Monthly Archives: November 2012

A New Small and Fast DNA Analyzer

One question I’m often asked is how long it takes to get a DNA result back from the lab. Currently it can be a few hours though a day or two, at best, is more realistic for most labs. But now it looks like NEC is working on a new suit-case-sized DNA analyzer that uses microfluidic “lab-on-a-chip” technology and can do the job in about an hour. Their goal is to lower that to around 25 minutes.

This microfluidic technology has many medical and research uses and a couple of the gadgets are roaming around Mars on the rover. This new DNA technology bears watching.

Curiosity Rover


Posted by on November 27, 2012 in DNA, High Tech Forensics, Medical Issues


Q and A: Could My Young Roman Girl Estimate the Time a Death Occurred From the Blood at the Scene?

Q: I’m writing a young-adult novel set in the ancient Roman world. My “detective” is a slave girl without medical training but who has lived on a farm and observed animals being butchered. I need her to be suspicious about the reported time of death of a woman, based on the state of the body and the condition of the blood (the woman’s throat was cut and blood is still dripping off her bed when she is found). What would be the timeline of rigor mortis, and how long would the blood remain liquid? Are there any other clues that would lead her to suspect that the woman was killed very recently, and not several hours earlier, as was reported?

Tracy Barrett, YA author

A: Once blood leaves the body it begins to clot very quickly. This process is completed in 5 to 10 minutes. After that, the blood begins to separate as the clot retracts into a dark knot and squeezes out a halo of yellow serum. This process would take another hour or more. The blood will then dry to a rusty brown stain. This could take several hours or even days in a moist climate.


As blood clots, the clot contracts, leaving behind the yellowish serum


You’re young slave girl could know this from her experience as a butcher. If she found blood that was liquid and still dripping she would know that the murder took place less than 10 or so minutes earlier. If she found that the blood had clotted but not separated then she might conclude that the murder took place more than ten minutes but less than an hour earlier. If the blood had separated into a clot and a surrounding halo of yellow serum, she would guess that the death occurred somewhere between one and three hours or so. Finally, if the blood had completely dried she might conclude that the death occurred at least 4 to 6 hours earlier, or longer in a moist environment. These are very general but should give you a usable timeline.

Rigor mortis would not play a role here since your corpse is found fairly quickly after death and it takes about 12 hours for rigor to fully develop. In this situation, the blood would more clearly define the time of death.



RUN TO GROUND, Finalist for the 2012 USA Best Book Award

USA BEST BOOK AWARDS 2012, Thriller/Adventure Category



Run To Ground by D.P. Lyle
Oceanview Publishing

Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon

Collision of Lies by John J. LeBeau
Oceanview Publishing

Greco’s Game by James Houston Turner
Comfort Publishing

Q: Awakening by G.M. Lawrence

The Calypso Directive: A Novel by Brian Andrews
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

Tidal Wave 23: A New World Order Thriller by Thomas J. Ryan
Thomas J. Ryan


Shut Your Eyes Tight by John Verdon


Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


Sleeping Beauty Syndrome: Ever Feel Like You Could Sleep Forever?

Ever feel as if you could lie down, fall asleep, and not get up for days? Maybe after a bad week or some very stressful event? Or maybe work, or writing, has interfered with sleep for a few weeks and it all catches up?

We’ve all experienced that feeling.

So did Sleeping Beauty.


But what if you fell asleep for many weeks, or months? You could suffer from “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome.” Also known as Kleine-Levin Syndrome, this odd neurological condition typically occurs in teenagers, particularly males. It often follows some infectious process such as the flu. The sufferer might sleep 20 or more hours a day and only awaken to eat or visit the bathroom. But even in the “more awake” periods, he or she seems “out of it” and highly irritable.

Examples are the situations with Nicole Delien, Stacey Comerford, and Louisa Ball.


Guest Blogger: Katherine Ramsland: Who Killed Nicole?

Who Killed Nicole?


Nicole Brown Simpson’s Body at her Bundy Home


A serial killer claims credit for the Simpson/Goldman double homicide.

Confessions come out of the woodwork in high profile cases: the Lindbergh kidnapping, the Black Dahlia murder, and JonBenet Ramsey all attracted voluntary confessors, but most just craved an association with fame. John Mark Karr had even picked out Johnny Depp to play him in the inevitable movie about the murder of young JonBenet. And then there’s the Nicole Brown Simpson/Ronald Goldman double homicide from 1994. We have a suspect who’s once again getting some attention, compliments of Anthony Meoli.

A consultant with a master’s degree in forensic psychology, Meoli has corresponded with and interviewed numerous serial killers and death row inmates. Among them are Danny Rolling, Loran Cole, and Lee Boyd Malvo. Next week, Meoli is set to appear on My Brother, the Serial Killer (Nov. 21) on the ID Network regarding his interviews with serial killer Glen Rogers.

It’s not the first time that Rogers, convicted of three murders, has been in the picture for this infamous double homicide. However, Meoli has information that suggests we should reconsider past dismissals of Rogers’ claim. I invited him to tell me more about it.


Rogers and Meoli


“My motivation for writing Glen Edward Rogers,” Meoli said, “was triggered after reading several Internet articles and a book about his crimes. What really garnered my attention was that he had been tried, convicted and sentenced to death in not one state but two – Florida and California. The fact that California was willing to extradite an already convicted man from Florida’s death row made me curious as to what had happened in all the states in between. It seemed, at least from a cursory review of some of the cold cases surrounding him, wherever Glen Rogers went, someone either ended up missing or dead. What I would find was rather astounding.”

I asked about the start of their correspondence.

“My first letter from Glen was received on October 4, 2009,” said Meoli, “as he sat on death row at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Florida. He responded by saying, ‘I received your letter a while back and debated about writing back because someone in Georgia had caused other inmates lots of trouble.’ I dispelled his fear with my next letter, knowing that trust had been a core issue with Glen his entire life, and he was quick to respond. By the end of 2009, he’d written an additional seven times. A bond had been struck between us, what it was I cannot explain, but it was set.”

Rogers soon started writing on a regular basis, two or three times a week. Meoli said that on May 6, 2010, a revealing letter arrived.

“It concerned his first murder as a teenager, with his father. After twelve years of writing to death row inmates, I’d grown accustomed to ‘stories’ about unsolved crimes (often these boastful claims are merely a test or a ruse to elicit money to get more details), but his letter seemed different. Glen narrowed the year to between 1975-1976 and described the female victim in vivid detail. He also described the car that they’d used and where he and his father had buried the woman. He asked me to look up this cold case to see if this woman had ever been found. Glen even hinted at an ability to draw her face, which I convinced him to do and which was sent about a month later.”

Within about six weeks, Meoli sent Rogers a second questionnaire. With it he asked Rogers if he had anything to do with the 1994 Brown Simpson/Goldman murders?

“Surprisingly,” Meoli told me, “he answered in the affirmative. Glen began divulging more information about his past crimes and his family. Each letter was now 5-10 pages in length.”

Rogers placed Meoli on his visitation list, and on November 6, 2010, they met for the first time. Because Meoli had requested special approval, he was able to spend several hours.


“It was during this visit that Glen described how he became involved in the Goldman/Simpson murders. He explained that he’d detailed his involvement in some of the art he’d sent me prior to my visit and if I looked closely I would see the clues. In a July 2010 drawing, he’d depicted the basic design of the murder weapon along, with the victims’ skulls.”

Post-visit, another drawing also depicted the weapon. Rogers had killed Goldman, first, he’d said, which had drawn Nicole outside.

“This was a murder-for-hire plot,” Meoli stated. “Glen explained that it was designed to be inside the condo, but Goldman arrived to the wrong place at the wrong time. Since Rogers was a much larger man, standing nearly 6’2” and 240 lbs, he’d subdued Goldman without leaving much evidence.”

This, apparently, was his MO: leaving little evidence. Other artwork depicted other murders, seemingly taking place over several decades – many more than the three for which he’d been charged and convicted.

“Considering that most death row inmates usually remain quiet, especially in Florida, and especially those who are well past the average time of execution,” said Meoli, “I found it peculiar that Rogers was readily admitting his alleged involvement in the Goldman/Simpson murders, and others. Why Rogers has kept up his insistence on these murders remains a mystery.”

Meoli has spent nearly 50 hours during eight visits with Glen Rogers. He insists that he’s detected no malingering during Rogers’ repeated recollections of this infamous night. “Glen has had time to believe it.”

Meoli points out that Rogers had lived in California at the time of the murders, just 25 minutes away from the scene. He’d worked for a painting company that had performed an estimate on Nicole’s condominium. The truck used for work was identified by a detective as one of the vehicles at the scene, (a white, Ford F-350, primarily used by contractors) along with an unidentified strand of long blonde hair allegedly found beneath under Nicole Simpson’s body, which was not hers. At the time, Rogers had long blonde hair.

Yet, what about the DNA evidence against OJ – the stuff that wasn’t contaminated or problematic?

“Rogers admits O.J. is not innocent,” Meoli counters, “but says he did not commit the murders. If we look at the case for which O.J. Simpson was convicted in Nevada, he hired someone to do his dirty work. So, is Rogers the actual perpetrator of the ‘Crime of the Century?’ It is my professional opinion that Glen Edward Rogers believes this to be the case. As to why he is so vehement about implicating himself, it remains a mystery. It could be a ruse to buy him more time or, as he puts it, ‘I needed to tell the world what happened.’”

It’s about time that some crew at ID put this case together for the rest of us to ponder. Since Meoli has collected so much information, I, for one, am looking forward to watching it.


Dr. Katherine Ramsland has published 46 books and over 1,000 articles. She teaches forensic psychology and her area of specialization is serial murder. Her latest book on the subject is The Mind of a Murderer.



Surgery in Zero Gravity

How do you do surgery in zero gravity?

Very carefully. And it helps to have NASA’s latest toy.

You’ve probably seen videos of astronauts playing with water in space. No dripping or dropping here. Due to their inherent surface tension and the lack of gravity applying any external force, liquids tend to form into spheres and float around. Fun stuff.


But what about blood? Of gall bladder fluid? Or, yuck, pus from an infected wound? These are not materials you want floating around in your space capsule, or your face.

The Aqueous Immersion Surgical System (AISS) just might solve this problem. It is a saline-filled transparent box with airtight ports through which orthoscopic surgical tools can be passed.



Very clever and very cool.


Q and A: Can My Killer Use Botox To Kill?

Q: I have been reading Forensics and Fiction and have decided my killer’s weapon will be injections of botox. Would a full syringe of botox given as a muscle injection be enough to kill a grown man (or woman) in 2 minutes or less? Could a smaller amount be used to get the same result? How would a non-medical person be able to get access to enough botox to kill several people?

JM – Memphis, TN


A: The botulinum toxin is one of the most lethal substances known. Very small amounts can kill. The LD50 is about 50 nanograms—a nanogram is one billionth of a gram and there are 30 grams in an ounce. LD 50 means Lethal Dose 50%—the dose that will kill 50% of those exposed to it. Here the 50 billionths of a gram needed to kill most people is a very small amount.


Botox is a very diluted solution of botulinum toxin. How much solution must be injected depends on the actual concentration of the toxin in that particular solution and this varies greatly. For fiction, I wouldn’t worry about the math. Simply have the victim injected and have him die. The reader will assume that whatever the dose was it was enough.

Botox is not all that difficult to come by. It can be purchased from a pharmaceutical supply house, stolen from a pharmacy or a doctor’s office, purchased on the black market, or easily gotten in Mexico. They even have Botox parties at people’s homes where a doc will show up and inject everyone while they drink wine and chat. It’s so LA. Someone could simply steal a bottle when he wasn’t looking.



Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Poisons & Drugs, Q&A


Richard III Found?

Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England, died on August 22, 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. His death wasn’t a pleasant one. Recently skeletal remains that might be those of the King have been unearthed from the ruins of Grey Friars Church in Leicester, the location where many believe Richard was buried.


The remains apparently show significant scoliosis, a bending of the spine that often raises one shoulder higher than the other. Historical documents, as well as the famous play by William Shakespeare, indicate that Richard was a “hunchback.” This condition is most often caused by kyphosis, a more forward curving of the spine, which is not the case with these remains. But the distinction probably wasn’t appreciated in 1485 so people who suffered either scoliosis or kyphosis were often termed “hunchback.”

How can researchers prove these are indeed Richard’s remains? The best bet is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed down from generation to generation through the maternal line. This type of DNA doesn’t change often, mutating only about once every 6500 years, making it ideal for ancestry studies.


To employ this technique, they will need mtDNA from a known maternal descendent of Richard. And it seems they have located Londoner Michael Ibsen, the 17th great-grand nephew of Richard. His late mother, Joy Ibsen, was apparently a direct descendent of Richard’s eldest sister Anne. If true, and if the mtDNA matches, that would constitute fairly strong evidence that the remains are indeed those of Richard.

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