Alleged Mobster Whitey Bulger Trial Loaded With Forensic Dental Testimony

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I have reviewed the Whitey Bulger story in detail and find it fascinating. It reminds me of several gang type cases we have worked involving murders similar to this. The practice of extracting human teeth, decapitating the victim, or cutting their hands off to hide fingerprints of the decedent has been noticed in many cases over the years. The idea evidently originates from the premise that the murderer has read so much or watched so many ‘true crime’ type television programs, that they act out that behavior in the actual murder.

Unfortunately, they did not get the entire picture when watching that tv show. There are many other oral structures to compare in the mouth of a decedent that still exist; that can be used as points of comparison, even if the natural teeth have been surgically, or forcibly removed.

We have had cases where the murderer went to similar extreme measures to disguise or make it difficult to identify the body. A male body was found in middle Tennessee a few years ago decapitated, and with both hands cut off. The rationalization, evidently, was that with no head, you have no teeth for identification. You remove the hands and you have no fingerprints. DNA is the third method used for identification now. It is not possible for the murderer to remove DNA completely from the body; a sample can be obtained from any remaining tissue.

 About 10 years ago, another case with a similar background as the Bulger case involved a drug deal gone bad, resulting in the murder of a male individual. His burned body was discovered in the back of a pickup truck outside Livingston, Tennessee. After radiographing the charred corpse, we were able to see numerous shotgun residue throughout the skull, that could have been easily overlooked outside of a detailed forensic exam. This, of course, led crime scene investigators to consider foul play in this death.

There had been extensive restorative dental restorations performed on the decedent, giving us numerous 'points of comparison or ID markers'. When we obtained the antemortem (before death) dental xrays) and compared with the postmortem (after death) material, it was a case that took only a few hours to match the numerous markers confirming the identity.

Interestingly enough, the immediate family, when told of the death and identity confirmation of the decedent, became skeptical about the validity of the forensic identification process. The family attorney requested additional study to confirm the accuracy of the dental record comparison. They had seen on a tv show where an individual's body had had identical dental work done by a fraudulently participating dentist, who allegedly could have maliciously placed crowns, fillings, implants and root canals in the mouth of this decedent to 'stage' a situation where the individual would look like another one during the forensic dental exam.

An interesting way to 'stage' someone's death. And we wonder where on earth sick people get these ideas. FROM TELEVISION! That is the same television that leads you to believe that a DNA read can be performed in the same amount of time it takes to sell a 30 second spot for Crest toothpaste! It simply doesn’t happen that fast. How about 4-6 weeks?!

We further explained and demonstrated to the family attorney, that several different other radiographic landmarks surrounding the teeth, such as bone texture and anatomical landmarks( that would have been impossible to reproduce) had been compared and shown to be identical in comparing antemortem to postmortem records/xrays. The family reluctantly agreed to the accuracy of the dental records.

It is truly a strange world we live in!