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Category Archives: Interesting Cases

FORENSICS FOR DUMMIES Release Day

FFD 300X378

 

Forensics For Dummies Updated 2nd Edition is now available.

Get it through your local Indie Bookstore or here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Forensics-Dummies-Douglas-P-Lyle/dp/1119181658

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forensics-for-dummies-douglas-p-lyle/1013991421

 

Q and A: Can My Villain Cook Attempt a Murder Using Contaminated Food?

Q: My villain is a cook and he wants to kill the hero by feeding him tainted food. I want to avoid using a detectable poison, so I thought a deliberately introduced food-borne pathogen, such as ptomaine, botulism, E.coli, or salmonella, or something like those, would do it. But how do I get the bacteria/germs/whatever in the food? What will it do to him? How long would it take him to die, and what steps could the hero take to make sure he survives? What could the villain do to make sure the hero dies?

 

E. Coli

E. Coli Growing on a Culture Plate

 

A: This scenario will work but there are a few problems with it. First of all, using bacteria for murder is extremely unpredictable and most killers prefer a more predictable method. Just because your villain feeds contaminated food to the victim it does not mean that he will die because contaminated food rarely kills people but rather merely makes them sick. Typically people survive these types of illness—but not always. The best way to assure, or at least increase the probability, that your victim would die is to prevent him from reaching medical care.

Infectious processes most often kill by two mechanisms. The first is that they alter the function of the infected organ. For example, pneumonia can kill by infecting the lungs and filling the air spaces with bacteria and liquids we call exudates. This is simply the body’s reaction to the infection. Like a weeping wound or one that forms pus. This is what happens in the lungs and if so it interferes with the exchange of oxygen and the victim can die because the lungs fail. An infection in the kidneys can do the same thing by causing kidney failure and infection in the gastrointestinal tract, which is what would most frequently happen with ingested bacteria, can lead to severe diarrhea and dehydration or in some cases or severe bleeding and death can follow from shock.

But the most treacherous thing associated with any of these infections is the passage of the bacteria from the infected organ into the bloodstream. We call this sepsis or septicemia, big words that mean infection in the blood stream. When this happens the infection spreads rapidly throughout the body and very quickly the victim can suffer from septic shock–low blood pressure and shock from bacteria in the blood stream. This can lead to death in short order.

So regardless of which bacterium you decide to use, it would need to be added to the food and the victim ingest it. This would make him ill with gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and perhaps bleeding in either the diarrhea or the vomiting. If untreated such an infection could then spread to the bloodstream and be deadly. But the key here is that he must be prevented from reaching medical help. Otherwise he would be treated and survive. But untreated his chance of survival is dramatically reduced. So you need to figure a way to prevent him from reaching medical care once he developed symptoms.

As for what bacteria to use, both ptomaine and botulism would be very difficult to come by. They are rare and your cook would have no access to this type of organism. He could of course damage a can of some food product and leave it sitting in a warm environment and hope that the right bacteria grew but most likely it would not be the bacterium that causes botulism. That’s actually quite rare. So there would be no way for him to predict what organism would occur under that circumstance.

On the other hand, things such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Shigella are quite common causes of food-borne gastrointestinal illness. If your chef knew someone who was infected with one of these, perhaps from a recent trip to Mexico where these are not uncommonly encountered, he could then use this individual to supply the needed bacteria. How would he do this? The best way would be to obtain some stool from the infected individual. This could be from contaminated toilet paper or an un-flushed toilet. Gross but that’s the way it is. This could then be placed into some food product and allowed to grow, which he could simply do a closet at home. He could then add some of this bacterial soup to the food product and in this way introduce a large amount of bacteria to the victim. Even better would be if he could find a way to inject this intravenously into the victim but that’s not absolutely necessary.

Again, this would make the victim very ill with gastrointestinal symptoms. Then, as I said, you’ll need to devise some scenario that prevents him from reaching medical help and if so he could easily die from sepsis.

There is an excellent non-fiction book in which a murder is committed exactly like this. It involves the murder of Joan Robinson Hill by her husband Dr. John Hill. It took place in the 1960s in Houston Texas and is an incredible story. The book is titled Blood and Money and was written by Tommy Thompson. If you can a copy of this it might help. Dr. Hill apparently grew bacteria in petri dishes at home and infected cream puffs to kill his wife. He then admitted her to a small hospital in the outskirts of Houston and he managed her care, which amounted to preventing her from getting adequate treatment since he did not offer her the treatment she needed. It became a huge and convoluted case that did indeed involved blood and money.

 

Forensics For Dummies, 2nd Edition Coming Soon

 

FFD 300X378

 

Just got the new cover for Forensics For Dummies, 2nd Edition.

It will be released from Wiley on 2-29-16

Pre-Order now

 

Billy The Kid: Amazing New Photo Found

Only one photo of William H. Bonney, AKA Billy The Kid, was known to exist. But now a new photo has been found. Purchased a few years ago for $2 in a Fresno, CA shop, the photo has been authenticated and its value estimated at $5 million. Pretty good find.

And an amazing slice of American History. Below are two photos—one of Billy and friends playing croquet before a home in New Mexico in 1878 and a close up of Billy from the same photo. He was 17 at the time.

The photo and Billy will be the subject of a NatGeo special this Sunday 10-18-15. Can’t wait to see it.

Tin Type Full 9Kx12K b, 12/20/13, 12:37 PM,  8C, 9000x12000 (0+0), 150%, Custom,  1/40 s, R106.2, G84.2, B103.2

Billy the Kid NM 1887-2 copy

 
 

Suicide By Text

You can’t think about it.

You just have to do it. 

You said you were gonna do it. 

Like I don’t get why you aren’t.

Michelle Carter

So texted Michelle Carter to Conrad Roy, her 18-year-old boyfriend. And there were many other texts to follow. She goaded him to commit suicide, or at least that’s what prosecutors are alleging. And now she faces trial on an involuntary manslaughter charge. This will be an interesting trial particularly in regards to who is responsible for Conrad Roy’s death. There’s no doubt it was by his own hand, but is Michelle Carter culpable because she encouraged him to commit the act?

But this isn’t exactly new. In 1816, long before there was texting, George Bowen was charged with “murder by counseling.” It seems he was an inmate and convinced Jonathan Jewett, a convicted murderer who occupied the adjacent cell adjacent, to hang himself. Apparently Jewett did and Bowen was charged with encouraging his suicide.

So it seems there is nothing new after all.

 

Why Did Two girls Want to Kill For Slender Man?

Slender Man copy

I previously posted about the Slender Man hoax and how it went viral on the internet and led to the attempted murder of a young girl by two of her friends. The post centered around a Psychology Today article titled “Murder By Meme: Slender Man and the Wakefield Anti-Vax Hoax” by Travis Langley, PhD. An interesting article.

Thankfully, Bella, the victim of the murder attempt, survived the attack but now the Slender Man case is moving along. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, the two young girls charged with the crime, have apparently plead not guilty so a trial will likely be forthcoming. It will be an interesting ride as there are so many aspects to this story that just make you shake your head.

More details of the bizarre, yet sad, case are revealed in an article in New York Magazine by Lisa Miller. Chilling and then some.

 

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.

 
 
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