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Investigators That Expect the Best, Get the Best

Anyone who even remotely follows sports knows who Roger Federer is. As the most successful tennis player in history Roger has been at the top of the sport for over a decade and has more Grand Slam wins and weeks as tennis’ No. 1 ranked player. He has his own clothing line, major sponsors like Nike, Mercedes-Benz and Rolex, and stars in commercials for Lindor Truffles and others. As a whole he is one of the most successful athletes ever, both on and off the court, bringing in over $725 Million over his two-decade career in endorsements and tournament winnings.

How does anyone rise to that level and be that successful, especially as an athlete? Roger Federer isn’t an overly impressive or domineering figure and he doesn’t play with an excessive amount of outward emotion. He’s just a cool, calculating and precise executioner who knows how to use all of the tools that are available to him, including his attitudes and mental focus. If I could sum it up in one word it would have to be: expectations. Roger Federer expects to utilize all his weapons against his opponents, expects to win, expects to be the best, and expects to succeed.

Which is what makes his loss to Juan Del Porto earlier this week in the US Open so remarkable. Not necessarily the actual loss, but what he said about the loss in his post-match interview. In that interview Roger said “I knew I would lose to Del Porto”.  WHAT?!?  Essentially Roger didn’t feel good about the entire tournament, and knew he would lose as soon as he ran into a really good player. Based on the reaction of the sports commentators after the interview, that’s the first time they have ever heard a defeatist attitude from Roger Federer. Again, expectations, only this time it’s of the negative flavor.  A rare occurrence indeed considering who it’s coming from.

I have the opportunity to interact with and observe criminal investigators on a regular basis, and the parallels with athletes like Roger Federer are amazingly similar. Unfortunately, their pay is nowhere close, but the ability to bring all the tools available to bear and solve a crime like murder, rape, assault, and a whole host of other crimes, is comparable. The best detectives fully utilize the crime scene investigators, the patrolmen and women, the crime lab, the press, the public, the agency administration, and all the expertise and tools they bring to the table in a fluid, seamless way that will eventually break open the case and usually result in the crime being solved. Even when one or more of the tools breaks down, those investigators that maintain high expectations and persist, more often than not, will in time conquer the case and find justice for the victim or victims.

A perfect example of this is the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Dept in Heber, Utah. They had a homicide that was a cold case for 18 years. The victim, Krystal Beslanowitch, was found naked next to the Provo River on a cold December morning in 1996. Krystal had been severely beaten with several river rocks and then left for dead. Over the years the investigative team had reopened the case several times, but it wasn’t until 2013 when they were able to take the rocks to a private crime lab in Salt Lake that they got the break they needed. Using the latest in DNA collection and processing techniques, the labs was able to develop a DNA profile from those granite rocks linking the murder to a suspect. The cold case was solved. Fortunately, the investigators always had the expectation of eventually solving the murder which gave them the drive to constantly look for new leads and ways to crack the case, and in time that is exactly what happened.

Another example is a case from Salt Lake that involved a doctor and his ex-wife, a woman named Uta von Schwedler. Uta, a happy and educated mother of four children who worked for the University of Utah, was found drowned in her bathtub in what initially appeared to be suicide. Investigators, however, pursued the case as too many things didn’t add up, and the evidence, especially the circumstantial evidence, pointed at the ex-husband as the primary suspect. About a year and a half into the investigation the detectives learned about a new tool to develop a DNA profile beyond what the current capability was and that tool enabled them to solve the case. Again, the expectations of eventually solving the case motivated the investigators to utilize every means available and persist until they achieved success.

These cases are but two of many that are solved due to the long-standing persistence and effort of professional investigators. Ironically, in both of these cases one of the major tools needed to solve most cases, the state crime lab, became practically useless in its ability to aid in these cases. Because the crime lab hadn’t adopted the latest in DNA collection technology, namely the M-Vac system, the investigators had to turn to a private crime lab that does utilize it to help them solve the cases. Fortunately, the administration and leadership of the agencies saw the value in the extra lab costs, took it out of other budgeted areas and invested it into the cases. So despite the obstacle of a usually critical tool being rendered useless, the investigators maintained a positive and hopeful outlook, persisted, and their expectation of success was realized.

I have seen this pattern all over the world. China, the UAE, South Africa and more, in addition to agencies throughout the United States, where investigators maintained a high level of expectations and persisted through all obstacles to eventually piece all the puzzle together and solve seemingly impossible cases. In many circumstances it is a wonder to behold and a pleasure to work with such determined professionals. When it comes to winning expectations, Roger Federer doesn’t have anything on these guys, even when he is in the right mindset.

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