Body Parts and Patricia’s Law

31 Aug

New Jersey has a problem. It seems that body parts have been washing up on the Jersey Shore. Legs and fingers mostly it seems. One of the legs appeared to have been cleanly cut just below the knee and a small patch of skin had been removed from the ankle area. Where did this person come from? Is this the work of a new serial killer? Was this some horrible boating accident?  Did the Mafia have a hand in this? Is this perhaps medical waste from some hospital? Maybe it’s an alien abduction gone wrong. The possibilities are intriguing.

The big question: Who is this person?

In a recent post I talked about the importance of identifying a corpse in any criminal investigation and mentioned the fact that in a high percentage of murder cases the victim knows the killer. As Detective Sergeant John Donegan of the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit said, “First, we have to get the ID, and then we can start thinking about the investigation.”

In this case the leg revealed that the victim was a female between 5-1 and 5-5 in height and wore a 5 1/2 sized shoe. Interestingly the toenails of this victim had been removed.

The New Jersey State Police obtained DNA from the leg and entered it into the FBI’s national DNA database known as CODIS or the Combined DNA Index System. They also hooked up with the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, an agency that attempts to identify unknown bodies by using new DNA techniques. This union of investigative agencies in Texas and New Jersey was allowable under Patricia’s Law, a law that has been on the New Jersey books for just under two years. The law allows law enforcement to request DNA samples from willing family members of any missing person. These profiles are then uploaded to CODIS. The hope is that at least a partial match can be found between unidentified bodies and body parts and living relatives, a connection that could lead to the identity of the unknown victim.

Philadelphia Daily News Article

Patricia’s Law

University of North Texas Center for Human Identification

And now it seems that Brooklyn has a similar problem. A foot inside a sock and a Timberland shoe was found inside a bag by a homeless man while digging through garbage. Are these two connected? Maybe a mobile serial killer? To quote Alice: “Curiouser and curiouser.”

NY Daily News Story

Gothamist Story


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