Law Enforcement Legal Social Services

Desensitized to Death: The Assessment, Investigation and Prosecution of Strangulation

Room B October 20, 2017 5:15 am - 6:45 am

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Kelsey McKay

Desensitized to Death: The Assessment, Investigation, and Prosecution of Strangulation

Kelsey McKay  

Trainer and Consultant, 

McKay Training & Consulting, Founder of Validating Voices Program

This session will cover strangulation from top to bottom, Part I focuses on the perpetrator who uses this form of lethal and escalated violence which is often tied to the killing of police officers and serial killers.

It will discuss the anatomy and physiology of the assault. It also discusses the misunderstood evidence of defensive and self-inflicted injuries and the traumatic impact on the victim and its overlap with sexual assault.

Part II explores how to better investigate this crime through training and the implementation of a strangulation supplement and provides prosecutors with ideas for voir dire, developing medical experts along with other tips to help juries understand this complicated crime.

It will discuss other vulnerable populations that this crime impacts such as child witnesses, pediatric victims as well as the elderly and disabled.

You will walk away from this talk and never again ask… why didn’t she have visible injury?

• Clarifications and definitions
• Understanding the relevant law and challenges in your State
• What are strangulation and suffocation; in combination with each other
• How strangulation and suffocation differ from other types of assaults (understanding the physiology).
• Understanding the anatomy of the body as it relates to strangulation.
• Understanding pressure
• Understanding the lack of visible injury
• Understanding loss of consciousness: how we misunderstand loss of consciousness (“I don’t know” means she did)
• The of strangulation in an IPV relationship

• How strangulation and suffocation are used as power and control within an abusive relationship.
• The trauma experienced by the victim and an explanation of how strangulation and trauma can affect memory, minimization, etc. PTSD. How responders can misunderstand victims reactions and mistake them for intoxication, mental disabilities, etc.
• Looking at perpetrators who strangle (focusing on more recent research that ties men who strangle to men who shoot law enforcement officers are serial rapists and serial killers) and lethality of this type of offense.
• Lethality and Risk assessment as they relate to strangulation.

• Commonly missed physical injuries and how to better document them as evidence for prosecution.
• Defensive injuries, self-inflicted injuries, and how to identify upside down cases. How to use injuries on the defendant as evidence of strangulation.
• Signs and symptoms of strangulation (and how each relates to the elements of blood flow or air flow).
• Incorporating a strangulation supplement into your community (to improve first responder’s investigation) and how to use it.

• Communicating with law enforcement
• Tips on prosecution and strategies to assist in presenting strangulation cases (i.e., how to evaluate our case, presenting these cases to a grand jury, when to plea and when to try; voir dire tips, charts, demonstrative evidence, how to make the jury understand, closing arguments, etc).
• How to recruit and use a strangulation expert in the courtroom (qualifications, content and preparing them for cross-examination)
• Examples from real cases that have been tried to a jury.


• Attendees will be able to define both strangulation and suffocation
• Attendees will be able to identify the relevant anatomy of the body as it relates to strangulation/suffocation.
• Attendees will be able to articulate why these cases often lack visible injury.
• Attendees will be able to explain how strangulation is used by an abuser in an intimate partner relationship.
• Attendees will be able to explain the connection between strangulation and lethality in an intimate partner relationship.
• Attendees will be able to identify missed physical injuries and how to better document them as evidence for prosecution.