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Category Archives: Crime Scene

Getting Rid Of A Body Isn’t Easy

Killers often think that disposing of a corpse is easy. And important. If there is no body surely they can’t be charged with murder. Right? Fortunately, they’re wrong on both counts.

A case in point: 23 year-old French art history student Eva Bourseau.

eva

Seems that three of her classmates killed her over a dispute about a drug debt. Drug debts are never good things.

So okay, now they have a body. What are the going to do about it? As good students of Breaking Bad, they decided to dissolve the corpse in acid. At least they did use plastic rather than a metal tub, as, yes, acid loves to eat up metal.

BreakingBad

But they also discovered that acid doesn’t always do the trick. Jeffrey Dahmer discovered the same thing.

Dahmer

Hell, even Dexter tried it.

Dexter

 

Francis Craig: Another Jack The Ripper Candidate?

Jack

Perhaps the most famous serial killer of all time is Jack the Ripper. Part of his popularity resides in the fact that he has never been positively identified. Many folks, including best-selling author Patricia Cornwell, have made claims that they have uncovered Jack’s identify, but each theory remains controversial. Cornell, among others, named Walter Sickert as the likely Ripper. Other candidates have been John Pizer, George Chapman, and Aaron Kosminski, to name a few.

3 Jacks

Now a new candidate has entered the picture—Francis Craig.

Dr. Wynne Weston-Davies, in his book THE REAL MARY KELLY, postulates that Francis Craig, the estranged husband of Mary Kelly, is the mysterious Jack. Mary was apparently Jack’s fifth and final victim. Weston-Davies suggests that Craig killed all the women when in fact Mary was his intended victim—-the others were to provide cover for the killing of his wife. Well, that has indeed happened before.

Mary Kelly

Mary Kelly

For those who study Jack, Mary Kelly’s murder has always been problematic. She was the only victim killed indoors, in her home, and she was mutilated much more so than were others. It has been suggested that Jack was able to “do more” since he was indoors and less likely to be interrupted in his work. Maybe. It might also mean that the killing of Marry was indeed very personal. More so than his other victims. Such as a spouse might do. So, yes, all the killings could have been done to cover the real target—-Mary Kelly.

Or, perhaps, Craig knew of the other murders—-how could he not if he lived in London at that time?—and seized an opportunity. He could kill his estranged wife and make it look like Jack did it. It’s not like that’s never happened before either.

The overkill of Mary could fit either of these scenarios since her killing seems more personal than the other four. Plans are to exhume her corpse for examination. I doubt much useful will come from this but I hope I’m wrong. Regardless, it will interesting to watch.

 

Muscle Proteins and the Time of Death

crime-scene

In any homicide, one the most important things, along with the cause and manner of death, that the ME must determine is the approximate time of death. This will help eliminate some suspects—-if they are far away from the scene and with many witnesses, for example—-and point the finger at others—-who might have been in the area at the time the murder occurred.

The problem is that most methods used to determine the time of death are inaccurate at best. They tend to be best guesses. And they are mostly useful only during the first 48 to 72 hours.

Check out my article “Timely Death” for a brief overview of how the time of death is estimated.

Or grab a copy of Forensics For Dummies or Howdunnit: Forensics for an in-depth discussion of this topic.

Researchers at the University of Salzburg are working in a new method that might allow the time of death determination to be accurately made up to 10 days after death. Their research suggests that measuring the rate of muscle protein degradation yields a clue to the time that has lapsed since death. If this technique proves to be accurate and reproducible in humans, it would be a giant step forward in criminal investigations.

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FFD 400X600

 

Wildfires and Forensic Science

wildfire

Here in Southern California, we are not strangers to wild fires. Other parts of the world are similarly afflicted. Some are natural, from lightning for example, but all too often they are the result of arson.

Forensic wildfire investigators face a difficult problem when analyzing a potential arson scene since often most, if not all, of the evidence is consumed by the fire. But not always. They search for the point, or points, or origin and then apply their knowledge and skill to determine how the fire progressed. This can often lead to crucial evidence in uncovering who started the fire. And why.

Wildfire pattern

 

Crime and Science Radio: A Fly for the Prosecution: An Interview with Forensic Entomologist Dr. Lee Goff

Join Jan Burke and me as we discuss bugs and bodies with forensic entomologist Dr. M. Lee Goff.

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BIO: Dr. M. Lee Goff is one of the founding members of the American Board of Forensic Entomology, from which he retired in 2013.  Professor Emeritus, in Forensic Sciences at  Chaminade University of Hawaii and Dept. of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Hawaii, Manoa,, he received his B.S. in Zoology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1966, M.S. in Biology from California State University, Long Beach in 1974, and Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1977. He was Professor of Entomology and Chair of the Entomology Graduate Program at University of Hawaii at Manoa from 1983 until 2001. He then moved to Chaminade University of Honolulu as Director of the Forensic Sciences Program. Dr. Goff has been involved in forensic entomology for a period of over 25 years. He is currently a consultant in forensic entomology for the Office of the Medical Examiner, City and County of Honolulu and other state and federal agencies throughout the world.  He also serves as a consultant for the crime dramas CSI and Bones. He is curator of a traveling museum exhibition called CSI: Crime Scene Insects.

Additionally Dr. Goff has served as a member of the instructional staff for the FBI Academy course in Detection and Recovery of Human Remains taught at Quantico, Virginia. He has published over 200 papers in scientific journals, authored the popular book, A Fly for the Prosecution, co-edited the recent publication “Advances in Forensic Entomology” and participated in over 350 homicide investigations, consulting on cases worldwide.

LISTENhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2015/04/30/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-dr-lee-goff

LINKS:

Professor Emeritus Goff’s faculty Page on Chaminade University’s site https://www.chaminade.edu/natural-sciences/faculty/M_Lee_Goff.php

PBS Nature‘s Crime Scene Creatures Interview: Forensic Entomologist Lee Goff http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/crime-scene-creatures-interview-forensic-entomologist-lee-goff/302/

Dr. Goff Interviewed on KHNL-TV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnNe8SNAz08

National Geographic Channel 2004 Interview with Dr. Goff http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0423_040423_tvbugman.html

American Board of Forensic Entomology http://www.forensicentomologist.org

Insects.org  http://www.insects.org

Acarological Society of America https://sites.google.com/site/acarologicalsociety/home

Acarology: The Study of Mites and Ticks (UK’s Natural History Museum) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted-sites/acarology/

Entomological Society of America http://www.entsoc.org/home

Insect Collections, Zoos, Museums, and Butterfly Gardens in North America http://www.entsoc.org/resources/links/zoos

Amateur Entomologists’ Society: Forensic Entomology http://www.amentsoc.org/insects/insects-and-man/forensic-entomology.html

How Stuff Works: What do bugs have to do with forensic science? http://science.howstuffworks.com/forensic-entomology2.htm

Smithsonian Channel Catching Killers: Insect Evidence http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/catching-killers/insect-evidence/1003122/141561

Fly for Prosecution 400

 

Your Hair Dye Just Might Sink Your Perfect Crime

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Hair and fibers and other trace evidence are often unknowingly left at the crime scene by the perpetrator. And those clever CSI folks can find these tidbits and analyze them. From hair, they can usually determine the species (human, cat, dog?), the color, the thickness and curliness, whether it was cut or yanked out, and other things.

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But what if the hair has been altered with coloring or various chemical treatments? No problem. In fact, such alterations could add another layer of individuality to hair found at a crime scene. Using Surface-enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS), dyes and chemical treatments can be analyzed and such analysis can lead to the type of treatment and even the manufacturer of the product. This could prove to be critical evidence in connecting a suspect to a crime scene.

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With Modern Forensic Science Is the Perfect Crime Impossible?

Holmes

 

Probably. Likely. Not to mention that getting away with any crime requires a healthy dose of luck.

Professor Wesley Vernon of Huddersfield University agrees. To commit the perfect crime he says you must “get as far away as possible from the crime scene” and “pay someone to pay someone to pay someone to do it for you.”

And even these tricks are not likely to work. Bad luck being what bad luck is.

 

4 Leaf Clover

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2015 in Crime Scene, General Forensics

 
 
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