shooting

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.

Forensic Video Production

Video CameraIn most cases it’s as much, or more, about the technique than the equipment when it comes to crime  scene videography. Forensic video production is valuable for showing an overview of the crime scene and should be considered in major cases. While video cannot replace still photographs due to its lower resolution, video does provide an easily understandable viewing medium that shows the layout of the crime scene and the location of evidence. Videos of crime scenes are not often used in court, but they are valuable illustrations for explaining the scene to other investigators and are often used to refresh the memory of those who were involved in processing the crime scene.

Crime scene videotaping techniques

When videoing  crime scenes, you should start the video with a brief introduction presented by an investigator. The introduction should include the date, time, location, type of crime scene, and any other important introductory information. The introduction should also include a brief description of the rooms and evidence that will be viewed in the video. The investigator may want to display a basic diagram as an illustration during the introduction.

Following the introduction the recording is paused and the microphone is turned off. This will prevent any distracting sounds from recording on the video  during the recording of the scene. Begin videoing the crime scene with a general overview of the scene and surrounding area. Continue throughout the scene using wide angle and close up views to show the layout of the scene, location of evidence, and the relevance of evidence within the crime scene. While videoing, use slow camera movements such as panning, and zooming.

In-camera editing is an ideal way to produce crime scene videos. In this method you start and stop the recording at the angles and areas you want. This prevents  distractions and distortion  of moving  around and fast zooming. Editing software can then seamlessly put these clips together for a complete overall video production.

Equipment 

Many departments and agencies can not afford high-end commercial use cameras for forensic video production.  That’s perfectly fine, smaller cameras and even iPhone / iPads can be used to produce high quality video production of your crime scene.  In most cases it’s as much, or more, about the technique than the equipment when it comes to crime  scene videography.

Training 

It is critical  investigators get some training in proper forensic video production techniques. These classes are not offered as much as still photography courses. However, it is critical you find these courses. If courses in this area of crime scene processing are not found in your area then search out those people who produce video for other fields, such as television camera operators and wedding videographers. Techniques and camera familiarization can be learn from these professionals and you can adapt what you need for your use.

Above all – try.  Your first crime scene video may not be of the standards you wish it be be. However, with each time, and practice on non-crime scene shoots, you will improve with each shoot.

Episode Guest 

On this episode of the Coroner Talk™ podcast I talk with Scott Alan Kuntz of  Scott Alan Video LLC.  Scott is an active law enforcement officer and owns his own company helping other agencies in training and consulting work.  More about Scott and how he can help your agency can be found at:

http://www.scottalanvideo.com

 

Investigating Gun Shot Wounds

Certain routine steps  are taken in investigating fatal injury inflicted by a firearm either as a result of foul play or accident.’ A fatal gunshot case presents many challenging medicolegal problems which involve cooperation among the forensic pathologist, firearms identification expert, laboratory technician and the police. The belief that an “expert” can view the body and without further corroborating evidence testify in court as to the range at which this person was shot and the calibre of the weapon is one of the most common fallacies.’ Since the average person interested in law enforcement is generally not trained in medicine it seems best to discuss the information which can be obtained from an examination of a gunshot victim’s body. Suppose a male corpse is brought to a coroner’s office for the purpose of identification and determination of cause of death. First, it must be established whether or not the individual has been shot and, secondly, whether or not the gunshot was the cause of death. If no projectiles can be found in the body through X-ray or exploration, the question of whether the individual has been shot is by no means resolved. For example, multiple wounds inflicted by an ice pick in the back oftentimes gives the appearance of buckshot wounds. Bullet wounds, from external appearance, are of two types; entrance and exit.

Few injuries resulting from the discharge of a firearm rule out the possibility of foul play. Firearms identification is also known as “forensic ballistics.” However, since the science of ballistics relates to the study of projectiles in flight the term firearms identification seems preferable.  A review of the leading American text, Hatcher, Jerry & Weller, Firearms Identification, Investigation and Evidence, Stackpole Company, Harrisburg (1957), should quickly dispel any doubts on this matter.

For an excellent discussion of the historical role of the coroner in identifying deceased persons see Harvard, The Detection of Secret Homicide, Cambridge (1960).  Smith and Glaister, Recent Advances in Forensic Medicine, Blakeston’s, Philadelphia (1939) ch. 1, contains a variety of material on the mechanics of gunshot injury.  The use of X-ray examination to locate projectiles or fragments of pellets is particularly important where the investigator wishes to weigh the bullet in order to have some approximation of caliber.  Smith and Glaister, op. cit. supra n. 5 at 20. Published by EngagedScholarship@CSU, 1964 1 FATAL GUNSHOT WOUNDS.

On this Episode 

On this show we talk to Dr Judy Melinek about the issues in investigating gun shot wounds.  We talk about types of wounds and what obstacles investigators can encounter in a fatal shooting incident.

Article Reprinting from Section of:   Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology

Questionable convictions in “shaken baby” cases

Shaken BabyThe term “shaken baby syndrome” (SBS) was developed to explain those instances in which severe intracranial trauma occurred in the absence of signs of external head trauma. SBS is the severe intentional application of violent force (shaking) in one or more episodes, resulting in intracranial injuries to the child. Physical abuse of children by shaking usually is not an isolated event. Many shaken infants show evidence of previous trauma.

Frequently, the shaking has been preceded by other types of abuse.

Mechanism of Injury

The mechanism of injury in SBS is thought to result from a combination of physical factors, including the proportionately large cranial size of infants, the laxity of their neck muscles, and the vulnerability of their intracranial bridging veins, which is due to the fact that the subarachnoid space (the space between the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater, which are the inner two of the three membranes that cover the brain) are somewhat larger in infants. However, the primary factor is the proportionately large size of the adult relative to the child. Shaking by admitted assailants has produced remarkably similar injury patterns:

  • The infant is held by the chest, facing the assailant, and is shaken violently back and forth.
  • The shaking causes the infant’s head to whip forward and backward from the chest to the back.
  • The infant’s chest is compressed, and the arms and legs move about with a whiplash action.
  • At the completion of the assault, the infant may be limp and either not breathing or breathing shallowly.
  • During the assault, the infant’s head may strike a solid object.
  • After the shaking, the infant may be dropped, thrown, or slammed onto a solid surface.
  • The last two events likely explain the many cases of blunt injury, including skull fractures, found in shaken infants. However, although blunt injury may be seen at autopsy in shaken infants, research data suggest that shaking in and of itself is often sufficient to cause serious intracranial injury or death.

 

 

Questionable convictions in “shaken baby” cases?

Deborah Tuerkheimer is a Professor of Law at Northwestern University and the author of “Flawed Convictions: ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’ and the Inertia of Injustice.” She also appears onSaturday’s “48 Hours” investigation into the case of Melissa Calusinski, a former day care provider who says she is wrongfully convicted in a toddler’s death. Here, Tuerkheimer weighs in on questionable convictions in child death cases. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect those of CBS News.

A few months ago, a 55-year-old Florida day care provider became yet another caregiver accused of shaking a toddler to death. The woman, who had worked with children for decades, denied harming the boy. But pediatricians concluded that this was a case of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).

Even before an autopsy was performed, the state charged the woman with murder. She is being held in jail without bond and if convicted, she faces mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Based on the press reports, this case resembles many that I have written about in my book, Flawed Convictions: “Shaken Baby Syndrome” and the Inertia of Injustice. Without witnesses or external signs of abuse, the classic diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome rests on three neurological symptoms, otherwise known as the “triad”: bleeding beneath the outermost layer of the brain, retinal bleeding, and brain swelling.

These symptoms are said to prove that a baby was violently shaken and, what’s more, to identify the abuser– whoever was present when the child was last lucid. Shaken Baby Syndrome is, in essence, a medical diagnosis of murder. In order to convict, prosecutors must rely entirely on the claims of science.

But the science has shifted. In recent years, there has been a growing consensus among experts that the neurological symptoms once viewed as conclusive evidence of abuse may well have natural causes, and that old brain injuries can re-bleed upon little or no impact.

In short, current science raises significant questions about the guilt of many caregivers convicted of shaking babies.

Reflecting real movement in the direction of doubt, this past spring, a federal judge in Chicago issued a ruling of “actual innocence” in the case of Jennifer Del Prete, a caregiver accused of shaking a baby in her care. (My book describes this trial in detail.) Del Prete was able to show that, based on what doctors now know about alternative causes of the triad, no reasonable jury could possibly find Del Prete guilty of murder. Indeed, according to the reviewing judge, a lack of evidentiary support for the theory of Shaken Baby Syndrome means that the diagnosis is arguably “more an article of faith than a proposition of science.”

Our legal system has been slow to absorb this new reality. As a consequence, innocent parents and caregivers remain incarcerated and, perhaps more inexplicably, prosecutions based solely on the “triad” symptoms continue even to this day. The cautionary tale of Shaken Baby Syndrome shows that our system is too inclined to stay the course, and awful injustices can result.

Interviewing Children of Homicide

Interviewing Children
GENERALLY ACCEPTED GUIDELINES

1. Avoid bias; explore alternative hypotheses or explanations

The most important thing for a child interviewer to do to obtain a reliable statement from the child is to have no preconceived belief as to what happened. The approach should be one of hypothesis-testing. Unfortunately, many interviewers try to get the child to say things which confirm what they already think happened. The importance of avoiding bias and taking a hypothesis-testing approach is basic and is specifically addressed by most of the articles that discuss interviewing guidelines. For example, Ceci and Bruck (2) note that “Interviewer bias influences the entire architecture of interviews and is revealed through a number of different component features that are highly suggestive” (p. 80). If the interviewer has a preconceived belief about what happened, he or she is likely to ask questions and get answers that confirm this belief. A number of classic studies in social psychology demonstrate the powerful effect of preconceived beliefs on information an interviewer or experimenter gets (30, 31, 32). Several recent studies show the effects of interviewer bias on the accuracy of statements made by children in interviews (2, 33, 34) as well as in other situations
(35).

To avoid biasing the interview, the interviewer must explore alternative hypotheses. One is that the abuse occurred as alleged. But there are other possibilities. In general, alternative hypotheses often include the following (these are not exhaustive, but are offered as examples):

The allegations are basically valid, but the child has substituted a different person for the perpetrator.

Some of the allegations are valid, but the child has invented or been influenced to make additional allegations that are false.

  •  The child misperceived innocuous or inappropriate but non-abusive behaviors as sexual abuse.
  •  The child has been influenced or pressured to make a completely false allegation to serve the needs of someone else.
  •  The child has made a false allegation for personal motives of revenge, gain, to show off to a peer, or to help someone else.
  •  The child has fantasized the allegations, possibly because of psychological problems.
  •  The child initially made up the allegations but has talked to several people about them and they have now become real to the child.
  • The child saw pornographic magazines and pictures, saw a pornographic movie, or observed adults engaged in sexual activities, and this contributed to the allegations she later made.
  •  The child engaged in sex play with peers or siblings, and then accused an adult.
  • The child was questioned repeatedly by adults who believed the child had been abused, and the child began making statements to please the adult, who then reinforced the child with attention or praise.
2. Videotape (or at least audiotape) all investigatory interviews

There is a strong consensus that forensic interviews of child witnesses should be videotaped, or at least audiotaped. Only electronic recording can ensure an accurate record of the interview. Without a tape, there is no way to know just what was said by the interviewer to elicit a response from the child. There is no way to know just what the child said. There is no way to determine whether the child’s statements are the result of a leading, coercive, and contaminating interview rather than the child’s account from his or her own memory and personal knowledge. There are no good reasons for not taping an investigatory interview of a child witness and many compelling reasons for doing so (36-41).

Even experienced interviewers are unable to accurately recall their specific, verbatim questions and the child’s answers that are necessary for evaluating an interview (42). This includes times when they take verbatim notes during the interview (38). Reports based upon the recollections of interviewers are likely to be inaccurate and underestimate the degree to which they used closed and leading questions as opposed to open-ended prompts. When there are no tapes of an interview, there is no way to know the extent to which a child’s statements are in response to leading and suggestive questioning. If it is impossible to videotape the interview (for example. a police officer must take a statement at the child’s house), it can be easily audiotaped.

3. Interview the child alone

The child should be interviewed alone unless he or she is too young to separate from the parent. A parent or other supportive adult sitting in on the interview can either intentionally or inadvertently cue the child and contaminate the interview. The only exception to this is when a very young child refuses to separate from a parent. But this is not desirable and in such cases the parent should be cautioned not to participate in the interview or cue the child in any way. Also, following the rapport phase of the interview, if the child seems comfortable, the interviewer can ask the child if the parent can leave and wait nearby.

There should also be only one interviewer. To the extent that the child perceives pressure to say what she thinks the interviewer expects to hear, more than one interviewer will increase this perceived pressure. Also, children are more likely to go along with what they believe an interviewer expects if the interviewer is identified as an authority figure (2). I have seen tapes of interviews with as many as four or five adults present in the interview, including police officers in uniform wearing guns. If it is considered necessary for a team to be jointly involved in the interview (such as a social worker from child protective services and a police officer), the team can discuss in advance what topics need to be addressed and then only one person interview the child. The other person can observe the interview through a one-way glass mirror and there can be an opportunity to consult before the interview is over.

4. Have a rapport building phase at the beginning

There should be a rapport building phase at the beginning of the interview. One purpose of this part of the interview is to talk about neutral topics and help the child become more comfortable. But it is also to encourage and teach the child to give information to the interviewer. The interviewer should avoid asking a series of closed and forced choice questions during this phase of the interview.

Such questions tell the child that this is like school where there are right and wrong answers and the teacher knows the right answer and is testing the child to see if the child also knows. Adults routinely test children by asking them questions to which the adult already knows the answer and children are not accustomed to being questioned by authoritative adults when only they have the information and the adult does not.

But in investigative interviews, the child is the source of novel information. Therefore the interviewer must let the child know from the beginning that only he or she has the answers. The interviewer must explain the child’s role, motivate the child to give detailed and complete accounts of events they have experienced, emphasize the importance of telling only about true events that actually happened, and encourage the child to correct inaccurate statements made by the interviewers (43). This is best accomplished by beginning the interview with open questions where the interviewer clearly does not have the information.

5. Have a practice interview

During the rapport phase there should be one or more practice interviews where the child is asked open questions about neutral topics, such their last birthday party or the first day of school, and encouraged to give detailed narrative answers. These practice interviews allow the interviewer to gauge the child’s memory and ability to describe past events. They also allow the child to practice giving information in response to open, nonleading questions. Research indicates that interviewers get better information from children when they begin with such practice interviews (43). Children who have the opportunity to practice giving lengthy narrative responses to open-ended questions in the rapport phase continue this behavior in the substantive part of the
interview.

6. Provide ground rules

Young children have a tendency to try to answer any question an adult asks and may provide answers to unanswerable questions such as “Is milk bigger than water?” or “Is red heavier than yellow?” (44). Therefore, child interviews should begin with ground rules that include telling the child the interviewer doesn’t know the answers and that it is all right for the child to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember,” and that the child should correct the interviewer if she says something wrong. It helps if the interviewer practices the ground rules by asking an unanswerable question (e.g., “What is the name of my cat?”) and praising the child when he or she says, “I don’t know.” The interviewer can also deliberately get information wrong (e.g., “You said you have a younger sister and an older brother” when the child has two brothers) and then reinforce the child for correcting the interviewer.

Examples of ground rules include:

  • I wasn’t there and I don’t know what happened. Please tell me everything you can remember.
  • It’s all right to say “I don’t know” if you don’t know the answer: Please don’t guess.
  •  If you cannot remember everything, that’s okay. It’s all right to say “I don’t remember.”
  • If I misunderstand something you say, please tell me. I want to understand everything you say.
  •  If I get something wrong, please correct me.
  • It’s important to only talk: about things that really happened. We don’t talk about make believe or pretend.
  • If you don’t understand something I say, please tell me and I will try to say it using different words.
7. Ask open questions and encourage a free narrative from the child

The most reliable and forensically useful information from children is obtained by encouraging the child to give a free narrative of the alleged events and by asking a series of open, nonleading questions (e.g., who?, what?, when?) or asking the child to “tell me everything you remember about …” The research evidence is clear: freely recalled information is more likely to be accurate than information obtained in response to yes/no and forced choice questions. Consequently, all of the articles discussing guidelines for child forensic interviews make this recommendation. Even children as young as four can provide substantial amounts of forensically relevant information in response to free-recall prompts (45). This means that interviewers do not have to rely on forced choice and yes/no questions even with preschoolers.

The substantive portion of the interview should be also introduced in as open a way as possible. The NICDH investigative interview protocol gives detailed examples of how to progressively phrase such beginning questions (16) and how to continue the interview using open-ended prompts. Some examples of how to use open-ended probes to introduce the topic of the interview include:

  • Do you know why you came here to talk to me today?
  • Now that I know you a little better, I want to talk about why you are here today.
  • Tell me why you came to talk to me.
  • I understand some things have been happening in your family. Tell me about them.

Whenever the child gives response that is on track, the interviewer should encourage a narrative response by asking, “Tell me everything you can remember about that.” When the child pauses, the interviewer should follow up with additional open-ended prompts such as, “And then what happened?,” “Tell me more about that.” Such open questions should constitute as much of the questioning as possible. Interviewers can ask the child to repeat something that wasn’t clear or encourage the child to continue the narrative by repeating a phrase, but they should never interrupt the child to redirect the interview or to ask specific questions. Only when it is clear that the child is not going to provide additional information in response to the open-ended prompts should the interviewer turn to specific questions.

8. Pair specific questions with opened-ended prompts

After obtaining as much information as possible with open questions, interviewers may need to ask specific questions to address important areas that have not been mentioned by the child. When this is necessary, it should be later in the interview; such questions should not be asked at the beginning. But it is a common error for interviewers to ask specific questions rather than encouraging narrative responses (23, 46, 47). When a more specific question must later be asked, it should be paired with an open question. For example, if the child is asked if his clothes were on or off and says, “Off,” the interviewer could then say, “Tell me everything about how they got off” If the interviewer asks if anything happened in the bedroom and the child says, “Yes” the interviewer can then say, “Tell me everything that happened there.” The risk of getting inaccurate information from such closed questions can be minimized if they are paired with an open-ended prompt.

9. Avoid pressure, coercion, suggestion through giving the child information, asking leading questions, and repeating questions

Although open-ended questions can be repeated without contaminating the child’s statements, interviewers should avoid repeating specific, closed, and yes-no questions. When children are asked the same question repeatedly, they can change their answers to conform to what they think the interviewer wants to hear (2, 3, 48).

Interviewers should never ask suggestive questions which provide information about allegations. The general principle is that the interviewer shouldn’t ask a question about something unless the child has already brought it up. Obviously, pressure and coercion should never be used. All the guidelines warn against this. But in practice, many interviews are leading and suggestive (see 2 and 49 for transcripts of suggestive interviews). Even with the attention paid to the importance of avoiding contaminating interviewing techniques, this remains a problem (23). I regularly review videotapes that include closed, forced choice, and leading and suggestive questions with few open-ended prompts.

10. Avoid play, fantasy, and imagining

The interviewer should avoid using such terms as “pretend” or “imagine” or engage in imaginative play as part of the interview. False disclosures of abuse can sometimes occur in response to techniques involving fantasy, imagery, visualization and reenactment during play (24). Guided imagery techniques can be particularly suggestive and can lead to the child confusing an imagined event for something that really happened. Techniques such as having puppets talk to each other, as were used in the McMartin preschool case, should be avoided.

11. Avoid reinforcing specific responses

Social reinforcement can have a powerful effect on behavior and interviewers should never selectively reinforce specific responses. Research shows that such reinforcement during interviews can readily elicit false allegations of wrongdoing from children (50, 51). Wood and Garven (25) note that several types of interviewer behavior are forms of selective reinforcement or punishment that can contaminate interviews, including:

  • Praising the child for making allegations
  • Implying that the child is being helpful or showing intelligence by making allegations
  • Criticizing the child’s statements by suggesting they are wrong or inadequate
  • Giving tangible rewards such as food following disclosures

Limiting the child’s mobility (e.g., letting the child go to the bathroom or terminating the interview) until the child has talked about the topic of interest to the interviewer
Although it is important to create a warm and supportive environment, all such selective reinforcement of the child’s responses must be carefully avoided.

CONTROVERSIAL TECHNIQUES

There is no research supporting the use of anatomical drawings where body parts are named, and these are not generally recommended as part of an interview protocol. There is an indication that such drawings may decrease the reliability of the information obtained (52). When used at the beginning of the interview, the anatomical drawings may communicate to the child that what is to be discussed is body parts and touching. They may confuse very young children who don’t understand that a drawing of a naked body has an abstract relationship to an actual person (53). The drawings should not be necessary with older children. I recently reviewed a taped interview in which the interviewer showed anatomical drawings to a 13-year-old girl of normal intelligence and then asked if she were a girl or a boy. Since interviewers should encourage a child to perform at as a mature and effective level as possible, beginning the interview by asking a teenager such a question detracts from the serious purpose of the interview.

There are similar criticisms about discussions of good touch / bad touch. Guidelines on how to conduct forensic interviews of children do not mention beginning the interview with good touch – bad touch discussions. Wood, McClure, and Birch (26) observe that agencies continue to use the good touch / bad touch discussion for no particular reason other than they had been doing it for years. I continue to see good touch / bad touch discussions in tapes I review. I am unaware of any research supporting this procedure. What it risks is telling the child from the beginning that the purpose of the interview is to talk about genital touching.

Most guidelines do not recommend using anatomical dolls. The few that do caution how they are to be used (e.g., 7, 9, 10, 27, 28). Yuille, et al., (28) note that they should be used only as a last resort and Carnes et al. (9) state that they should be used with “caution” and “only when absolutely needed.” But there are often problems with the way the dolls are used by practitioners in the field (54). In addition, very young children cannot use dolls as symbols or representations for themselves, and make more errors when using the dolls (55). Wolfner, Faust, and Dawes (56) critique the dolls and their failure to add incremental validity to the interview. Many professionals oppose their use. The conclusion, therefore, is that the dolls are controversial and not generally accepted in the scientific community (57, 58). There is no evidence that they add to the completeness and accuracy of the information obtained and they are susceptible to increasing the suggestiveness of the interview.

INTERVIEWS IN THE FIELD

There is now a clear consensus in the professional community as to how children should be interviewed. But this hasn’t always translated to workers in the field. For example, estimates of the frequency of the use of leading questions that introduce information to children vary from 13% to 60% with the majority in the 40% to 50% range (59).

In 1990 Underwager and Wakefield (49) reported on an analysis of 36 actual cases involving 150 interviews and 62 interviewers. The interviewers didn’t encourage free recall; instead they relied on closed questions, pressure, and suggestion and they appeared to be trying to substantiate abuse they had already concluded was real.

In 1996 Warren et al. (23) looked at 42 transcripts of sexual abuse interviews conducted by child protective services personnel and found that the interviewers failed to follow practices recommended by researchers on children’s testimony. The interviewers rarely conducted practice interviews, seldom provided ground rules, and failed to begin with open-ended questions, instead relying on specific, yes-no questions throughout. They frequently introduced new material not previously disclosed by the children. That same year Lamb et al. (60) reported on their examination of 22 audiotaped interviews from 12 field interviewers in Israel. Most questions were directive rather than open-ended, and many were leading.

In 2004 Gilstrap (59) examined 80 interviews conducted by 41 field interviewers with 40 children ages 3 to 7 about staged events. She compared the behavior of these real world interviewers to the types of questions studied in research settings. She found that the field interviewers asked a substantial amount of leading questions (42%) and that approximately one-third of the leading questions introduced inaccurate information. The field interviewers repeated questions 12% of the time and introduced novel information 18% of the time.

Saywitz and Geiselman (61) observe that interviewing guidelines designed to maximize the completeness of children’s reports are not always based on the realities of work conditions on the front lines. A problem for workers in the field is that although young children’s spontaneous descriptions of past events are accurate, their descriptions are often too incomplete to be useful. Important legal decisions cannot be made without more information. Although field workers can gather additional information with more questions, their methods risk undermining the accuracy of the children’s statements. Saywitz and Geiselman have therefore developed approaches specifically geared to field workers to elicit more complete and consistent accounts from children. These approaches, narrative elaboration, and cognitive interviewing, are based on research in their laboratories and appear to be a promising way for field interviewers to get more complete but accurate information from young children. Researchers from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have also reported on field studies of their interview protocol (NICHD protocol) which demonstrate that with their protocol even young children can provide a substantial amount of forensically relevant and accurate information in response to free-recall prompts (12, 16, 45, 46, 47).

CONCLUSIONS

Research over the last several years dramatically demonstrates the importance of properly interviewing child witnesses. Interviewers with preexisting biases who ask leading, suggestive, questions risk confirming their beliefs and getting false information. There is now a clear consensus in the scientific community about how children must be interviewed in order to get accurate, uncontaminated, forensically useful information. Unfortunately, field interviewers aren’t using these techniques. Instead, they readily slip into undesirable behaviors that risk compromising the integrity of the interview and the reliability of the information the child gives them.

Article Reprint:

Guidelines on Investigatory Interviewing of Children: What is the Consensus in the Scientific Community?

Hollida Wakefield*

American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 24(3), 57-74

 

Blood Pattern Analysis

Blood_SpatterBecause blood behaves according to certain scientific principles, trained bloodstain pattern analysts can examine the blood evidence left behind and draw conclusions as to how the blood may have been shed. From what may appear to be a random distribution of bloodstains at a crime scene, analysts can categorize the stains by gathering information from spatter patterns, transfers, voids and other marks that assist investigators in recreating the sequence of events that occurred after bloodshed. This form of physical evidence requires the analyst to recognize and interpret patterns to determine how those patterns were created.

Bloodstain pattern analysis (BPA) is the interpretation of bloodstains at a crime scene in order to recreate the actions that caused the bloodshed. Analysts examine the size, shape, distribution and location of the bloodstains to form opinions about what did or did not happen.

BPA uses principles of biology (behavior of blood), physics (cohesion, capillary action and velocity) and mathematics (geometry, distance, and angle) to assist investigators in answering questions such as:

  • Where did the blood come from?
  • What caused the wounds?
  • From what direction was the victim wounded?
  • How were the victim(s) and perpetrator(s) positioned?
  • What movements were made after the bloodshed?
  • How many potential perpetrators were present?
  • Does the bloodstain evidence support or refute witness statements?

Why and when is bloodstain pattern analysis used?

Bloodstain evidence is most often associated with violent acts such as assault, homicide, abduction, suicide or even vehicular accidents. Analyzing the size, shape, distribution, overall appearance and location of bloodstains at a crime scene helps investigators by answering basic questions including:

  • What occurred?
  • Where did the events occur?
  • Approximately when and in what sequence?
  • Who was there? Where were they in relation to each other?
  • What did not occur?

    One of the most important functions of bloodstain pattern analysis is to support or corroborate witness statements and laboratory and post-mortem findings. For example, if the medical examiner determines the cause of death is blunt force trauma to the victim’s head, the pattern and volume of blood spatter should be consistent with a blunt instrument striking the victim one or more times on the head. Conversely, if the spatter resembles that seen in expirated blood spray, the analyst will check the medical examiner or pathologist reports for injuries that can cause the presence of blood in the nose, throat or respiratory system of the victim. If blood is not reported in these locations, the analyst may be able to exclude expiration as the possible cause of that spatter pattern..

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Shaken Baby Syndrome | Craig Smith

Shaken BabyThe term “shaken baby syndrome” (SBS) was developed to explain those instances in which severe intracranial trauma occurred in the absence of signs of external head trauma. SBS is the severe intentional application of violent force (shaking) in one or more episodes, resulting in intracranial injuries to the child. Physical abuse of children by shaking usually is not an isolated event. Many shaken infants show evidence of previous trauma.

Frequently, the shaking has been preceded by other types of abuse.

Mechanism of Injury

The mechanism of injury in SBS is thought to result from a combination of physical factors, including the proportionately large cranial size of infants, the laxity of their neck muscles, and the vulnerability of their intracranial bridging veins, which is due to the fact that the subarachnoid space (the space between the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater, which are the inner two of the three membranes that cover the brain) are somewhat larger in infants. However, the primary factor is the proportionately large size of the adult relative to the child. Shaking by admitted assailants has produced remarkably similar injury patterns:

  • The infant is held by the chest, facing the assailant, and is shaken violently back and forth.
  • The shaking causes the infant’s head to whip forward and backward from the chest to the back.
  • The infant’s chest is compressed, and the arms and legs move about with a whiplash action.
  • At the completion of the assault, the infant may be limp and either not breathing or breathing shallowly.
  • During the assault, the infant’s head may strike a solid object.
  • After the shaking, the infant may be dropped, thrown, or slammed onto a solid surface.
  • The last two events likely explain the many cases of blunt injury, including skull fractures, found in shaken infants. However, although blunt injury may be seen at autopsy in shaken infants, research data suggest that shaking in and of itself is often sufficient to cause serious intracranial injury or death.

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National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome


Craig Smith 200x200

Craig’s Philosophy

www.cbsmith.ca

craig@cbsmith.ca

Prevention, education, treatment and the provision of ongoing services for victims and their families are all essential elements in dealing with child maltreatment. In addition, professionals involved with child abuse know that a proper investigation is critical. As a police officer involved for many years in child abuse cases, my job was to conduct thorough, professional, investigations that elicited all available details, with a minimum of trauma to the child victims. The intent of my training is to provide professionals with the necessary skills to carry out an effective yet compassionate, child abuse investigation.

I provide courtesy consultations to anyone who has taken my training. More in depth case consultations and opinions may be provided on a per fee basis. My primary responsibility has always been to the truth and to the best interests of child victims.

 Craig B. Smith, BGS, CFCI – Qualifications

    • Twenty-seven years experience with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
    • Sixteen years experience investigating sexual offences and homicides.
  • Author of Shaken Baby Syndrome An investigator’s manual (2010)
  • Revised and co-authored An Investigative Guide for Sexual Offences, Third Edition, under contract to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (2006).
  • Co-developed Manual for the Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse and For the Kids, a manual and one hour training video on proper child sexual abuse investigation procedures as part of a training package for police and social workers. Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse, (1988).
  • Author of “Guidelines for Child Abuse Investigations”, National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, (1999).
  • Expert consultant on Shaken Baby Syndrome with the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (1999 – present).
  • Presenter at numerous conferences and courses including
    • 9th ISPCAN Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, Delhi, India (2011)
    • 18th Annual American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) Conference, New Orleans USA (2010)
    • 8th ISPCAN Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect, Perth, Australia (2009)
    • Rocky Mountain Information Network conference on Crimes Against Children, Lauglin, Nevada USA (2007)
    • 10th Annual Homicide School, Nevada, USA (2006).
    • 9th Annual Symposium on Child Trauma, St. Louis, USA (2006).
    • Joining Together: Conducting Forensic Investigations on Behalf of the Young Abused Child, Calgary, Canada (2006).
    • 14th Annual Western States Sexual Assault/Abuse Seminar, Las Vegas, USA (2005).
    • Missouri Police Juvenile Officer’s Association, Annual Conference and Training Institute, Missouri, USA (2004, 2005).
    • International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), Brisbane, Australia (2004), Denver, USA (2002).
    • North American Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Montreal, Canada (2004).
    • Third and Fourth National Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Salt Lake City, USA, (2002, 2000).
    • Keynote speaker at the Symposium 2002 Teddy Bears and Flashlights: Reducing the Complexities for Children & Families, St. John’s, Canada (2002).
    • Australian National Conference on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Sydney, Australia (2001).
    • Keynote speaker at the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Conference in Toronto, Canada (2001).
    • First and Second Canadian Conferences on Shaken Baby Syndrome, Saskatoon, Canada (2001, 1999).
  • Training Sessions provided throughout Canada, United States, Australia, India, Singapore and the Phillipines to police officers, social workers, prosecutors, victim services, school and medical personnel on Child Sexual Abuse, Shaken Baby Syndrome, Interviews and Interrogations, Adult Sexual Assault Investigations.

Forensic Entomology – Dr. Michelle Sanford Ph.D. , M-ABFE

MaggotsForensic entomology is the study of insects for medico-legal purposes. There are many ways insects can be used to help solve a crime, but the primary purpose of forensic entomology is estimating time since death.

Once a person dies his or her body starts to decompose. The decomposition of a dead body starts with the action of microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria, followed by the action of a series of insects (arthropods). Bodies decompose slowly or fast depending on weather conditions, if they have been buried or are exposed to the elements, if there is presence of insects or if they have a substance in their bodies that prevents their fast decomposition such as body size and weight, clothing,

The dead body goes through constant changes allowing investigators to estimate how long that person has been dead. Generally speaking, there are 5 basic stages of decomposition:

Fresh, putrefaction, fermentation, dry decay and skeletonization. Every stage attracts different kinds of organisms that will feed off the body and recycle the matter. These stages may takes days or years (even thousands of years!)

It is by collecting and studying the insects that are feeding on a body that a forensic entomologist can estimate the time elapsed since the person died.

Flies have great powers of dispersal and they rapidly discover bodies, usually ahead of beetles. Although they can feed on fluid that exudes from a fresh body, the acidic tissues of a fresh corpse cannot be digested by flies.

Blow flies are the most common insects associated with a dead body. However many other species of flies, beetles and arthropods may also be found at a death scene. Because blow flies arrive earlier in the decomposition process, they provide the most accurate estimation of time of death. Some of the blow fly species found in Canada includeCalliphora vicina, Calliphora vomitoria, and Cynomya cadaverina. The scientific names are used because the common names are not always consistent.

Beetles in both their immature and adult form can also be found on dead bodies. These usually occur at later stages of decomposition. As the corpse dries, it becomes less suitable for the blowflies, flesh flies and house flies that like a semi-liquid environment. Different fly families, the cheese flies and coffin flies, are abundant as the corpse dries. Eventually, the corpse becomes too dry for the mouth hooks of maggots to operate effectively. The hide beetles, ham beetles and carcass beetles, with their chewing mouthparts, devour the dry flesh, skin and ligaments. A few of these includeSilphidae (Carrion beetles), Dermestidae (Dermestid beetles) and Staphlynidae (Rove beetles). Other insects that may be found include Piophilidae (Skipper flies), Sphaeroceridae (Dung flies), and Phoridae (Humpback flies). Finally, moth larvae and mites consume the hair, leaving only the bones to slowly disintegrate.

Estimating Time elapsed since death or Post Mortem Interval

There are two methods to estimate time since death: 1) using successional waves of insects and 2) maggot age and development. Insect succession is used if the individual has been dead for a month or longer. Maggot development is used when death occurred less than a month prior to discovery.

Insect succession uses the fact that a body (human or otherwise) supports a rapidly changing ecosystem as it decomposes. As they decay, the remains go through physical, biological and chemical changes, and different stages attract different species of insects.

Calliphoridae (blow flies) and Sarcophagidae (flesh flies) may arrive within 24 h of death if the season is suitable or within minutes if blood or other body fluids are present. Other species, like Piophilidae (cheese skippers), are not interested in the fresh corpse, but are attracted to the body at a later stage of decomposition. Some insects do not seek the body directly, but arrive to feed on other insects at the scene. Many species are involved at each decomposition stage and groups of insects may overlap with each other. Knowing the regional insect fauna and times of colonization, a forensic entomologist can determine a period of time in which death took place. They may also be able to establish the season of death (e.g. summer) according to the presence of absence of certain insects that are only seasonally active.

Maggot age and development is used in the first few weeks after death and can be accurate to a few days or less. Maggots are immature flies and Calliphoridae (blow flies) are the most common insects used. Blow flies are attracted to a corpse very soon after death and lay their eggs in natural openings or in a wound,  if present. Eggs are laid in batches and hatch after a period of time into first instar (or stage) larvae. The larva feeds on the corpse and moults into a second, and then third instar larva. The size and the number of spiracles (breathing holes) determine the stage. When in the third instar, the larva stops feeding and leaves the corpse to find a safe place to pupate. This is the prepupal stage. The larva’s skin hardens into an outer shell, or pupal case, to protect it as it metamorphoses into an adult. Freshly formed pupae are pale in colour, but darken to a deep brown in a few hours. After a number of days, an adult fly emerges, leaving an empty pupal case behind as evidence.

Each developmental stage takes a known amount of time, depending on the temperature and availability of food. Temperature is especially important since insects are ‘cold-blooded’ – meaning their metabolic rate increases (and the duration of development decreases) as the temperature rises, and vice-versa.

Looking at the oldest stage of insect and the temperature of the region, a forensic entomologist can estimate the day or range of days in which the first insects laid eggs and provide an estimate of  time of death. This method applies until the first adults emerge. After this, it is impossible to determine which generation is present and time since death must be estimated from insect succession.

Collecting, Preserving and packaging specimens

Forensic investigations rely on evidence and material found at a crime scene, which must be recorded and collected carefully. This is especially true for insect material, which can be hard to find. When approaching a scene with insect evidence, a forensic entomologist first considers the surroundings. If the scene is outdoors, they note the landscape, plants and soil types, as well as the weather. Temperature is especially important and if possible, a portable recording device is left to record long term changes. A soil sample is often taken, since larvae may wander away from the body to pupate. If the scene is indoors, an investigator looks for access points where insects could get in. Once at the body, the forensic entomologist takes several samples from different areas of the body. If there are maggots, some are collected, placed in boiling water and preserved in alcohol. This stops development and allows the insect to be aged.  Other maggots are collected alive so that they can be kept until they reach adulthood. At this stage, the species can be determined. Normally, eggs are only collected if there are no later stages associated with the body. Again, some are taken and preserved in alcohol while others are watched until they hatch. Empty pupal casings are also collected. Adult flies are useful only if the wings are crumpled.  This suggests they have recently emerged and can be linked to the body. Otherwise, they are not collected since they may have just arrived to the scene.

The careful and accurate collection of insect evidence at the scene is essential. Ideally, an entomologist collects a range of insect stages from different areas of the body and the surroundings (e.g. clothing or soil). Different species, or insects collected from different areas, are kept separately.

Bodies attract two main groups of insects: flies (Diptera) and beetles (Coleoptera).

FLIES are found as eggs, larvae or maggots, pupae, empty pupal cases or as adults.

EGGS are tiny, but usually laid in clumps. They are often found in a wound or natural opening, but may be in clothingetc. Eggs are collected with a damp paint brush or forceps. Half are preserved in alcohol and half are collected alive. Eggs are especially important when maggots or later insect stages are absent. The time of hatching is vital and the eggs must be monitored every few hours.

MAGGOTS are found on or near the remains and may be in large masses. The masses generate heat, which speeds up development. The site of the maggot mass, the temperature (and size) of each mass are important.  Large maggots are usually older, but small maggots may belong to a different species so a range of sizes are collected. Since third instar larvae leave the body to pupate,  the soil around the body is carefully sifted. The soil below the corpse is also checked to a depth of  several centimetres. Half the sample is kept alive and half preserved immediately. Preservation allows the entomologist to see what stage the maggots were in when collected. Preserved specimens may also be used as evidence in court.

PUPAE and EMPTY PUPAL CASES are very important but easy to miss. Pupae like dry, secure areas away from the wet food source so clothing pockets, seams and cuffs are likely hiding places. If the remains are found indoors, they may be under clothing or rugs etc. Pupae are dark brown, oval, and range in size from 2-20 mm.  Empty pupal cases look  similar, but one end is open where the adult fly has emerged. Pupae are not preserved. They won’t grow and the species and exact age cannot be determined until the adult emerges.

ADULT BLOW FLIES are not as important as eggs, maggots or pupae. They are only used to determine the species of insect. However, if an adult fly has crumpled wings, it may have just emerged and can be linked directly to the body. These are collected and kept separately. Flies smaller than blow flies are important at all stages as they are used when analyzing the succession of insects on the remains

BEETLES (Coleoptera) are found as adults, larvae, pupae and as cast skins.

All beetle stages are important. They move fast and are often found under the body, or in and under clothing. They should be place in alcohol in preserve them.

OTHER INFORMATION is also important. For the site, this includes:

  1. the habitat (woods, beach, a house)
  2. the site (shady or exposed to sunlight)
  3. the vegetation (trees, grass, bush, shrubs)
  4. the soil type (rocky, sandy, muddy)
  5. the weather at the time of collection (sunny, cloudy)
  6. the temperature and humidity
  7. the elevation and map coordinates of the scene
  8. unusual details (like whether the body was submerged)

For the remains, it is helpful to know:

  1. the presence, extent and type of clothing on the body
  2. if the body was covered or buried (and with what)
  3. if there is an obvious cause of death
  4. if there are wounds on the body or body fluids (blood etc) at the scene
  5. if drugs were involved (drugs can affect decomposition rates)
  6. the position of the body
  7. what direction the body faced
  8. the state of decomposition
  9. if other carrion was found in the area that might also attract insects
  10. if the body was moved or disturbed

ANALYSIS:

At the laboratory, entomologists measure and examine immature specimens, placing them in a jar with sawdust and food. The insects are checked frequently and when they pupate they are removed. The date of pupation and emergence is noted for each specimen. When the adults emerge, they are killed and stored. This process is important because adult flies are much easier to identify to species than larvae. Also, pupation and emergence times are used to calculate the age at the time of collection.

OTHER USES FOR FORENSIC ENTOMOLOGY:

Forensic entomology is used most commonly to determine time since death. However, insects can provide other important information about a crime or victim. For example, insects can provide details about a person’s life before they died.  Because development is predictable depending on specific factors, the use of drugs can change the lifecycle timing of an insect. One such drug is cocaine, which causes the maggots feeding on affected tissues to develop much faster than they normally would. Insect behavior can also offer clues about what happened around the time of death. Flies tend to lay their eggs first in moist places in the body like the eyes and mouth. If eggs or maggots are found on normally dry skin, like the forearms, before these other areas, it suggests that the skin was damaged in some way.  This may be because the individual injured themselves in a fall or because they were trying to protect themselves from a weapon. In either case, an important piece of evidence has been discovered. Finally, the species of insect can point to events that occurred after death. For instance, some insects are found only in some areas. If a species that is normally found only in the countryside is found at a scene in the city, it suggests the body has been moved at some point after death. Again, this provides an essential piece of evidence that could help solve a crime.

1. The presence of insects on the body that are not found in the area suggests the body was moved, and may indicate the type of area where the murder took place.

2.  If the insect cycle is disturbed, it may suggest that the killer returned to the scene of the crime. The entomologist may be able to estimate the date of death and possibly the date of the return of the killer.

3. If maggot activity occurs away from a natural opening, this may indicate a  wound. For example, maggots on the palm of the hands suggest defence wounds.

4. If maggots feed on a body with drugs in its system, those chemicals accumulate and may be detected.

5. If an insect is found from a specific site, it may place a suspect at the scene of a crime.

6. If insects are found on a living individual (often young children or seniors), it may indicate neglect or abuse.

LIMITATIONS OF FORENSIC ENTOMOLOGY:

1. Time of death estimates depend on accurate temperature information, but local weather patterns can be variable and data may come from stations quite distant from the crime scene.

2. Forensic entomology relies on insect abundance. In winter, there are fewer insects and entomology’s use is limited.

3. Since it takes time to rear insects, forensic entomology cannot produce immediate results.

4. Treatments (like freezing, burial or wrapping) that exclude insects can affect estimates.

5. Since chemicals can slow or accelerate growth, insect evidence may be affected by the presence of drugs in a corpse’s system.

 

Article Reprint from

http://www.sfu.museum/forensics

EMS-First Responders “the first eyes and ears” |CT10

ambulanceThe moment you step out of your rig – you’re in the crime scene.

The most important aspect of evidence collection and preservation is protecting the crime scene. This is to keep the pertinent evidence uncontaminated until it can be recorded and collected. The successful prosecution of a case can hinge on the state of the physical evidence at the time it is collected. The protection of the scene begins with the arrival of the first responder or EMS crew at the scene and ends when the scene is released from police custody.  What EMS does, or does not do, can have a lasting impact on the crime scene.   

Planning ahead can save countless hours of investigation and re-work of a crime scene.  Plan as you’re in route to the scene, plan your entry upon arrival, and make mental and physical notes of your observations.  Child and infant deaths hold an even greater level of responsibility for perception of the scene.

In the episode we talk about ems responsibilities at crime scenes and what you should plan on and look for.  EMS and first responders are part of any criminal investigation where they were called to. As such, it is likely you will be called into court for your witness testimony. What you do and don’t do at a crime scene can have great impact on you and your agency.

Aurora Theater Shooting Radio Traffic | CT2

Colorado ShootingOn 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.

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