable info-graphs and anecdotes from some of his former cold-case investigations. A good example is his use of a murder weapon, a garrote, to explain irreducible complexity and intent of design.

By using the statements of experts (virtual witnesses) who both oppose and support his conclusions he proves-up an unbiased investigation. He also does not take an offensive (attack-dog), tone is his presentation. Juries are favorable to both these characteristics.

As a CSI, I must clearly and convincingly explain to a jury:

  • the techniques and equipment I use at a crime scene investigation
  • the reasons I use them
  • the results of  their use
  • the conclusions I make based on those results

Testimony is given to the jury in the face of a judge, a prosecutor, and a defense attorney. The judge’s responsibility is to ensure that the laws are fairly upheld. The prosecutor presents the case and evidence against the defendant. The defense presents the opposing view of the case and evidence for the defendant.

In my experience defense attorneys usually cross examine the prosecutor’s witnesses with intent to:

  • discredit them, their training, and/or their expertise
  • discredit the validity of the evidence or its analysis

In the end each court case is decided by the conclusions of judge or jury. What they think of the witness and the veracity of evidence presented in testimony make their decision for, or against, possible.

In our culture there are many who will attack the veracity of scripture and belief in a Creator God. I have noted they take very much the same approach that defense attorneys do.

After reading J. Warner Wallace’s newest book I can honestly say he makes a very good case for Divine design. He is obviously aware of the points I made above and executes them well. If I was in a jury box listening to his testimony I would be hard pressed to not decide in his favor.

In Luke 21, Jesus said that His followers would face persecution and trial for their beliefs. He proclaimed this would lead to a chance to witness and give testimony for Him.

This persecution has been consistent since Christ walked in Jerusalem. It is certainly prevalent in our culture today. But do not be nervous. Pray for wisdom, read scripture, read books like Cold Case Christianity and God’s Crime Scene. By doing so you can be certain in what, and why, you believe and be ready to testify on His behalf.

I fully recommend this book and give it 4 out of 5 CSIG stars. It would have been 5 out of 5 but I am envious that I did not write it.