In May 1965, the police departments in the Greater St. Louis Area created the Major Case Squad to investigate cases that are especially difficult. Generally, such cases demand greater investigative resources than those possessed by individual police departments. The Major Case Squad presently includes eight counties in Illinois, including St. Clair and Madison.
The Major Case Squad was recently activated to investigate the possible murder of an 89-year-old World War II veteran whose body was discovered in the ashes of his home on October 18, 2017. The anticipated complexity of the investigation could give rise to legal strategies which a criminal defense lawyer may be able to exploit if a suspect is apprehended.
The case began with the discovery of the body of the octogenarian in his home in Cahokia. The man lived alone. As the activation of the Major Case Squad implies, police officials are treating the incident as a homicide. The same officials are not, however, saying what evidence led them to the conclusion that the man’s death is a homicide.
The fire presented an unusual challenge for firefighters because ammunition stored inside the house began to explode during the blaze. The exploding rounds have been ruled out as a cause of the occupant’s death, though. The fire did not appear to have been intentionally set, but police have asked the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office to investigate the cause and origin of the fire. Weeks are expected to pass before the coroner’s office finishes a toxicology report and the cause of the fire is determined.
Any suspect who is arrested and charged with a crime in this case is entitled to be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The chaotic nature of the crime scene and the necessity of using forensic evidence to prove guilt will provide a number of opportunities for a skilled criminal defense attorney to challenge the prosecution’s case, should the matter wind up going to trial.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Major Case Squad investigating death of WWII vet in Cahokia house fire as homicide,” Christine Byers, Oct. 20, 2017