Posts tagged medical examiner
Wound documentation in the Jodi Arias murder case. Jodi is accused of shooting 30-year-old motivational speaker Travis Alexander in the face and then stabbing him 27 times and slitting his throat from ear to ear in his Mesa, Arizona home in June of 2008.
Authorities at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport got a grisly surprise on Monday when they opened a mysterious package and found 18 severed human heads inside.
The heads, which still had the skin on them, appeared to be medical samples from Italy that became misplaced, according to local reports.
Cops don’t suspect any foul play.
The heads were taken to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, authorities said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it has launched an investigation into the incident.
(Source: New York Daily News)
A gas tight body bag designed to contain chemically contaminated mortalities and body parts following a CBRN incident thus preventing further contamination to others and the environment.
Manufactured from Tychem®TK, a discrete lightweight bag material providing excellent chemical resistance. Available in three sizes.
- Permanently attached heavy-duty PVC base providing excellent abrasion resistance
- Sufficient carrying handles to enable lifting and transportation over rough terrain. Straps manufactured from heavy-duty PVC.
- A laminated viewing window to enable casualty identification (adult & medium sizes only).
- Heavy-duty gas tight zipper fitted around three sides of the bag with large viton ring on slider to allow for ease of zipping/unzipping when wearing CPPE gloves
- Fitted with two JFR 85 filters
- Exhaust valves that prevent over pressure in the bag. These can be covered by screw caps to prevent any outflow from the bag during handling.
- A4 size waterproof document pouch permanently attached to the bag over the viewing window.
- This enables the viewing window to be obscured if necessary.
- A small transparent pouch below the viewing window to contain an audit ID label.
- Interior of bags equipped with plastic backed super absorbent sheets
- Labelling “DANGER CBRN CONTAMINATION” with black and yellow toxic, chemical, biohazard and radioactive pictograms permanently attached below the document pouches.
“HEAD” and “FEET” labels placed at the top and bottom of the bag respectively (adult and medium sizes only)
- Body bag is tested to EN464:1994 for leak tightness
- Body bag supplied sealed in a polythene bag and packed into a waterproof, tear resistant, puncture and abrasion resistant PVC stowage bag with webbing straps and handles.
COQUILLE, Ore. — Oregon authorities are investigating how a farmer was eaten by his hogs.
Terry Vance Garner, 69, never returned after he set out to feed his animals last Wednesday on his farm near the Oregon coast, the Coos County district attorney said Monday.
A family member found Garner’s dentures and pieces of his body in the hog enclosure several hours later, but most of his remains had been consumed, District Attorney Paul Frasier said. Several of the hogs weighed 700 pounds or more.
It’s possible Garner had a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, or was knocked over by the animals, then killed and eaten, Frasier said, adding that at least one hog had previously bitten Garner.
The possibility of foul play is being investigated as well.
“For all we know, it was a horrific accident, but it’s so doggone weird that we have to look at all possibilities,” Frasier told The Register-Guard.
A pathologist was unable to identify a cause or manner of death, the newspaper reported. The remains will be examined by a forensic anthropologist at the University of Oregon.
Terry Garner was “a good-hearted guy” who cared for several huge adult sows and a boar named Teddy, said his brother, Michael Garner, 75, of Myrtle Point.
Piglets were typically sold to local 4-H kids.
“Those animals were his life,” Michael Garner said. “He had all kinds of birds, and turkeys that ran all over the place. Everybody knew him.”
Michael Garner said one of the large sows bit his brother last year when he accidentally stepped on a piglet.
“He said he was going to kill it, but when I asked him about it later, he said he had changed his mind,” the brother said.
Domestic hogs are not typically known to be as aggressive as their feral cousins, but “there is some degree of danger associated with any animal,” John Killefer, who heads the Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department at Oregon State University in Corvallis, told the newspaper.
While pigs “are more omnivorous than other farm animals, (such as) cows,” Killefer called the case highly unusual.
Most hogs are raised until they reach a market weight of between 250 and 300 pounds, while breeding female pigs rarely weigh more than 400 pounds, Killefer said.
There are any number of reasons why a body might be exhumed for forensic analysis but they must first be deemed justified by a judge before an order to exhume will be issued.
It is important to examine first of all why forensics dictates that a body might need to be exhumed. There have been, in the past, mistakes made when it has come to making a proper case for the defense or the prosecution in a murder trial for example: as a result of this important information may have been overlooked or identification of the victim made in error.
Why Exhume a Corpse?
As we have already mentioned briefly a corpse may be exhumed for a number of reasons. Here we list the most common:
- Incorrect identification of the corpse
- Incomplete toxicological studies
- Trace evidence missed or overlooked
- Incomplete or improper wound analysis
Incorrect Identification of the Corpse
It may not happen as often nowadays but in times passed the misidentification of a corpse was something that could take place. This normally occurred if the corpse was dressed in a similar way to say a missing person: or indeed if they had a similar height and build. The law says that every effort must be made to correctly identify the deceased before they are given over for burial.
The exhumation of a corpse can help provide valuable DNA analysis as well as blood and tissue samples which can be used to positively identify a corpse that has been buried for some time.
This is also something that is used as an important part of any forensic education.
Incomplete Toxicological Studies
With so many advances in forensic medicine it is now possible to exhume a body that has been buried for a number of years and take bone and DNA samples to prove if the victim had been poisoned. In the fifties, sixties and seventies such testing was non existent so unless a pathologist was one hundred per cent convinced the victim had been poisoned – accidentally or otherwise – it was nearly impossible to prove. These new tests enable cases to be tried under law which might have gone untried indefinitely.
Trace Evidence Missed or Overlooked
Sometimes things happen to the human body that may not have any bearing on an investigation at the time but may prove vital later on. Medicine and science have now begun to work in tandem to provide crucial evidence in murder trials regarding trace evidence which – although collected at the time – may have provided no clue as to motive or indeed killer. Some trace evidence like pollen from plants or seeds from grass may have originally given no clue to where the crime took place but exhuming the body now that there have been so many advances can have a staggeringly high success rate.
Incomplete or Improper Wound Analysis
As we have already mentioned forensic science and forensic medicine have moved on substantially as the years have passed. So much so that bodies can now be exhumed in order to pinpoint the exact type of weapon that was used to inflict the killer blow or shot. In years gone by this was not always possible and the law had to make do with the best guess of a pathologist as to what caused death. Now however with advances in medicine and science which have been incorporated into forensic education and forensics as a whole, such wounds can be accurately identified and the weapon used identified right down to the percentage of metal used in its manufacture.
In essence the exhumation of a corpse may sound like something creepy that should be consigned to the pages of a thriller novel or the big screen but it is something that has helped forensic scientists and forensic pathologists alike provide legal teams with concrete evidence that not everything was as it seemed when the victim died.
PENSACOLA, Fla. — A former medical examiner crudely preserved human brains, hearts and lungs in soda cups and plastic food containers found inside a storage unit in Florida, authorities said Tuesday.
A man bought the contents of a storage unit at auction last week in Pensacola and made the gruesome discovery after being overpowered by a strange smell while sifting through furniture and boxes.
Investigators found formaldehyde, a chemical used to embalm and preserve bodies, leaking from a 32-ounce drink cup with a cracked lid that was holding a heart, said Jeff Martin, director of the District 1 Medical Examiner’s Office in Pensacola. The unit had been rented previously by Dr. Michael Berkland.
“How horrible it is for the families of these deceased to think that someone’s loved one’s organs are basically rotting away in a storage unit somewhere, it’s horrible,” Martin told The Associated Press.
Berkland worked at the medical examiner’s office from 1997 until 2003, when he was fired for not completing autopsy reports. Officials said he was also performing private autopsies in the area, but it’s unclear if any of the organs were from autopsies he conducted while working at the medical examiner’s office. The medical examiner’s office is now cross-referencing names in their database during that time period, Martin said.
Officials are also trying to locate family members for some of the victims, but many of the organs are not labeled, making it nearly impossible to identify them.
No charges have been filed against Berkland. His attorney Eric Stevenson declined comment Tuesday. Phone calls and emails to Pensacola Police were not immediately returned.
Officials are trying to determine whether Berkland broke any laws on biomedical waste and the storing and disposing of human remains.
It was not immediately known why the organs were being stored there. Martin said it’s unlikely they could have been sold anywhere because they were not well-preserved.
Many of the remains were stuck in household Tupperware and other containers that “aren’t made to hold up to outdoor weather conditions. The chemical inside of those containers is very caustic … a lot of those containers were emptied because they had cracked through so all of those caustic chemicals were leaking out somewhere,” Martin said.
Berkland told employees of the Florida storage facility that he planned to keep household goods and office furniture there, the company said.
“We never had any indication that anything was out of the ordinary, nor did anyone on our management team ever notice anything amiss during daily property checks,” said Diane Piegza, vice president of corporate communications of Uncle Bob’s Self Storage.
Before coming to Florida, Berkland had been fired as a contract medical examiner in 1996 in Jackson County, Mo., in a dispute over his caseload and autopsy reports. His doctor’s license was ultimately revoked there.
Berkland had incorrectly stated on the reports that he had taken sections of several brains to be preserved as specimens for medical conferences and teaching purposes. He called them “proofreading errors” and the Missouri attorney general’s office found they did not jeopardize any criminal cases.
At the time, Berkland contended the actions against him in Missouri were politically motivated and unfair because he was unable to present evidence in his defense.
Numbered tags like this are used to secure a body bag once a body is placed inside.
Postmortem identification of a body
Sometimes, investigators have the unpleasant task of identifying a body that’s not in the best of conditions. Decomposition, animal scavengers, and even murderers can often alter a body’s condition so much that a visual ID is impossible. In those situations, fingerprinting the deceased may be the best method available for learning the victim’s name.
(Keep in mind, the following procedures and techniques are normally performed in the morgue by the coroner or medical examiner, not police detectives).
Occasionally, all that’s needed is a standard ink pad and ten-print card (above). Other times, the joints are rigid and unbendable, so investigators must use finger straighteners to help unclasp the digits.
finger straighteners ^
Horizontal ink rollers are easier to use on the fingers of the dead than the standard vertical ones.
Investigators use printing spoons and fingerprint card strips to print the fingers of the dead.
Flesh is often decomposed, or too soft, to take a print; therefore, investigators inject a solution called tissue builder into the fingertips to make the skin firm enough to print.
Tissue building kit. ^
Sometimes, the fingers are too badly twisted, or they’re clasped too tightly together to take a print, so investigators remove them from the hand. To do this they use bone snips.
Bone snips ^
When all else fails, investigators cut off the stiff finger, strip the skin away from the bone, and place the fingertip skin over the end of their own finger. Then they apply ink to the tiny “glove” and press it to a fingerprint card. A perfect print!
To recover prints from the body of a murder victim, investigators can perform standard brushing techniques with magnetic or other powders. They can also place the entire body in a plastic tent and fume it with Superglue just like they would with any other piece of evidence.
Images from a virtual autopsy
Cause of death and manner of death; whats the difference?
The cause of death is the physical condition that directly contributed to the person’s death. This may include specific diseases, heart attack, seizure, etc. On the violent side of the aisle it may include gunshot wound, sharp force injury (knife), blunt trauma, asphyxia, etc.
The Manner of death is one of the following five categories; Natural, Accident, Suicide, Homicide, and Undetermined. These categories have both medical and legal implications for law enforcement. Forensic pathologists carry a heavy burden to reach an unbiased, fact-based, conclusion which may be contrary to the wishes of the family, friends, or others. Nevertheless, these conclusions are crucial for law enforcement to make decisions on how investigations should proceed. I don’t mean to imply that these conclusions are reached in a vacuum. Evidence discovered by law enforcement may greatly influence these decisions.
Determining the manner and cause of death can be straightforward or it may take weeks to determine. The pathologist may have to await various laboratory tests in toxicology or histology before they can reach a definitive answer. Sometimes the cause and manner of death are unknown, which is very frustrating to everyone involved. There are times when a person dies and the cause can not be definitively proven. Other times, investigators may be unsure of the manner of death (is it a suicide or a homicide?).