Journal Published Online: 01 November 2004
Volume 49, Issue 6

The Rarity of “Unusal” Dispositions of Victim Bodies: Staging and Posing



The act of leaving a victim's body in an unusual position is a conscious criminal action by an offender to thwart an investigation, shock the finder and investigators of the crime scene, or give perverted pleasure to the killer. The unusual position concepts of posing and staging a murder victim have been documented thoroughly and have been accepted by the courts as a definable phenomenon. One staging case and one posing case are outlined and reveal characteristics of those homicides. From the Washington State Attorney General's Homicide Investigation and Tracking System's database on murder covering the years 1981–2000 (a total of 5,224 cases), the relative frequency of unusual body dispositions is revealed as a very rare occurrence. Only 1.3% of victims are left in an unusual position, with 0.3% being posed and 0.1% being staged. The characteristics of these types of murders also set them apart: compared to all other murders, in staged murders the victims and killers are, on average, older. All victims and offenders in the staged murders are white, with victims being disproportionately white in murders with any kind of unusual body disposition. Likewise, females stand out as victims when the body is posed, staged, or left in other unusual positions. Whereas posed bodies are more likely to include sexual assault, often in serial murders, there is no evidence of either in the staged cases. Lastly, when a body is left in an unusual position, binding is more likely, as well as the use of more “hands on” means of killing the victim, such as stabbing or cutting weapons, bludgeons, ligatures, or hands and feet. Erratum to this paper appears in 49(6).

Author Information

Keppel, RD
Sam Houston State University, Center for Criminal Justice, Huntsville, TX
Weis, JG
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Pages: 5
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Stock #: JFS2004033
ISSN: 0022-1198
DOI: 10.1520/JFS2004033