Where not to dump a body (for perfectly theoretical reasons relating to writing murder mysteries and not at all for actual murderers who want to elude the police “Hear that NSA?”)

So you decided to get on the FBI’s watchlist to read about dead bodies. Go you! It’s not like we can board a plane anyhow right now, right?


In order to explore where NOT to dump that theoretical corpse, first we need to address the common dumping ground stereotypes:

1. Water

A man (let’s be honest, it’s usually a man in movies) drags a body wrapped in a sheet into a boat and sails across the lake. Once in the middle, away from prying eyes, he pushes that sucker over the edge of the boat and into the freezing depths below.

The first thing we need to ask is, fresh or salt water?

Let us assume fresh.

A body will usually sink when dumped. Bodies differ in many ways that affect buoyancy. Fat, muscle, ect. However, one thing that ALL bodies do is decompose. Bacteria in the gut (and everywhere else, there is a LOT of bacteria in the human corpus) release gas inside the dead guy, and the body bobs to the surface like a cork.

This process, however, is very dependent on temperature.

Cold makes these processes take longer. Much like leaving a steak in a hot car instead of the fridge, if you dump your least favorite boss into a shallow lake in the summertime, that sucker is going to blast to the surface in just a few days, verses the weeks it might take if you dumped him in Lake Tahoe in the wintertime.

A consideration.

Of course, the cold preserves better than heat, so this is a consideration as well. Theoretically speaking, if my target lake was a highly populated area, I might pick a colder locale, whereas if it was in a place few visit, I might choose a warmer place, to get rid of the body, and any evidence sooner with minimal risk of discovery (thanks microorganisms!)

Salt water is trickier. Ocean currents drag bodies out to sea, and the salt messes with these decomposition predictions. However, there are many scavengers in the ocean. If you dump your evil ex in a part of the ocean with a high oxygen content, you are more likely to get large scavengers who will pick that sucker clean. Then again, if you dump a body in the ocean, chances are it’s not going to be found anytime soon.

But the ocean isn’t readily available for all of us. Sometimes lakes just have to do.

2. Bury That Sucker

Okay. So we don’t exactly have time or the stomach for a two hour road trip with the rotting corpse of your dead mother in law in the boot in order to find the nearest body of water. Got it.

Why don’t we bury her?

Well, first of all, if she is reported missing, searchers will be scouring the area near where she or her car was last seen. If she snuck off with you into the woods after a 3 mile trek through unmarked foliage this might not be such a big concern. However, if you just got into a huge argument in your trailer, and you bludgeoned her over the head with a frying pan, this might be more of an issue.

And don’t for a minute think you can just drive her and her car to a random street and bury her nearby. Once the car is reported, searchers will be tracing the area attempting to find freshly dug earth and places where carrion birds gather. They will also be tracing where you drove on any footage available and use that to reverse engineer where you could have possibly have had time to dump the body. Also, those cadaver dogs have really good noses (and adorable fluffy faces).

If you are lucky enough to have no one know she visited you, and you drive her out to the boonies, away from every traffic cam, bury the body, then drive the car to the slums and leave the keys in the ignition to get stolen, you MIGHT have a chance.

I’ve heard some people throw out the idea of burying a dead animal over the grave in order to trick searchers or cadaver dogs who scout the area. However, I wouldn’t, as a buried possum in an area where a murder may have occurred would likely prompt further examination of said area.

Even if you do somehow get away with it, bones last quite a while. DNA testing and dental records could mean that your 30 year missing persons case just got upped to a murder. Not great.

Overall, I  would likely try to avoid this method, unless you got really lucky and brained your mother in law in the middle of the woods after a 50 mile trek off trail.

3. Stage an accident

I mean, you can. You can try. Brain your whiney great-uncle with a tent pole? Why not toss him over a cliff and call for help?

Well, you’d have to get pretty lucky. Either he’d have to be so torn up from the fall that no evidence of your attack remained (like specific bruising patterns) or have fallen in the exact way that a jumper would (aka, no leaping backwards off a cliff) that no questions would be raised. You also want to toss him quickly, so that the postmortem bruising looks the same.

That’s a lot of ifs.

So how do you dispose of a body?

I’m not going to tell you.

No need to give anyone any ideas.

However, let me just say that if you want to commit a murder, think long and hard about it.

Bodies do get found. Tread carefully. Very carefully. Leave no footprints. Or steal your least favorite sibling’s boots and tread in very muddy areas.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. In my area, you just leave the body out and in a week the ravens will have cleaned the bones. There are tons of open country to drop a body in this area. If no one reports the person as missing, the ravens and coyotes will take that body and destroy everything but a caved in skull or broken bones. Been thinking about that a bit lately since a good murder is fun to solve.

    1. annalise12397 says:

      Well that is terrifying. Thank you Barbara.

      Side note, I once heard that forensic scientists made a positive identification from part of a thumb joint because the joint showed symptoms of arthritis. The joint was in an explosion, so DNA evidence was obliterated. They looked up the medical records of people nearby and found the owner of the bone fragment using x-rays of arthritis sufferers.

      So not even dumping in the wilds is safe. Moral: Don’t kill people unless you REALLY like how prison uniforms flatter your figure..

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