Fourteen Ways to Dispose of a Body by Nate Hoffelder
I don’t know about you, but in my line of work we sometimes have to get rid of a body or two. And given the rising cost of paying off the cops, I have found that being creative when disposing of a witness or former colleague can save me a tidy sum.
That’s what one of your characters might say when narrating his adventures. You, on the other hand, are a crime writer, and it is your job to come up with a plausible way for your character to dispose of the body. It doesn’t have to be a practical or even smart way to get rid of the evidence; in fact, it might actually be better for the bad guy to mess up in some way (this makes catching perp more believable).
While there are a number of effective ways to dispose of a corpse, most require a lot of supplies or equipment. Other options include hiding the body rather than getting rid of it, or dumping it in a place where no one would look for it.
Here are a few possibilities to spur your imagination.
If your villain is in no hurry and doesn’t fear getting caught, they could just stick the body in a freezer for a bit. While this doesn’t count as getting rid of the body, it does have the benefit of minimizing the stink and mess; a frozen corpse isn’t going to rot or drip, after all.
It is said that pigs can eat anything. And since they are omnivores, they are supposedly the perfect way to get rid of a body. I don’t know if that is actually true, but this is certainly one of the more colorful ways to do the deed.
It is also one of the least practical; it’s not like most people have access to a herd of pigs, and breaking into a pig farm has its problems.
3. Abandoned Building
This might seem sloppy, but if the perp is short on time and happens to be familiar with the decayed parts of town, they might choose to dump the body in an abandoned building. Depending on the neighborhood, your chosen urban area might have any number of buildings to choose from.
For example, I have been looking at investing in real estate in Richmond VA, and I have usually found two or three boarded up homes within a block or two of a house up for sale.
Gaining access to that boarded up building might be difficult, and the perp might leave evidence while breaking in. (And let’s be honest, eventually someone is going to complain about the smell).
4. Fast Food Dumpster
While you might think that this option is guaranteed to fail, the truth is that your typical fast food place throws out so much meat and so much trash that the perp could probably put the corpse in heavy duty trash bags and no one would know the difference. It would be almost impossible to smell the body or see the one bag among many.
5. Local Landfill
If you’ve never been to the dump then it might be hard to imagine just how much trash is thrown out everyday. There’s so much trash that if the perp dismembered a body and put it the parts in separate trash bags then there would be literally no way to tell the human remains apart from the household trash.
6. Raised Planting Beds
This option won’t do your perp any good if the police get suspicious, but if the murderer happens to know of landscaping work in progress then they could dump the body in the new planting bed, and then cover it with fill dirt.
This option could also work with a newly built retaining wall. Just dump the body before the dirt or rock is installed behind the retaining wall, and it won’t be found without a corpse-sniffing dog or a ground penetrating sonar.
Anyone who has burned a rack of ribs or a burger could tell you that flesh creates a lot of smoke once it catches fire. So does a large wood bonfire, which means that if the perp built the bonfire over a corpse, they could throw a cookout and still destroy most of the evidence before anyone was the wiser.
The thing is, the heat from the fire would cause the marrow in the skeleton to boil, shattering most of the bones into unrecognizable bits. The rest can be scooped up after the fire has died, and then dumped in the same trash bags with the leftover bones from the rack of ribs or side of beef from the cookout.
8. Wood Chipper
Made famous by a Canadian serial killer, a wood chipper would reduce a body to mostly unidentifiable fragments, but it would not completely destroy a skeleton. (This was how the serial killer got caught.)
Your perp should only use a wood chipper if they are confident that no one would ever think to check.
9. Burial at Sea
This option has the benefit of requiring otherwise unremarkable nautical equipment to pull it off (an anchor and either chain or a rope), but it also has a problem. If the body is dumped in a high-traffic shipping channel or in shallow water, it might be spotted by a passing boat.
Also, there’s been at least one report of a body getting a Chicago overcoat and still washing up on shore, making this one of the less viable options.
Dissolving a body in acid might seem like the perfect solution to an annoying problem, but it’s not as easy as you might think. Buying enough acid to melt a body is bound to raise eyebrows, and once the body has been turned into soup, disposing of gallons of toxic liquid will be a hassle.
If the perp has access to a crematorium then it would make an ideal way to get rid of a body. Assuming they don’t get caught in the middle of the act of burning the body, there would be literally no evidence that could be traced back to the victim.
Unless, that is, the victim had a metal plate, pin, or screw. Orthopedic surgical devices (to use the technical term) often have serial numbers which can be traced and used to identify the person they went in to.
12. Make it Look Like a Suicide
This is more a form of misdirection than a method of disposal, but there’s something to be said for making a murder look like a suicide.
Why bother with hiding a body when your character can make the detectives think there’s no crime to be investigated?
13. Existing Grave
Most graveyards typically have one body to a grave, but there’s no reason why a second body can’t go in the same hole. (Or in the same coffin, even.)
If the bonus corpse goes in the hole first, it will be covered up by a casket. This would make it hard for techs to spot it using sonar, or for corpse-sniffing dogs to smell the decay. This would make it rather hard to find.
Possibly even more infamous as a body disposal solution than the wood chipper, burying a body in concrete is the stuff of horror stories and crime tv series. It is at this point almost a cliche, which could actually work to your character’s advantage.
While this option does create a problem in that the body is hidden but not gone, one upside is that all of the required supplies can be bought at the hardware store, and no one will even blink.
So tell me, what was the most interesting way one of your characters has disposed of a body?
Did they get away with it?
Nate Hoffelder has been helping people fix broken tech since 2010. He builds and repairs Wordpress sites, and acts as a virtual IT department for authors. He also blogs about the Kindle and indie publishing, and has been mentioned on news sites such as the New York Times and Forbes.
Nate belongs to a number of writing groups, and is the president of the Riverside Writers Club. When he’s not volunteering, he spends his time working on projects such as The Speaker Bureau, Book Fair Website, and Author Website in a Box.
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