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Interpreting Markings and Items on the Pavement Near and About the Heitholt Maxima

(Fifth of ten articles about the Kent Heitholt murder in 2001 with a primary focus on interpreting the physical and other evidence at the crime scene that has been made available over the Internet.)

In any effort to reconstruct a crime scene, one needs to try and ascertain how the area likely was before anything happened as well as what events occurred and altered the site after the commission of the crime. In this case, we first assume that there were few, if any, human interaction pavement markings before the onset of the conflict or assault involving Kent Heitholt.

Post murder activities at the crime scene

Soon after the police began arriving, they sought to preserve the crime scene by cordoning off the employee parking lot and restricting access to the crime scene. Including the victim’s Nissan Maxima, a total of four vehicles were cordoned off inside the parking lot.

After the murder, several persons visited the immediate crime scene near and about the driver side of the Heitholt Nissan Maxima until the body was removed. These include the two unknown strangers, Janitor Jerry Trump, sportswriters Russ Baer and Robert Thompson, several police officers and detectives, four or so paramedics who attempted resuscitation, and two funeral home employees summoned to remove the body.

The two strangers were observed at the crime scene on the driver side of the Heitholt Maxima over a span of two plus minutes. When observed they were mostly bent over or squatted down and out of clear sight of the two janitors.

Janitor Jerry Trump came out to check out the situation after the two strangers left and indicated he only took a quick look at the body before leaving to assist in the 911 call.

Robert Thompson said he and Russ Baer first checked the victim’s pulse and then turned him onto his back to better check him out. Apparently Thompson and Baer did not attempt resuscitation before the paramedics arrived.

The paramedics performed CPR and cardiac defibrillation on Heitholt in an attempt to get his heart restarted. To perform defibrillation, they cut open the victim’s sweater and tee shirt. After all efforts failed, they contacted a medical doctor who advised them to declare the victim deceased.

A cover was then placed over the body, the paramedics left the scene, and the police began their documentation of the evidence. This documentation included photographs and video, placement of placards, and removal of loose items on the pavement.

At 5:18 AM, Detective Nichols secured paper bags over both of the victim’s hands. A chalk outline of the body was also made. The funeral home employees then apparently used a scoop stretcher to remove the body to the location where the autopsy was to be conducted.

Where loose items and pavement markings were found

From a review of photos, it was apparent that a considerable amount of the victim’s blood had been deposited on the pavement during the assault and strangulation.

Police photos and videos revealed two general locales of blood pools with one being near and about the left rear wheel and the other being where the victim’s head had been during attempts at resuscitation.

Several items were found under the vehicle. They included a cell phone, one eye glass lens, several sports magazines and bulletins and some sports related articles. A severed belt buckle was found about one foot north of the victim’s head where it had come to rest during the resuscitation events. Five bloody foot prints were found and located by numbered placards. The police also placed cones indicating the locations where blood spray or drops were found outside of the area nearest the vehicle.

Examining the post murder events

It is unknown what the two strangers did or how they altered the crime scene. One possibility is one or more stepped into the blood pooling and left bloody footprints at the scene.

Based on his description of a brief visual inspection only, Janitor Jerry Trump likely caused very little if any alteration of the crime scene.

The two sports writers first tried taking the victim’s pulse and then turned him onto his back. One testified at trial and said that they did not move the victim beyond turning him onto his back. One or both may have stepped into the pooled blood and left one or more of the bloody footprints.

One or more of the several police officers and detectives may have stepped into blood evidence and produced one or more of the tracks found.

Based on the blood trail corresponding to the victim’s head, the paramedic’s likely relocated the victim three or four feet away from the pool of blood in order to better work on him. This move also likely involved relocating his legs out from well under the end of the vehicle.

The paramedic’s performed CPR and defibrillation. The CPR efforts simulated the heart pumping function and likely induced more blood to flow out of the victims head wounds. The defibrillation likely induced the victim’s head to suddenly raise and fall leading to radial outward splashing of the victim’s blood. The paramedics may have stepped into the pooled blood and produced one of more of the bloody footprints found.

Blood markings infer that the two funeral home employees turned the victim’s body onto its right side with the victim’s head leaving a blood impression of the relocation. Then they slid a scoop stretcher alongside the body leaving blood smearing markings of its movement. The funeral home employees then rotated the body onto the stretcher and placed it into the hearse for transport. They too had an opportunity to have inadvertently stepped into pooled blood and left a bloody footprint.

Anyone of the above with perhaps the exception of the funeral home employees may have left the single hair strand that was found in the victim’s bagged hand during autopsy.

Analyzing Crime Scene Images of the Pavement Markings

Several types of blood markings on the pavement can be identified in the available photos and video stills. One is a pooling of blood. Another is a draining trail of pooled blood. Another is a smearing or wiping of blood by another object such as a part of a body.

Another is a vertical dropping of blood. Still another is a splashing spray of blood.

After accounting for the markings left during resuscitation and later removal of the body, the photos reveal one large area of pooled and wiped blood outside and around the left rear wheel following the strangulation of the victim.

Apparent pavement scuffling markings by shoes were found in two locations. One was just outside the driver door. These appeared consistent with being made by the shoes of someone struggling about while lying flat alongside the vehicle with his head near the left rear wheel. A second set of scuffle markings were found just over into the next parking lot slot around police marker 2 for footprints. These scuffle type markings appeared consistent with someone upright and undergoing a strong unbalancing twisting action while heavily engaged in a conflict with another person.

One can surmise that the killer placed the bloodied assault weapon on the pavement when he decided to remove the victim’s belt to strangle him with it. Two possible weapon lay-down locations were found. Both suggested a rectangular weapon profile. One was opposite the driver door. The other was to the forward side of the left rear wheel. Most of my interpretation of the pavement markings is described in the following photo captions along with some notations added to some photos to locate items of interest:

View looking south toward victim’s car and white cloth covered body beside the rear of the car. The cones locate the outer extent of blood spray and drops found on the pavement by the police. Still from NBS Dateline video.
View looking south toward victim’s car and white cloth covered body beside the rear of the car. The cones locate the outer extent of blood spray and drops found on the pavement by the police. Still from NBS Dateline video.
View of crime scene showing victim’s car and location of body before removal. This image was also taken before the placement of cones. Still from NBS Dateline video.
View of crime scene showing victim’s car and location of body before removal. This image was also taken before the placement of cones. Still from NBS Dateline video.
View of crime scene on driver side of Heitholt Maxima after removal of body and loose items on pavement. The chalk outline denotes the relative location of the victim’s body before removal. Both wheels have been chalk marked for their position on the pavement in preparation for removal of the vehicle. Note the blood on the pavement and on the left rear wheel rim and cover. S1 locates pavement scuff marks possibly made by the victim during the attack. S2 locates apparent rotational scuff marks possibly made by victim or killer during the attack. Modified Crime scene photo found on CBS news Internet site. Several of the following photos were made prior to this photo.
View of crime scene on driver side of Heitholt Maxima after removal of body and loose items on pavement. The chalk outline denotes the relative location of the victim’s body before removal. Both wheels have been chalk marked for their position on the pavement in preparation for removal of the vehicle. Note the blood on the pavement and on the left rear wheel rim and cover. S1 locates pavement scuff marks possibly made by the victim during the attack. S2 locates apparent rotational scuff marks possibly made by victim or killer during the attack. Modified Crime scene photo found on CBS news Internet site. Several of the following photos were made prior to this photo.
View showing most of the blood markings on the pavement. Video taken after the body was removed. Note the items under the vehicle. The severed belt buckle has already been secured at the time of this video. Still from CBS News video.
View showing most of the blood markings on the pavement. Video taken after the body was removed. Note the items under the vehicle. The severed belt buckle has already been secured at the time of this video. Still from CBS News video.
View looking lengthwise along driver side of Heitholt Maxima showing five placards locating found bloody footprint markings. Marker #1 is located at the blue arrow. Note the bulletins and magazines under the car at the driver door. Modified still from CBS 48 Hours police crime scene video.
View looking lengthwise along driver side of Heitholt Maxima showing five placards locating found bloody footprint markings. Marker #1 is located at the blue arrow. Note the bulletins and magazines under the car at the driver door. Modified still from CBS 48 Hours police crime scene video.
View looking along driver side and showing several apparent lateral scuff markings outside driver door. These were denoted as site S1 in an earlier photo. There appears to be two sets of the scuff markings at S1. These markings may have been made by the victim’s shoes after falling to the ground during the early stages of the attack. Near rectangular dashed outline to blood on pavement just to other side of rear wheel suggests possible lay down location of rectangular shaped assault weapon while carrying out strangulation of victim. Modified still from CBS News video.
View looking along driver side and showing several apparent lateral scuff markings outside driver door. These were denoted as site S1 in an earlier photo. There appears to be two sets of the scuff markings at S1. These markings may have been made by the victim’s shoes after falling to the ground during the early stages of the attack. Near rectangular dashed outline to blood on pavement just to other side of rear wheel suggests possible lay down location of rectangular shaped assault weapon while carrying out strangulation of victim. Modified still from CBS News video.
View of several magazine and other paper items found under the Heitholt Maxima. Heitholt’s cell phone and right lens of his glasses are also under the car. Note the several pavement scuff marks this side of magazines. These pavement scuff marks were denoted as site S1 in earlier photo. Two of the largest scuff marks are highlighted by the two arrows on the left. Also note blood drops in a near rectangular outline with several on top of the pavement scuff marks. The arrow in the middle of the rectangular outline points to what appears to be several drops in a line. This may also have been a laydown location for the assault weapon. Modified CBS News police photo from Internet.
View of several magazine and other paper items found under the Heitholt Maxima. Heitholt’s cell phone and right lens of his glasses are also under the car. Note the several pavement scuff marks this side of magazines. These pavement scuff marks were denoted as site S1 in earlier photo. Two of the largest scuff marks are highlighted by the two arrows on the left. Also note blood drops in a near rectangular outline with several on top of the pavement scuff marks. The arrow in the middle of the rectangular outline points to what appears to be several drops in a line. This may also have been a laydown location for the assault weapon. Modified CBS News police photo from Internet.
View of pavement to either side of yellow stripe. Note the possible rotational scuff markings at S2 as denoted in an earlier photo. The direction of rotation appears counterclockwise. Modified still of CBS News police video.
View of pavement to either side of yellow stripe. Note the possible rotational scuff markings at S2 as denoted in an earlier photo. The direction of rotation appears counterclockwise. Modified still of CBS News police video.
View of most of blood evidence on pavement with identifying markers in order of likely occurrence. 1- Heitholt’s already bloodied head making strong scrubbing contact with left rear rim/cover. 2- Location of Heitholt head after assault ended and during lull before strangulation began. 3- Location of Heitholt head after strangulation. 4- Likely location of Heitholt head after being turned over by sports writers before emergency crew arrived. 5 - Relocation of head during resuscitation attempts. 6- Rotated head position for placement of scoop stretcher for removal of body. Modified CBS News Video still.
View of most of blood evidence on pavement with identifying markers in order of likely occurrence. 1- Heitholt’s already bloodied head making strong scrubbing contact with left rear rim/cover. 2- Location of Heitholt head after assault ended and during lull before strangulation began. 3- Location of Heitholt head after strangulation. 4- Likely location of Heitholt head after being turned over by sports writers before emergency crew arrived. 5 – Relocation of head during resuscitation attempts. 6- Rotated head position for placement of scoop stretcher for removal of body. Modified CBS News Video still.
Similar view as above photo with added information. 1a and 1b are likely landing locations of both hands when Heitholt’s head slammed into left rear wheel rim/cover. 2a denotes drainage trail of blood from blood pool at 2 where Heitholt head came to rest at end of bloody assault. 3a – locale of Heitholt legs and feet after strangulation. Note how the victim’s legs wiped through the trail of blood at 2a. 4 – approximate location of Heitholt head after being turned over by sports writers. Dashed line from 4 to 5 – denotes path of movement of Heitholt’s head during relocation for resuscitation. 5a – dual trail of blood from head position during resuscitation. 6 – rotated position of Heitholt head and also another dual trail of blood. SS and dashed connecting lines – smearing and scrubbing markings made by an emergency scoop stretcher during process of removing body from scene. Dashed circle – approximately location of severed belt buckle. Modified still from CBS News video.
Similar view as above photo with added information. 1a and 1b are likely landing locations of both hands when Heitholt’s head slammed into left rear wheel rim/cover. 2a denotes drainage trail of blood from blood pool at 2 where Heitholt head came to rest at end of bloody assault. 3a – locale of Heitholt legs and feet after strangulation. Note how the victim’s legs wiped through the trail of blood at 2a. 4 – approximate location of Heitholt head after being turned over by sports writers. Dashed line from 4 to 5 – denotes path of movement of Heitholt’s head during relocation for resuscitation. 5a – dual trail of blood from head position during resuscitation. 6 – rotated position of Heitholt head and also another dual trail of blood. SS and dashed connecting lines – smearing and scrubbing markings made by an emergency scoop stretcher during process of removing body from scene. Dashed circle – approximately location of severed belt buckle. Modified still from CBS News video.
View of blood spray coming from locale where the victim’s head had been during resuscitation attempts. The severed belt buckle had been located in this area at the bottom right of center in this still shot but removed before the video. Still from CBS News video
View of blood spray coming from locale where the victim’s head had been during resuscitation attempts. The severed belt buckle had been located in this area at the bottom right of center in this still shot but removed before the video. Still from CBS News video
Victim’s severed belt buckle as found on pavement about one foot north of final location of bloody head of victim. CBS News photo. From the pavement markings and after accounting for the post murder markings, we can discern a standing struggle, a down on the pavement struggle, an apparent headfirst fall into the left rear wheel, and a strangulation struggle. The markings on the vehicle and the victim will be analyzed before putting together the likely sequence of these and other activities.
Victim’s severed belt buckle as found on pavement about one foot north of final location of bloody head of victim. CBS News photo. From the pavement markings and after accounting for the post murder markings, we can discern a standing struggle, a down on the pavement struggle, an apparent headfirst fall into the left rear wheel, and a strangulation struggle. The markings on the vehicle and the
victim will be analyzed before putting together the likely sequence of these and other activities.

Part 6 of the series will be posted on Monday 2/24/14

You can view the series of articles here.

 

  • gina_sue

    was there any blood on top of the magazines and booklets? could they have been dropped when the attacker leaned into the car to grab something. I don’t understand why the lense would be under the car and the glasses be inside the car. Did Kent have a briefcase or something that maybe the attacker wanted? Perhaps he killed kent then reached in grab the case, with the papers and glasses on it and jerked it out. You would think the attacker would be covered with blood and reaching in to search thru the papers would leave lots of blood and it appears to have not. So maybe he reached in and grabbed one item causing the mess in and outside the car as all the items came partially with this item like a case or portfolio or folder.