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?

Are Those Fingerprints Fresh?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2 (NASB)

Even though I might sound like a rookie, I have a confession to make. When processing a scene for fingerprints (friction ridge impressions), there is little that tickles my fancy more than a crisp clear impression developing before my eyes. Even with a quarter century experience under my belt it’s still exciting!

Each powdered-brush stroke reveals more of the pattern. It forms and widens. Darkened ridges rise and recurve. Some split into bifurcations. Others abruptly stop as ridge endings. The combination of details are unending and amazing. Each unveiled detail feeds my confidence. I will identify the person who left it. Fingerprints can be beautiful.

God, fearfully and wonderfully, formed our bodies in our mother’s womb. He used the amalgam of data encoded in our DNA, gentle movement of amniotic fluid around us, and our touching the walls of our pre-birth home to engrave ridge impressions into our fingers, palms, and foot soles.

DNA is heralded as the ultimate evidence despite its weaknesses. Friction ridge matching is the workhorse, the most widely used source of identification in the world. However a match does not prove a person’s guilt only their presence. Depending on the composition of the print, the surface it is on, and the surrounding environment, it can be viable for minutes or months.

I can identify a person from impressions and testify to his or her presence at a scene. But based solely on the fingerprint I cannot say when the person was there. There are certain signs (e.g., clarity vs. blurring) and environmental situations, which will hint at a time frame, but they would not stand in a court of law. If a suspect in a crime had been at the scene prior to the crime on a legitimate basis, the fingerprint match can be worthless.

An ability to nail down the time an impression was deposited, would be a great boon to crime scene investigation. Now, as explained in the video above, researchers may break this time barrier. They are observing many of the signs that I observe in a fingerprint in the process of validating their findings.

I previously posted an analogy about processing a scene for fingerprints to show the presence of a suspect at a crime scene and processing a person to unveil the God’s presence in a person’s life.

But how fresh are those prints left by God in a person’s life? How long has it been since He touched them?

In Galatians 5:22-23 the Apostle Paul speaks about “fruit of the Spirit“.  These gifts are a free sample of what we will be like in eternity. They are displayed in a person’s behavior and remain the truest evidence that God has touched their life. There is a crisp newness about them.

When people come into a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, they undergo a transformation that continues the rest of their life. However, if a blurring in that newness is observed in them. If God’s fingerprints are not clear and crisp, it is a good indicator they have stepped away from relationship and His hands.

Through his writing in Romans 12:2 the Apostle Paul urges Christians to continue in transformation, by staying in His hands. The fingerprints of God are beautiful indeed.