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Medicolegal Death Investigations – With Dr. Mary Dudley



The role of the medicolegal death investigator is to investigate any death that falls under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner or coroner, including all suspicious, violent, unexplained and unexpected deaths.

A death investigation is a process whereby a coroner or forensic pathologist seeks to understand how and why a person died. A coroner or forensic pathologist must answer five questions when investigating a death:

  • Who (identity of the deceased)
  • When (date of death)
  • Where (location of death)
  • How (medical cause of death)
  • By what means (natural causes, accident, homicide, suicide or undetermined)

Information may be obtained from several sources including, but not limited to family, co-workers, neighbors, doctors, hospital records, police and other emergency service workers. Contact with family is vital as they often have important information that can aid the investigation.

In This Episode – Medicolegal Death Investigations

In this episode I talk with Dr Mary Dudley about the field of Medicolegal Death Investigations and where the field  is progressing.  We discuss  some ‘best practices’ and obstacles faced by medicolegal death investigators  across the country, as well as what new and up coming investigators need to do to have a better chance of entering the field.

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Mary H. Dudley, MD, is the chief medical examiner (retired 2015)  for Jackson County in Kansas City, MO. She is board certified in Anatomic and Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology. She completed a two-year fellowship in Forensic Pathology at the University of New Mexico following a four-year Anatomic and Clinical Pathology residency at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs. She has a diploma, BS, and MS in nursing and also founded the first forensic nursing certificate program in the United States in 1994. Dr. Dudley originated the first Forensic Medical Investigation course in the United States in 1996.

Dr. Dudley is a Board Member of the National Association of Medical Examiners, Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Science, co-chair of the Medical Examiner Advisory Board of Musculotissue Foundation, member of the Missouri Child Fatality Review Board, and member of the National Disaster Medical Systems (Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team). She is also an Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology – University of Missouri-Kansas City and on the teaching faculty at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Campus in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.


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Features

  • Includes an extensive section on injury recognition covering blunt, sharp, and patterned injury, forensic odontology, gunshot wounds, and craniocerebral injury
  • Covers all the essential aspects relating to death investigations as well as investigations involving abuse and injury
  • Illustrates concepts with graphic images throughout

Summary

Introducing the basic concepts of clinical forensic medicine and death investigation, this bookcovers the main areas of forensic investigation . It provides an introduction to forensic science and coverage of injury patterns, natural disease, accidental trauma, child injury and fatalities, and domestic violence. Anyone who has direct contact with death, crime, and the medicolegal system, including nurses, physicians, attorneys, death investigators, forensic pathologists, and police detectives, will find this an invaluable reference.


Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries


Nearly 40,000 people are killed in car crashes each year. In each of these crashes, there is evidence on the body in the form of injuries.  It is important for investigators to understand vehicle crash dynamics and how impact and movement cause injury to a human body.

Knowledge of the dynamics of these injuries and how they are inflicted will help the investigator come to some conclusions as to injury cause, seating position, and the crash type.

Aurora Theater Shooting Radio Traffic – Rewind


On July 20, 2012, a mass shooting occurred inside of a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight Rises. A gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. The sole suspect, James Eagan Holmes, was arrested outside the cinema minutes later. It was the deadliest shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

The shooting occurred in theater 9 at the Century 16 multiplex (operated by Cinemark), located at the Town Center at Aurora shopping mall at 14300 E. Alameda Avenue. Police said the shooter bought a ticket, entered the theater, and sat in the front row; about 20 minutes into the film, he left the building through an emergency exit door, which he propped open with a plastic tablecloth holder.

He allegedly then went to his car, which was parked near the exit door, changed into protective clothing, and retrieved his guns. About 30 minutes into the film, police say, around 12:30 am, he reentered the theater through the exit door. He was dressed in black and wore a gas mask, a load-bearing vest (not to be confused with a bulletproof vest), a ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings, a bullet-resistant throat protector, a groin protector and tactical gloves. Initially, few in the audience considered the masked figure a threat. He appeared to be wearing a costume, like other audience members who had dressed up for the screening. Some believed that the gunman was playing a prank, while others thought that he was part of a special effects installation set up for the film’s premiere as a publicity stunt by the studio or theater management.

It was also said that the gunman threw two canisters emitting a gas or smoke, partially obscuring the audience members’ vision, making their throats and skin itch, and causing eye irritation. He then fired a 12-gauge Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, first at the ceiling and then at the audience. He also fired a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, which malfunctioned after reportedly firing about 45 rounds. Finally, he fired a Glock 22 40-caliber handgun. He shot first to the back of the room, and then toward people in the aisles. A bullet passed through the wall and hit three people in the adjacent theater 8, which was screening the same film. Witnesses said the multiplex’s fire alarm system began sounding soon after the attack began and staff told people in theater 8 to evacuate. One witness said that she was hesitant to leave because someone yelled that there was someone shooting in the lobby and that they should not leave.

The first phone calls to emergency services via 9-1-1 were made at 12:39 am. Police arrived within 90 seconds and found at least three .40-caliber handgun magazines, a shotgun and a large drum magazine on the floor of the theater. Some people reported the shooting via tweets or text messaging rather than calling the police. Sgt. Stephen Redfearn, one of the first police officers on the scene, decided not to wait for ambulances and sent victims to area hospitals in squad cars.

About 12:45 am, police apprehended Holmes behind the cinema, next to his car, without resistance. He was initially mistaken as another police officer because of the tactical clothing he was wearing. According to two federal officials, he had dyed his hair red and called himself “the Joker”, although authorities later declined to confirm this. Three days later, at his first court appearance in Centennial, Colorado, Holmes had reddish-orange hair. The officers found several firearms in the theater and inside the car, including another Glock 22 handgun.Following his arrest, he was initially jailed at Arapahoe County Detention Center, under suicide watch. The police interviewed more than 200 witnesses. Investigators say that the shooter acted alone and was not part of a larger group or terrorist organization.

Explosive devices
When apprehended, Holmes told the police that he had booby-trapped his apartment with explosive devices before heading to the movie theater. Police then evacuated five buildings surrounding his Aurora residence, about 5 miles (8 km) north of the cinema. The apartment complex is limited to University of Colorado Medical Center students, patients, and employees. One day after the shooting, officials disarmed an explosive device wired to the apartment’s front entrance, allowing a remotely controlled robot to enter and disable other explosives. The apartment held more than 30 homemade grenades, wired to a control box in the kitchen, and 10 gallons of gasoline.

Neighbors reported loud music from the apartment around midnight on the night of the massacre, and one went to his door to tell him she was calling the police; she stated that the door seemed to be unlocked, but she chose not to open it. A law enforcement official said that a Batman mask was found inside the apartment. On July 23, police finished collecting evidence from the apartment. Two days later, residents were allowed to return to the four surrounding buildings, and six days later, residents were allowed to move back into the formerly booby-trapped building.

Casualties
Eighty-two people were shot or otherwise wounded, reported by mainstream news as the most victims of any mass shooting in United States history. Four people’s eyes were irritated by the tear gas grenades, and eight others injured themselves while fleeing the theater. The massacre was the deadliest shooting in Colorado since the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999.

Fatalities
Twelve people were killed in the shooting. Ten died at the scene and two more in local hospitals. Those killed were:

  • Jonathan Blunk, age 26
  • Alexander J. Boik, age 18
  • Jesse Childress, age 29
  • Gordon Cowden, age 51
  • Jessica Ghawi, age 24
  • John Larimer, age 27
  • Matt McQuinn, age 27
  • Micayla Medek, age 23
  • Veronica Moser-Sullivan, age 6
  • Alex Sullivan, age 27
  • Alexander C. Teves, age 24
  • Rebecca Wingo, age 31

Almost two months earlier, Jessica Ghawi narrowly avoided a shooting at the Eaton Centre in Toronto, which killed two people and injured several others.

Injuries
The youngest person injured during the shooting was a four-month-old boy who was not shot. Ashley Moser, Veronica Moser-Sullivan’s mother, was critically injured in the shooting and miscarried a week after the attack.

The injured were treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver Health Medical Center, The Medical Center of Aurora, Parker Adventist Hospital, Rose Medical Center, Swedish Hospital, and University Hospital. On July 25, three of the five hospitals treating victims announced that they would limit medical bills or forgive them entirely.

The Community First Foundation collected more than $5 million for a fund for victims and their families. In September, victims and their families received surveys asking about their preferences for how collected funds should be distributed, either by dividing it equally among victims or through a needs-assessment process.On November 16, 2012, the Aurora Victim Relief Fund announced each claimant will receive $220,000.

Information in this written post was obtained from wikipedia and is only as valid as that site reports.

Using Plantes to Solve Crime -Rewind


We have all heard about the science of Botany, but have you ever considered just how important it can be in solving your case? For instance;  how plant cells from stomach contents can discredit an alibi, or how one seed in the shoe lace of a suspect can bring an unknown serial murderer to justice, or just exactly what plant DNA can tell us about our victims last location. Using plants in criminal investigations is an underused forensic science , this may be that there are few forensic botanist in the United States, but it is certainly a science we all need to be reintroduced to.

Forensic Botany

Forensic botany applies the knowledge and techniques of plant science to legal matters. Here, the term macroscopic plant remains is given to those plant materials not included within forensic palynology or microbiology. Research centered on spores, pollen, and certain microorganisms is well developed and will not be discussed here. For decades, these materials have been used successfully by archaeologists, geologists, anthropologists, and botanists to determine the cause of death for prehistoric or modern humans. 

One of the early documented cases of forensic botany connected with macroscopic plant materials was the suicide death of Socrates. Plato described the death of his mentor as he attended the legally imposed suicide of Socrates. He was convicted of corrupting youth and disrespecting the state religion. Because Socrates was of high social standing, he was allowed to choose his own manner of death. He selected a deadly tea made from poison hemlock (Conium maculatum L.: Apiaceae). In Plato’s Phaedo (Plato and Gallop, 2009), we read of Socrates’ symptoms after he drank the fatal brew. This narration agrees with contemporary descriptions of poison hemlock’s effect on humans (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis, 1977). From that time to this, in most of the world’s societies the knowledge of plants’ effects on humans has appeared in courts (Simoons, 1998). Forensic botany became accredited in the courts of the United States in the trial of Bruno Hauptman who was accused of kidnapping and killing Charles and Anne M. Lindbergh’s baby son in 1932 (Graham, 1997, 2006). Arthur Koehler, a wood anatomist with the US Forest Service, matched the wood from the ladder used to get into the second floor Lindbergh nursery with wood from Hauptman’s attic. Hauptman was convicted of the crime and executed. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation called Koehler’s evidence ‘critical.’ This crime also resulted in kidnapping becoming a federal offense.

Collection of Evidence

The collection of plant material for use in criminal investigations differs from techniques taught in plant systematic courses. Forensic collections are assumed to be legal evidence. Such materials need to be collected, if possible, either by officers of law enforcement organizations or by a botanist in the presence of officers. Rules surrounding evidence are strict. When significant vegetation is collected, a chain of evidence must be established at once.

Notebook records of time and place and case numbers are required. It is wise, but not required, to assign your personal case number that will be linked to the number that will be used in court. This information must always remain attached to the evidence. Each person in possession of evidence must be clearly documented as the evidence passes among those involved in a case. Plant collections should be placed either in paper or cloth bags unless pollen analysis also is to be undertaken.

Bags need to be the smallest size to accommodate the material. Evidence can be stored in laboratories or evidence lockers for long periods of time, even years. Evidence rooms always are short of space, so economy of collection without minimizing the value of the specimens is essential. Plastic bags, glass jars, and tin cans are unacceptable for long-term storage because they encourage decay.

Download Full Paper Here:  The Use of Macroscopic Plant Remains In Forensic Science 

J H Bock, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA ã 2013 Elsevier B.V.


Episode Guest

Jane-Bock

Jane Bock, PhD  University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.

Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Member of Botanical Society of America.
Founding member of Necrosearch International.
80+ refereed publications, 3 books. Book in press, Forensic Plant Science – Academic Press. publication 2015 or 2016.

jhbock@gmail.com


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Murdering Moms ep270


Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing their own child. The word filicide derives from the Latin words filius meaning “son” or filia meaning daughter, and the suffix -cide meaning to kill, murder, or cause death.

“Filicide” may refer both to the parent who killed his or her child, as well as to the criminal act that the parent committed.

Episode

In this episode, I share a conversation I had with  Ron Martinelli Ph.D on his radio show A Thread of Evidence. In the conversation, I detail three cases where mothers killed their children and how the investigation was conducted and the truth was revealed.

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, BCFT, CFA

America’s Forensic Expert

ron-sun-glasses-best

“Dr. Ron Martinelli is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist who is the only police expert in the country who is also a Certified Medical Investigator at the physician’s level.

Dr. Martinelli directs the nation’s only multidisciplinary Forensic Death Investigations & Independent Review Team and specializes in forensic investigations including officer-involved and civilian self-defense death cases.

Dr. Martinelli is a retired San Jose (CA) Police Department detective with a background in investigations, medicine and applied sciences including forensics, psychology & psychological profiling; physiology and human factors; violent crimes and death scene investigations. He has been referred to in the forensics and legal community as the “expert’s expert.”

Dr. Martinelli provides forensic expert services to several State Attorney Generals’ Offices, major metropolitan cities, the USMC Judge Advocate General’s Office and numerous nationally prominent private law firms. He is also a contributing forensic investigations expert for FOX News, CNN, OANN, Discovery, History and Investigations Discovery channels and is a contributing writer to USA TODAY, POLICE Magazine, Law & Order Magazine, The Forensic Examiner, The Law Enforcement Executive Journal, PoliceOne.com and Officer.com.


Dangers of Hoarding for Investigators


Hoarding is a psychological condition that results in a person accumulating an enormous amount of trash and things of little-to-no value, or worse, more animals than can be properly cared for. Hoarding of any kind can pose several dangers to the occupant and neighbors, and certainly to animals if they are involved. These hazards can be deadly, and all the more reason people with hoarding disorder should have professional help to restore them to healthy living conditions. If children and animals are in the home, exposed to these perilous dangers, hoarding is also a crime.


Dangers of Hoarding

Structural Integrity

The weight of debris and hoarded items are often more than the floors are able to withhold. The sheer volume of debris in a room can push up against walls, not only damaging their integrity, but also putting the ceiling and roof at risk of collapse. Likewise, the collapse of walls, floors or ceilings can cause gas lines and water pipes to break, resulting in fire and flood damage.

Fire

Large amounts of paper, such as newspapers, books, boxes, and discarded food wrappers and packaging, or improperly stored combustibles can pose extreme fire dangers. If space heaters are used, close proximity to any debris can also cause a fire.

Collapse of Debris

Often, hoarders will create precarious paths between large piles of debris, or will crawl over mountains of trash to get around in the house. If these trash piles collapse, they could trap the hoarder underneath, burying the person alive. This could result in death from suffocation or inability to notify anyone they need help.

Decay/Decomposition

As is often the case, hoarders not only collect relatively useless items, but they tend to not dispose of much of anything. The decay of spoiled food stuffs and waste can lead to terrible odors and airborne pathogens that can be harmful or even deadly. In a very unusual case in San Francisco, the mummified body of a 90-year-old woman was found in an extreme hoarding case. Officials believe she died 5 years previously.

Harmful Biohazards

In almost all hoarding scenes, biohazards are present. Biohazards can be toxic or infectious, even deadly, and can lead to any range of illnesses and dangers to the resident or neighbors. Common biohazardous materials include spoiled food, feces and urine, blood, bodily fluids, pet waste and dead animals.

Infestations

The decay and decomposition of organic materials and biohazards, undoubtedly attract pests. Rodents will leave waste and very often get trapped and die within a hoarding residence. This further increases the potential harm to the hoarder, as well as neighbors. This is why hoarding goes beyond an individual and becomes a community problem.

Personal Hygiene and Nutritional Issues

A hoarding situation can become so extreme that debris blocks access to a kitchen and bathrooms. When the kitchen is blocked or is overwhelmed by harmful waste, proper food preparation becomes impossible. And when bathrooms become blocked, makeshift alternatives are used, with an absence of hygiene. In the extreme hoarding case in San Francisco, police found over 300 bottles of urine on the premises.

If a loved one or a neighbor is a hoarder and living in unsafe conditions, we can help with the cleanup and refer you to other helpful resources. If animals or children are at risk, we can also put you in touch with law enforcement agencies that can assist.


Episode Guest – Michelle Doscher Ph.D

A forensic scientist specializing in investigative psychology and crime scene investigation. Diversified experience as an investigator, interviewer, instructor, expert witness, and an analyst. Currently conducting research in the transference of psycholinguistic cues to handwriting during deception. The current quantitative method unites psychological and physical evidence for more concise investigative leads, with expected applications for criminal interrogations and loss prevention interviews.

Evidence v. Personal Property Collection

Evidence collection in and around a death scene is conducted in much the same manner as any crime scene. We are going to look at some scene search methods, evidence collection techniques, and scene interpretation. 

There is a difference in personal property and evidence. Lets look at the definitions of each.

Personal Property

Is property on or near the body that belongs to the body (or decedent) and can be returned to next-of-kin.

Evidence

Is any material that may contribute to the cause and manner of death and is considered important in supporting facts of the case. What is determined evidence depends on the type and manner of death being investigated.

Crime Scene Investigation Standards – It’s up to you



Crime scene investigation is an indispensable part of our work, which will have a direct impact on the success of the criminal investigation.  With technological progress and changes in social situations, scene investigation work is facing unprecedented challenges.

The standardization of the crime scene investigation should be the goal of all police agencies. Therefore, promoting the standardization of the crime scene investigation is necessary.

As a criminal justice system, the crime scene investigation also has the basic rules and characteristics of the system. So the system can be applied in the field of the standardization of the crime scene investigation. Scientific investigation means applying the knowledge, methods and technology which is caused by the development of science and technology to the criminal investigation.

Crime scene investigation is the work conducted on the physical evidence at the scene. An investigation is a traditional method, in addition to which, many other measures can be used in the crime scene investigation. Scene investigation needs to integrate the use of a variety of scientific and technical means to detect, collect, and store the evidence, which is the most concentrated expression of scientific investigation.

Obstacle of Standardizing Crime Scene Investigations

The biggest obstacle to standardizing crime scene investigations is funding. Many organizations and government committees are working on this issue of standardization and a lot of great ideas and methods are being adapted.

However, with standards in place, funding will have to made available for proper, ongoing training.  Many, if not most, police agencies will agree with the fundamental fact that a set of standards are needed, but they will also quickly say that budgets restrict  the resources of time and money to set in place and train for these standards 

Why Standardizing Crime Scene Investigations is important

We have all seen the issues when working with other agencies during an investigation or a new detective is hired into the department from another area.  It becomes hard to work together for a while until both parties learn the other’s way of doing things, neither may be right or wrong, but different.  

This costs time, money, and can stall an investigation.  Another primary reason for  Standardizing Crime Scene Investigations is that these standards will equip investigators with the latest in technology and methods which will clear cases faster, and prosecutions will be more successful.

In the United States there are over 21,500 police departments  with 20 or fewer officers.  These officers do the best they can with what they have, but many lack training and standardized approaches to criminal investigations.

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Crime Scene inv. book pic

Everett Baxter Jr. has an Associate Degree in Applied Science – EMS and a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry.  He has over 23 combined years in law enforcement.  He is currently assigned to the Crime Scene Unit of the Oklahoma City Police Department.  Mr. Baxter was previously employed with the Norman Police Department where he worked in the EMS and Patrol Divisions.  Mr. Baxter has presented numerous lectures and seminars at conferences, educational groups and various civic groups.  Mr. Baxter has been court qualified as an Expert in Crime Scene Investigations, Crime Scene Reconstruction, Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, Shooting Scene Reconstruction and 3D Sketches in both District Court and federal Court.  Mr. Baxter has written papers on the Effects of Cleaning Products on Bloodstains (co-authored), Alternate Light Source.  Mr. Baxter has written the books the Complete Crime Scene Investigation Handbook and the Complete Crime Scene Investigation Workbook.

Public Email address: everettbaxterjrforensics@gmail.com

Women Who Kill and Everyday Murder ep265


Females in the United States accounts for 12% – 15% of ALL murders. Interestingly, women account for roughly the same percentage of serial murders.

  • Most kill for gain – wives, boarding home owners, etc,
  • Care taker killers – nurses and childcare workers.
  • Family Annihilators – protecting their children
  • Lust murder – extremely rare, usually at the  urging  of a man     

Female serial murderers generally do not stalk or torture their victims and usually use poison to kill. They generally kill close to home or workplace rather than showing mobility found in many male killers. The median age at arrest is 37.9 years, with a range of 40 years  (19-59). Average age when kills begin is 32.9 years. (18-53)

Everyday Murder

Revenge Murder

Revenge is defined as the act of committing a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived.  It is used to punish a wrong by going outside the law.

•Victim did something to the suspect or his family

•Suspect sees victim as the cause of some trouble or issue

•The need to right a wrong

•Killing of parents

Anger Murder

Anger murder is an act of killing based on high emotions of anger. Such as in a passion murder, domestic murder, or an immediate wrong that has resulted in intense anger. May be part of a revenge murder if planned. Usually not a planned event but rather an act of passion or circumstances.

Concealment of Other Crime

These murders are committed out of a need to conceal another crime such as; Rape or Sexual Assault – Theft or Burglary – Eliminating a Witness

These are usually planned or at least determined to be a part of the crime event. Such as child assault/murder

Infanticide

The crime of killing a child within a year of birth. Usually for very select reasons:

•Concealment of the birth

•No longer wants the child

•To save the child from danger or Hell