The first few years of experience I gained in the field was filled with memories of sights, smells and facts that would cause many sleepless nights. I had not expected the learning curve to be quite so steep. There were more than a few occasions where I wondered if I was taking this new ‘hobby’ a little too far. It did seem that I was providing a really needed service for the medical examiner and the families of the victims. Slowly, my tolerance to the material I examined became more manageable.Read More
I was asked recently to serve on a panel at the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, also known as Sleuthfest 2014. While there, I was invited to serve on a panel called Forensic Solutions in Fiction. The panel consisted of two police officers, a CSI laboratory specialist, and a forensic odontologist, all of who are now also fiction true crime writers.
We fielded questions about the accuracy of CSI type programs, real life forensic situations, and how we all take our true experiences and incorporate them into our fiction writing. Pretty interesting discussion!
Below is the audio recording of the panel discussion. What TV crime shows and movies do you enjoy, and how do they stack up against what we talk about here? Will our discussion affect how you watch crime dramas? Please use the comments below to let me know.Read More
Hey guys! We just returned week before last from the American Academy of Forensic Science meeting, this year in Seattle. We had a great meeting, and had the opportunity to debut Walk of Death to over 200 forensic odontologists from all across the United States and the world. The presentation was most successful. While in Seattle, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Tom Nogushi, affectionately known as the "medical examiner to the stars."
Dr. Nogushi served for almost 20 years in the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office and performed autopsies for many of Hollywood's famous residents. Some of his more notable autopsies were performed on celebrities like John Belushi, Janis Joplin, Sharon Tate, Robert F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe. What a wonderfully delightful gentleman, still willing and hungry to share and teach to all who are interested. He is still a very active and spry 87 years old.
I am proud to have been able to have met Dr. Nogushi, one of the most famous individuals in the field of forensic science!Read More
In the spring of 1983, I began to assist the newly appointed state medical examiner with the identification of a “John Doe”, whose body had been pulled from the murky waters of the Cumberland River, here in Nashville, Tennessee. The badly decomposed body was bloated, discolored and bore an odor that would choke most. Visual identification would be impossible. Fortunately, the decedent bore a mouthful of expensive gold inlays in his molars that would uniquely differentiate him from any other person. That was my baptism in the world of forensic identification.Read More
I found some more pix we took recently on our trip back to the Body Farm in Knoxville. Opening the gate to the world famous BODY FARM is Dr. Murray Marks, alias Dr. Stanley Gowen in WALK OF DEATH. Those of you who have read the book will remember that he is the one that Dr. Chris Walsh worked together with on the ten year journey to identify the body of Cody Britton.Read More
Yesterday I had the opportunity to go back and do some forensic business at 'The Body Farm' at the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus. It brought back some memories of our work there with Dr. Murray Marks (aka Dr. Stanley Gowen in Walk of Death). Thought you might enjoy seeing the actual laboratory where Dr. Chris Walsh and Dr. Gowen did their research on the identification of the body of Cody Britton.
Writing a true crime novel has been a dream for quite some time, so to have WALK OF DEATH out there for the world to read is an amazing experience. The creative process of writing this book was an entirely new adventure for me, and one that I greatly enjoyed! I'm currently working on the next book and next week we will talk more about the writing process and maybe a hint of what you can expect from the new book. Hope you will join us!Read More
Have you ever watched a movie where they flash a “based on real events” notice at the very beginning? I don’t know about you, but when I see that I think, “Hmmm, what is real and what is fictional?” When something is “based on real events” you know that the story or movie is built around a true event with a chunk of fiction weaved throughout. It’s cool to know that this event actually happened, but the details are very interesting and we want to know what is true and what is made up.
In my line of work as a forensic scientist, details are important so I come by that general wondering honestly! But this week we will get into more detail regarding the story behind WALK OF DEATH to let you in behind the scenes. So first this question: Why was this particular case chosen to be the topic for my first novel?Read More
Fresh starts are good. Everyone needs them and we are so happy to welcome another fresh start with a new year. Turning the page over to a nice, clean canvas that is waiting to be filled. We’re thrilled you are here with us to make some new discoveries this coming year!Read More
For those of you who know me (and those who will get to know me through my book, blog, and website) you know that my beautiful wife, Karen, plays an integral role in my life and work. She holds a unique and interesting perspective of what goes on in the life of a forensic scientist. So I thought I would hand the reigns of the blog over to her this week to share what it’s like to be married to a forensic scientist.
If a body is examined and there are no immediate clues as to who this person might be, our first step at the Medical Examiner’s Office is to do a complete dental examination and xray of every tooth. It basically consists of a similar exam you are getting from your family dentist. Clinical notations are made if there are signs of malocclusion (incorrect fitting of the lower jaw to the upper jaw), unusual shading of the teeth or gums, or any other clinical notes that might describe identifiable characteristics. Detection of periodontal disease might be another example of information that could be obtained from the handwritten clinical notes.Read More
The accuracy of forensic dental identification is without question. With their being 32 natural teeth in the adult human (counting wisdom teeth), and with each tooth having 5 separate sides, the number of possibilities of fillings on each of the surfaces of every tooth is practically unlimited. That fact, plus the durability of the human tooth to withstand fire, heat, cold, and time makes it a valuable piece of evidence that seemingly will not go away.Read More
If not the signature of a serial killer, then what might it be? Is it so randomly possible that two accident scenes could coincidentally show up and be discovered at the exact same moment? What are the odds that two totally unrelated incidences could end up so close together? Not very likely, in my opinion. What conclusion would you draw?Read More
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, another CSI mystery splashes across the wire services of the United States. If you haven’t followed this story, get ready for a shocker! This is another one that is so strange, you just couldn’t make it up.Read More
Every day, victims of crimes and accidents enter Medical Examiner’s Offices across the country. In most instances, the identification of these victims are made quickly and routinely. But in some cases, the identity of the victim is a complete unknown. There are numerous circumstances that leave authorities with little or no evidence to aid in the identification of unknown victims.
If you’ve watched television in the past decade, you’ve encountered a program that deals with, or describes crime scene investigation, (CSI), and/or forensics. You’ve probably watched how effortlessly your favorite television character cracks the case with speed, perfection and the ability to sniff out even the most minute clues. Unfortunately, that’s entertainment – it’s not real life.Read More
In 1977, Ted Bundy became the first person in the United States to be found guilty of a capital offense and sentenced to death where all evidence was circumstantial except a bitemark left on the buttocks of his last victim. She was a student at Florida State University who lived in the Chi Omega house, where she was murdered. He was finally executed in 1988, having exhausted all appeals.Read More
As we wake up for the 13th consecutive year on a hot and muggy September 11, our minds reflect in awe of that horrific morning where our world was changed forever. As we pray for the surviving families of the victims, we know we can never fully realize the magnitude of their loss.