6 Types of Evidence & How They Solved the Real Life & Fictional Murder in Hole in the Woods

By Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

It’s no secret that cold cases draw a lot of entertainment and media interest. From podcasters, to thriller novels, to true crime TV– viewers and readers can’t get enough! And I’m no different! My new thriller, Hole in the Woods, is based on a cold case I followed for twenty-five years. The specific cold case was that of Shannon Siders of Newaygo, Michigan. Shannon was brutally raped and murdered the summer of 1989 and her body was left for three months at the Hole in the Woods, a local party spot deep in the Manistee National Forest.

Once I started researching Shannon’s case, I got a behind the scenes look at how investigators pieced together 25 years worth of evidence to finally make arrests. So, what was the lynchpin that locked away two killers for life?

Before I give you the big reveal… let’s take a look at the six types of evidence investigators look for in cases.

What Are The Types of Evidence?

Direct Evidence
Direct Evidence is a term meaning factual evidence recovered from a crime scene that usually can not be disputed. Examples include eyewitness reports, photos, and videos of the crime.

Circumstantial Evidence
Circumstantial evidence infers that a crime happened. It is indirect evidence. Example: A fingerprint at a crime scene thus might incriminate a person through inference.

Physical Evidence
Like its name suggests, physical evidence is anything touchable, tangible, or present at the scene that you collect and that is related to the crime. It contains three subcategories:

Biological Evidence
As its name suggests, biological evidence comes from a live source. Blood. Urine. Saliva. Semen. Skin tissue. Organ tissue. Hair. Teeth. Vomit. It’s the ooey gooey stuff we’re all made of and all produce.

Impression Evidence
Most commonly, impression evidence includes impression marks made into soft and malleable material by shoes, tools, tires, or teeth.

Trace Evidence
Trace evidence is bits of an object. Usually only very small quantities of physical evidence are left at a crime scene or on a victim. You may only get one strand of hair, a few skin cells, a thread from a fabric, a glass shard, or a few granules of soil. What evidence was found in the Shannon Siders case?

Shannon’s case was not solved based on biological (DNA) evidence. In fact, there was very little physical evidence extracted from her murder scene. And the only biological evidence found was her own.

Shannon’s case was eventually solved because of direct evidence – witness testimony! Lots and lots and lots of witness testimony was used to corroborate times, dates, locations and other related data linked to Shannon’s murder. I hand selected only a few pieces of evidence from Shannon’s case and replicated them for my fictional tale. And a few others I made up or massaged a bit for entertainment purposes. I’m not going to spoil the story by giving you the details. You’ll have to read the Hole in the Woods and see how it all plays out!

A percentage of the sales from Hole in the Woods will be donated to the Cold Case Foundation. www.coldcasefoundation.org

About Hole in the Woods

In 1989, in a sleepy Michigan town, missing high school grad Nina Laramie’s skeleton is found near a remote party spot in the forest. Fear and anger ripple through this tight-knit community when the case goes cold. Thirty years later, Riley St. James is assigned to the case, despite her similar past to the victim, and must face the killers who want their secret to stay in the Hole in the Woods. This true crime thriller is based on the 1989 true-life murder case of Shannon Siders, in which the author’s father was the medical examiner.

Photo Credit by Byron Nickelberry

Jennifer is a screenwriter, author, international speaker, and forensic specialist. As she says, “I grew up around death.” The television or movie screen is the closest most people will ever come to witness in the forensic world. But Jennifer was raised in it, as the daughter of a small town medical examiner whose office was in their home. Her latest novel, Hole in the Woods, released August 4th and can be found online wherever books are sold. Connect with Jennifer and join her newsletter at www.jenniferdornbush.com