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Can Your Pacemaker Snitch On You?

Don’t you just hate it when your pacemaker snitches on you? I mean, apparently all you wanted to do was burn down your house and collect the insurance money but then your pacemaker spoke up. Your plans went up in smoke – – no pun intended.

Pacemakers surely have changed since I was in medical school. Back then, they had to be inserted in the abdomen and the pacemaker leads shoved up through the diaphragm where they were screwed into the heart muscle. It was a major procedure, done under general anesthesia. The device weighed around a pound and only lasted 12 to 18 months. Then you had the pleasure of doing it all over again.

Also, back then, pacemakers were mostly a safety net. They were used for people who had very slow heart rates, even episodically, to prevent dramatic drops in the heart rate that could lead to dizziness, falls, and loss of consciousness. Pacemakers were often set at 60 to 70 beats per minute which meant that your heart rate could never fall below that. The pacemaker would sit and watch the rhythm and any time the rate dropped below these parameters, the pacemaker would kick in and supply the electrical impulse the heart needed.

Things are much different now. Today’s pacemakers are small, about the size of a wristwatch in many cases, last a decade or more, and will do much more than simply provide a safety net. They can help regularize abnormal rhythms, increase heart rate in response to exercise, and do a myriad other things to make them more efficient and helpful.

They also store data. This means that the pacemaker can periodically be interrogated and everything that has gone on in the individual’s rhythm over the past few months is available for analysis. And some of the newer models actually send the data to a central monitoring station in real time. My how things have changed.

For Ross Compton, his pacemaker, which was of course equipped with all this new technology, just might have snitched on him. According to investigators, Compton allegedly torched his house, likely in an insurance scam. He said that once he saw the fire he began unloading his most important belongings out a window and ferried them to his car. It was a real fire drill of sorts.

However, when his pacemaker was interrogated it showed no changes that would be consistent with such frenetic activity. No arrhythmias, no high heart rates, nothing to suggest extreme physical activity during the time in question. Had he actually been lugging stuff out the window and racing to his car one would expect that his heart rate would be greatly elevated from the exertion. Apparently, that’s not what was found.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this case turns out.

 

Chemical Assassinations: A Sordid History

Using chemicals for murder is not a new concept. It’s been around for many centuries. Socrates was killed with hemlock, and arsenic became so popular that it was known as “inheritance powder,” for obvious reasons. Chemicals have also been used in political assassinations.

Recently Kim Yong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was apparently assassinated using Sarin. It seems that a pair of young ladies had the toxin on their hands and made contact with the victim, transferring the toxin, causing his death. The details of exactly how they pulled this off are unclear. One of the big questions is how did they avoid poisoning themselves? The first thought of course is that they wore latex surgical gloves or something similar but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The second thing that came to my mind is that maybe they placed a barrier such as petroleum jelly on their hands before applying the Sarin or VX but this doesn’t appear to be the case either – – and this would be a risky move. Many have speculated that they took the antidote for this poison ahead of time. This makes sense and is definitely possible.

Sarin and VX are organophosphates similar to many insecticides. They are also classified as anti-cholinesterases in that they bind with the enzyme cholinesterase and block its actions. Cholinesterase is essential for nerve transmission throughout the human body. It’s complex biochemistry but in the end this chemical causes widespread derangements in normal bodily functions.

The symptoms that result are numerous and include chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, nasal congestion, constricted pupils, nausea, anxiety, seizures, and ultimately death. The treatment for Sarin exposure is to employ chemicals that counteract or override this derangement. The most common ones are atropine, Pralidoxime, and lastly the sedative and anti-seizure drug diazepam.

It is entirely possible that the young ladies involved in this assassination had pretreated themselves with atropine and possibly Pralidoxime. In fact the US military has such antidotes prepackaged in an autoinjector that is known as Mark I NAAK – –NAAK stands for Nerve Agent Antidote Kit. This is the most likely explanation for how they pulled this off.

Political assassinations using chemicals are not new. In 2006 Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium 210 that had apparently been placed in his iced tea.

Litvinenko

Dioxin was the culprit in the damage to Viktor Yushchenko.

Yushchenko

Perhaps the most famous chemical assassination took place in 1978 when Georgi Markov was jabbed in the leg with a point of an umbrella. At first it seemed to be an accident, no big deal, a mere pin prick, but Markov’s health quickly declined and he ultimately died. It was later found that a tiny pellet containing ricin had been injected into his leg, supposedly by the KGB.

Markov and Pellet

Deadly chemicals have been around for many millennia and have been used many times to bring about the death of others, political or otherwise.

 

Crime and Science Radio Says Goodbye—Sort of

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After over 3 1/2 years, Crime and Science Radio is no more. It was a difficult decision but Jan and I decided it was time to put our radio show to bed. It’s mostly a time issue—-we don’t have enough. Does anyone? And we feel we’ve fairly well covered the field of forensic science in the 67 shows we have done. We’ve had many amazing guests who took time to share their expertise and thoughts with us—-and you.

But don’t despair. All the shows are archived so they live on and are available for you to listen at any time. Here is the link to the past shows:

http://www.dplylemd.com/crime–science-radio.html

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in Crime and Science Radio

 

Crime and Science Radio: Facial Recognition and Other Biometrics with FBI Senior Photographic Technologist Richard W. Vorder Bruegge

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BIO: Richard W. Vorder Bruegge is a Senior Photographic Technologist at the Federal Bureau of Investigation where he is responsible for overseeing science and technology developments in the imaging sciences.  He has an Sc.B. in Engineering, and an Sc.M. and Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Brown University. He has been with the FBI since 1995, where he has performed forensic analysis of image and video evidence, testifying in state, federal and international courts as an expert witness over 60 times.  Dr. Vorder Bruegge was chair of the Scientific Working Group on Imaging Technology (SWGIT) from 2000 to 2006 and chair of the Facial Identification Scientific Working Group (FISWG) from 2009 to the present.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) in the Digital and Multimedia Sciences Section.  In 2010 he was named a Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Science and Technology Fellow for his work in facial recognition.  He is currently Chair of the Digital/Multimedia Scientific Area Committee in the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC).

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2017/04/01/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-richard-bruegge

Link will go live Saturday 4-1–17 at 10 a.m. Pacific

LINKS:

Biometric Center For Excellence (BCOE): https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/fingerprints-and-other-biometrics/biometric-center-of-excellence/modalities

Facial Identification Scientific Working Group (FISWG): https://www.fiswg.org

FBI Caught On Camera: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5Oj2FDwLXs

 

DEEP SIX on Sale 4/11—18/2017

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Pick up DEEP SIX for only $0.99 April 11-18 and get ready for the Jake Longly thriller A-LIST, coming in December from Oceanview Publishing.

Check out the other great on going and upcoming bargains from Oceanview Publishing

REVELATION by Carter Wilson – $.99 through 3/29
THE DEAL SERIES COLLECTION by Adam Gittlin – $.99 through 4/1
KIND OF BLUE by Miles Corwin – $.99 3/30-4/6
FATAL ODDS by John F. Dobbyn – $.99 3/31-4/7
DARK FISSURES by Matt Coyle – $.99 4/2-4/9
GUMSHOE FOR TWO by Rob Leininger – $.99 4/4-4/11
GUMSHOE by Rob Leininger – $2.99 4/4-4/11
DEEP SIX by D. P. Lyle – $.99 4/11-4/18

A-LIST

Jake Longly and girlfriend Nicole Jemison are still recovering from their ordeal with Ukrainian underworld boss Victor Borkov and life on the Gulf Coast is returning to normal. Then Nicole’s producer uncle Charles Balfour calls asking them to head to New Orleans where his mega-star, A-list actor Kirk Ford, has awakened with the corpse of a college co-ed in his hotel bed. Ford, in the Big Easy for a location shoot, remembers little of the evening and nothing of the murder. As if things couldn’t get worse, the girl is the niece of local mafioso-type Tony Guidry who will do what is necessary to avenge his niece’s death.

As Jake and Nicole attempt to put the pieces together, they butt heads with Tony’s muscle, his near-do-well yet aggressive nephews (the dead girl’s brothers), as well as drug dealers Ju Ju and Ragman. Of course, Ray and Pancake arrive to help sort things out with the help of Ford’s  beautiful co-stars in the multi-billion dollar Space Quest franchise, Tegan and Tara James (aka The Twins), who vehemently support and defend Ford.

But something isn’t right. The facts don’t fit. Who would want Kristi Guidry dead, or Kirk framed for murder? And why? Everyone has an opinion, including Kristi’s friends, her ex-boyfriend, homicide detective Troy Doucet, and even local fortuneteller Madam Theresa. It’s up to Jake and Nicole to decipher who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, and exactly who schemed to murder Kristi Guidry. Nothing is easy in the Big Easy.

MORE INFO on DEEP SIX: http://www.dplylemd.com/book-details/deep-six/

 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Writing

 

Guest Blogger: Andrew Welsh-Huggins: Picture This: Using Images to Make Your Scenes Come Alive

I’m sure I stood out on that sunny Sunday afternoon, standing in the parking lot of a shuttered convenience store, still dressed in church clothes, as I used my phone to take pictures of the park across the street. It’s not a part of Columbus, Ohio, I’d be comfortable spending much time in, and I wasn’t sure what interest my presence might attract. But I needed pictures of that park. A police officer had identified the green space as a prime location for prostitutes and their customers. I wanted to know what it looked like when it came time to describe such a corner in my latest mystery.

With reporting as my day job, I’m accustomed to relying on notes and observations to describe a scene or landscape. I try to do the same when writing my private eye series set in Columbus (the latest installment, The Hunt, arrives in April). Increasingly, though, and thanks to the ease of smart phones, I’ve added photographs to my descriptive tool bag.

I learned the value of pictures researching a pivotal scene near the end of my first mystery, Fourth Down And Out (2014). In the climactic chapter, my private eye protagonist, an ex-Ohio State quarterback, returns to Ohio Stadium for the first time in two decades. Once a popular and successful player, Andy Hayes fell into the gutter of public opinion after a point shaving scandal his senior year that cost him his college career and his team the national championship. For many fans, the sight of Hayes stepping foot on the stadium’s hallowed grounds would be the equivalent of watching Benedict Arnold strut down the streets of Philadelphia after the Revolution. For the purposes of my fiction, I wanted to get the facts right about his return visit. Given the outsized nature of Ohio State fandom, I also had to be sure I didn’t commit any flagrant fouls when it came to describing the stadium and its environs.

Thanks to the generosity of the university athletic department, I toured the inside of the stadium for an hour one day, taking pictures of the views Hayes would see as he made his approach, from Gate 18, where he’d show his ticket, to the walk along the inside concourse, to the entrance into the stadium itself—all the way to the particular luxury box Hayes was headed to for a culminating show-down with the man who’d helped facilitate his fall from grace. These pictures, combined with my notes, came in handy many an early morning as I put the finishing touches on my manuscript. They also reminded me that while the Internet and its many eyes are a wonderful thing, there’s still no substitute for being there and recording the exact images you need.

I took a similar approach with my second book, Slow Burn (2015), in which Hayes tries to solve an arson fire in an off-campus neighborhood that killed three Ohio State students. I walked the streets in question many times, during the day and at night, to get a feel for the houses and their architecture. I took plenty of notes. But there’s no way what I jotted down could have captured in full the elements I was able to get with a few snapshots of some of the archetypal houses, with their dark brick porch pillars, second-story window filigree and multiple chimneys sprouting from roofs like something out of the Mary Poppins chimney sweep scene.

Ironically, the most pictures I took were for the third book in the series, Capitol Punishment (2016), set in the Ohio Statehouse. It’s a place I should be able to describe in my sleep after reporting there for many years. And for some of the scenes, those set in committee rooms or the windowless first floor known as the Crypt, that was largely true. But once again, photos were crucial as I explored some of the lesser known nooks of the building, including the Cupola, the Greek revival structure at the top where the book’s finale plays out. The pictures captured details like the rough wooden bench circling the room and some of its carved signatures dating back to the 1870s—such as “J. Cook,” whoever that was.

That leads me back to The Hunt, in which Hayes searches for a missing prostitute at a time a serial killer is stalking and killing street women across the city. I didn’t try anything so crass as sneaking pictures of such women, though, sadly, it wasn’t all that hard to see them, sometimes in full morning light, driving to work through a depressed neighborhood not far from downtown. Aside from those visual observations, the pictures that helped the most were street scenes of the type I captured across from the park; abandoned houses on the city’s east side which Hayes and his assistant visit during their investigation; and photos of derelict grain silos—including interior pictures, thanks to a helpful engineer who’d been inside—that come into play during the novel.

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Grain Silos

Of course, verisimilitude has its limits. “This book is a work of fiction. That means I make things up,” Harlan Coben says at the end of Darkest Fear. Photos help me get descriptions correct where they count, but they should be signposts, not traffic barriers. If a plot point requires a shifting of the time-space continuum in the form of a fake in a real neighborhood or a building never erected on an otherwise familiar corner, so be it. In researching Capitol Punishment, I took pictures of a glass Statehouse cabinet filled with mementoes of the building’s earliest days. That helped me describe a scene in which characters pass by the cabinet, turn the corner and come across a commemorative gavel “fashioned from a two-hundred-year-old oak tree that got hit with lightning last summer in southern Ohio.” If you visit the Statehouse, you’ll find that cabinet without a problem, but you’ll look in vain for the gavel. No matter: the plot needed both. Despite the advantages that pictures provide, sometimes images must reside forever in the imagination.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins works for The Associated Press in Columbus and writes the Andy Hayes mystery series for Swallow Press, featuring an ex-Ohio State quarterback turned private eye.

https://andrewwelshhuggins.com/

The Hunt-Cover

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in Writing

 

DEEP SIX Named Finalist for INDIES 2016 Book of the Year Award (Thriller Suspense Category)

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Honored to be considered by Forward Magazine and the INDIES AWARD committee.

Finalists in all categories can be seen here. Congratulations.

DEEP SIX is the first story in my Jake Longly comedic thriller series. The next one A-LIST will be out in December. What’s it about?

Jake Longly and girlfriend Nicole Jemison are still recovering from their ordeal with Ukrainian underworld boss Victor Borkov and life on the Gulf Coast is returning to normal. Then Nicole’s producer uncle Charles Balfour calls asking them to head to New Orleans where his mega-star, A-list actor Kirk Ford, has awakened with the corpse of a college co-ed in his hotel bed. Ford, in the Big Easy for a location shoot, remembers little of the evening and nothing of the murder. As if things couldn’t get worse, the girl is the niece of local mafioso-type Tony Guidry who will do what is necessary to avenge his niece’s death.

As Jake and Nicole attempt to put the pieces together, they butt heads with Tony’s muscle, his near-do-well yet aggressive nephews (the dead girl’s brothers), as well as drug dealers Ju Ju and Ragman. Of course, Ray and Pancake arrive to help sort things out with the help of Ford’s  beautiful co-stars in the multi-billion dollar Space Quest franchise, Tegan and Tara James (aka The Twins), who vehemently support and defend Ford.

But something isn’t right. The facts don’t fit. Who would want Kristi Guidry dead, or Kirk framed for murder? And why? Everyone has an opinion, including Kristi’s friends, her ex-boyfriend, homicide detective Troy Doucet, and even local fortuneteller Madam Theresa. It’s up to Jake and Nicole to decipher who’s lying, who’s telling the truth, and exactly who schemed to murder Kristi Guidry. Nothing is easy in the Big Easy.

DEEP SIX Info

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Writing

 
 
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