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What I Learned From Watching Every FORENSIC FILES Episode Ever

By Sharon Knolle

As a devoted watcher of Forensic Files and many, many other true crime shows, I’ve learned a number of things. Among them, to be completely paranoid.

And what NOT to do if you’re a victim or a killer.

Of course, I’m not advocating anyone resort to murder. Ever.

And when criminals are stupid, it means they’re more likely to get caught, which is great.

And yet… you can’t help but shake your head at their complete ignorance of how forensics work. Do people not realize that everyone will know when they’re lying? Much as we watch Psycho and weirdly root for Norman Bates to successfully hide Marion Crane’s car, so I feel the need to point out these incredibly obvious screw-ups.

Murder Don’ts:
Disclaimer: Do not actually murder anyone. Your sorry ass will be caught and tried and convicted. Just get a damn divorce or move to another state or whatever normal, civil way human beings resolve issues.

1. If you’re staging the murder of your husband or wife as a suicide, do not shoot them twice! .

2. If you’re faking a break-in, do not break the glass from the inside out. Any random stranger would break the glass from the outside in.

3. If you’re staging a suicide by gun (or writing the “killer”s name in blood), you should really know if your victim is left or right-handed.

4. At least try to pretend you’re upset that your spouse has been murdered or brutally attacked.

5. Innocent people do not immediately hire a lawyer before talking to police.

6. Do not – and I cannot stress this enough – bury the victim’s body on your own property. Plausible deniability is impossible when you’ve rented a jackhammer or poured concrete in your own basement to bury your spouse. Take the guy who stole a rental truck and kept the body of his victim in a freezer in his driveway. There is no way he could claim someone else is responsible.

7. Do not try to collect on the life insurance within days of your loved one’s death.

8. Do not move your boyfriend or girlfriend into your house before your spouse’s body is in the ground.

9. Do not keep murder “to do” lists around.

10. Do not go to Home Depot and buy a tarp, a shovel, gloves, trash bags and gloves if your loved one, (or best friend or work rival) is missing.

11. Once you’ve murdered someone, do not toss your “murder bag” of gloves, bloody clothes, and gun into a plastic bag near your house. It will be found.

12. You realize, of course, that authorities can track your cell phone and will know if you’re lying about your whereabouts.

13. They can also read all your texts as you coordinate a murder with your accomplices. So your string of texts about “Is it done yet?” will be read in court one day and you will be sent to death row.

Victim Don’ts

Watching these shows has definitely changed how I live my life.

After seeing an episode of Forensic Files in which a serial killer preyed on female neighbors who left their door open while doing laundry, I always lock my door, even if I’ll be in the laundry room. (The safety of my building’s laundry room, where homeless people regularly crash, is another story.)

Here are a few tips I picked up from countless hours of true crime TV.

1. Lock your doors! I don’t care if you live in a small town where nothing ever happens. Lock your damn doors, even if you’re just popping out to do laundry or check mail.

2. Never give rides to strangers or accept rides from strangers. Or your neighbor’s dad’s friend. Or that guy from work who keeps asking you out.

3. If you are a woman by yourself and someone bumps into your car on a deserted road, do not pull over and exchange insurance information. Just keep driving until you reach civilization.

4. Do not let strangers into your house.

5. If you do let a stranger into your house and they go to the kitchen and grab one of your knives to use against you, either A) Run outside, B) Lock yourself in your bathroom or bedroom, or C) Call 911. Do not, as one woman did, stay in the house, call your boyfriend instead of the police and then get stabbed to death.

6. Never be the sole employee at an “open all night” business.

7. Never go hiking or walking in a remote area. Even if you have a large dog with you and know martial arts. (This sad case is proof that anyone can be taken unawares)

10. As Jack Donaghy once told Liz Lemon, “Never follow a hippie to a second location.” That is to say, if someone is holding a gun on you and forcing you to get into their car, just RUN. Once you’ve been driven out to some remote spot, your chance of survival drops to pretty much zero.

11. If you are meeting someone for a date or a work assignment, let someone know where you’ll be and who you’re meeting. Don’t be like the model who took an assignment with a dodgy photographer outside of her agency and wound up dead and buried in the desert.

12. If you’re dating or married to a guy who monitors your calls, tells you how to dress and who to hang out with, dump that guy. He will eventually try to kill you, like that guy who had a bit part in The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

13. Do not invite a “first date” to your house. Meet that potential serial killer at some public spot.

14. Never go for a romantic stroll on the beach. Your boyfriend will either be plotting to kill you there or you both will be attacked by psychos and tell your story on My Worst Nightmare.

15. If your new boyfriend explains any absences and odd behavior by saying he’s a CIA agent, run. He’ll eventually kill you (and his entire secret family) like Dylan Walsh did on an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

16. If you get violently ill every time your wife or husband cooks for you or brings you a drink (and feel much better in the hospital), get tested for heavy metal or arsenic poisoning immediately.

17. If your new spouses’s exes died “accidentally” or are missing, get the hell out of there.

18. Just don’t trust anyone and watch another Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry episode.

Final thought: I’m trying to poke fun at my own obsession with these kind of shows but the heartbreaking fact is that every year far too many people are attacked and killed in horrible ways.

Here’s hoping that never happens to you or anyone you love.

And if you feel homicidal urges, get help or call Dr. Drew, for the love of God.

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