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Forensic Anthropology – Dr Tersigni-Tarrant

Tarrant_MariaForensic anthropology is the analysis of skeletal, badly decomposed, or otherwise unidentified human remains, and  is important in both legal and humanitarian contexts. Forensic anthropologists apply standard scientific techniques developed in physical anthropology to analyze human remains, and to aid in the detection of crime. In addition to assisting in locating and recovering human skeletal remains, forensic anthropologists work to assess the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of a decedent from the skeleton. Forensic anthropologists frequently work in conjunction with forensic pathologists, odontologists, and homicide investigators to identify a decedent, document trauma to the skeleton, and/or estimate the postmortem interval.

In this episode 

In this episode I talk with Dr.MariaTeresa A. Tersigni-Tarrant about what is forensic anthropology and how it can help you  in solving your case or answering the unanswered. We dive into the how-to’s of scene work and the obstacles that come with recovering and packaging skeletal  remains.

Important Links 

Dr.MariaTeresa A. Tersigni-Tarrant email:  m.tersigni.tarrant@gmail.com 

ABFA – American Board of Forensic Anthropology:

Todays Guest

Skeletal ServicesDr.MariaTeresa A. Tersigni-Tarrant is a practicing, board-certified Forensic Anthropologist, one just over 100 individuals ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology.  Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant received her Bachelor’s of Science Degrees in Microbiology and Anthropology from Michigan State University in 2000.  She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Physical Anthropology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.  Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship in 2005 at the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command’s Central Identification Laboratory (JPAC-CIL) on Hickam AFB, Hawaii.  During this fellowship, she was instrumental in establishing standard operating procedures for the histological analysis of human remains for the purpose of identifying missing armed-service members.  From 2006- 2012, Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant held several teaching positions at undergraduate, graduate and medical school institutions.  Most recently, as a course director and instructor, she developed and implemented curriculum for medical gross anatomy (including the laboratory component) and medical embryology for first year medical students.  Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant served as the Forensic Anthropologist for the State of Georgia-At-Large working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) from 2009-2012.  She continues to consult with GBI on various cases.  Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant returned to JPAC-CIL in 2012, where she was employed as a Forensic Anthropologist and managed the histology casework at the CIL.  She currently owns her own consulting firm offering consulting services related to forensic anthropology casework to medicolegal agencies including the Saint Louis City Medical Examiner’s Office, the GBI and the Department of Defense.  Dr. Tersigni-Tarrant s as an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery’s Center for Anatomical Science and Education where she teaches gross anatomy and embryology to first year medical students, anatomy graduate students and PA, AT, PT and OT students. She also serves as the Director of Forensic Education and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at Saint Louis University, where she runs the Medicolegal Death Investigators training Courses and the Masters Medicolegal Death Investigation Course. Her research interests include bone biology; human and non-human histology, child abuse: patterned fractures and timing of healing, human decomposition research, bone pathology, and developmental anatomy.

Ethnographic Research – The Study of Us

Field NotesEthnography is the study of cultures through close observation, reading, and interpretation. Ethnographic researchers work “in the field,” in the culture which they are studying. The activities they conduct are also often called fieldwork. Ethnographers define the word “culture” in broader terms, as a patterned behavior or way of life of a group of people. Some of the elements of culture then are the common habits, customs, traditions, histories, and geographies—everything that connect the members of the culture together and defines them. Ethnographic research allows the researcher  to get “up close and personal” with cultures. It places researchers at the heart of the investigations, often allowing them to participate in the very culture they study. Such an active role gives writers valuable insights into their subject, which usually cannot be achieved simply by studying books, journal articles, and websites.

Death Investigators as a Culture 

Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning. The making of a society is the finding of common meanings and directions, and its growth is an active debate and amendment under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land. The growing society is there, yet it is also made and remade in every individual mind. The making of a mind is, first, the slow learning of shapes, purposes, and meanings, so that work, observation and communication are possible. Then, second, but equal in importance, is the testing of these in experience, the making of new observations, comparisons, and meanings. A culture has two aspects: the known meanings and directions, which its members are trained to; the new observations and meanings, which are offered and tested. These are the ordinary processes of human societies and human minds, and we see through them the nature of a culture: that it is always both traditional and creative; that it is both the most ordinary common meanings and the finest individual meanings. We use the word culture in these two senses: to mean a whole way of life–the common meanings; to mean the arts and learning–the special processes of discovery and creative effort. Some writers reserve the word for one or other of these senses; I insist on both, and on the significance of their conjunction. The questions I ask about our culture are questions about deep personal meanings. Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind.

flavia.medeirosToday’s Guest – Flavia Medeiros

Since 2009,Flavia Medeiros has  been conducting ethnographic research about the relation between Medicine, Science, Justice and Police trying to understand how those fields deal with the death and decedents, specifically in homicide cases.

For her  Master Degree in Social Anthropology,  she has  been doing fieldwork in the Rio de Janeiro Medical-Legal Institute, Brazil. Her  goal was understand the proceedings that define a corpse as a dead person. This research is going to be published as a book: “Matar o morto: uma etnografia do Instituto Médico-Legal do Rio de Janeiro (in English: “Kill the decedent: an ethnography of the Rio de Janeiro Medical-Legal Institute.”) Also, she spent three months in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she could observe the Lomas de Zamora Judicial Morgue.

Currently, the title of her  research project is “How are “homicides” negotiated? A comparative ethnography of the construction mechanisms of truths in cases of “intentional crimes against life” in Rio de Janeiro/Brazil and San Francisco/USA.” Her goal is to explore how “homicides” are classified, appreciating the nature of conflicts, the investigation of their facts and the classifications that will produce truths. In this direction, she proposes to observe, identify and analyze what are the practices in Rio de Janeiro (what she did during 2014) and San Francisco (fieldwork she is doing now) for the investigation, prosecution and trial phases. As well as the moralities, senses and representations triggered so that “homicides” may be traded by the institutional agents involved in construction of their truths.

In this episode I talk with Flavia about her research and what has driven her to conduct such an undertaking.  We discuss her current research, the differences seen between America and Brazil and where her future research will take her.  I find it interesting that she is devoting her PhD work to researching what we do.

Contact information for Flavia 

http://www.uff.br/ineac/ – webpage of the “Institute for the Comparative Study of Conflict Administration Processes”
http://www.uff.br/ppga/ – webpage of the Graduate Program in Anthropology where I am a PhD Candidate
https://www.facebook.com/flaviamedeiross – Her  personal profile

tags: coroner,coroner talk podcast,police training, darren dake,sheriff,deputy,coroner association,murder scenes,csi,detective,detective training,auto fatalities,autoerotic fatalities,become a coroner,forensic science,become a csi, fire fighter, fire fighter training,police,paramedic,medicolegal,anita brooks,ptsd,secondary  traumatic stress,flavia medeiros 

Pt 2 The Suicide Plan – Investigating Planned Suicides

SuicideThe assisted suicide movement is, if anything, indefatigable. Not only is it undeterred by its failures, but it is now more energized than any other time in recent years. By the end of March of 2015, bills were introduced in twenty-five state legislatures to legalize assisted suicide.

Defining the Subject

Many people remain confused about the exact nature of assisted suicide advocacy, sometimes confusing it with other medical issues involving end-of-life care. Thus, to fully understand the subject, we must distinguish between ethical choices at the end of life that may lead to death and the poison of euthanasia/assisted suicide.

1.      Refusing unwanted medical treatment is not assisted suicide: Fear of being “hooked up to machines” when one wishes to die at home has traditionally been a driving force behind the assisted suicide movement. But we all have the right to refuse medical interventions—even if the choice is likely to lead to death. Thus, a cancer patient can reject chemotherapy and a patient dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease can say no to a respirator.  Indeed, in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the right to refuse medical treatment is completely different from assisted suicide.[9]

2.      Assisted suicide/euthanasia is not the same as medical treatment for pain control: Because pain control may require strong drugs, which can cause death, assisted suicide advocates often claim that palliation and euthanasia are ethically the same under the “principle of double effect.” But this is all wrong:

  • Any legitimate medical treatment can unintentionally lead to death, including pain alleviation. In assisted suicide death is the intended effect.
  • We would never say that a patient who died during open heart surgery was euthanized. Similarly, a patient who dies from the unintended side effects of pain control has not been assisted in suicide or euthanized.
  • Pain control experts state that aggressive pain control generally does not shorten life.

3.      Assisted suicide/euthanasia is antithetical to hospice: Hospice was founded by the great medical humanitarian Dame Cicely Saunders in the late 1960s as a reform movement to bring the care of the dying out of isolated hospitals and into patients’ homes or non-institutional local care facilities. Its purpose is to provide dying people with proper treatment of pain and other disturbing symptoms as well as to render spiritual, psychological, and social support toward the end that life be lived as fully as possible until natural death.

In contrast, assisted suicide is about rushing death, making it happen sooner rather than later through lethal actions. Or to put it another way: Hospice is about living. Assisted suicide/euthanasia is about dying. As the noted palliative care expert and assisted suicide opponent Dr. Ira Byock has written, “There’s a distinction between alleviating suffering and eliminating the sufferer — between enabling someone to die gently of their disease and ending that person’s life with a lethal pill or injection.”

4.      Assisted suicide/euthanasia are acts that intentionally end life: In contrast to the above, the intended purpose of assisted suicide and euthanasia is to end life, e.g., to kill. In assisted suicide, the last act causing death is taken by the person who dies, for example, ingesting a lethal prescription of barbiturates. In euthanasia, the death is a homicide, an act of killing taken by a third person, such as a doctor injecting a patient with poisonous drugs.

From an Investigators Standpoint 

With the above statements we can see that the topic of assisted suicide is at best conversional.  As a death investigator, our job is simple; to report the facts and the facts only.  However, it is well understood that our own emotions and bias on the topic can and will play a role in how we approached these scenes. The investigators must guard against allowing these personal feelings to interfere with the proper reporting and interpretation of  the scene.

Conversation with Prosecuting Attorney 

It is  a good suggestion to have a conversation with your  prosecuting attorney and a review of your agency policy to see how best to proceed in these cases. You should always report all facts in the case, but having a better understanding of how you are expected to proceed may well help in your overall review of the case.

With Family

No matter what decision  your Prosecuting Attorney goes, some members of the deceased family will invariably not agree with the decision.  This is why it best to do a proper and complete investigation, report all and only, the facts – and let those responsible for making these critical decision do their job. You, as the investigator , can rest in the knowledge that you have done your job and can properly explain to the family exactly what took place and why decision  are made based upon these facts.  Many family members may still not agree with the outcome, but it is much better for them to have the facts than them come up with their own set of “facts’ as they see it.

Anita Brook-corner talk-secondary stressAnita Brooks    anitabrooks.com

Dr. Judy Melinek – Working Stiff

Melinek-Slide_0A   forensic pathologist can not work in a vacuum, they must have critical information gathered at the scene by qualified investigators. It is only with this information and the results of the autopsy that a ruling can be made.  It is often that a ruling will be delayed, or no determination made at all, without this information and investigation by the medicolegal investigators.

In this episode I talk with Dr. Judy Melinek, and forensic pathologist working with the Alameda County Coroners Office and and private consultant at  Pathology Expert .com.   We discuss what investigators need to provide to a pathologist to help in the determination of cause and manner of death.  We also discuss her role in the 9/11 attacks as she was working in New York City at the time and witnessed the first plane hit.

Dr. Melinek, along with her husband TJ – wrote the book Working Stiff that chronicle her first two years as a forensic pathologist  and her work in New York City Medical Examiners Office during the 9/11 attacks.

 

Working-stiffThe fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases—hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex—that shaped her as both a physician and a mother.

Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. With her husband T.J. and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation—performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff chronicles Judy’s two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587.

Lively, action-packed, and loaded with mordant wit, Working Stiff offers a firsthand account of daily life in one of America’s most arduous professions, and the unexpected challenges of shuttling between the domains of the living and the dead. The body never lies—and through the murders, accidents, and suicides that land on her table, Dr. Melinek lays bare the truth behind the glamorized depictions of autopsy work on shows like CSI and Law & Order to reveal the secret story of the real morgue.

About the Authors

tj-mitchell-dr-judy-melinekJudy Melinek, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard University. She trained at UCLA in medicine and pathology, graduating in 1996. Her training at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York is the subject of her memoir, Working Stiff, which she co-wrote with her husband. Currently, Dr. Melinek is an Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF, and works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland. She also travels nationally and internationally to lecture on anatomic and forensic pathology and she has been consulted as a forensic expert in many high-profile legal cases, as well as for the television shows E.R. and Mythbusters.

T.J. Mitchell, her husband, graduated with an English degree from Harvard and has worked as a screenwriter’s assistant and script editor since 1991. He is a writer and stay-at-home Dad raising their three children in San Francisco. Working Stiff is his first book.

Workplace Bullying

workplace_bullying

 

Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :

This definition was used in the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. Its national prevalence was assessed. Read the Survey results.

Workplace Bullying…

  • Is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s).
  • Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
  • Is a set of acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others)
  • Requires consequences for the targeted individual
  • Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
  • Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
  • Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.

Please know two things:

Bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and, because it is violence and abusive, emotional harm frequently results. You may not be the first person to have noticed that you were bullied. Check to see how many of these indicators match yours.

Remember, you did not cause bullying to happen. We’ve broken down the major reasons why bullies bully. The primary reason bullying occurs so frequently in workplaces is that bullying is not yet illegal. Bullying is four times more common than either sexual harassment or racial discrimination on the job.

Should you confront the bully? If you could have, you would have. Instead, use the WBI-suggested 3-Step Method. Remember, put your health first. Don’t believe the lies told about you. Spend time with loved ones and friends. At times of debilitating stress like this, you must not be isolated. Isolation will only make the stress worse.

As we said, to date, no U.S. state has passed an anti-bullying law for the workplace.

* This article is a re-print if excerpts from  Workplace Bullying Institute   To read full article and see many more resources click over to there site.Anita Brook-corner talk-secondary stress

Todays guest is Anita Brooks  of anitabrooks.com 

 


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Practical Cultural Guidelines For Death Investigators

globe [Converted]Culture includes the beliefs, customs, and arts of a particular society, group, or place. How people respond to issues of death or dying is directly related to their cultural backgrounds. Anyone who works with families should be sensitive to their culture, ethnic, religious, and language diversity.

10 Practical Guidelines

  1. » Allow families to grieve the loss of their loved one in their customary ways.
  2. » Recognize that grief and loss may be expressed differently across cultures.
  3. » Use an interpreter when necessary to avoid miscommunication.
  4. » Identify important ethnic or faith leaders in the community and ask them about what support is available for families.
  5. » Avoid personal contact such as hugging or touching unless invited.
  6. » Carefully consider the words you use when speaking with family members about their loss.
  7. » Respond to family requests in a respectful and sensitive manner.
  8. » Avoid answering questions such as “why?”
  9. » Be conscious of the volume of your voice.
  10. » If you are entering a home, be conscious of your shoes.

 

Full Downloadable Guideline

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 New Book – Get your copy now !   Click the Book to Learn more…….

Professionalism – Respect is Earned Not Granted

What's the problem?!If you want to be seen as a professional, you must present a professional image and attitude that will command respect.   You WILL NOT get the respect you need simply by your title. Respect is earned not granted.    There has been a long history of perceived and actual unprofessionalism in the Coroner industry. This has spilled over into Medical Examiners office and police agencies as well.  But by and large many coroners struggle with being accepted as a professional.   Is it industry bias, or a reality of the image the coroner is projecting?

Five Areas You Must Address

1. Need for written policy

  •     All staff from top down
  •     Procedures for all to follow
  •        Victim families
  •        Property
  •        Report dealines 

2. Attitude of cooperation

  •    With co-workers
  •    Other Agencies    Stop power pulls
  •    Interactions with families        

3. Office Organization

  •   Office area appearance
  •   Filing
  •    Reporting
  •    Returning messages   Voice and Email

4. Dress code standards

  •    At office / morgue
  •    On scenes
  •            Proper Dress    Proper Id on clothing
  •     On duty and in public
  •             This includes automobiles
  •                   Is it marked
  •                   Even Magnetic logos
  •                   What type of vehicle

5. Training    

  •       How trained are you    
  •      Can you talk and understand the field
  •      Your responsibility  to get it
  •               This podcast
  •               Reading
  •               Courses     local Sheriff Office
  •               ABMDI
  •               Use your ME


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Training and courses designed by and for the death investigation community.

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Money Plan S.O.S | Financial Coaching

Money Plan sosWe all, at times,  need to take a step back and look at our personal lives.  We are always in the mix of other people’s mess and we often neglect our own.  As public servants none of us are paid what would be considered an amazing wage. However, we can take steps to live better, live smarter, and plan for tomorrow.  In this episode I talk with Steve Stewart of Money Plan S.O.S. We talk about how to come out of financial crisis mode and into a secure financial state free from fear and worry and how Financial Coaching   can help you too.

Steve Stewart is a financial coach and podcaster and can be found at the links below.  I invite you to check out his show – subscribe to his podcast and leave a review after three shows.  His down to earth advice and information is invaluable to our financial  success.  Steve’s website has tons of resources and information free to download and use.  You can find more about Money Plan SOS and Steve Stewart at:

 

http://moneyplansos.com

Podcast Link 

What Are Autoerotic Deaths – (and what they are not)

Autoerotic Death

Autoerotic deaths are accidental deaths that occur during solitary sexual activity in which some type of apparatus that was used to enhance the sexual stimulation of the deceased caused the unintentional death.

These deaths are accidental, they are not suicides as some have thought. The practitioner does not intend to die as a result of this activity, but instead, dies as a result of an overdoes of asphyxiation or a failure in the mechanism of pleasure induced by the victim.

Autoerotic deaths come in many forms and are not just from an asphyxial hanging, although asphyxia is the most common.

These deaths can also occur as a result of:

Ligature Compression of the Neck
Airway Obstruction
Chest Compression
Chemicals or Gases
Electrical Stimulation
Foreign Body Insert into Penis or Anus

By its very definition these acts are solitary. Some have proposed that when an accidental death occurs during a sexual act between two people, where the airway was obstructed or blood flow was restricted during the sexual act, should be considered an autoerotic death. However, those deaths may be accidental but not autoerotic. Auto is defined as self, one’s own, or by oneself. Although monoerotic might be a better description, auto is still the appropriate terminology.

In terms of the type of apparatus used. Some mechanism; whether ligature, mechanical, or manual has to be in use as a way to enhance the sexual stimulation and arousal of the practitioner.

Some investigators find it hard to believe that these acts are in any way sexually gratifying. This practice is very much a paraphilia act, and performed by a very slim majority of the population. It is important however to keep in mind that there are three general sources of sexual pleasure.

1. Stimulation of the genital organs .
2. Lack of oxygen to the central nervous system.Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 08.11.32
3. The creation of a fear and anguish atmosphere.

Generally when a person first starts engaging in these acts, asphyxia or other mechanism are used in combination with masturbation or sexual intercourse. However, intercourse would rule out autoerotic by definition, but over time the need to masturbate will decrease and the asphyxia itself becomes the sexual activity.

It is important to understand that the evidence of masturbation during the fatal event is not mandatory . Quite the opposite actually, it is rare to find such evidence. It is common for the practitioner to use autoerotic stimulation as a means of sexual arousal and then masturbate to climax after having gained an erection and efficient arousal. A form of foreplay, if you will.

Autoerotic fatalities are classified as two types; typical and atypical. Typical deaths means they fit into a set of predetermined standards of accidental deaths as it relates to victimology, method, paraphilia and history. Atypical deaths do not meet these criteria. We will further explore these classifications in later chapters when victimology is addressed..

Lastly, in defining autoerotic deaths you must keep in mind that these are unintentional deaths – not suicide. But exercise extreme caution; you must rule these cases based upon the probability of available evidence.An accurate cause of death is crucial, a point of discussion later in this book. But better to rule a death suicide when a couple of scene features exist, while absolute facts cannot support a definitive

If someone dies during an autoerotic act, or sexual stimulation, as a result of heart attack, stoke, arrhythmia, etc., it is not an autoerotic death. Natural causes must be ruled

Sex and sexual activity can take a toll on the body; changing heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and adrenaline levels. Strenuous activity can be a common cause for heart attacks and strokes.

Remember, an autoerotic death must result in accidental death caused from the apparatus used to increase sexual pleasure. If a person dies as the result of a heart attack during the act of normal masturbation, normal meaning without the use of any aids other than one’s hand, the cause of death would be heart attack. The autoerotic factor would never come into play. The same would be true regardless of dress, activity, or scene features present. Further, if someone dies during a sexual game with a partner, that may very well be an accident, but by its very definition cannot be ruled autoerotic in nature because there was no intent of a solitary act.

Case example. A man in his mid 60’s was found by his wife sitting in a chair wearing only women’s shoes and a bra. A vacuum cleaner was nearby and in operation. The man’s penis was still inside the vacuum hose as it was apparent he was using it to aid in his masturbation. The medical examiner found the cause of death to be heart attack. So even though some of the scene features present are common with autoerotic deaths, and it was obvious that autoerotic activity was taking place, this was a natural causes death because the apparatus used, vacuum cleaner, did not cause the death due to a malfunction of its intended use for sexual pleasure.

Trophy Kill

This first hand true account of one of the most horrific  murders in Canadian history gives us an insight rarely gained into the mind of a murderer  and the forensics and documentation that goes into the prosecution of a murder of this caliber.  Dan Zupanksy was a prime witness in this case because of his relationship and correspondence  with the killer.  In this conversation we talk about the details of the murder and how it was prosecuted.   Below you will see actual drawings the suspect sent to Zupansaky during their correspondence .  This book is one of the few books that actual helps investigators understand the dynamics of a criminal investigation.  Actual court documents and testimony along with real correspondence

Dan Zupansky is a podcast producer and author living in Canada.  His podcast True Murder is  widely popular and an  iTunes classic.  Rated best show in genre.  You can find links to his show and Trophy Kill TV  below…..

Listen to the audio version or podcast for the full story.

Links and Contact for Dan Zupansky

http://trophykill.tv

 

True Murder Podcast

 

Actual Drawings By the Suspect Used in Prosecution

 

 

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