Forensic Friday #3: Murder and Man’s Best Friend

Dr. Eleanor McQuillen’s Crime Scene Painting Murder and Man’s Best Friend

Like her first crime scene painting, this painting shows a very literal depiction of what my mother saw as she rolled up to the scene. She said she first noticed the large dog chained to the porch, and that he was licking the shoes of the murder victim whose feet were protruding from under the porch where he had been stuffed. Note the blood-splattered rocks at the base of the porch and the gun next to the door. Initially, I thought she was suggesting that the dog had been chained so long that he was hungry and the licking was a precursor to dinner, but she might have meant that the dog was just a loyal companion and expressing concern for his master. Go with whatever interpretation lets you sleep better.

The level of detail reflects her investigator’s eye, but I also think it reflects her inclination toward the fastidious. My mom likes things clean and in their place, so I am not surprised that the discarded chair and refrigerator on the side porch and the broken step, screen door, and siding caught her eye. In her description to me, she was particularly cognizant of the sink that had fallen off the porch and simply lay in the weeds. She also referenced a broken down car in the side yard. To represent that car, she used as a model my brother’s dilapidated Buick with its rear bumper tied on by a string and a prayer. (It also never had more than a quarter’s worth of gas in its tank.)

The swirling black birds from the first painting now rest for the night in the tree with an owl.

Murder and Man's Best Friend .5

Next week’s crime-scene painting shifts from a literal depiction to a more metaphorical rendering in A Memorial to Lives Tragically Unrealized.

Teaching Opportunity

Adopt a detective’s perspective when looking at this painting and use three simple questions to frame a class discussion.

  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

Decide if and when to share the title of the painting as it may guide, or overly influence, the way students view the work. You will also need to decide if it is beneficial to share the back story that this is a crime scene painting and is painted by one of the crime scene investigators for her child as a way to share life’s thoughts and lessons.

Carefully consider if this is appropriate subject matter for your audience. While this image could inform some class discussions, murder can be an especially dark and emotional topic.


  1. Sue
    Sue December 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm .

    Was the crime ever solved? The presence of the all-knowing owl in the ghostly white tree makes me feel that it was not. The owl knows, but we never will.

    1. Charles McQuillen
      Charles McQuillen December 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm .

      More often than not, suspects were identified. Whether they were convicted is another story. While my mom frequently testified in court to her findings, she didn’t discuss the final outcome very often. That may have been in part because she was most heavily invested in the early stages of a very long process.

Add a comment