Thursday, July 28, 2005

7/28/05 WARNING: GRAPHIC/DISTURBING

9:16 a.m. So, I'm working in Atlanta for the next couple of days. Atlanta is hot. Very hot. And they have interesting billboards that say things like "Call 888-MYCOLON". Which I obediently call. A lady answers. I say, "Hello, is this my colon I'm speaking to?" I giggle and hang up.

But Atlanta has more to offer then amusing billboards. Oh, yes. Outside of the local KFC they have a giant chicken replete with moving beak and googly rolling eyes. I must get a picture of that...

Last night I went to dinner with two of the bloglit that live here, Tamara and ATLGA. ATLGA and I kept trying to find Tamara a date but whenever I would grab her arm and present her to an eligible bachelor, saying, "This is my friend, Tamara. She needs a man immediately and we think you might be him," she would turn all sorts of colors and walk away. I don't know how she expects me to hook her up if she doesn't cooperate...

Anyway, on to another topic...

I probably shouldn't admit this, (not that that has ever stopped me before) but I learned a couple of interesting forensics techniques from watching the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel.

For example, we had a case called into the ME's office. A man had passed away in his house. It was summer. Very dry inside because the air conditioner was on. Sadly, this guy wasn't missed by anybody for three months after he'd died. He had no family or friends in the area and when his mail started overflowing a neighbor realized he hadn't seen "Joe" out for a long time. He called the cops and we got the case a short time later.

There is very little furniture in the house. Just a couple of chairs, a television, a bed. The victim is face down on the floor next to one of the chairs. Sadly, he had a momma chihuahua who had a litter of puppies not long before their master died. The man and his pets are all perfectly mummified. I am there with Det. Blue. (I always seem to end up with him as the lead on my cases.) "Look at all the little Chalupa dogs all over the place! Yo quiro Taco Bell!" I ignore him because I love dogs and that just sucks. They could have eaten their master, but they didn't. Instead, they starved to death.

I get some scene photographs and Dwight loads the body into his truck. We meet back at the MEO and I am checking the decedent in. The process entails making a toe tag, fingerprinting, removing valuables and checking them into evidence, filling out lots of paperwork and placing the body in the cooler to await autopsy.

Fingerprints are very important in a case like this. We need a positive ID. I could try to get dental x-rays, but that could take several days. Obviously, a visual identification is out of the question. I look at the fingers. They resemble wrinkled up raisins. But then I remember something. I was just watching on television last night about a way to get prints off a mummy. I go in the autopsy suite and grab two white towels. I drench them in water and bring them back out. I wrap each hand in a towel. Several hours later, I remove the towels. I go back in the autopsy suite and grab a syringe. I fill it with dish soap. I return to the body and inject the dish soap (which is viscous, so won't flow back out the puncture mark) under the pads of the fingers. Sure enough, they plump up nicely and I am able to roll perfect prints. Wadda ya know.

There is another way to get prints off a decomposing body that is not dry. It's a method called "gloving". I have a strong stomach, but this one was always tough for me.

In these cases, the body is mooshy after several days of decomposing. The skin is slipping on the fingertips and the tissue underneath is practically liquefied. It is virtually impossible to pull a print. So, what you do is cut around the bottom of the first knuckle. The skin will then slip off from the flesh below very easily since everything underneath is mush. At that point, you place your gloved finger inside the dead guy's finger skin...like it's a glove. You take a print from that. Gag. It works, but it is just so nasty.

9 comments:

Leetie said...

Ah, the big chicken! JU lived right around the corner.

Dave said...

oh god no slipping the dead skin on ahhhh glove or not it's just ucky ucky. Very interesting story as always Polly I feel bad for the little dogs though poor things.

Brat said...

I knew the CSI shows have at least some basis in reality. Time compressed and unlimited budget reality, but reality.

A rerun of CSI had Marg Helgenberger gloving the whole hand. Way bad yuck. The first nuckle technique makes a lot more sense.

Aren't you glad Det. Blue wasn't there to add his "commentary" to that procedure?

Det. Blue - "Oh, Oh, I can't believe that vic just gave you the finger."

Reminds me of a friend in med school that talked about some of the crude posing they did to cadavers. But that's another story...

Anonymous said...

"Now I don't need to take my appetite suppresant."

Olga said...

I remember that CSI episode. I think Grissom has had to "glove" a few times as well over the years.

Poor puppies. Is it bad that I almost feel worse for them than I do for the deceased?

Marie said...

No, Olga. I felt wose about the dogs than about the guy, too. Having had dogs all my life, I can just imagine how they whined at the man's body for a long, long time. :-(

Marie said...

Mental note: proofread before posting.

jane said...

hey - you're not too far away from me again, although this time on the opposite coast. let me know if you're going to be headed southeast of atlanta (although i can't imagine there's much insurance fraud in Waycross, GA. can you believe my mom moved from lake city to waycross? sigh.) anyhow, let me know if you'll be down this way, and we can meet up. you know, chat without those cumbersome guys :-)

Larry said...

Polly, I don't think I've written a suck-up post for a week or so, but I still love this blog with all my heart.