Case Study: The Cyber-Stan Mystery
By Dr. Bruce Forciea
Detective Jones enters Stan's small apartment and makes her way into the living room.
Stan is found dead at the scene lying face down in a pool of blood. There is a gunshot wound to his head, a spilled glass of wine, an open box of cookies, half-eaten pizza, a revolver, a syringe, some books, and a stuffed teddy bear. Stan's computer contains a suicide note. There is also a piece of paper found next to the sofa with a strange message.
There are footprints at the scene as well (they are spaced so that it looks like someone walking with a limp)—i.e.one foot has been dragged along the floor in blood.
"Looks like a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of the head," says officer Blake.
"It appears that way," says detective Jones. "Gun in his right hand, suicide note on the computer. As straightforward as this looks, we will still need to cover all of our bases."
Stan was a researcher who worked for F-Systems, a defense contractor. His project (Project Omega) involved computer encryption algorithms. Just before his death, he was said to be excited about unveiling a new finding about the ability to decode any computer encrypted message. This meant that his algorithm could decode enemy messages as well as those from banks, airlines, virtually anything. He suspected that he had discovered the ultimate code-breaking algorithm. His discovery is extremely valuable to the US and major corporations around the world.
Unfortunately, Stan has a lot of problems, both emotional and physical.
Just before his divorce, Stan's concern about his health caused him to take out a million-dollar life insurance policy and made his ex-wife the beneficiary to help raise his daughter.
Detective Jones conducted interviews with several family and friends of Stan. The following are excerpts of Detective Jones' interviews.
Marla (the ex-wife)
Marla had an affair that led to a nasty divorce with Stan. She hired an aggressive attorney that really took Stan to the cleaners. She was out to get as much as she could from Stan and was happy when she heard he had taken out the life insurance policy.
Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Stan:
"Stan and I had our problems, but I would never wish any ill will toward him. After all, we have a daughter together. Stan was a good dad, but he was so involved in his work that we drifted apart. That plus all his medical problems. All he talked about was his work and his health. Not exactly what I'm looking for."
When did you last see Stan?
"I saw him the morning he died, around 8:00 AM. We had an argument over who would take Janie that day. He seemed okay with me taking her though."
"I understand you took out a life insurance policy on Stan about a month ago. Why did you do that?"
"Well, you know his health wasn't all that great, so I thought I needed some additional protection in case something happened to him."
"How much was the policy for?"
Did you kill Stan?
Do you think Stan was capable of suicide?
"I don't know. He did have a hard time with the divorce—maybe it was just too much for him."
Steve (the brother)
Steve was the outcast of the family. Steve was always asking Stan for money and was always in some sort of trouble. Steve was known for working with some very powerful corporate spies who stole corporate secrets. There were always dangerous people looking for him. Steve had also been an athlete in high school and had a knee injury that caused him to walk with a limp.
"Tell me about your relationship with Stan," said detective Jones.
"Stan and I are brothers you know. He really helped me a lot and I will truly miss him. I'd say our relationship was good."
"When did you last see Stan?"
"I saw him that morning—you know when he died. I had just jetted in from Greektown and stopped in to see how he was doing during my layover. I guess it was around 10:00 AM."
"What kind of work so you do Steve?"
"I guess I'm what you would call a freelancer. I work for some big companies. I guess you'd say I was in the information business."
"Where do you live?"
"Well, I travel a lot so basically home is where my suitcase is. Mostly hotels.
"I noticed you walk with a limp. What's that about?"
"Oh, yes, I used to play cyberball in college. Bad knees."
"Did you kill your brother Stan?"
"No detective, I did not."
Sam (the best friend)
Sam was a nurse at a local hospital. He would often go out drinking with Stan. Sam was also divorced with a 9-year-old daughter who liked to play with Stan's daughter. He liked Stan's new girlfriend and often flirted with her. Sam was the only non-criminal person in his drug-dealing family who disowned him. Sam had recently found out he had a brain tumor growing in his frontal lobe which affected his judgment. Sam's daughter is involved in girl scouts along with Stan's daughter.
"So, tell me about your relationship with Stan," said detective Jones.
"Stan was a great buddy. We both have daughters who like to play together, and we love sports, especially the Cybertown Nets. We see each other like every day."
"I understand that you work as a nurse in the Cybertown hospital—is that true?"
"Yes, been there for 12 years."
"Do you have access to medications?"
"Uh, yes, but they are under strict control—you know—they keep a close eye on things over there."
"I understand your family has a dark history. Could you elaborate a bit on that?"
"Sure. I don't have much to do with them anymore. Uncle Fazio is in jail now serving a life sentence for murder. He was part of a drug-dealing ring. Hey, you are a detective, so you probably know all this stuff already."
"Besides drugs, what did your family do?"
"Uh, a few things. I guess the biggest was selling stuff on the illegal market."
"What kind of "stuff?"
"You know, like weapons to other countries, information from corporations they got through blackmail, drugs, etc."
"So, they had connections to enemies of the US."
"Oh, yeah, they had those."
"When did you last see Stan?"
"I guess the night before he died. I came over and we watched the Nets game."
"What was Stan like then?"
"He was kind of upset. I don't know if it was the divorce, his girlfriend, or something else. So, I thought we could watch the game to get his mind off of things."
"Did you see anything the morning of the murder?"
"No, I was called into work."
"I left at around 9 AM."
"Did you kill Stan?"
"No! He was my best friend."
Examining the Motives
Examine the motives of each of the above suspects for killing Sam. Is there any evidence that places any of them at the scene?
Medical Records Information
Stan was very involved in his work and did not lead a healthy life. He rarely exercised, ate fast food, and was very stressed over his divorce and work.
Stan had long-standing health problems that included:
Type I Diabetes
Angina from Atrial fibrillation
Cervical disc injury
Carpal tunnel in the right hand
Recent Blood Test Results
Blood glucose—high (200mg)
Cholesterol -- high
CBC - normal
Differential -- normal
Recent Doctor Visit Notes
Pulse- 88 bpm
Respiration - 9
Ht. = 5'11"
Wt. = 250 lbs
Meds - Amlodipene, Hydrochlorothiazide, Lipitor, Prozac, Insulin
New Clues: The Cyber-Stan Mystery
By Dr. Bruce Forciea
"This is now looking like foul play," Detective Jones said to her partner detective Blunt.
"Yes, with those injuries, he could not have raised his right hand while holding the gun to his head," said detective Jones.
"The pistol he used required at least 5 lbs of pull and his grip strength was only 4 lbs. So, we need to get more information from the crime lab."
Final Crime Lab Report
Cookies (Girl Scout Cookies) contained substantial amounts of Aconitine (3-4 mg in each).
Describe the mechanism of action of aconitine.
Present an updated hypothesis regarding Stan's death including the most likely suspect and motive?
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