Crime & Law Enforcement Issues & Death Penalty/Questions


Patrick--I am a published writer and I'm editing the third book in my mystery series.  I wanted to check out some details to make sure I'm correct.  I'm also developing the fourth book and have a couple of questions concerning that.  The setting of both books is fictional town in Pennsylvania, near York.

In the first book, the murderer tries to use oleander to kill her victims.  She uses shaved oleander in food, which makes the victim sick, but does not kill her.  On a second attempt, she injects oleander tincture into candy, but the victim won't eat them, so Stacy shoots her.

Later in the book, Stacy gives the candy to the victim's husband and housekeeper.  They get sick but survive.  She has a gun, however, and threatens the husband and sleuth with it, but is subdued when she is distracted.

So my question is about charges and what will happen next.  This would be one count of premeditated murder and three counts of attempted murder?

The shooting where the victim is killed happens in the greenhouse attached to a luxury home.  Would the house and the greenhouse be considered the crime scene and taped off?  Would the police obtain a warrant to search the house?  I assume this would involve looking for the weapon and fingerprint gathering.  Would it be feasible for the forensics team to be finished with the house in about 16 - 20 hours but keep the greenhouse taped off with an officer for another day?

If Stacy confesses to her attempted victims and then waves her Miranda rights and confesses to police, would she then be arraigned?  Would this happen within a week?  Would a judge sentence her?  Because she confessed, could she receive a life sentence rather than the death penalty?

Next book:

Two expensive guitars worth over $300,000 dollars each are stolen.  Would the charge be grand larceny or would it be two charges of grand larceny?

The victim is murdered in PA.  Her sister lives in Mississippi.  How would the sister be notified?  Would the detectives on the case here call her or would they call the local department near her in Mississippi and they would notify her?

The victim who is murdered has a cat.  What would happen to the cat if no other relative is close by?  Could my sleuth offer to take the cat until the detectives make arrangements with the sister?

I'd appreciated any information you could give me.


Helllo, Karen and thank you for choosing me for your questions, I'm honored. Your books sound extremely interesting, as well. I apologize for the delay in answering you, we had a family emergency, but all has been resolved. So, as to your first question, you are correct, Stacy would be charged with premeditated murder, also known as 1st degree murder. She'd also be charged with 2 counts of attempted murder. Likely, she'd also earn additional charges for the victims that survived, like, Aggravated Assault, 2 counts, maybe even REAP, Recklessly Endangering Another Person. If you're interested in the grading for any particular crimes (felony, misdemeanor, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree) , I could provide them, too.

In Philadelphia, we always play it with the, 'better safe than sorry' mentality, when setting up (or, securing, as we say) a crime scene with yellow crime scene tape. We'd rather have too much than too little. So, although the greenhouse would be the primary crime scene, we'd cordon off the entire house, and, depending on the size of the property, that, too. The first responding uniform officers are responsible for securing the crime scene & at least one officer (more, if necessary) is placed in charge of keeping that crime scene secure. He or she will log, onto a Crime Scene Log, who enters the scene, when they enter & leave, their name, rank, badge number, current unit or district of assignment & their purpose. It's not like TV where civilians, media or random police personnel constantly enter & exit the crime scene. The crime scene unit would arrive to collect evidence located in the crime scene, blood, fingerprints, snaw, weapons, etc. However, for anything located not in plain view or outside of the crime scene, we play it safe and, even though not always required by law, detectives will obtain a search warrant.

It could take the Crime Scene Unit 16-20 hours, yes, even more or less. Once they are finished, normally, the crime scene tape is taken down and no officers would remain.

Stacy would be arraigned immediately. I'm not sure of the exact deadline time, but it may be within 72 hours. What waiving her Miranda Rights & confessing would do for Stacy would be to give her some credit with the judge and possibly leniency when it comes time for sentencing. Yes, that could include a life sentence & avoiding the death penalty. Sentencing could be decided by the judge or a jury, depending on Stacy's preference. Leniency would also be granted for choosing a trial by judge rather than a jury, thereby saving time as well as money. All of the above would be taken into consideration and negotiated by Stacy's attorney.

The guitar theft would be either 2 counts of Grand larceny or theft by taking or just theft (depending on circumstances) and the value would make it a higher grading.

Detective would most likely contact detectives in Mississippi & request that they locate & inform the woman's sister of the incident & request that she comes to Pa. to identify the body & be interviewed. Exceptions would exist if detectives thought that the sister might have been involved.

Yes, your sleuth could take temporary custody of the cat. But, if no one was available or willing to take the cat, they would hand it over to the custody of Animal Services.

Side note: my family & friends have always told me I should be writing books, not necessarily crime books, just books in general. Maybe I'll reach out to you for advice when I make my move.

Karen, I hope that I've answered all of your questions. If I haven't, please do not hesitate to let me know. You know, it's a different kind of feeling to think that I actually acted as a temporary consultant for a published writer, lol, it's pretty cool. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any further assistance & good luck with the books!  

Crime & Law Enforcement Issues & Death Penalty

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Patrick Malloy


I can answer questions relating to arrests, arrest procedures, domestic situations, traffic citations, auto accidents. i cannot answer many questions regarding other types of law rather than Criminal Law and/Police related questions.


Throughout my 18 year career as a police officer in Philadelphia, I have worked both uniform and plain clothes in a variety of assignments. I don't know it all, but I surely can give expert advice on most issues. And if I don't know something, then I simply tap the vast array of resources that I have at my disposal.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5.

Training Credentials: Tactical Response Situational Training, Mental Health, Criminal Procedure, Vehicle Law & Code, Crime Scene Investigation, Court Testimony Procedure, Police Safety Coordination. Hostage Negotiation.

Awards and Honors
Several Departmental Commendations ( Arrests for crimes such as Homicide, Bank Robbery, 'Most Wanted', Shooting, Domestic Assault and other types).

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