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Category Archives: Interesting Cases

700 Year-old Murder Solved?: Did Foxglove Do In Cangrande della Scala?

You might find Foxglove in your garden. It’s a beautiful plant with clusters of trumpet-like flowers. It’s also a deadly poison. It’s the source of the cardiac medication digitalis that is commonly used for certain cardiac arrhythmias and a few other medical conditions.

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Foxglove has been around for thousands or years and has long been known for its poisonous properties. In 1329, at the ripe old age of 38, Cangrande della Scala, the ruler of Verona, Italy, and patron of Dante Alighieri, died after complaining of gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms are common in cases of digitalis toxicity.

Cangrande

Now his exhumed body has been subjected to a more modern analysis and it seems that digitalis spores were detected in his colon. Was he poisoned with this deadly drug? Maybe, maybe not. But it is intriguing.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2015 in Interesting Cases, Poisons & Drugs

 

Murder Solved By Clever DNA Testing of an Old Stamp

DNA PROFILE

DNA PROFILE

Here is an amazing and convoluted story that involves good police work and clever DNA testing, including the use of old and very small samples and familial DNA techniques (instrumental in identifying the serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper). More proof that criminals can run but they can’t hide. Not for long anyway.

 

Greed Can Be Dangerous: A 2800-year-old Case Solved?

Gold Bowl

 

How did a valuable gold bowl and three skeletons end up at the bottom of a refuse shaft in the ancient Iranian citadel of Hasanlu? It just might have been a building collapse that did in the unlucky thieves. Interesting historical forensics.

New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26129-iron-age-csi-finds-gold-thieves-died-in-the-act.html?full=true&print=true#.VAS4ekuaGzA

Ancient Origins: http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-general/dark-tale-behind-golden-bowl-hasanlu-002054

 

Remains of the citadel of Hasanlu

Remains of the citadel of Hasanlu

 

Jack The Ripper Identified?

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A new book titled Naming Jack The Ripper by Russell Edwards presents information that the author feels solves the famous Jack The Ripper case. The five murder-mutilations that occurred in London’s East End during 1888 have baffled criminologists for over a century. Several suspects have been identified but none have been proven to be the real Ripper. So who is Jack? According to Edwards, it’s Aaron Kosminski, a Polish immigrant who had “mental issues,” was 23 years old at the time of the killings, and who ultimately died in an insane asylum many years later at the age of 53. He never confessed or anything convenient like that, but he has long been one to the prime suspects.

So is he really Jack? Maybe. Here are some articles. Make up your own mind.

Daily Mail UK: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2746321/Jack-Ripper-unmasked-How-amateur-sleuth-used-DNA-breakthrough-identify-Britains-notorious-criminal-126-years-string-terrible-murders.html

Independent UK: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/has-jack-the-rippers-identity-really-been-revealed-using-dna-evidence-9717036.html

Mirror UK: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jack-ripper-murder-mystery-solved-4177665

 

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Snake Handling and Jesus: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Mark 16:17-18 (King James Version):

17: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18: They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Many snake handlers refer to this, and other, Biblical quotes to justify the taking up of snakes. Rattlesnakes and copperheads seem to be the creatures of choice and these deadly serpents are an integral part of their church services. As is ranting non-sense syllables—-the speaking in tongues part. Not to mention that they typically avoid medical help when such help is needed. Sometimes taking strychnine in the belief that this will add another layer of protection against the venom. After all . . . any deadly thing . . . shall not hurt them . . .

Don’t think that snake handling is a thing of the past or is relegated to the backwoods of the South. Though most still thrive in Appalachia, there are over a hundred such churches and they stretch from coast to coast.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, actually, a lot. Snake handlers have died from bites, when a visit to the ER could have saved them. But religion is a powerful motivator and often over-rides common sense.

For example:

Jamie Coots, the pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky: http://abcnews.go.com/US/snake-handling-pentecostal-pastor-dies-snake-bite/story?id=22551754

Punkin Brown: http://www.hiddenmysteries.org/religion/pentecostal/snakeskill-fool.shtml

And one Glen Summerford, pastor of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following, attempted to murder his wife with a rattlesnake. The story in chronicled in the wonderful American Book Award winning and National Book Award nominated book SALVATION ON SAND MOUNTAIN by Dennis Covington.

Glen Summerford: https://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=1095-hartman

My third Samantha Cody thriller ORIGINAL SIN deals with such preachers. Sam visits her old friend Tennessee CV Surgeon Lucy Wagner and both find themselves entangled with the patriarch of a snake-handling church. And everything goes wrong.

 

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ORIGINAL SIN:

Dr. Lucy Wagner was on top of her game. The only cardiac surgeon on staff, a new pediatric cardiac unit dedicated to her, and an impeccable reputation not only put her at the apex of the local medical pyramid but also garnered a few powerful enemies. Such is the nature of jealousy and greed. Turf wars can get ugly. Still all was good until the day old John Scully, the spiritual founder and leader of a local snake-handling church, died on her operating table. Fainting spells, nightmarish dreams, and patient after patient succumbing to some violent psychosis followed, putting her career, and her life, in jeopardy. Aided by long time friend and ex-boxer, ex-cop Samantha Cody, Lucy must reach deeply into her family’s past and into her own soul to find the strength to confront old and very powerful forces she never knew existed.

More Info on ORIGINAL SIN: http://www.dplylemd.com/DPLyleMD/Books-SCody.html

 

DP Lyle on Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Affairs

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Set your DVRs for the ID Channel show Deadly Affairs Saturday night 8-23-14 at 9 p.m. EDT. I was asked to discuss this horrible crime that took place in Irvine, CA, a very few miles from my home. A chilling crime story.

Watch the promo trailer at the link below—-after an annoying commercial of course.

Details:

Program: Deadly Affairs

Episode Title: Swan Song

Air Date: August 23, 2014

Air Time: 9pm EDT/8pm CDT

Channel: Investigation Discovery (ID) 

Link to ID Show Schedule: http://www.investigationdiscovery.com/tv-shows/deadly-affairs/tv-schedule.htm

 
 

Manner of Death After 33 Years

JBrady

 

Recently, James Brady died. He had received a serious head wound during John Hinckley’s failed assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. That was 1981. Now, over three-decades after that event, Brady’s recent death has been deemed a homicide. At Hinckley’s hand.

His death could result in murder charges against Hinckley. After 33 years? How is that possible?

There are five manners of death: natural, accidental, suicidal, homicidal, and undetermined—-the waste basket into which deaths that can’t be confidently attributed to one of the other four categories. The Virginia ME determined that the gunshot to the head that Brady received began a cascade of medical issues that ultimately led to his death and thus he was the victim of a homicide. This might seem odd but it’s really not all that uncommon. Whether prosecutors will file charges and take on such a difficult to prove case remains to be seen.

I blogged on this very subject back on 5-5-11.

For a more detailed discussion of the cause and manner of death check out my book Howdunnit: Forensics.

 

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