Appetizer for the Crime Writer


If you are a true crime lover, a prolific blogger or budding author, everyone has to have a place to start. There are several considerations before you begin.  Taking a page from my presentation,“Marketing 101 for Your Crime,” I share a little of the recipe that works for me. If you are having writer’s block, or just need a way to find that new fascinating topic this could be your roadmap!

What topic is personally interesting to you?  If it fascinates you, chances are, your passion will come through and others will feel the same. You must be invested in your topic or don’t bother.

What is unique or unusual? Is everyone talking about one issue ad nauseam?  Well, that may not be your topic. It’s not mine, as such issues bring up my low tolerance for boredom. You can pave the way to being a trend setter if you find a crime that is intriguing but not well publicized.

Is it related to current events? Does it need to be related to the hot topic of the day?  At times, in the aftermath of a mass event, it is appropriate to write about your perspective on the devastating crime. To ignore can be seen as indifferent, and yet to get mired in the details can serve to take away your resiliency. It is a fine line to walk.  Your crime topic doesn’t always need to be the hot topic. You can select your topics and build signature pieces.

Is your topic historical or nostalgia based?  Some authors have created a genre all their own by focusing on the history of mystery or on a particular  geographic area where they are based. Nostalgia is always a favorite as a distraction to current events. Who doesn’t love to hear about a cold case crime? How things used to be in decades past, a long time missing persons case brought to resolution or a historic area where a famous crime took place?

 Does it have heart and human interest?  This is a very important element to me. It’s fine to report the cold hard facts. It’s not cool to report unsubstantiated rumor or fake news. In my opinion what gives a story texture, richness and longevity is to find the heart, the human element, including the back story.  To capture the feelings and emotions, good or bad, and place them in context is in keeping with the nature of storytelling and what capture’s readers attention. Without heart and human interest, often a story is one-sided, unbalanced and frequently sensational leaning heavily on the violence of the perpetrator and omitting the victim.

Is it “just another crime” or are there elements that make it more intriguing? Never take a crime at face value. Research, dig for more from reputable sources. There are unknown facts, elements of interests if you only think out of the box. What else are you wondering about that relates? If not much is known on the surface, find out about the individual characters, the geographic area, the history of the similar crimes, etc.  

The trick is, how can you make “just another crime” like looking at a prism?

Will the topic have staying power? Is the crime you want to write about unusual or are there commonalities over time?  Can it be re-introduced when a similar crime happens? Is it a case with many permutations over time? Are there many lessons to be learned if they were only exposed? There are selected pieces that stand the test of time, no matter what is happening in the real world. Longevity can be your friend.

Is the topic controversial or provocative?  Although as authors we all have a particular style, at times it’s good to shake things up a bit. If the story is not “mainstream” it does not mean that you have to agree with the content. Our job is to inform, build awareness, entertain and hopefully be a pathway for change as needed. Life is not plain vanilla and therefore we should not shy away from the controversial. Be daring!

Will your writing offend others, and if so, do you care? A writer should be diverse and sensitive to others. However, in this climate of all things hypersensitivity to political correctness, it is a personal decision as to how far you want to push the envelope. If you push too far will it damage your reputation? On the other hand, you might think that writing is a fluid experience able to withstand the ebb and flow of opinions. It’s your choice.  Choose wisely.

As the writer, do you have a personal stake in the topic and does that make it better or worse? A personal stake usually means you are engaged; you’re invested. This topic resonates with you and you are going to write something great. I love when I find a topic with which I can immediately identify. It seems to write itself in no time at all.

But, a personal stake topic can also become a forum to vent a negative experience that stays with you.  If you can format it in such a way to turn it around in the end to say “lesson learned, learn from my experience”, all the better. If it is a topic that pushes all of your buttons and you can’t step outside of it to present another side of the issue as well, perhaps it should be tabled.

Can other elements and information be pulled in to increase audience appeal?  I use this approach all the time with all of my posts with an eye toward how can I use this in a different way? What element can I highlight that is topical as a means of recycling. Part of the approach should utilize interesting colorful graphics, not just your same ol’ signature graphic. Always make it interesting.  

A post that seemingly has minimal appeal used in one way, may hit the mark at another time. It’s all about timing, and using creativity to make memorable pieces.

What groups can benefit from your writing or broadcasting (regarding podcasts?) If you are a member of Facebook Groups, non profits, civic and business groups and special interest hobby groups, the sky’s the limit in terms of benefit.  Do you want to meet other writers and share ideas? Do you want to demonstrate a skill? Do you want to promote a good cause? Do you want to increase outreach or help in a fundraising effort? Well, then, all of these can be accomplished by your love and skill with the written word.


Donna R. Gore, M.A.

Donna R. Gore, M.A.


To schedule a presentation with me at your future event or  conference please contact:

ImaginePublicity,  Telephone: 843.808.0859  Email:





The Scientific Methods…. of the Henry Lee Institute’s Elaine Pagliaro

Elaine Pagliaro,Shattered Lives,Donna R. Gore,

Some people go to work and do their job seemingly by rote… It’s the same thing day after day…. But not so for accomplished forensic scientist Elaine Pagliaro. This woman brings a wealth of information to the table in addition to her laboratory duties.   Elaine admitted that she has to be one part “juggler” as well as her many parts something else….    Elaine was the Acting Director of the Division of Scientific Services for the Connecticut Department of Public Safety (specialization – criminalistics and forensic biology) for nearly 30 years… She is…. an expert witness in forensic biochemistry, collection of sexual assault evidence, forensic DNA analysis, hair examination, crime scene reconstruction, author of numerous journal articles including the American Journal of Nursing, and books. Her latest with Dr. Henry C. Lee – “The Real World of a Forensic Scientist” []

Elaine is a member of the bar in several states and teaches criminal justice and the law as an adjunct faculty at many Universities and Colleges in Connecticut.

Suffice it to say that with her many years of experience and knowledge, she has the background to impart her wisdom to “the newbies” and the foresight of know what will not work in today’s forensic world.

To listen to the Podcast of Shattered Lives:  CLICK HERE


  • Intro and credentials of our guest;
  • Answering: What is the Real World of Forensic Science – objectivity, lack of emotional involvement and definitely not glamorous…..
  • Delilah asks about the paper trail process – Where does the report go from the lab and what do they do with it?
  • Cases worked on – Most are current cases and why….
  • Elaine’s opinion regarding making the most impact in forensics today….  – Forensic Biology  and Crime Scene Experience
  • Cold Cases – Done before DNA and her years of experience; Looking at the big picture…
  • Experience versus protocol with DNA analysis;
  • Cold case analysis and Exoneration – similarities and differences;
  • The Penny Serra Case – A Cold Case example (1973)
  • Fingerprint data bases – “Only as good as the information contained;”
  • A father’s knowledge at the end of his life;
  • Delilah asks questions about rape kit backlogs;
  • The factors that turned the tide with many rape cases;
  • Examining materials in a rape kit;
  • What is the answer to the backlog? -Elaine’s opinion;
  • The cost of DNA backlog… How to increase the productivity;
  • Validation testing with rapid DNA testing;
  • Prioritizing  cases – juggling – “Keeping several balls in the air”
  • The urgency of child sexual assault;
  • Students studying forensic science;
  • Scientifically reasonable versus “I want you to test this too…just because…”
  • Volunteering at labs’
  • Teaching – What academia can do to help forensic labs;
  • Analyzing compromised DNA samples – How methods were created;
  • Courses Elaine currently teaches;
  • Contact Information at the University of New Haven
  • Henry C Lee Institute website inquiries:

Questions you may have about this topic:

  • What is Forensic Biology?
  • What is the percentage of cases that go to trial?
  • What is the process regarding working on an exoneration case?
  • What was the lead that broke the cold case of Penny Serra?
  • Fingerprint databases and DNA data bases-What is the process?
  • What are the reasons for unanalyzed rape kits?
  • What is the statute of limitations for rape in Connecticut?
  • How many cases can realistically be processed re DNA analysis?
  • How does automation figure into the equation?
  • What are the causes of the backlog in labs?
  • What cases are prioritized to “the top of the pile?”
  • How do we educate prosecutors re sexual assault?
  • How can academia prepare students better for work at the lab?

Elaine M. Pagliaro, JD, MS

Elaine Pagliaro Shattered LivesElaine Pagliaro, a member of the staff at the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science, is retired from the Connecticut Department of Public Safety, Division of Scientific Services, Forensic Science Laboratory, where she was Acting Director and worked in Criminalistics and Forensic Biology for almost 30 years.  During that time, Ms. Pagliaro was involved in most of the major criminal investigations in Connecticut and in cases of national prominence, such as the Penney Serra andMartha Moxley murders, the Michael Ross serial murders, the investigation of the death of Vincent Foster and the infamous “Woodchipper Murder” case.  She has qualified as an expert witness in the areas of forensic biochemistry, forensic DNA analysis, hair examination, and crime scene reconstruction in Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Louisiana and in Federal courts. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Science, a member of several other professional organizations, and served on the Connecticut Commission for the Standardization of the Collection of Sexual Assault Evidence. Ms. Pagliaro has authored numerous publications on forensic science for professional journals and has presented at national and international symposia. A recent book, Forensic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, which she co-edited with Drs. Rita Hammer and Barbara Moynihan, received a best advanced practice book award from the American Journal of Nursing.  Her most recent book, written with Dr. Henry Lee andKatherine Ramsland, is entitled The Real World of the Forensic Scientist.

The Scientific Methods…. of the Henry Lee Institute’s Elaine Pagliaro

“Trying to Get It Right the First Time”

Tim Palmbach

*photo courtesy New Haven Register

Tim Palmbach: The Challenges of Forensic Science  and Assisting Crime Victims

Tim Palmbach is tall in stature…with an equally big heart to match…  His background includes law enforcement as a former Major in the Connecticut State Police, a forensic scientist as Director of Forensic Science at the Henry C. Lee Institute and an Associate Professor at the University of New Haven.  And … in his spare time, he feels obligated to give back to crime victims, assisting with cold cases and/or providing awareness to the general public.

Ladyjustice could feel a common thread throughout the discussion… one of respect.  Tim Palmbach respects crime victims… He respects good science that yields results that cannot be argued.  He respects the judicial process even with its many flaws… Tim respects that there are many shades of gray, many layers to the process and that much of forensic science often is anything but “cut and dried.”  He respects that there is often no clear-cut answers…that there are always multiple avenues to pursue in addition to DNA.  Team work is required with all parties doing their due diligence and hopefully coming together with a plausible scenario.  Above all, he respects competency and training, for that is the only way that victim’s families can have a piece of justice.

To listen to the show, Tim Palmbach Talks Forensics, CLICK HERE

As an associate professor, who mentors students in forensic science, Tim tries to engage students so that they apply theory to real life problems they encounter in law enforcement. If his students succeed in the classroom, he may offer the opportunity to visit a crime scene.  In fact, crime scene reconstruction is his area of expertise.

The “CSI Effect” can wreak havoc on our sensibilities…   As Tim stated, the real truth is that in TV land, investigators always have the correct evidence… scientific analysis always yields positive results, there is always one perpetrator…and there is always a “singular unique theory of the case.”  The real truth is a long way from the 60 minute show, including commercials!

Tim’s  skills were honed under the tutelage of Dr. Henry C. Lee, known for many qualities…including his keen mind, quick wit, workaholic nature and his generosity to crime victims.  As a three time “retired person” Dr. Lee has ~ 800 open cases at last count.  He is able to keep a “running mental card file” of cases and applicable technologies that could possibly be used on the many cold cases.  At least, he attempts to use such strategies…

Other areas you will learn about when you listen to this show…

  • Tim’s perspective on the Michael Petersen case and the importance of a new trial;
  • How to correctly work a cold case to yield the best outcome;
  • Theories’ concerning what really goes wrong in high-profile cases;
  • Considerations when weighing scientific/physical evidence and circumstantial evidence in the solvability of cases;
  • Possible reasons for cases to stall and become “Cold;”
  • Juries demands and the “CSI effect” – a good or bad thing?
  • Illustrative Example of Forensic Science and law enforcement working together in solving the deaths of 11 street women in Hartford, CT (1998-2000);
  • How good are criminal profiles and when should they be done?
  • Is there an order to every investigation that should be followed?
  • How do you get it right the first time, according to Tim?
  • The “good bad and the ugly” that media creates;
  • Discussion of how a crime scene is contaminated and how it impacts the solvability and status of a case;
  • Is it a good idea for crime victims to call medical examiners asking for assistance regarding data/evidence they may have?
  • Being the “Squeaky wheel”- Example- the New Haven Murder Case  of Penny Serra;
  • Medical Examiners versus Coroners:  How do they impact cases?
  • DNA- The End All Beat All…or a very complex issue? (Don’t lose sight of other aspects of the job…);
  • New Technologies…. Teleforensics- What’s it all about?
  • The cutting edge at the Henry C. Lee Institute;
  • Tim’s words of advice to crime victims

Here’s Your CSI Moment…. Take It!

Henry Lee, Tim Palmbach,Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice,Shattered Lives

There has been a whirlwind of activity at  This writer is grateful, happy and excited to see that interest is building for the number of topics and projects presented!  Ladyjustice hopes you’ll “stay for the long haul.”

However, right here and now, Ladyjustice and SHATTERED LIVES present a unique opportunity for you as the listening audience of “Shattered Lives.” Here’s your chance to weigh in… to shape the nature of a future and very important radio show!  We are looking for your feedback and specific questions to present to a very special guest!

Tim Palmbach has a distinguished career.  He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees at the University of New Haven and went on to earn his Juris Doctor Law degree at the University of Connecticut.  He is currently a fellow and Instructor at the Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven.

Professor Palmbach had the opportunity to work side by side with the renowned Dr. Henry Lee for many years on many famous and not so famous criminal cases.   As an instructor and scientist, he is a published author on crime scene investigation and digital enhancement of bite mark photography.  Tim continues to assist with criminal investigations throughout the country, as well as testifying as an expert witness in the area of crime scene reconstruction.

Prior to his teaching career, he served in the capacity of Major with the Connecticut Department of Public Safety for 22 years, in charge of the Division of Scientific Services.   His research interests are focused on the application and development of new technologies for crime scene investigation.   He has taught five separate academic courses in forensic science and crime scene investigation.

The Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences provides career paths in such areas as… national security, forensic computer investigation, law enforcement, corrections, probation and parole, forensic sciences, fire sciences, arson investigation, victimology studies and paralegal studies.

***Readers please submit your questions for this future 60 minute show at OR, NO LATER THAN Friday, March 23, 2012.  And… just to make it interesting, the best question submitted will be awarded a prize by Ladyjustice and Imagine Publicity!  [Please label e-mails: “Shattered Lives” Forensics Questions] 

This will not be a review of CSI shows…..  Although they may be mentioned in passing…

To “wet your appetite,” please read my former blog on Dr. Henry Lee and his Institute CLICK HERE