Aftermath, Inc.

Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home

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A crime writer who thought he could handle anything confronts the worst of everything. Violent and unattended deaths...suicide...forensics...viral pathology...crime scene myths...The stories behind Aftermath, Inc. are stranger than fiction, and utterly human and compelling.

Like most people, crime writer Gil Reavill had never actually experienced a fresh crime scene. That is, until he met Tim Reifsteck and Chris Wilson, owners of Aftermath, Inc., a company in the new field of "bioremediation." In the mid-80s, when a sea change occurred in the way biohazard clean-up was handled, no one in traditional cleaning or janitorial services would come within ten feet of a blood-spattered crime scene. Into this void stepped lifelong friends Tim and Chris, who filled a desperate need by founding their company. For the guys of Aftermath, no crime scene is too bloody to clean.

Aftermath, Inc. traces their history, introducing their clients and employees, and the cops, coroners, and detectives they encounter in their work. Gil goes on scene and works side by side with the Aftermath technicians. He tells the stories that led up to some of Aftermath's most grisly clean-up jobs, taking us on a journey through the suburban Midwest where the company is based, home to some of the quietest, calmest, most ordinary blocks in the world, which hide much darker undercurrents beneath.

The issues that the Aftermath crew members face on a daily basis range from the mundane (What's the best way to suppress the urge to regurgitate?) to the lofty (How does being exposed to death on a daily basis alter one's personal philosophy?). Reavill approaches his task with respect and compassion, taking as his mantra a line from the Roman poet Terence-- "Nothing human is foreign to me."


Praise for Gil Reavill’s non-fiction “crime classic*,” Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home

Stimulating and brainy, Aftermath, Inc. amounts to a thinking-person's guide to scenes that are either hidden from sight or slashed across news screens. A fascinating and entertaining book.” -- Kathy Reichs, author of Break No Bones

*“A crime classic.” Jason Kersten, author of Journal of the Dead

After a grisly crime scene has been investigated by a small army of detectives, coroners and CSIs, who cleans up the mess? Journalist Reavill (Smut, 2005, etc.) answers that intriguing, if rather disturbing, question. He spent a number of months with the crew of Aftermath, a "bioremediation" service established in a moment of entrepreneurial inspiration by friends Tim Reifsteck and Chris Wilson, who happened upon a gruesome murder scene and asked themselves that very question. The answer, at that point, was: sometimes concerned church groups, but usually the bereaved family members of the deceased. Reifsteck and Wilson saw an opportunity to create a market while helping people, and Aftermath was born. Reavill actually worked alongside Aftermath teams cleaning up after murders, suicides and "unattended deaths"—isolated elderly people who often go days or weeks before their corpses are discovered. The technical aspects of Aftermath's work—how do you get blood out of subflooring? What becomes of the "biomatter" (a hauntingly clinical term) that remains after the body has been removed? What are the hazards of working with human tissues and fluids that have been violently splattered over walls, rugs, furniture?—are simultaneously fascinating, disgusting and subtly disturbing, as living people with all of their eccentricities and passions and regrets are reduced to a thorny waste-removal problem. [Reavill] presents the hard-to-take information skillfully and with grace, and he offers a sober appraisal of the nature of violent crime. Tangents on Chicago's unbelievably violent history, the legacy of serial killers in the popular imagination and the history of forensic science provide compelling and welcome digressions from the overwhelmingly grim business of Aftermath. For those drawn to the dark side of human experience (and equipped with strong stomachs), morbidly fascinating stuff and an essential addition to any True Crime reader's library.” --Kirkus Reviews

“Gil Reavill's Aftermath is at once sprightly, grave, morbidly fascinating and conducive to contemplation. It is about the wide consequences of crime, and it is also, vividly, about what people will do to earn a living.” -- Luc Sante, author of highly acclaimed, Low Life and Evidence

“Holds nothing back: grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let go.” – Publisher’s Weekly (full review below)

In this grisly, swaggering tale of gut-churning crime scenes and the men who clean them up after the forensics team is done, veteran true crime scribe Reavill holds nothing back. From descriptions of crimes ("The fusillade of bullets tore through Johnson's body.... Blood, bits of flesh and bone fragments exploded everywhere") to hepatitis C "bleed-outs" ("All four walls of the bathroom looked like someone had taken a blood hose and turned it on them"), Reavill grabs the reader by the throat and doesn't let go. He follows the techs from Aftermath, Inc.—a bioremediation outfit in suburban Chicago—as they make the rounds of shotgun suicides, multiple murders and meth lab cleanups; dealing not only with the gross-out of the work but trying to stay sane doing it. While some black humor seeps in around the edges, Reavill mostly depicts a cadre of low-key, hardworking men doing a horrible job with respect and compassion…if anything can get CSI watchers to flip off the tube and pick up a book, this is it.--Publishers Weekly

"A gripping view of what's left when crime scene investigators finish their work - AFTERMATH gets into the underbelly of the beast that is violent crime and takes us on a terrifying tour." --Linda Fairstein, author of Bad Blood, an Alexandra Cooper Mystery

“An engaging chronicle of what happens once the coroner and forensics investigators have earned their paychecks.”--New York Post

"By turns bizarre, gruesome, philosophical, and humorous, AFTERMATH is a fascinating look at crime and death as seen from a most unusual angle. I couldn't put it down." --Kim Wozencraft, author of The Devil’s Backbone

“A crime writer who thought he could handle anything confronts the worst of everything. Violent and unattended deaths ... suicide ... forensics ... viral pathology ... crime scene myths ... The stories behind Aftermath, Inc. are stranger than fiction, and utterly human and compellingReavill approaches his task with respect and compassion, taking as his mantra a line from the Roman poet Terence-- "Nothing human is foreign to me." --Fresh Books

“[Reavill’s] style is one that grabs you right away and works to keep you drawn back in…Aftermath, Inc is an interesting, quick-moving book that gives the reader a true glimpse into the world of murder and mayhem. One thing that makes it more interesting than other true crime books which feature pathologists, criminologists, and other law enforcement professionals, is that Reavill approaches situations just as we would, like an amateur.  He makes bad jokes, asks stupid questions, and at first, just gets in the way.  But over time he learns how to handle the work (most of it anyway) and what needs to be done at the clean-up site. Reavill’s book allows us a glimpse into a shadowy world that most of us would rather not think about.  He gives us an answer to a question that most people don’t even know how to ask, let alone answer; what happens when the police leave?”--CSB, Crime Scene Blog

Violence on steroids...a funny and oddly soothing guide to Aftermath, Inc., a company that cleans up the gore at crime scenes after the police have finished with them.” Anne Stephenson, Arizona Republic

...Utterly absorbing and interesting. A unique look at investigations and what happens after. It proves that truth really is stranger than fiction... While I wouldn’t want to do what Reavill did, I sure was fascinated reading about it.” Jon Jordan, Crime Spree magazine

“I enjoyed this book... Believe it or not, it occasionally made me laugh. If you’re curious-but-not-dainty, a true-crime fan, or if you believe that TV is a real representation of life, Aftermath, Inc. is a book you’ll be dying to read.” Terri Schlichenmeyer, Daily Messenger (South Carolina)

"Thanks to the popularity of TV crime shows such as CSI and Law and Order, most people have a feel for what happens around a crime scene (a fictional one, anyhow). But once the body of the victim has been removed, who cleans up the blood, the guts, or--for that matter--the couch? Reavill, a crime writer by trade, pursues the answers by signing on with a company called Aftermath, which specializes in "bio-remediation"--the removal of bio matter from scenes of violent death. Despite his chosen vocation, Reavill never had encountered an actual crime scene and felt it was time to get his hands dirty. Working with the cleanup crews of Aftermath, he enters residences where atrocities have occurred, sees the grisly remnants, and, finally, helps clean them up. He tells the stories leading up to the bloodshed with compassion for both sides as he comes face-to-face with humanity's messiness. His eye for morbid details and grasp of forensic science are impressive, but it is his empathy for people that will affect readers most." -- Booklist,  Jerry Eberle


From Aftermath, Inc. (Opening chapter)

After all his elaborate preparations for dealing out death, Nicholas Mazilli wound up knocking on the wrong door.

On the sweltering night in August 1998, Mazilli kicked things off by setting fire to his own trailer-home outside Joliet, Illinois. He carefully made a videotape record of the conflagration.

His co-workers at the cavernous metallurgy shop of Northwest Tool and Die in Chicago Heights had been needling him, relentlessly twisting the blade every single day the way herd-mentality males sometimes do.

“Hey, Nick,” one said to him the day previous. “I think I smelled Pam’s perfume on Tommy just now.” Hoots of laughter rang out from the half-dozen machinists.

Pam Mazilli was Nick’s estranged wife. Tommy was his co-worker and best friend of twenty-fiveyears, Thomas Johnson. Pam and Tommy had taken up together, and the thought of it was eating Nick Mazilli alive.

Maybe it was the heat, the succession of suffocatingly humid 90-degree August dog days. Maybe it was Nick having to endure seeing Tommy’s shit-eating grin at work every day. Maybe it was the boiling tension he’d felt since he served as a Marine in the first Gulf war. Whatever it was, Mazilli snapped. After he burned down the green-and-white Kenilworth trailer in which he had been living ever since he and Pam had split up, Mazilli headed east on Illinois Route 30, passing through the dark, heat-thick countryside across the state line into Indiana. He videotaped the drive, too.

As the tape rolled, catching glints of all-night convenience stores and the occasional street lamp, Mazilli’s face was lit by the green glow of the dashboard light. “Tonight’s the night,” he said in tight, choked voice, turning his face from the road to look into the lens of the video-camera. “It’s happening right now.”

Cradled in his lap was a Remington .12-gauge pump action shotgun. An AR-15 assault rifle lay beside him on the front seat with 500 rounds of steel-jacketed ammunition, along with a Sig Sauer 9mm machine pistol. He wore dark clothing and had carefully camou’d his face with charcoal. In the front pocket of his jacket he carried a can of lighter fluid and a butane lighter.

The videotape record was for his mom. “I want you to know, Mom, why I’m doing what I’m doing,” he said into the camera. “I want you to tell them why this happened.”

He continued, his voice robotic: “I’ve been going to bed every night wishing that Tommy was dead, and then waking up the next morning wishing he was dead. So that’s what I’m going to do.”

He arrived at the apartment building where his estranged wife lived with her new boyfriend, Tommy, in Merillville, ten miles south of Gary. Mazilli, in full commando mode now, used a TRG military “Grabber” grappling hook and a nylon rope to rappel forty feet up past the security gates to the third floor.

But after all his preparation, he didn’t know which door led to his estranged wife’s apartment. He chose wrong, knocking on the door of Apartment 3B.

Rachel Peterson answered with her baby daughter Molly in her arms. She stared wide-eyed at the heavily armed Ninja commando standing before her.

“Where’s Tommy?” Mazilli demanded. “Does Tommy Johnson live here?”

Wordlessly a frightened Peterson gestured across the hallway to apartment 3A.

Mazilli moved toward 3A, then turned back to Peterson. This is it, the paralyzed woman thought, I’m dead. She started to curve her arms protectively around her baby, ready to plead for her life.

“Get in the bathtub,” Mazilli ordered her, employing the gruff command voice he had picked up in the Marines. “Get in the bathtub and pull a mattress over yourself and your baby.”

The woman didn’t move.

“Do it now!”

Rachel Peterson slammed the door shut and did as she was told. But she brought a phone into the bathroom with her and dialed 9-1-1.

Nick Mazilli planned on beating any police response. He didn’t waste time. He strode across the hall and used his machine pistol to blast a pattern around the door lock of apartment 3A. Nine 9mm bullets tore huge chucks out of the wooden door. The noise was terrific, but the world was muffled now by his orange foam-rubber earplugs. By the time he was finished, the lock mechanism was attached to the door only by splinters.

Mazilli kicked open the door and bulled his way inside, the Remington .12-gauge at ready position.

The door-blasting had taken only seconds, but Tommy Johnson was ready for him. He knew Nick well, knew his penchant for weaponry, and in his worst fantasies knew that something like this might happen. Johnson had armed himself with a 9mm Colt automatic of his own. He had just come out of the bedroom hall to the right of the living room area when Mazilli barreled into the apartment.

Johnson raised the Colt and fired, hitting Mazilli squarely in the chest.

It was a kill-shot, and the night would have ended there, fodder perhaps for an NRA newsletter on firearm owners protecting their homes. But Nick Mazilli wore Kevlar body armor that night. Johnson’s bullet slammed into his torso with the impact of a baseball bat home-run swing, but the projectile didn’t penetrate and the blow didn’t stop him.

Mazilli racked the Remington and pulled the trigger. A tightly choked fist of triple-zero buckshot pellets slammed into Johnson’s left thigh, dropping him to the floor of the living room. Mazilli stalked up to the fallen man and kicked the Colt handgun away.

“Pam!” Nick bellowed. “Pam!”

Pam Mazilli cowered in the bedroom, one room away.

“No, Nicky!” she screamed, sobbing hysterically. “Don’t do it, Nick!” She curled up in a ball and clutched a photograph of the couple’s three-year-old son, Aquino, holding it up toward the door to the living room like it was a charm to ward evil.

“Motherfucker,” Nick Mazilli said, looking down at his former best friend. “Cocksucker.”

He switched weapons, bringing up the AR-15 that he had been carrying slung across his back. Firing methodically downward, he blasted at Tommy Johnson’s left arm, severing it completely from his body. Then he adjusted his point-blank aim to do the same to Johnson’s right arm, and both his legs.

The fusillade of bullets tore through Johnson’s body, ripping apart the carpet beneath him and blowing cavities into the concrete underfloor below. Blood, bits of flesh and bone fragments exploded everywhere. The supersonic assault-rifle rounds created pressure pockets as they sped through the air, and blood and body fluids were sucked into these pockets, so that the gore splashed back at Nick Mazilli as he fired and splattered across the walls and ceiling beyond him, too.

Mazilli stopped firing. Police would later estimate that he expended 350 rounds of ammo tearing Tommy Johnson’s body apart.

“Just kill me, Nick,” Johnson begged, miraculously still alive but groaning in pain. “Just kill me.” Mazilli could hear Pam’s terrified sobs from the bedroom.

He was not done yet. He poured lighter fluid over Johnson’s crotch area and set his testicles on fire. After allowing the flames to burn for a long beat — his best friend screaming at his feet, his estranged wife weeping one room away — Mazilli used his machine pistol to put a coup de grace bullet through Tommy Johnson’s heart.


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