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Home >Online Support Ask The Experts > Dr. Harry Bonnell

Dr. Harry Bonnell (Forensic Pathologist)

My 3 year old granddaughter was murdered and the medical examiner's office will not tell my daughter the cause of death. Doesn't she have a right to know what killed her daughter?

The laws vary from state to state but in general, information is not released until (1) the pathologist has completed his/her autopsy report, to include microscopic examination and possible dating of the injury (2) any toxicology testing is completed (3) the death certificate has been signed with a cause of death filled in (4) police and prosecutor have no objection to release of this information.

Police/prosecutor may request the report, and all findings, be sealed from public access if they feel that release of the information may interfere with their investigation, i.e.. there are things only the murderer would know if kept from public release. Prosecutors may try to keep the information sealed until trial if they feel that release of the information would prejudice a jury pool. However, since most of the evidence must be turned over to the defense as part of "discovery", this usually doesn't work.

Although we hate to even think of it, it may be possible that the mother is suspect - perhaps not a suspect in the murder but if there were previous injuries that the mother knew about but failed to protect the child, she is liable for prosecution on other charges besides murder.

The Medical Examiner's office is not trying to be mean or aggravate the suffering you are undergoing, but inappropriate or early release of information may hinder, or even prevent, successful prosecution.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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How Can I Obtain or Even Just See My Daughter's "Scene" Photos?

The Medical Examiner/Coroner MAY have some scene photos if that particular office actually sends an investigator to the scene. Many offices do not. Usually the crime scene photos are taken by the police. If they forward the case to the District Attorney/Prosecutor in order to have charges filed against the suspect(s), then copies of the pictures are provided to the DA/prosecutor; and eventually, the defense attorney. The police will usually NOT allow the photos to be shown to anyone during the investigation process and usually the DA will not show the pictures until the trial is completed; especially if the photos will be used at trial or the person wanting to see the photos is a potential witness for the trial. If the trial has been completed, contact the DA, or police. If there is no suspect and the case is older, ask the police and they may show you the photos. But if you, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW, is a suspect, the police will not show you the photos lest you accidentally release information seen in them.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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What is the Process in Having a Body Exhumed?

The Law:
Laws regarding exhumations vary from state to state. In some states, you must obtain permission of the next-of-kin prior to exhuming human remains; in others a court order is required.

First Steps:
Your initial steps should be to contact a funeral home, or the cemetery where the remains have been interred, and find out what the laws in that state are. A second step is to have someone review what you already know about the death to see if an exhumation has any chance of being worthwhile. Thirdly, if you hope to establish the death as a homicide, contact the prosecutor or District Attorney with jurisdiction to determine whether or not they will agree to prosecute the case.

Costs:
You will need to pay for the exhumation process, transporting the coffin and remains to and from the examining facility, the cost of the examination, and the cost of re-interment. Expect this to cost several thousand dollars minimum. Any testing for drugs or poisons will cost additional. Most everybody will require payment in advance.

Timing:
The actual exhumation will probably take place at dawn so that the transporting, examination and reburial might be accomplished within one day; however, do not permit reburial if the questions that need to be answered have not been answered.

Personnel:
The personnel doing the exhumation must be aware of the care/gentleness that may be required to prevent damage to the remains. Wooden caskets may not remain intact during the removal. The pathologist doing the exhumation autopsy must be experienced; hospital pathologists have no experience with exhumed remains; a board-certified forensic pathologist should be contacted.

Findings/Expectations:
There is no way to predict the condition of the remains although generally cold/frozen ground preserves better and wet/moist ground preserves poorly. Bone injuries such as fractures, bullet injury, etc. are usually well-preserved; soft tissue injuries, such as bruises, lacerations, stab wounds, etc. are usually poorly preserved. Poisonings are difficult to prove unless the poison is a heavy metal (arsenic, lead, etc.) or something that does not decompose easily such as petroleum products. Frequently, a soil sample, from the same level as the buried coffin, is required because arsenic, lead, etc. are also found in nature.

Summary:
Most exhumation examinations yield little new information if an adequate autopsy was performed initially. If no autopsy was performed, exhumation may demonstrate findings worth the expense involved.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I would like to know how long it takes to get DNA results returned from hair. My daughter had hair under her fingernails after she was murdered. I was told initially that results would be back in 3 to 5 weeks. It has been 3 mos. now and it still isn't back. I fear it has been lost. Thank You.

If the law enforcement agency has their own DNA lab, the results should be available within four weeks; if they have to send it out to a private lab, probably twice as long. However, in order to recover DNA from the hair sample, there MUST be the hair root present with intact cells. If only hair is present, then there is no DNA present. That is why hair samples used for comparison purposes(i.e.. race determination, etc.) can be combed or cut. But if the hair sample is for DNA analysis, it must be plucked or pulled so as to pull the hair out with its root intact. So if the hair under the nails has roots, it is usable. If no roots, then no DNA analysis is possible.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am waiting for the DNA report in Ft. Myers, Fl. The evidence was sent to Tallahassee the first part of August. Is there any way I can get it moving? I'm getting so impatient. The evidence was hair and flesh under my daughter's fingernails. What can the detectives hope to learn about the perpetrator from this?

The best way to get faster action from a government agency is to go to the media. I expect that by "Tallahassee", you mean the state crime lab. What can be expected from DNA analysis of hair and flesh under her fingernails is this. If it is not hers, then the material presumable came from her attacker. If a suspect is arrested, or the police get a court order, they can obtain a specimen (usually blood) from the suspect and compare the suspects DNA to that of the material found under her fingernails. There are also data banks which have records of the DNA of known sex offenders so the results on the material from your daughter can be compared to the records in the data banks.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I live in New Hampshire, my son was visiting Chicago this summer and was murdered by a gunshot to the head on 8/9/99. My question is...the minute I got the phone call from the hospital, I told them I was taking the first flight out.... before my plane had even landed -- they had sent my son to the morgue and did an autopsy. He was only 17 years old. I did not want an autopsy performed. It was obvious that he died from a gunshot wound to the head. Which is what they told me. Also, I wanted to donate all his organs and couldn't because they had already done the autopsy. Who gave them the right? They knew I was on my way in from New Hampshire.

Did they have the right to make those decisions for me?

If the doctors had been able to keep your son alive long enough for you to get there, or to get your permission to make him an organ donor, BELIEVE ME they would have. Unfortunately, some head wounds are so devastating that even with respirators and drugs, they cannot keep the patient alive long enough to become a donor. Since his death was a homicide, the Medical Examiner does have jurisdiction over his remains and does have the authority to order an autopsy. In a case like this, where the cause of death appears obvious, the purpose of the autopsy is to document and recover - not just determine the cause of death. The purpose is to have as good a case as possible when the perpetrator comes to trial. If the bullet is still in the body, it needs to be recovered to compare it with any gun the police recover to determine if a certain gun was used; especially if a gun is found when the perpetrator is arrested. If the bullet passed through the body, it is necessary to document-beyond a reasonable doubt, the direction the bullet went; i.e., was he shot in the back of the head or did it enter the front. Surgeons and trauma doctors are notoriously inaccurate in judging this. It is necessary to recover samples for testing for drugs because one of the most common defenses is self-defense and if the perpetrator says "he was acting like a wild man, he must have been on drugs". I shot him in self-defense and panicked. The prosecutor needs to be able to disprove that by drug studies.

In most states(Tennessee is an exception for example), the only way the next-of-kin can object to an autopsy is based on the religious beliefs of the DECEASED; i.e.. if mom and dad are orthodox Jewish but son hasn't been to temple in decades, mom and dad cannot object to autopsy on son. The Medical Examiner can ignore that request if the death is suspicious, yet many will also allow the family to try to get a court order to prevent the autopsy. But if the death is suspicious, no sane judge would issue such a court order because spouses who kill spouses would all object to autopsy.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Am I Entitled to a Copy of the Autopsy Report?

As far as getting a copy of the autopsy report or other reports from a Medical Examiner's office, it depends on the laws of the states. Most states have a "sunshine law" where the records are public documents; however, if the homicide is not solved and the perpetrator convicted yet, the police or prosecutor may get the file "sealed" until trial. Sometimes it is easier to work with the prosecutor or detectives than the Medical Examiner because the Medical Examiner usually cannot stay current on what's going on in any particular investigation because there are always more cases coming through the door.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered. He was shot in the top part of the back. The bullet came out the lower part of the left lung. I want to know why they had to do an autopsy and what it consisted of. I noticed they cut into the back of his head. WHY?? Was that really necessary? I don't understand the medical terminology of the autopsy so please use words I can understand.

The reason an autopsy was performed was because it was a homicide and when/if the case comes to trial, the prosecutor must prove that the only possible cause of death was the gunshot wound and nothing else caused/contributed to his death. Defense examples: Yes he was shot but he was high on drugs and that's why he really died. Yes he was shot but if his heart wasn't so bad, he would have survived, etc. etc.

I cannot answer what this particular autopsy consisted of without seeing the autopsy report, which I am willing to do if you want to forward it to POMC's Second Opinion Services .

The reason for cutting the back of the head is that this is the approach used to remove/examine the brain and still have the incision covered by a pillow if the body is to be viewed.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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If an investigator tells me he has ordered all possible tests done on garbage bag that my daughters' skeletal remains were found in,what kind of tests would they be and how can they say that they thing she was strangled?

Most likely they examined the bag for fingerprints; if there was any fluid on the bag, they might swab that as a potential source for DNA. They would also have looked for any foreign particles such as hair not belonging to your daughter, etc.

If all they have is bones, I have no idea how they came to the conclusion that she was strangled except to "think/guess" that because there is no trauma to the bones.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Are autopsies always done in cases of homicide? Are autopsy reports public records?

There is no simple answer to either of these simple questions!!!! In almost all modern forensic settings, an autopsy will be performed on a homicide victim. The purpose is to independently document the injuries, recover any bullets/metal fragments/trace evidence from inside or outside the body, obtain body samples for toxicology testing, and guarantee that there is no other cause of death than the homicide. This is ALL in preparation for trial and smokescreens blown by defendants and their attorneys. Eg, It wasn't my gun that shot the fatal bullet. He was high on drugs and I did it in self-defense. Yes I hit him in the head but it wasn't a lethal blow - he must have had a heart attack, etc. Sometimes a delayed homicide will not be autopsied, particularly if the suspect has already been tried on assault charges. EG, a shaken baby suffers severe brain damage but doesn't die for three or four years.

Autopsy reports are not always public record; in some states, eg Washington, they are considered medical records and not public info. But in most states, eg California, they are public record available to anyone coming in and paying copying costs. The death certificate is always public record. The autopsy report may be "sealed" at the request of police or prosecutor in some states. In some states, photos are public record but in others, eg California, permission of next of kin must be obtained prior to releasing copies of them (except to police and attorneys in a criminal matter).

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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A man has been indicted for murder in the death of my grandson. However a problem arises. The doctor that did the autopsy was not skilled in trauma to children. She stated in a hearing that she used the Internet to try to come to a conclusion as to the cause of death. Which she concludes,pending investigation. Cause severe swelling of the brain. She couldn't determine if it was murder or accidental. The police feels he staged an accident, and under interrogation he changed his story. Says he pushed the child into a wall. Which the say is minimizing the incident. The case has yet to go to court. The DA got other doctors to view the autopsy that was originally performed. They both say it was no accident. However the DA feels due to the conflicting evidence that he stands a good chance of walking. If I could obtain the original autopsy report, would you look it over and give me your opinion? I need to know something for for my own satisfaction.

I would be happy to look at this case-POMC can get it to me. The key in this case appears to be convincing the autopsy pathologist that they are in over their head and that they will admit that to a jury. It's no disgrace to say you don't know.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Why would an autopsy report and a doctor's report have many, many differences?

There are several reasons why a doctor's report and an autopsy report may have many differences. The most obvious reason is that while medicine considers many types of tests e.g. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT scans (computerized tomography or x-ray) as the silver standard, the autopsy is the "gold" standard because it is all right before your eyes to be directly visualized.

So what may seem like nests of tumor on certain tests may turn out to be small abscesses at autopsy. An artery that appears only 50% blocked on imaging tests may actually be 90% blocked when seen with the naked eye, etc. If you have specifics on both reports, I could try to explain any real differences between the two as well as what may appear to be different but is just different terminology describing the same thing.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I would like to know how they go about retrieving hand prints from the body after the fact. Does it complicate things if it has been in the water for a short period of time? How much evidence can they retrieve from the body with it having been in the water? It was winter so there was some preservation and slowing down of things from what we were told. We also were told there was water in her sinuses. Would this be last body reflexes or could it be she was still alive when put in the water? She was stabbed and it hit the left ventricle if this helps on the question. Thank you.

The fact that a stab wound struck the left ventricle of the heart would indicate a rapid death and a rapid loss of consciousness, varying from a minute to several minutes depending upon the severity of the wound and presence/absence of other wounds. Water in the sinuses does not indicate life or death; the sinuses are simply empty air spaces in the skull which connect with the nose, etc and so water can come in and fill the air spaces and the air bubbles out. Being in water can wash away trace evidence under fingernails, in the hair, etc. How much is lost depends upon many things such as length of fingernails, length of hair, standing or rapidly moving water, etc. It is usually easy to get fingerprints and handprints after death, even if the skin is wrinkled. Most of the time the skin will flatten out; otherwise, one injects fluid under the skin to expand the wrinkles into a smooth surface.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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On a severely burned victim, would full-body X-rays be taken for identification and/or other possible causes of death? If the victim smoked marijuana within 48 hrs. of death, are there any circumstances that would cause the test results to be negative for marijuana? Would an intense fire which severely burned victim over 90% of body, mask/cover-up any wound/injury caused by a gunshot, blunt object, etc., that could be the actual cause of death?

Fire is the most common method used to cover up a homicide because it can destroy bullet entry wounds, stab wounds, and blunt impacts. There are a few cases where circumstances absolutely rule out any possibility of foul play such as a police-witnessed, single vehicle/single occupant crash into a fixed object and fire consumes the vehicle, etc. but otherwise most modern forensic facilities would:

Total body x-ray examination looking for foreign bodies (bullets, knife tips, shotgun pellets, explosive metal fragments, etc. as well as therapeutic metal devices such as screws and plates used during certain surgeries.
Complete autopsy which should identify any internal injury due to bullet wounds, stab wounds and blunt trauma, paying particular attention to the airway/trachea and lungs to see if there is evidence of smoke inhalation, ie. the decedent was still alive at the time of the fire.
Toxicology exam to document the presence of carbon monoxide, cyanide or other products of combustion as well as drugs of abuse or other medications which may have made the person incapacitated, i.e. drugged but not dead before the fire.
Obtain report of fire investigators before determining the manner of death as accident, suicide, homicide or undetermined.
After 48 hours, I would not expect to find marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol) in the blood of a burn victim. If a good urine sample is available, it should test positive although the degree of positivity will vary according to the amount inhaled 48 hrs previously.

Usually the only way to positively identify burn victims is through comparison of the remains with ante-mortem(while alive) dental records or x-ray films. Both methods require that you have some idea as to who the decedent is, i.e.. you must find the ante-mortem records. The shape of the frontal sinuses of the skull(forehead) are unique even in identical twins so an ante-mortem x-ray of the skull can be compared to the post-mortem x-ray. Surgical implants such as plates and screws can be compared as can the bone pattern or bone anomalies. Dental restorations, crowns, root canals, etc can be compared as well as dental x-rays. In addition, if the person had been reported missing and their dental records entered into a central repository, then a post-mortem exam results can be compared to the central registry; however, if the comparison to the central registry is negative, it is important to try again later since the decedent may not yet be reported missing at the time of the death.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son passed away in May 1999. He was found in the river after 3 days of being missing. He had been at a bachelor party. My questions are since he had been drinking and missing for 3 days, found on 4th day in river, would his blood test be correct? Also can they tell just by looking at someone that they drowned, when no autopsy was done? They said there was no need. Thank you for you time.

If he had been dead for three days, his alcohol level might be artificially high due to post-mortem fermentation. Also, a blood sample from the chest or neck may be artificially high from alcohol diffusing from the stomach and esophagus into the blood vessels.

Drowning is a diagnosis based on exclusion of other causes. There is no "sign" of drowning. Most drownings show the victim has inhaled or swallowed water, but some victims have their vocal cords spasm shut and keep out water. They die from asphyxia. An autopsy is mandatory to reach the diagnosis of drowning. In fresh water drowning, there are differences between the pulmonary artery and aorta, in addition, one looks for increased fluid in the lungs and in the chest cavity. Several other things are consistent with drowning when found. But, MOST IMPORTANTLY, other things must be ruled out such as a heart attack, stroke, blunt impact to head, other drugs, passing a kidney or gall stone can incapacitate someone who might fall in the water, etc. Also, one can get good samples for measuring alcohol or drugs. If the coroner/medical examiner ruled the death as a drowning without autopsy, they are remiss in their responsibilities. If they measured an alcohol level on a blood sample drown by a "blind" stick through the skin, the value is useless. They would have done better by sampling eye fluid.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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What I want to know is could a right-handed person use his left hand to shoot themselves on the right side of their head, and shouldn't gun powder residue be there on the fingers as well as the whole hand?

It is not that uncommon for people to use both hands to steady a gun when shooting themselves. In the scenario you describe, the right index finger and thumb would be in contact with the right side of the head, holding the muzzle of the gun. Since the muzzle of the gun is in contact with the skin, the gunpowder coming out the muzzle goes under the skin and into the deep tissues leaving only a little blood spray on the hand. The little finger of the right hand is also around the barrel of the gun, but further from the muzzle. The left hand is usually positioned with the thumb on the trigger and the palm of the hand curling over the top of the gun. Gunpowder residue gets on the left hand from the chamber when the gun is fired. If the gun is a revolver, there is a cylinder gap between the revolving portion of the gun (the part holding the bullets), and the barrel of the gun and expanding gunpowder residue will also leak out from here onto the palm. The direction of the bullet is consistent with this scenario.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Is it possible that the medical examiner had my son's casket sealed and would not allow me or anyone to see his body either because his body was considered evidence or be cause the state of decomposition that his body was a health hazard?

There would be no reason to seal a casket because the body is evidence; by this time, all evidence should have been removed and/or documented. It may have been sealed because of decomposition changes and slight health risk. When you are ready, you should approach your medical examiner and ask to see photos of your son. Suggest they start with the least offensive photo and proceed toward the most offensive with you stopping the process whenever you think you should. Be sure to bring someone else to drive you home safely.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My nephew was murdered in August of 1999. He was shot multiple times in the back. He was found approximately 24 hours after he was last seen alive. We do not have a date of death, the date is listed as the day they found him. The coroner's report has been sealed. The death certificate lists the cause as multiple gunshots at the hand of another. I thought that they would determine the time of death within a few hours. His body was very badly decomposed. We were not allowed to view his body or identify him. Is there anyway that an accelerant would cause such rapid deterioration? His hair we found in the ditch is very brittle and even scorched looking about 2 shades darker than the very blonde hair he had. Please help me find answers if you can?

Your description of the consistency and change in hair color are certainly consistent with exposure to fire. It could be the remains were exposed to an accelerant like gas or kerosene which would cause severe skin damage even without fire. If the police have ruled you out as suspects (I know that's a hard thought to accept at times) they may allow you to see their photos or the coroner's/Medical Examiner's. More and more offices are using the time found as time for death certificate purposes; the exact time of death is an estimate based on any information obtainable such as time last seen, stiffness, etc. As such, it is usually not put in any report as an absolute time but rather leaves the pathologist some leeway for interpretation if additional information comes along. Determination of time of death is one of the hardest things forensic pathologists face and the idea of narrowing it down exactly is seen only in Hollywood, movies and fiction.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered with a single gunshot wound to the back of the head. When I went to the medical examiner's office, I was only allowed to view his body on closed circuit TV. I was told it was to preserve evidence, however my son's murderer committed suicide after killing 7 people. Since there would not be a trial, why was I not allowed to hold my son one last time. I finally got to touch him 3 days later, after he had been embalmed. I don't know if it matters, but I don't believe an autopsy was done.

In a case like this, there really is no good reason why you shouldn't have been allowed to come in contact with your son. There are good reasons to not allow it if an autopsy will be done and if trace evidence might be important to gain a conviction; but that did not apply in this case. Somebody did not want to be bothered, or didn't think, and used standard operating procedure as an excuse rather than a reason. The funeral home could also have allowed you to hold your son before embalming him.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I would like to know what you would think of an autopsy that had the wrong height of the victim by 3 inches. A big difference when the victim in question was only 5'3". Also same victim weighed 22 lbs. more than he had 10 days earlier. This was also wrong. The same autopsy had same victim circumcised, when he had not been and said he had all his natural teeth when he had temporary caps on the upper front teeth. This can all be proven. I don't know who they did the autopsy on but it wasn't our son. There was a gash on his left ring finger, and a sizable wound on upper right section of his head that a lot of people saw at the funeral. We were told by the police not the Medical examiner this was done in the autopsy. We know the autopsy was not performed for at least 34 hours after death. We know what an incision or accident from an autopsy would look like. These two wounds had scabs on them. The wound on his finger was there 6 hours before his death because victim's mother helped him disinfect it with peroxide, yet there is no such wound on any of the crime scene photos. We have not seen autopsy pictures. The wound on victim's head was covered by his hair. Mother brushed his hair over because they had parted it on the wrong side and brought wound to many people's attention at funeral home. This wound coincided with the murder's story he had told a girl just a few days before. Two more things, the night of his death he was drinking Mountain Dew and took the bottle into his bedroom. He was murdered around 2 hours later, but yet there was no caffeine in his system? The last thing is that they have this victim with hair on his lower abdomen, he did not have hair on his abdomen.

In most offices, bodies are measured by technicians (cheap labor) and weighed "as received", i.e. with clothing/bedding, etc. Also, the weight of the cart on which the remains are placed are subtracted from the total weight recorded on the roll-on scale-all a perfect set-up for inaccuracy. I personally never describe whether the male is circumcised or not because whereas some circumcisions are generous and some are not, it's difficult to sometimes tell-also a young adult may get circumcised without telling his parents. The teeth may have been glossed over if attention was drawn elsewhere.

The finger wound and head wound are not those caused by an "accidental cut" during autopsy and I do not understand why they would not be present in scene photos. If he drank the mountain dew, I would expect him to test positive for caffeine in urine or blood.

If you feel (as I sense) that this was not your son, I would suggest positive ID be done by fingerprints if possible, by dental comparison if possible, or by DNA analysis using blood/tissue samples from the body and from the parents.

In summary, based on what you have told me, this was a sloppily done death investigation with poor performance by all concerned.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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What signs would point to death by suffocation?

There are no signs that point to suffocation. It is usually a diagnosis of exclusion of other causes of death at autopsy combined with a good scene investigation. Examples: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) vs. suffocation.

No cause of death at autopsy but infant laying against plastic bag containing laundry, or a 4-year-old sibling found laying asleep across mouth and nose of infant.

Piece of peanut butter sandwich or hot dog found obstructing the airway with no other cause of death at autopsy is another example.

Gagged, or mouth and nose taped closed when found dead and no other cause of death at autopsy is yet another example.

In addition to suffocation, other asphyxial deaths include chemical asphyxia (carbon monoxide), mechanical asphyxia (car jack collapses and compresses chest) as well as strangulation.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was shot 6/22/00 in the back of his head upper right side, the bullet came out the front top left side. We have been told he was shot with a 9mm. This information came from the preliminary autopsy report. We have been told that the final autopsy will not be back for 9 to 12 weeks and we may be able to read it but they are not sure if we can have a copy of it till the case is closed. My question is I need to know all the damage this would have caused. We had to have a closed casket. When we viewed his body at the funeral home I was in shock. I did not believe at first it was may son. He had no hair from the front of his head to the back of his ears. His forehead & eyes did not look anything like my son's. My other son had to take a picture and we compared from the middle of the nose to his chin when we realized that it was our beloved Joey. He also had stitches behind his right ear. Please advise of the damage the gunshot would cause as well as what would be done in the autopsy. Also looking up his nose you could see what appeared to be a steal rod. What was this for? The director at the funeral home did tell us they had do a lot of reconstruction. If it will help you any he was shot at 5:30 AM and was pronounced dead at 6:36 am, so resuscitation would have been less than 1 hour. I know these are questions that may seem morbid, but they have been haunting to me and my family, that this nice looking young man became unrecognizable after death. I did not see my son at the hospital, I was given a choice but the Dr. advised me at that time it would not look like him because of all the swelling and bruising, she did tell me that it would go away. I asked why his face was like that and was told partly because of the gunshot and the medicine and resuscitation. Thank you for any information you can provide.

Whenever you are able to get a copy of the autopsy report, I would be happy to give you more specific answers, but based on what you tell me, I'll do my best for now.

If the muzzle of the gun was pressed up against the back of the head, then not only the slug/bullet enters into the skull but also all the expanding gases which are propelling the bullet out the muzzle, follow the slug/bullet into the skull. These expanding gases have no place to go so they cause the skull and scalp to expand and split resulting in severe distortion of the head, to include the face and facial bones.

The shaving was probably done during the autopsy in order to get a "clean/clear" photograph of the bullet entry and/or exit wound as well as some of the damage. This is important because no judge would allow the jury to see a picture of the inside of the head so these external pictures are probably the only ones they will see.

Because of the massive damage, it was probably necessary to insert steel rods or other supports to recreate the roundness of the head and to support the facial structures. The stitches behind the right ear were probably also part of the reconstruction. In addition to the damage caused by the gunshot wound, the fluids given during resuscitation may also have caused swelling.

The only "blessing" of such a wound is that there is no conscious pain or suffering once the shot is fired.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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When my daughter was murdered she was approximately 2-4 weeks pregnant. The pathologist stated he could not do a DNA test on the embryo as it was too early, besides the fact the he put the tissue in a preservative which would also not allow testing to be done. The man who killed her did so because she refused to have an abortion, she was 15 - he 38. The defense argued that 1) you could not tell you were pregnant at such an early point - my daughter took two at-home early pregnancy tests which showed positive and 2) that even if the tissue had not been put in a preservative, DNA could not have shown he was the father at such an early stage. I would appreciate any information you could provide on this.

It would be difficult to do DNA testing but not impossible. The key is to be able to differentiate between fetal and maternal tissue. This is nearly impossible when an abortion is performed because the methodology used to do the abortion almost invariably mixes the two tissues together. At the age of 2 to 4 weeks, it would still be most difficult but it's worth a try at autopsy to try and remove the fetal tissue separate from the maternal tissue. If the pathologist has preserved tissue identified as fetal, it can be analyzed; we have analyzed sperm on a dried slide 18 years later!

It is necessary to do the fetal DNA analysis, then the maternal DNA analysis and then analysis of the suspected father to prove/disprove the parentage.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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A healthy young 16 year-old is found dead in her fathers apartment. The Sheriff detectives note a "white substance" in her nares. They have it tested and find "possible traces of cocaine and methamphetamine at traces too low for detection" (legal negative?) Blood toxicology nothing is negative for the usual drugs of abuse, OTC, etc. Bladder was empty so a urine sample could not be obtained. The lab tech who ran the test explained that cocaine and methamphetimes are "ubiquitous" so it gets to be a gray area. When I asked him if he could explain finding a slight amount of drug in her nose, but nothing in her system, he replied he would guess someone put it there after she died. I asked the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy if this could be considered a reasonable conclusion. He said no. (I don't get it????) Can you offer possible explanations to make sense of the low levels of drugs in the nose but not in her system? I don't understand how a drug residue large enough to be visible can register so low Even with this low level, how can it be in her nose and not absorbed into her blood. I believe the police assumed she died of an OD and were quite surprised when it came back negative. Too late, she was buried and not embalmed. We have photos, autopsy pictures, crimes scene pictures, and slides or organs. Her death is "undetermined" Little trauma. No eye or facial petechia. She did have a 4x4 inch subgaleal hemorrhage on crown of head with intraparechymal petechial hemorrhage of the brain. She had no drug history. She may have been the victim of a date rape 3 days prior to her death which was unreported until her body was discovered. No rape protocol was done (I don't get it???) This is probably more information than you need. I am requesting that our District Court hold a coroners inquest. Our District Attorney refuses to convene one. No investigation has been done after the first week of her death. She died three years ago. Her file is closed. I am a just a citizen who became involved to try and help the family get questions answered. The behavior and hostility of our officials is bizarre. Please provide insight on the drug issue if possible.

The presence of traces of methamphetamine and cocaine in the nostrils yet none in the blood is most unusual, especially since the material in the nose was visible. Since urine was not available, the pathologist should have saved kidney. There is a possibility that the nose sample testing is wrong or that the blood testing was done wrong or on the wrong sample. Nothing else makes much sense.

The presence of the subgaleal hemorrhage and pinpoint hemorrhages in the brain sounds awfully close to describing blunt impact to the brain with brain contusion/bruising.

With the history of ?? date rape 3 days previously, I would also consider testing for rohypnol and GHB. What was her blood alcohol level?

This case should be reviewed in its entirety by another forensic pathologist with an open mind and perhaps his/her opinion might be enough to spur the police to re-open the investigation although my experience is that there are more police who would rather NOT work than there are those who are willing to investigate fully.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Assuming Sir, that evidence i.e. clothing, was buried with the victim and not retrieved for about 20 years...the contents having almost totally liquified..can DNA be extracted from this "evidence" relating to the perpetrator still be extracted from said material? Thanks for your time and trouble.

I strongly doubt that any DNA could be retrieved, the decomposition would be too great by this time. I rarely say that anything is impossible but I truly feel this would be impossible. If the material had been in an above ground vault, maybe a remote, remote, remote possibility, but in this case, no chance. Sorry.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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The bodies of my family were discovered in their home, my sister and niece were shot once in the head, my brother-in-law 3 times. It was October in Arkansas. They had been dead 6 days as determined by decomposition. The last time seen alive, etc. My nephew was convicted of the crime. Among the typical questions any family would have, there is a strange one I can't seem to come to grip with (besides the usual why). The medical examiner asked a detective on the case if they had found a BBQ fork near the crime scene. It seems he had found three consecutive tiny puncture wounds in my sister's abdomen. We learned of this through the detective who was reluctant to tell us, but he was trying to find answers himself. The Medical Examiner told him he thought the wound was inflicted by my nephew, in order to prevent a gas build-up. He apparently planned on the bodies not being discovered for a while as they were supposed to be out of town. I thought it was due to gall bladder surgery. The Medical Examiner said no. We never heard anything else on this, it was so very strange. Could those puncture marks keep my sister from decomposing as quickly? He had also covered her body as opposed to his sister and step-father. He, (my nephew), read a lot of true crime and mysteries, is there any chance he had a basis for doing this, as the Medical Examiner thought?

He may have thought that the abdomen would not bloat if he had left puncture holes so the gas could escape. However, it would also make the smell more obvious. It would have no effect on the rate of decomposition.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son's death was caused by heroin. The people responsible for his death have stated that they injected him with heroin mixed with water. One person said they used a belt on his arm to raise a vain, and the other said she injected him with heroin mixed with water. The had been in a motel room, when they discovered that my son was unresponsive, they wrapped him in a blanket to hide him from motel management. The autopsy report did not indicate that there were any needle marks on his body, and the funeral director informed us that the medical examiner usually marks the area in question. No such marks were made on my son's body. The toxicology reports noted that his blood showed Carbon Monoxide at 1% sat. and morphine (free) at 0.09 mg/L. His urine showed codeine at 0.04 mg/L, morphine (free)at 0.41 mg/L, and 6-Mono-acetyl-morphine at 1.35 mg/L. His bile showed morphine at 21.1 mg/L and codeine at 0.28 mg/L. A nasal swab turned up negative. My question is: if heroin was injected into my son's arm, would such high levels show in his urine and bile? Also, in the report it states that my son had a history of drug abuse. How would he know that? My son was never treated for drug abuse, nor convicted of same. If it is only heresay, should it be shown on the medical report. Anything you can offer would greatly be appreciated.

If the history of drug abuse is hearsay and not able to be substantiated, it should not be included in a Medical Examiner/Coroner report nor in the opinion portion of any autopsy report.

It is normal to heat up heroin and water in a "cooker" because heroin does not dissolve well when cold. When injected into a vein, it quickly spreads throughout the body and is nearly immediately changed into morphine. Morphine is rapidly acted on in the liver and secreted into the bile as well as being filtered by the kidneys, so finding it in both is not surprising. The codeine is a contaminant of the heroin. The 6-mon-acetyl morphine confirms that the morphine came from heroin and not pure morphine.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Hi, I have a question for you regarding a case that took place in Crawford County, Meadville, PA on March 8, 1987. My father was shot with a .44 magnum in the abdomen. Two bullets were shot. The first one hit the wall and then the second one hit him. The coroner in Meadville said that it was a suicide, but the evidence shows that it was a homicide. I would really appreciate it if you could tell me what you think.

I would need more information than that provided. On the face of it, two shots with one missing would indicate homicide but maybe he fired the first shot into the wall to make sure the gun worked. Was the abdominal wound a contact wound or distant wound? etc etc. If you can retrieve the necessary information, it sounds like a case that could benefit from an SOS review.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My brother's body was cremated and a question regarding positive identification has arisen. My question is: Would an identification be possible from DNA from cremated human remains? Thank you.

No. DNA disintegrates rapidly with heat and the heat used to cremate exceeds 1200 degrees usually and even the bone fragments are usually ground up so all appears to be ashes. If, per chance, there's an old hair brush or tooth brush he once used-there may be enough hair roots or cells from the mouth.

How was the identification originally made??

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My loved one was murdered. She had been severely beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled both manually as well as with a ligature. The autopsy stated the cause of death was Strangulation with blunt force trauma to the chest as being a contributing factor. The hyoid bone was broken. My question is this? How much force does it take to break this hyoid bone? Is this common in death by strangulation? Can a person die by strangulation and this bone not be broken? Any information you can give will be greatly appreciated. Bless you for donating your knowledge and time.

The hyoid bone is a relatively fragile bone located just above the larynx or Adam's Apple. It is horseshoe shaped with the open part facing toward the back. At birth, it consists of three pieces, the center and two wings. In most people, the wings fuse to the center by the mid 20's to 30's but in some people, more commonly women, one or both of the wings may never fuse. The thickness of the bone is approximately half that of a pencil so it does not take much force to break it, but the force has to be applied focally such as in manual strangulation. In ligature strangulation, where the force is spread out over the entire ligature, the bone is rarely, if ever, broken. It is rarely broken in hangins. If the bone has not fused, it obviously cannot fracture but if pressure is applied and the "unfused" joint is stretched, the pathologist may see an area of bleeding there.

If the person is strangled below that level, i.e. at the larynx or below, the hyoid bone will not be traumatized.

On rare occasions, the hyoid bone can be fractured during a fall or blow to the throat, but there are other findings that would indicate this was not a strangulation.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My father was murdered in Uganda, East Africa in 1971. His body was never found. An eyewitness showed me in 1997, the location where his body and another man's was buried. His body may have been partially burned within a day or so of his murder, at the time of his burial. He was not buried in a coffin. If we were to go back today and attempt to find his body or remains, would there be enough bones or remains to identify him? Or would it be pointless? Note: he did have quite a bit of dental work, possibly even a gold filled molar. Also, I have noticed that often in murder cases where the bodies have not been found, eyewitnesses who may have been a party to the killing claim that "the bodies were burned and the bone fragments were then thrown into a river or body of water." The people who were there when my father was killed originally said that. When I spoke with them twenty years later, they said that really wasn't true. They showed me where to dig to find some body parts that were not burned and scattered.My question is: Isn't that "burning the bodies and throwing the remains in the water," a very common explanation murderers to use to dissuade anyone from searching for the bodies? I have heard the exact same scenario recited in cases other than my father's. People who may be implicated don't want the bodies found so they concoct a scenario that conveys that any search for the bodies would be pointless. On the other hand, maybe murderers really do often go to such elaborate lengths to destroy the evidence. Your advice would be appreciated greatly.

Burning is the most common means used to cover up a murder; however it requires extremely high temperatures (1000-1200 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than two hours to "cremate" remains. The odds are that you will find sufficient bone with enough recoverable DNA in the bone marrow to make a positive identification using your own DNA as a son. Also, if his dental records are still available, comparison could be made with a skull, jawbone, or portions of the upper or lower jaw.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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This may seem like a strange question, but it is more about suspicious circumstances. The person in question was officially listed as cause of death "cerebral hemmorrhage". This was determined by spinal tap, not autopsy. The person was female, 45 yrs old, non-smoker, non-drinker and concerned about health. This person canned their own vegetables to avoid additives that could be carcinogous. Anyway, the question is, is there a drug that health professionals might have access to that is used to induce cerebral hemmorrage to kill off inconvenient spouses? My pharmacology professor mentioned something years ago and said doctors often used to it murder their wives. The incident is 20 years old, but still bothers me. I know there would not be any evidence at this point, it is more a question of information. Thank you for your consideration.

First, a spinal tap alone is not enought to diagnose cerebral hemorrhage; Frequently a blood vessel is nicked during a spinal tap (so called bloody tap) so that you get blood mixed in with the fluid.

Second. I know of no drug that will cause this. One can give somebody coumadin/warfarin which is also found in rat poison; it prevents blood clotting but it does not initiate a cerebral bleed. You still need an initial cause to bleed.

Third. There are other drugs out there that can kill people and are difficult to find at autopsy but I don't advertise them.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My friend of almost 25 years recently committed "suicide" with a .38 caliber rossi owned by his live in girlfriend. Witnesses saw them fighting that night. The forensic report now states there is NO evidence of gunpowder on either of his hands/arms. Also no "back splatter". Doesn't this mean he did NOT shoot himself?

To make a best opinion, I would need to see the autopsy report, police report, and any photos available. A high quality revolver may yield so little "cylinder leak" that residue does not get on the hands/arms. The test may be negative if a certain test is used on a certain type of gunpowder. Automatic pistols release very little residue. A light contact gunshot wound to the head may backsplatter onto the muzzle but not the hands/arms.

The absence of residue increases the suspicion level but is not unheard of.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My questions concern the death of my grandfather that took place in 1954. It has always been rumored that he was beaten to death, and we are attempting to have the case reopened and investigated. His death certificate states the cause of death as cerebral vascular hemmorhage. Antecedent causes are listed respiratory failure, congestion of lungs and interstitial fibrosis. Other significant causes listed are granular liver cells. I understand that this hemmorhage could have been caused by a stroke, though my grandfather were only 39 years old at the time and was in good health . He was a coal miner and I am aware that this may have caused some lung damage. From this death certificate and its apparent causes, is it possible that he were in fact beaten? Could the hemmorhage and respiratory failure have resulted from that type of injury? The certificate also states that the time between onset and death was 1-2 hours.(Medical assistance wasn't called) Would he have had symptoms during that time? Also, after so many years, would exhumation and another autopsy perhaps resolve this issue once and for all? I realize that this is an old case, but my father cannot find closure in this matter and is really searching for answers. Thanks so much.

The respiratory failure and interstitial fibrosis of the lungs are due to the work as a coal miner.

The cerebral vascular hemorrhage is much, much, much more likely due to trauma than to a stroke, especially in a 39-year-old. I am presuming an autopsy was performed, but in 1954 it's possible the death certificate was completed without an autopsy. Also in 1954 the pathologist performing the autopsy might not have been trained to differentiate between traumatic bleeds and natural bleeds. Symptoms in the 1-2 hours would be gradual loss of consciousness, slurred speech, etc. The only finding that could be possibly seen at exhumation this late would be a skull fracture indicating that it was, in fact, a traumatic bleed and not a natural bleed. However, if an autopsy was performed in 1954, I doubt they would have missed a fracture.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son died on May 21, 2001, and although the cause of death has not yet been determined, we were initially told it was a suicide by the examiner that went into his apartment and found him. I have since spoken with the medical examiner who performed the autopsy (why perform an autopsy if they thought it was suicide?) that there was very little physical evidence and they had done a toxicology that will take approx. two more months to get back. She went on to tell me that there was fluid in his lungs and his stomach was full of dissolved fluid that appreared grainy. The only real thing they had to go on that it was a possible suicide was a suicide message left on his cell phone that they did not recovere, we had to take it in to them after the funeral, and some empty prescription bottles (not his) and beer cans (if there was any liquor at all, they did not say). The only other drug they found was less than an once of pot. My son was not a junkie or drug addict of any kind. He drank, a bit too much, but that was the extent of his use of "drugs". I noticed a knot on the right side of his neck after the funeral (we took pictures at the funeral and had them developed) that looked strange to me. When the M.E. was asked about this they said that because they had done a head to toe autopsy, the body sometimes bruises and knots up afterwards or maybe the funeral director used too much packing. The M.E. said there were no unidentified puncture wounds found on my son and that they may have overlooked any needle marks. My question is why would there be fluid in his lungs? I do not believe that my son committed suicide, and I believe that because the original M.E. that went into his apartment and found it to be "A typical apartment of a person with a serious substance abuse problem.", her words not mine, that they overlooked a lot of evidence, including but not limited to the cell phone behind the couch in his living room which we later discovered had 84 missed calls registered on his phone with one call having been completed at 3:14 am. I am very disturbed by all of this and need some answers to the many, many questions that have arisen since my sons' death. He was only 22 and had no health problems at all. That much they were able to tell me. We have asked for a blood sample so that we can take it to a private lab in Nashville, TN. I don't trust the Medical Examiners office in Dallas at all. Any advice or help that you can give us would be greatly appreciated.

It is routine in most jurisdictions to perform an autopsy on a suicide or suspected suicide since these are deaths due to unnatural causes. Fluid in the lungs is commonly seen on overdoses but can be seen in other situations as well - the "grainy fluid" in the stomach may be due to particles of dissolving pills.

I have never heard of a knot in the neck developing from an autopsy, however, that is a common site for an embalmer to make an incision, find the blood vessels, and inject the embalming solution. A poorly sewn-up incision or too much packing to prevent seepage might appear to be a knot.

I would ask the Dallas office NOW to safeguard ALL toxicology specimens for analysis by a second lab. Then when the toxicology tests come back and Dallas completes their records, you can then get a second opinion if you still want to.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Thank you for your reply. Many more things have come up since I sent you this email that are more disturbing if that is at all possible. I went to Dallas last week to look at the pictures of the crime scene. The one and only picture that the detective allowed me to look at of my son was extremely disturbing due to the position that he was found in. I have talked to a forensic examiner here who said that the position a body is found in tells them alot about rather it was suicide or murder. The picture was taken from the hallway into the bedroom so, I could not see his face, which is probably a good thing right now. However, what I did see is this: Billy's head was tilted back and on the right side, his right arm was to his side bent slightly at the elbow but his right hand was clenched in a fist, in his hand was a black bag, his left arm was to his left side straight out, palm up; the upper portion of his body was on his back but the lower portion of his body was on it's right side with his knees bent. Around the middle portion of his body from just above his waist to approx. 6-8" above his knee he was wrapped in his bedspread. one of my sisters had asked the funeral director for alocket of Billy's hair which I have since taken to this lab in Nashivlle. The results came back negative. My son was not doing drugs as I had been saying all along. The last thing I want to mention is this: it had been rumored that the girl that my son supposedly killed himself over, had had a boyfriend that had committed suicide earlier in the year. Well, it is not a rumor and in fact there are at least 2 other boyfriends who have died within a year, my son being the third in a year. One supposedly died of kidney failure, the other committed suicide, and now of course my son, whose cause of death has not yet been determined. This girl had also told my son's best friend that she knew that Billy had been taking vicodin for a while; it did not show up in the analysis, vicodin being from the opiate family, it should have. We don't know how to go about getting this investigation to switch gears from the police looking at it as an accidental overdose and the M.E. looking at it as suicide, to looking at it as a possible murder.

Vicodin (hydrocodone) will not show up on most opiate screens; it must be specifically looked for by gas chromatography. If the police are made aware of the fate of two other boyfriends, I do not see how any detective worth his salt wouldn't jump on this investigation. Make the M.E. aware of the other two deaths because renal failure can be caused by several poisons that the ME may want to look for.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My Dad died in the Bahamas in May 2001. He was 57 years old. I found him dead with throw up all over the floor he was in bed. There was a bottle of tylenol next to his bed and alot of other medication in and around the house. Because he was found dead at home the Bahamas required an autopsy to be performed. That was fine with me because I wanted to find out how he died. They sent me the autopsy report and said that he died of 1a.Cardiopulmonary arrest b.coronary atherosclerosis with complicated plaque formation c.Alcoholic liver disease, early cirrhosis. 2a.Benign nephrosclerosis. My first Question is what does all this mean? My second question is why didn't the pathologist do a toxology exam knowing all the medication that was found in the house? My Dad just had a complete phisical in August of 2000 for his merchant meriners license renewal and could not renew unless he was very healthy. Could all this have happened in nine months? He was cremated and it was too late to request a toxology test. Unfortatlly now I think he might have been Murdered or poisoned. Is there any way to test ashes for poison or anything else?

Excuse the delayed response but I have been away since 7/14. The only thing for which you can test ashes are heavy metals such as arsenic but this does not appear to be an arsenic overdose. Obviously the death investigation was inadequate. Based upon the limited information the most likely events were:

If he drank heavily as suggested by alcoholic liver disease, he may have passed out, vomited and aspirated(inhaled) the vomit to obstruct his airway. Intoxicated individuals should NEVER be laid down on their back.
Could be Tylenol overdosage which affects liver and can look LIKE alcoholic liver disease but there is a difference for those knowledgable(and this doctor was not).
Could be coronary artery blockage and the nausea and vomiting a symptom of a heart attrack.
Could be a combined alcohol and drug(s) overdosage.
The nephrosclerosis is an expected degenerative finding in people over 50.

There is little to be done at this time except to voice your concerns to the government of the Bahamas in the hope of them hiring a competent forensic pathologist.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Would it be possible for a toxicology exam to reveal Rhophynol in a bottle of water after a week? I understand Rhophynol dissolves completely, but would there be residue at the bottom of a bottle, and would a toxicologist automatically screen for this drug in a suspected serial sex murder?

Yes, it is possible to identify/recover Rohypnol in water/water container after a week. The toxicologist must look for it, however; since it is missed on most routine drug screens.

I would not presume a toxicologist would look for it under ANY circumstances-many just do what they're asked to do so the pathologist/coroner should ask for the bottle to be analyzed for Rohypnol (and probably alprazolam while they're at it).

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can you explain to me what a ruling of Undetermined Natural Causes" means? Also, how can I get a coroner's inquest?

My interpretation of Undetermined Natural Causes is that we do not know the exact cause of death but it is due to a natural disease process and they have ruled out homicide, suicide and accidental manners of death. If you have a coroner system, you need to ask the coroner to hold an inquest. If he/she refuses, then you need to go to the prosecutor/district attorney to find out how to get one. Medical examiner systems do not have inquests as a rule.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was shot and died Mar 24, 1997. The police determined this to be a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head. We have many reasons to believe they made a terrible mistake and are presently involved with firearms experts and believe that we will be able to prove it soon. One thing that I am puzzled by that we have not gotten an answer to is something on the hospital records. Our son died within an hour or so of the gunshot. The hospital showed that there were no drugs or alcohol in his blood. They did however show that his blood sugar was almost 400. There was no sugar in his urine. What would cause this? Our son showed no signs of having diebetes, and was very healthy and fit at age 19 when he died. Even if we would be wrong about this, shouldn't there be sugar in his urine when the number gets this high? Wouldn't he have been feeling sick? Acording to the story, he had just gotten done lifting weights shortly before the "accident". Not some thing you do if you felt ill.


I expect that the paramedics/hospital started an IV line and the solution in the bag/ bottle was D5W. This is a water solution with 5% dextrose(sugar). His sugar would be especially high if they drew the blood sugar sample through the same catheter that the sugar solution was using to go into the arm. This explains the presence of a high blood sugar level yet none in the urine, or any other signs/symptoms of diabetes.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My question is about blood stains. Regardless of all the other evidence I am wondering what you can tell me about this blood stains.(I attacheed a picture of the evidence) The suspect claims that it was only one blow, but I seem to suspect otherwise. Could blood like this really have splattered on the wall from one punch only? Any help you can give me is greatly appreciated.


Based solely on the picture, and the LIMITED experience interpreting blood spatter, I would think this represents three blows. A blood-spatter expert/criminalist should be able to give a much more accurate interpretation.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Hello could you tell me if a hanging is self inflicted by sheet in a door jam supposedly a jail cell doorjam would the neck be such a dark dark deep purple? Or would that be a foul play like I know when others are involved and say it takes 5 times? Supposedly by slamming the door or several people holding you? Thank you?


It is certainly possible to die by hanging, using a sheet and a door jam. Pressure on the neck will cause the person to pass out within 30 seconds, then body weight continues to supply the needed pressure to obstruct blood flow and the individual suffers brain death with resulting cardiac arrhythmias from lack of oxygen to the brain and heart. The fact that it is usually easily escapable helps document the death as a suicide. I have seen well-documented, with written intent, hanging suicides with the decedent laying on the floor with the ligature around the neck and attached overhead to a door knob.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My only 18 yr. old son who was in the Navy and stationed at Nas Oceana, Va. for only a short while as he just got there on April 17, 1999(his first duty station) was found hanging in a hotel room in Las vegas on May 30, 1999.
The Navy never contacted me as it was one of our own hometown police(I live in Pa) who called my home and proceeded to tell me he was outside of my house and I needed to let him in. He then handed me a number and I was told to call it. When I called it was the Las Vegas County Coroner's office who informed me a number and I was told to call it. When I called it was the Las vegas County Coroner's office who informed me that my son was found hanging in a hoel room there. The Navy wouldn't investigate as they said it occurred off base, while he was off duty, and right away said it had nothing to do with the Navy. The LVMPD took no fingerprints, never checked the phone in the lobby as he was seen making a phone call, never checked the atm videos as he was taking the money out, never questioned the man in the video seen going into the room next to my son's with an adjoining door(after the hotel told us that room was empty that weekend, and couldn't explain where over 1200 dollars was as he was supposedly found with only $19.80. The hotel stated that the video corroborates that once he checked in he never left the hotel and was just seen going in and out of his room. Toxicology report came back negative for drugs or ETOH. They claim he was hanging by a bedsheet on a door that was 79 inches and my son was 71 inches the ligature came down 18 inches from the top of the door and they said his right leg was bent at the knee and lying on the bed and his left foot was flat on the floor. Well we went to Las Vegas and to the hotel room and there is NOWAY that the beds are close enough for anyones leg to be bent at the knee and lying on the bed, also the beds are bolted to the wall and one cannot move them. They also said he used a chair to stand on and kick out so he could hang but when I said he didn't need a chair as he was tall enough to rig it up himself and he would have just landed on his feet anyway they had no answer!! I have sent 2 FOIA/PA requested trying to obtain the crime scene photos and yes the case is closed as they claimed suicide right away without ever questioning family or friends or anyone that may have known my son and DENIED me the photos,if they have been bothered to take any!! I was about to have the Deputy chief of detectives help me out as he said some of the things in my letter to him raised some questions in his mind and then this terroristic event happened and he was going to NY to help out and I heard from him since. I have reason to believe that something was going on at the Navy base and my son may have gotten himself involved in something or overheard something about illegal activity but when I told the Navy this they just think I am a crazy greiving mother who cant except the fact that her son killed himself WELL what I can except is all the lies, suspicions and lack of investigating into the death or should I say murder of my only son. Any advice would be helpful and yes I am in the process of contacting the detective in Vegas to see if he is going to contine to help me.

I see no evidence in the minimal amount of material submitted that the foul play is involved. The use of beddings suggests that this was NOT a pre-planned event but more spontaneous, using whatever was available. The fact that he had a foot on the floor and could have easily removed himself from the danger shows intent. The fact that a large sum of money is gone, and he has checked into a gambling establishment, is certainly a reason. I doubt that there are scene photos because the normal course of events is that the person is found and someone, or eventually the responding paramedics, cut them down and lay them on the floor. So the position, as found, is dependent on the memory of other individuals whose priorities are more resuscitation than documentation. The absence of any ligature injury to the wrists, or other injuries to the body reflects no evidence of a struggle or incapacitation which would have been essential to prevent him from an easily escapable position. The absence of drugs and alcohol also documents that he was not chemically impaired.

Although this was a tragic loss of a young man who has recently left his family and home, I find no evidence of any foul play involved. It appears to be a spontaneous action (common in young individuals) over what most older adults would consider a minor event, but which young adults may over-react to. Although not pre-planned, I believe it was still self-inflicted.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My good friend was hit by a car on Jan 23, 1998 on a freeway in Tijuana, Mexico. We believe that he may have been lost and probably intoxicated while trying to find his way back to the border. Unfortunately, he was held in a hospital in Tijuana until Jan 25, the date when his parents were informed. He was transfered to Mercy hospital in SanDiego on that day, and I arrived there the following day around 15 minutes before they took him off life support. At the time, we didn't know what had happened to him. He had a tube sticking out from his forehead, and a breathing tube. He was in the surgical intensive care unit. I asked the doctor if he was brain dead, and he said that he "believed" so". When they took him off the machine I held his hand. He stopped breathing but I held my hand over his heart and it remained beating for a few minutes. I was talking to him, and he grabbed my hand and lifted it completely into the air, like a foot upwards. When the autopsy reports came, it showed that he had a broken neck. I have many questions that I need to know. First of all, would he have possibly been in better hands if he hadn't been stuck in a run-down hospital and transfered to a U.S. hospital immediately? Do you think that he may have been conscious when he was hit, and how long that he may have remained conscious? Was this a terrifying thing? Also, when he grabbed my hand and lifted it, did he know I was there? How could his body do this if he was brain dead? Is there a possibility that he was partially brain dead? Also, if his neck was broken, how could he have moved his arm and hand and grab mine? Were these merely muscle reaction? What do you mean when you say he did it "subconsiously" in another answer? Do you think that there is any possible way that he could've recovered if they'd kept him on life support any longer? He was only 21.

Regarding the young man hit by a car in Tijuana. Persons injured in Mexico are taken to a nearest medical facility; they are not transported to the U.S. unless they are conscious enough to arrange it, or contact family to arrange it. This man would have lost consciousness upon impact and never regained it; it is unlikely that any medical/trauma system could have saved him. The tube coming out from the forehead would have a monitor to measure pressure within the skull and brain; if the pressure within the skull exceeds average blood pressure, then the brain is getting no blood and dying.

If he was intoxicated, he probably never knew what hit him. The arm lifting is either reflex or spasm. In the nervous system, nerves run from the surface/muscle to the spinal cord; there they connect with other nerves which go up to the brain. The severing of the spinal cord eliminates any voluntary movement but also eliminates "controlled" response. For example, when we bend our elbow-our brain tells the biceps to contract but at the same time, the cerebellum or lower portion of the brain tells the triceps to relax so it can be stretched. With the spinal cord cut, there is no limiting response-eg pushing down or putting weight on the hand may cause a reflex in the opposite direction. This man's injuries were not survivable in my opinion and there would have been no conscious pain or suffering. The use of the term "subconsciously" is similar to "without intent". If I make a sound or there is a bang, the head may turn toward the sound whether we are conscious or not, whether we intend to or not. It can be a reflexive or subconscious motion.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 21 year old son died while wrestling another young man, an acqaintance. The other boy put him in a choke hold and my son died of asphyxiation by choking. The police have labeled it involuntary manslaughter, also they don't think the DA will pursue it. They have not done an investigation, except to talk with the boy and some others that were in the vicinity, but didn't see anything. This other boy says he was a friend, he was not, in fact I believe there were some animosity between them having to do with a girl. My son died, he had severe internal and external bruising around his neck. From what I have been able to find out about a carotid choke hold, he would have had to continue the hold for sometime after my son had passed out in order to produce death. Can it really be that there would be no charges filed? My son died, we know how and who, and nothing is going to happen? I just can't believe it, do you have any advice?

Regarding the young man who died in wrestling. Most carotid/police restraint holds turn into choke holds. In either case, once oxygen supply is cut off to the brain ( whether by asphyxia or compressing blood flow of carotids into brain) the average individual will (a) pass out in approx 15 seconds (b) develop a heart arrhythmia in about a minute if pressure is maintained. Once the arrhythmia starts, the person needs CPR to stay alive and defibrillator shocking to return to a normal rhythm. The deciding factor as to prosecute will probably be based on ability to prove intent. Was this a "terrible accident" of two guys roughhousing? Was the survivor "playing rough" to make his point or had he previously told me he was "gonna kill this guy" if he ever got his hands on him. And this will be most difficult to prosecute.

-Dr.Harrry Bonnell

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My son died in April 13th 2001, in the autopsy it says medical cause of death was toxic effects of alcohol and cannabinoid use but they were not ruling out suffocation. Also they have not looked at who he was in the company of, which it was people he didn't know except for one of them who was an enemy of ours and has threatened my son and myself with death before. Who is it to say this person never made my son drink that much (reading was 5.5 gram/100ml) and cannibis4 ng/ml. This man is a known thug, bully in our town and they are not even investigating this person. He told them my son drank a lot and they believe him. What should I do?

This level of alcohol could kill someone or certainly render them defenseless if someone were to suffocate them. The only way to find out what happened is to interview witness but it looks like the police are afraid of this bully themselves!!! You need to utilize the tv/radio/newspapers to try to get pressure on the police to conduct an investigation. Also approach your elected officials and if they won't represent you, campaign against them in the next election.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Do you know how long it takes to find out if weapons that were found on other case might hve been used on my son, to check if the same kind of toolmark, how long does it take for this?

Totally depends on the workload of the lab and the priority the case has; could vary from a few days to may be years especially if the suspect is already in prison for another conviction.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell

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A friend of mine lost his life by consuming overdose of sedatives ( as per the doctors report 80mg of Alprazolam with hard liquor). But I am not convinced that this could have been the cause of his death. I can sense a foul play in this PI. Advice doc.

80 mg of alprazolam is at least 40 pills ( it comes in dosages of 0.25 to 2 mg/pill). Although alprazolam, along with valium and other drugs in the same category, are rarely lethal by themselves; alcohol has a synergistic and additive effect making the combination extremely lethal. And since at least 40 pills had to be taken, I cannot consider the possibility of it being an accident.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have a friend whose mother was brutally murdered (in 1993). Her husband was convicted of the murder. Even though there was no evidence at the crime scene, in his truck or the clothes that he was wearing that night. The state of New Hampshire medical examinar at that time, died shortly after the murder and when the case went to trial the current medical examinar said none of the proper procedures were done at the crime scene-no temp-no lividity, no eye check, no scrapping of the fingernais, no rigor-nothing. (But the police records show he was there for an hour and ten minutes!!!) He laughingly said on the stand "he must have been having a bad day." The daughter of the victim got the state to exhume the body to do further test for evidence. They exhumed the body on October 30, I should say dug it up, covered the whole with plywood and never removed the body till December 14, six weeks later. Of course because of exposure to air, rain and snow there was nothing left but bones. She had fake nails glued on her fingers at the time of embalming and the current medical examinar was supposed to remove and send out for testing to see if anything under them could be DNA tested. He swabbed the pelvic bones and did a rape test!!!

There was never any indication of rape!!! Isn't it illegal to leave a body exposed for that amount of time??

There is no law that I am aware of about leaving a body exposed. I expect that the body was in a casket while in the ground and therefore not exposed to the elements. It is most unlikely that anything of value would be found under the fingernails in someone prepared for burial and then underground for 8 years(93-01). If the daughter is concerned that her father did not murder her mother and that was the reason for the exhumation, then a review of the trial proceedings should reveal what evidence there was to convict him.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I would like to post a question and I am unsure of who to send the question to. My daughter was murdered by her boyfriend. She was shot in the head by a .38 caliber gun. My daughter was left-handed and was shot in the right side of her head behind her ear. According to what her boyfriend told police she committed suicide. The cause of her death on the death certificate was undetermined. Before I go into more details of the case, I would also like to know where I can send them to. My question is, is it probability that she could have shot herself on the right side of her head, being that she is left-handed.

Left-handed people do not always shoot themselves on the left side: Sometimes the dominent hand is used to steady the gun/muzzle while using the other hand to pull/push the trigger resulting in a right-sided entrance. What is worrisome is that the entrance is behind the opposite ear. This is an appropriate case for SOS.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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This might be an unusual request but my daughter was killed some 18 months ago, the two adults responsible was found guilt of GROSSNEGLIGANCE MANSLAUGHTER ON TWO ACCOUNTS.
There was 12 months suspended for 12 months. This happened in Wales UK, so I do-not know if you would be able to comment on the matter, if this is true would you know of any UK organization similar to yours.

I am not too familiar with English law but since US law is based on English law, I presume there can be no double jeopardy and what they got is all they will get unless they violate probation.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have one question regarding the circumstances of my brother's death and terminology used by the coroner's office. As mentioned previously, the immediate cause was listed as Closed Head injury on the death certificate. In reviewing the Coroner's comments he was quoted as saying that the cause of death was a skull fracture and brain injury. My concern is that, as there was a fracture of the skull and subsequent brain injury, wouldn't the skull fracture be a significant cause and be indicated as a description of how injury occured in the death certificate?

The skull fracture would not normally go on the death certificate. The fracture is indicative of the degree of force applied but is not a lethal injury itself, i.e. many people sustain a skull fracture but don't die. A skull fracture simply heals. The lethal injury is the brain injury. "Closed" head injury indicates the skin was not broken and the skull was not exposed. The cause of death could also have been worded as "Blunt Impact to Head" or "Blunt Force Trauma to Head", etc.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have a couple of questions relating to an Autopsy and Death Certification on Jan 8, 2002 my brother passed away following a closed head injury requiring a crainiotomy and removal of the temporal and frontal lobes of his brain due to the fact that they were reduced to mush. He was on life support for 5 days prior to his passing. I would like to get the protocol for obtaining the results of autopsy and the time frame I can expect to encounter. At this point the investigation is open and to my knowledge no suspects have been identified.

My second question is that of the death certificate and understanding the entries on the certificate. The immediate cause is listed as "Closed Head injury" which is understandable. The interval between onset and death is listed as "unknown". The manner of death is listed as "Could Not be Determined" and the description of how injury occurred states "alleged assault". Upon completion of the autopsy report will these uncertainities be determinable. If not, are there any options to clarify these findings?

You need to call the medical examiner/coroner office where the autopsy was performed. Most offices would complete a case like this within 30 days of the autopsy report. A few states do not consider the report a public document but most do. Call the M.E. or coroner.

When more investigation had been done ( or when the police feel it is OK to reveal what they know) and the time of the injury becomes known as well as the fact that the injury was inflicted by another person, then the interval would be amended as well as the manner and the "alleged" removed from the alleged assault. But this information will come from investigation, not from the autopsy.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have one burning question in my daughter's case. Is it posible to have gunpowder residue on her hands if she shot herself. My daughter's report came back with her hand being tested for gunpowder/residue as negative. To me this isn't possible if she shot herself. There would have been gun powder on her hands as there was residue on the entrance of the wound. Thank you for your anticipated response.

Yes, the test does occasionally have false negative results depending upon which technique of testing is used and how much of the hand was sampled.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am a supporter of the West Memphis Three; three young men who were convicted of the tragic murder of three 8 year olds, Michael Moore, Christopher Byers, and Steve Branch, in 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas. I hope you will wait for my question, it is an interesting one. HBO has done two critically acclaimed documentaries on the case, Paradise lost: The Robin Hood Hills Murders and Paradise II: Revelations. I am part of a very large support group who believe Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelly, the boys convicted, are innocent, and who have been working for many years for the justice of these young men and the justice of Micheal, Stevie, and Christopher, their murderer is still free.

As a supporter of the cause, me and many others contantly researching. The question I have for you is regarding blood and soil. In this case, the children's bodies were discovered in a bayou. The prosecution claimed that children were beaten and murdered on a shelf above the bayou, then dumped in the water. All of the children were beaten severly, but one child was castrated and died of blood loss. Now, with this great loss of blood, the luminol testing showed almost no blood on the bank or anywhere else for the matter. The prosecution claimed the murdering teenagers, in the dark, splashed water up from the bayou onto the shelf, washing away all the blood.

My questions are these: Do you think that this is even remotely possible? Could the water have washed this amount of blood? Would blood not have sunk down onto the soil and then shown up from the luminol, if this in fact were the crime scene and not a dump site? Is luminol even accurate in a wooded area such as this or an area with damp soil?

Several of us are at a crucial point in our research and your openion would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

I am not an expert in luminol and do not know wether or not elements in the soil might interfere with its effectiveness; however, I would expect there to be large amounts of blood both on the surface as well as soaked into the soil based upon the injuries described in the website.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter who was 17 years old and her male friend was found in the trunk of a car April 2001. According to the autopsy report, she suffered no physical trauma. All toxicology reports performed came back without a doubt negative of any drugs, amphetamines, etc. No puncture wound to her body. This has not only baffled myself, but the police department and the general public. The cause of death is listed as asphyxiation. She left home to go get something to eat around 10:20. They were last seen at the young male's house by his father between 12:00 - 12:30 a.m. (into Sunday morn.). Their bodies were found between 7:30 - 8:00 that same Sunday afternoon. Time frame 12:00 midnight until 8:00 afternoon. When the body reached funeral home, I noticed what looked like bruises on her chest area. She was found lying face down in the trunk. According to the medical examiner, very, very little decomposition was present. The weather was mild,(not hot). If a body was in a trunk of a car, temperature outside 70 degrees, how long will it take a body to decompose? And if death was presumed before entering the trunk, with what information would you need to determine approximate time of death? Heart, lungs etc were in tact and of normal size. Can time of death be determined? How is the time of death determined? Could she have been unconscious while in the trunk and suffocated while unconscious? She was pronounced dead at 2000 hours. Medical examiner viewed the body around 2300 hours. Please help me make heads or tales of this mess.

Regarding the teen-age girl found in the car trunk, multiple facters are considered when trying to determine the time of death. I think the family would best be served by having all the materials reviewed through SOS. It might be a smothering or suffocation but I would expect there to be bruises on the hands and feet from attempts to get out of the trunk. My first guess would be it's an overdose/poisoning by something they have not yet looked for or haven't looked at the right sample. I hope it's not from Alabama or North Carolina.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am interested in understanding terminology in the Autopsy Report of my brother, who died of, as the Death Certificate indicates as Closed Head Injury. Our intention to gain insight to the medical terminology is to try to piece together what could have been the initial cause of the injury which resulted in his death. The Autopsy provides the Date pronounced dead, but not the time ( Is that a normal procedure?) The autopsy was performed approximately 25 hours after he had been pronounced dead. I can substantiate the time as I was present at bedside when the life support systems were removed and when the Neurologist pronounced his death. The autopsy was performed for the County of West Chester, PA by an individual with the following letters after his name "MB, ChB, forensic pathologist for FORENSIC PATHOLOGY CONSULTANTS, INC."
I am curious as to just what the credentials MB and ChB indicate and how they fit into the determination of the cause of death pronounced as I understand the direction that hte investigation into his death can be driven by this determination. I don't see the title Medical Examiner anywhere and am curious as to why.
Is it out of the norm for a family to have an outside agency review and provide explanation of all of the information on the report? If so, can you steer us in the direction we may need to go to gain some clarity as to what all of this information means?

Regarding the questions on the person dying of Closed Head Injury in a hospital. Closed Head Injury means there is no break in the skin even though there may be fractures and brain damage within. Some pathologists do not enter the time of death routinely on their Autopsy Reports because frequently it is not known at the time of the autopsy so they just leave it off all the time. MB., CHB after the name indicates the doctor was trained in the United Kingdom rather than the U.S. - they are equivalent to the M.D. using the term "Forensic Pathologist" does not necessarily mean the doctor is Board-certified by the American Board of Pathology. The verbiage here is that does forensic autopsies for the Pathology Consultant group that provides services to the coroner of West Chester, PA. Your personal physician may be able to help you, it not, the someone in the Philadelphia Medical Examiner office or the Pittsburgh Coroner office might be willing to help you.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was involved in a fight, the fight was broken up but the other took my son down when he walked away and kicked him repeatedly in the head, stomach & side. Alcohol was involved on my sons part. Deputies responded but neither pressed charges. Paramedics were called for my son about 2 hours after this, same deputies responded to the call and helped take him to the local hospital. In the hospital E.R room they did a cat scan on his head and x-rays for broken ribs but did not go any further even though police and E. room noted in their reports about the abrasions on his abdomen. He was admitted to the hospital and sitting up in bed talking and drinking water when his heart stopped and they couldn't revive him.
Hour of injury 1406 Nov. 24, 2001- Hour of death 2138 Nov. 24, 2001
Autopsy report shows he died of a ruptured spleen(4750cc blood found in abdominal cavity at time of autopsy).
I have been told by my own Dr. that he would have checked him from head to toe because of the alcohol and the abrasions, my Dr. did call a E.R. Dr. here who said that he would have done the same and the blood alcohol level would not have stopped surgery to repair his spleen. The assailant was charged with 2nd degree murder after my sons death and taken into custody. This happened in a small tight-knit Nevada town, and my worst fears were realized Mar. 14, 2002 when I was informed by the procecuting attorney that the assailant had entered a guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter (trial was to be April1, 2002)
I feel now that the hospitals part in my sons death will never be brought to light, unless I can bring a malpractice suit against them.
I have been told by an attorney that in the state of Nevada a mother does have the right to bring suit(this varies state to state). Mr. Twist gave me the name of a lawyer who does practice in the state of Nevada and who he thought would be very good in this case. The first thing this lawyer tells me is that it will cost me about $500 to $1000 for a medical expert to even look at the information to see if I have a case.
My husband and I did go to Nevada on Nov. 27, 2001 to talk to authorities and to make arrangements for my son to be brought back to Oregon to be buried by his father. This was expensive and I do not see the extra money to hire a medical expert in the near future. Do you have any suggestions for me? I have been devastated by the loss of my son, and the thought that he could have been saved makes it even harder.
I live in Washington state and it is very difficult to do things from so far away. I will be grateful for any thoughts that you have on this matter.

Regarding the assault victim dying from a ruptured spleen. Yes Yes Yes I would sue the medical facility for missing this. If the attorney who was recommended will not pay the medical expert fee out of his own "war chest" of funds necessary to bring a case forward; few requires to pay this costs up front. If an attorney requires the client to pay this for these costs, I would feel the attorney (a) doesn't believe I have a case and (b) is not going to give his all to win the case. I would find another malpractice attorney-search the internet for one in Nevada.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 18 yr. old son was murdered on Nov 29, 2001 by two men who point the finger at each other. Now one of the men have been released because the D.A. beleive his story more than the other. My question is that the D.A. beleives there is no evidence except this mans witnessing. There was an autopsy done and the coroner told me that there ware 2 blows to each side on the front of his face, one on the back right side of his head, a cut where he fell and a gas pipe stuck out of the floor and then fatal blow was a blunt force trauma to the left side at the base of the skull where there was a vertical artery that ruptured and made the brain hemorrage. My son laid there for 30 min to an hour very conscious of his surroundings but unable to do anything with his body. When I called the coroners office to ask the DNA tests were done, I was told none were ordered not even fingernail scrapings, except a blood test for drugs. So I started writing letters to the legislature and the D.A. apparently called the medical examiner and now I am being told that it was the fall on the gas pipe that was the cause of his death. Is it possible for two 30 year old men to beat an 18 year old child to death and not leave any DNA? I do not understand why they would not be combing every inch of his body for a clue, since we did not even know who did this in the begining. He was found in an abandoned trailor where fingerprints were found, but the defendents say they were moving furniture that day, so that is ruled out. I see other concerned parents and family members writing about nasal swabs and other tests, how can I get a report of what tests were exactly done before those criminals walk? I also complained about their shoes were not sent off for DNA of my sons blood on them, and the D.A. said since it was 4 days before they were arrested that the blood would be contaminated. Does that really matter? I think that DNA would still be present. Thanks for any help.

It appears that both suspects were present and the question is who did the hitting. In general, who did the hitting is rather irrelevant if both were committing a criminal act. In other words the guy sitting in the gateway car is legally just as guilty as those inside robbing the bank. If both were present at the murder, both share culpability. Contamination of the shoes is irrelevant if the victim's blood/DNA is found on them. This would prove they were present at the time of, or following the assault.
It sound like the D.A. is taking the easiest way out by not processing the evidence and may have made a deal with the suspect he now believes. Once again, it may be necessary to get media, congressman and a state Attorney General involved.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter was murdered last summer. She was given an unknown substance that caused death. The examiner found her insulin level to be zero. The test was repeated to verify the results. There is insufficient blood remaining to run extensive testing for the unknown substance. How can I find out what chemicals or substance could have caused this condition.

If the pathologist did not save enough blood, there is little anyone can do. If he/she saved urine, that could be used for screening and what little blood is left used to confirm or quantitate whatever is found on screening.
The only hting that should cause a "zero insulin" level is severe pancreatic disease or drugs which mimic insulin's action and suppress it. Did they do a glucose level on urine or eye fluid. If insulin is zero, then sugar level should be sky-high.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My brother passed away in May of 2000. The autopsy report stated that he died from myocarditis/sarcoidosis. He was not ill and in perfect condition. He was a farmer in NJ and was working with pesticides. His autopsy report states that rigor was minimal, but present in the lower extremities and no rigor was present within the jaw or upper extremities. Rigor starts in the upper extremities and the jaw doesn't it? His lung had slight to moderate amounts of blood and frothy fluid on cut section What was that from? Final findings were myocytolysis(myocarditis) and the non-graulated granulomas in his spleen, liver, ect was sarcoiditis. Could this deseases be caused from pesticide use?
Thank you for listening.

Pesticide exposure causes fibrosis or scarring of the lungs over the long term. But it can also cause granulomas in the lungs. "sensitivity" myocarditis can be due to pesticide exposure. The question is whether he died of sarcoidosis or died of something else while also having sarcoidosis as a disease. It might be reassuring to have another pathologist look at the autopsy slides or review the report and drug studies

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Could you please tell what amount of heroin per mg/1 in blood would be considered a lethal dose for a 120 lb. man?

Heroin is immediately converted to morphine in the human body, and frequently there is a small amount of codeine present as a contaminant.
0.05mg/L would be the lowest level some toxicologist would consider lethal in someone who is not routinely taking morphine or heroin. I would not consider morphine as the cause of death unless it was 0.1 mg/L or higher. If the individual was a chronic user of heroin or had taken morphine for a long period of time due to chronic pain, I would need the number to much higher. Determining the cause of death to be an overdose also requires knowing the circumstances around the death and ruling out other possible causes of death.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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An 11-month old boy was murdered in August 1998. Maybe an accident or maybe premeditated, but the child died with a skull fracture. Local police have not made an arrest, though witnessess and professionals lean heavily toward the mother as the guilty party. The police keep threatening the mother's boyfriend with an indictment (mothers don't kill their babies attitude). Several have gone to other sources for help in getting this case resolved and the appropriate individual arrested but no avail. What can be done?

Perhaps media pressure on the police or prosecutor might cause charges to be filed. If elections are in the near future, make it a campaign issue for one side or the other. Try to get the local Medical society or Pediatric groups to apply pressure, write letters to the editor, etc.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am not sure if you can help me but I am looking for a laboratory that would be able to test whether blood on a t-shirt is a match to blood taken from an autopsy. Also, some of the blood from t-shirt is what looks to be a partial fingerprint. I would like to send it to a lab that would be able to pull the fingerprint as well. I am not sure what type of lab would be able to do this or if I need one close to my home but I live in Wisconsin.

This type of work is usually done by a crime lab, most of which are government owned and operated and do not so private work. However, they usually know of people who are qualified to do private work for private attorneys in both civil and criminal cases. I suggest you try to speak with the director of a crime lab in Wisconsin who would refer you to someone reputable.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered on Nov. 30, 2001. His body was found in a abandoned trailor 2 days later, I suppose whatever evidence and fingerprints the police take at that point was done but the big lead was a phone call to my sons house. That was the link for 2 arrests for capital murder several days later. One criminal had volunteered himself to a halfway house for drugs, the other was found in a soup kitchen. One of the criminals has claimed he was in the car with the other criminal and my son but then he stayed in the car while the other guy and my son went into the trailor. Then he said he heard bumping noises and saw the other guy beating my son. The other criminal says the exact opposite pointing the finger right back. The investigators have gotten fingerprints, but the accused say they were in the trailor earlier that day moving furniture. When we asked the detectives what results have come back from the lab, we get "nothing so far". So we have two guys at a house that lured my son out of his home, both of them pointing the finger at the other. One of the criminals has retained a lawyer and filed a writ of habeas corpus his bond was reduced from 5 million dollars to 10 thousand and got out with 100 dollars. I started writing letters to senators and attorney general Mike Moore, but they say it is all out of their jurisdiction. When I called the coroner's office to ask what DNA tests were done first they said none. Then they found fingernail scrapings. When we asked why they have not send off the criminal clothes for DNA, they replied that it would be contaminated after 4 days, thats if they even had the same clothes on. They did not even send off my son's clothes for testing. Forgive me I am just another mother looking for answers to why there was not more done. The test results have not even come back to say he wasn't the one who did the beating? How long do these tests take, it has been 5 months now? Who in Mississippi can I call to help when the DA has already told me that no information would be shared with a private investigator.
The DA tells me I have no right to direct the DA. So what can I do besides stand by and watch the two men who killed my son to get away with murder?

I know it is hard hard hard to do but you must allow the "process" to proceed. Both have been charged and although one is obviously out on bail, you should monitor progress toward a trial date. Fingernail scraping should be submitted for DNA comparison. Since both suspects have been arrested and charged, a blood sample can be legally obtained from each of them for comparison to the material in the fingernail scrapings.
Although you feel differently, it is necessary at this point in time to work "with" the DA because it is she who will prosecute the case and represent you and your son in the criminal trial. It was not the DA who let the suspect out of jail, it was the judge in court.
Finding DNA matches on clothing (unless bloody) only shows contact, which I doubt either suspect is denying, but material from under the nails shows a struggle.
It will be up to a jury as to whether or not they believe the alibis but most jurors show common sense.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Hello, My sister was murdered this past April, her body was found in the trunk of her car, the medical examiner says he could not determine if she was strangled or suffocated because there was not sufficient enough marks on her neck. If she was suffocated wouldn't there be some fibers or other indications that something had been placed over her nose and mouth?

Suffocation rarely leaves mark, and when it does, they are usually on the inside of the cheeks and lips and easily masked by post-mortem changes or decomposition; this is if the person is resisting. If the person is disabled by alcohol or drugs, there frequently is no evidence of trauma or trace evidence.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 44 year old brother-in-law died two weeks ago. His wife reported that he died in his sleep from heart failure. She admits giving him drugs and he willingly took them, so she confided to me that the actual cause of death was overdose. They did an autopsy but she says the results won't be back for six months, so his parents won't find out until then. She said he was carried to the emergency room via ambulance and her shirt was covered with blood. She said he was bleeding through his ears and the back of his neck. At the funeral she tried to move his head to see if there was still a hole in it. She told me that, but to everyone else she said it was to adjust his head. I now suspect she murdered him, even though I believe he took the drugs(methadone & klonapin) willingly. How long does it take for autopsy results to come back and does the parents/siblings of an adult married man get access to them? Am I under any abligation to disclose any knowledge or should I just let the family grieve alone? Your immediate response is very much appreciated.

The initial autopsy findings are known right away and I would expect an autopsy to reveal evidence of trauma/injury to the head/neck which caused bleeding. Drug studies might take weeks depending on the facility. In most states, the reports are public record. Based on what you have told us, you should IMMIDIATELY go to police.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My brother died from hanging, the coroner ruled it suicide. I did hire an investigator with the time frame. My brother was cut down within 5 minutes. He believes my brother would be alive today if CPR was used the coroner said it was his call. There would have been too much brain damage. I thought it was law to use CPR. His face was also marked up, the coroner said that was from girl friend cutting him down and I do not believe half of what the girlfriend says there is a lot into this. I was told that there was not much time spent at the crime scene, there were more pressing matters and they were also in a hurry to change shifts. Would you please answer me. Thank you very much.

Regarding the hanging death, many studies have shown that after 4 minutes of deprived of oxygen and blood flow, the brain will die. The only exception is if the person is submerged in very cold water. The person may be resuscitated but will remain without a functional brain until they die. There is no law mandating CPR.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son died of a single knife wound to the heart, lung and it severed the main artery. I have been told he would have bled internally and externally, each time his heart beat. All I know is what I have been told. One was that he walked a distance, and he threw up two times, then I was told there was not a lot of blood. If this had happened in the open door of a small sports car, with my son leaning inside the open door, and the stabber never getting out of the car, would /should there be blood in the vehicle and how much blood would my son have lost. Any idea as to the time frame between stabbing and actual death? Thank you for the service you provide. My best idea was the knife was at least 6 inches long, they said 12 inches totally, including the handle, a two edged dagger. It went in and out and was not turned.

Almost all the bleeding would be internal with very little blood externally and this could be absorbed by clothing. There are several things happening at once: (1) blood is entering the lung and filling the air spaces so air cannot get into the lung. (2) The chest cavity is filling with blood causing the lung to collapse so even less air is getting into the lung. (3) some of the blood in the airway is going up into the trachea as he exhales and when he inhales again, some will go down into the opposite lung causing more airspaces to fill with blood. (4) he is also filling the chest with blood from the major artery. (5) the stab wound to the heart will cause blood to collect in the sac around the heart so that the heart can not dilate and refill with blood. I have seen some young adults and teenagers run 2-3 blocks following such an injury but I would expect them to loose consciousness and collapse within 2-3 minutes at most, with death occuring shortly thereafter. It sound like a non-survivable injury no matter where or when it happened.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son committed suicide and I just got his toxology report all was neg except annabinoid urine. Could u tell me what this is.

Annabinoid urine; is really cannabinoid urine which means the urine screened positive for marijuana. There is really no reason to quantitate the amount since interpretation is meaningless so very few labs bother to measure the concentration.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Brain after fixation: "moderate bulging in both parietal regions, flattening of the gyri and partial obliteration of the sulci...a few delicate arachnoidal adhesions present between the cerebral hemispheres in the longitudinal fissure. There is a symmetrical compression of the lateral ventricles to such an extent that the ventricular space is almost completely obliterated.

(Microscopic examination of the brain:) Multiple sections from various regions of this organ show marked generalized congestion and focal pervascular edama and occasional petechiae. The leptomenings are also congested, edematous and focally hemorrhagic but there is no evidence of acute encephalities or meningitis.

The findings are typical for brain swelling, whatever the cause. There is a suggestion of acute bleeding which may, or may not, be due to trauma. Proper determination in this case would require examination of the entire autopsy as well as circumstances.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Is it possible for an expert to determine whether a hand print in the neck area, (with no black and blue or bruising) on a very light skin person, constituted enough pressure to cause the prson to blackout?

The answer is no.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I'm an 8th grader from Garwood, TX. I would like to do something with blood splatter patterns for my science fair project. Do you have any suggestions that would be workable for me without getting too technical?
I had thought about going into medicine until I began watching some of the new TV shows dealing with crime scene investigations. Now I am thinking about forensics. Do you have any suggestions?

Please excuse the long delay in answering your message of January regarding your science project. First, let me suggest that you contact some criminalists in Houston which is the nearest big city to where you live and find out what the real world of criminalistics is all about-don't accept what TV depicts it to be.

If it's not too late for a science project (maybe next year??) use dyed water with a little flour or corn starch to thicken it. Use two surfaces, such as a cloth sheet and wallboard or glossy poster-board. Then, on each surface, drop blood from a couple of different heights, then using a paint brush dipped in the "blood" throw some "blood" at an angle at different speeds, i.e. low velocity and high velocity.

Good luck in your career choice-there's a real shortage of forensic pathologists if you are considering that as a possible career.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I had a family friend who allegedly shot and killed himself on March 22, 2002. His parents are deceased and his three brothers don't really want any further information. I want to know if I can view a copy of the police report? How do I obtain one without being a family member? With talk between family and friends - his death just does not make sense. Was it suicide? Accidental? Murder? He supposedly shot himself while three of his friends watched. I don't understand why one of them didn't stop him. How can I find out more about the investigation and the statements given by the three onlookers? Any information or leads would be greatly appreciated! Thank you very much for your time.

You need to call the police station and find out if their reports are a matter of public record in your state, same thing with the Coroner or Medical Examiner who would have to complete the death cetificate and hopefully performed an autopsy. If they ae public record, you may have to pay a fee but you can get them. If they are not, you cannot have an access to them unless you can convince a judge to issue a court order.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 25 year old son perished on 9/11 in Tower 11 of the World Trade Center. We received notification that remains were found. We are afraid to find out what they are. His girlfriend asked the coroner and she said "we don't need a coffin". So now I am visualizing finger-tips, small bones, tissue samples of my poor defenseless son.

I don't know whether to bury the remain(s) or wait since it was announced they have newer methods of DNA they will use now to identify all the remains left since there were so many. I want to get as much of my son back as possible to burry I think so I have a place to go and greave. How long should I wait? How long will it take to ID the rest of the remains from 9/11. this is another form of torture from 9/11- people ask if I buried him, why am I waiting, when will I know. This is maddening.

It is my understanding that the New York City Medical Examiner's office has made all the identifications so far based on fingerprints, dental charting and DNA analysis with comparison to known samples. Extremely few remains required a casket although many burials were made in a casket to give it the appearance of "normalcy". The NYCME has advised next-of-kin that in cases of positive identification being made, they have a choice of claiming the remains and waiting to see if additional remains are identified, or claiming the remains and NOT being notified if and when additional remains are identified. The testing waiting to be done is all DNA comparisons so I would realistically expect these samples to be small fragments. The office is also preserving some specimens where DNA testing has not been successful in the hope that future technology might allow them to make identifications. There is currently no end-point or date for this to happen. If the next-of-kin decides to wait, they will obviously be on-edge for months to come. If they decide to bury the remains already identified, they can be assured that the future unidentified or unclaimed remains will be treated with utmost respect. I expect that when all is said and done, there will be a memorial burial service of all unidentified/unclaimed human remains the same as there was on the last day of removal activity at the Trade Center site and the last day of going through all the removed material at a second site. This is a question only they can answer but personally I would approach it that my son was a casualty of war and bury the remains I have now, rather than continuing to hope against hope.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I was attacked at gunpoint in Housotn, TX and the guy was arrested, but what are my rights as the victim? I am very confused about what can happen if he ignores the restraining order when he gets out in few days. And is there anything I can do to prevent anything from happening like with him coming to my home? This guy has already threatend to come over and set fire to my home while my family and I are asleep, what, if anything, can I do to prevent such a thing? I hope to hear from you soon.

If this person is being released on parole, you need to contact his parole board now. He obviously is not ready for parole. Aside from that, you need to contact your local police/precinct station in Houston and advise them of the problem so they might increase patrols in the neighborhood. I suggest you contract with a private security company to install an alarm that automatically notifies them and the police, and obviously install smoke alarms if you don't already have them.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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What does the term lividity mean? in regards to when they rolled my son onto the gurney there were signs of lividity, due to single stab wound to the heart. Lividity was seen on his back, within minutes of being stabbed.

Lividity is the pooling, or setting of blood caused by gravity after the heart has stopped beating. Once the heart is no longer pumping blood and moving it through the vessels, gravity causes the blood to drain to the lowest portion of the body. Depending on the position in which the body lays, it may drain to the back, to the front if chest down, etc. It is usually not visible in light skinned individuals for at least one hour after death and sometimes can be impossible to identify in dark-skinned individuals.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My ex-boyfriend was murdered in nashville tennessee a year ago july 29th 20001. Cause of death was single gunshot wound to anterior torso. He died during surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He was shot at close range . I do not know what type of gun he was murdered with, the man who murder him was caught two months later and he is set to go to trial next month. The witness that were present at the time of murder said after he was shot he grabbed his knees and said that he could not breathe and they helped him lay down and one of the witnessess applyed pressure to the wound while they waited for emt to get there. I want to know do you think he suffer much during this ordeal? I am sure I will have more informaiton after the trial like a copy of the autopsy report will help me a great deal but I do not have this info at this time when I do get more info I will pass it on to you, but at this time any information that you give me would be greatly appreciated.

Since the information is really limited, my best guess is that the bullet probably hit the heart or aorta causing the chest to fill up rapidly with blood so he could not breathe. It is possible that there was injury to the spinal cord which caused him to grab his knees. People who survive bullet wounds tell doctors that they feel like a sting (unlike stab wound) whic is why some people don't even realize they have been shot. The internal injuries do not cause physical pain in the immediate interval. I believe he did not suffer any significant physical pain but there may have been psyphological pain with the difficulty breathing and fear of dying.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was 5'9" bent over into open door of a 2001 Honda civic, 2 door. The person in drivers seat supposedly never got out of the car was approx 5-8 to 5-'9. He held a 12" knife with a 5" blade up towards my son and stabbed him in the chest, stating my son was crawling into the car. Is this possible to have no blood at all in the car, as well as none of my son's dna, clothing fibers or anything? The whole case is based on the stabber never getting out of the car and he was right handed. My son was stabbed in the right chest in upward fashion. Thank you for your help.

It is possible to suffer a stab wound to the chest and not bleed externally a lot, many stab wounds will close back up or the blood does get out, it can be absorbed by clothing: however, the internal bleeding can be severe. I cannot comment on fibers, etc but if he were just entering the vechicle and then backed out after being stabbed. I believe it is possible for there to be no trace evidence in the vehicle.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Please help me and my parents:
Obtain copies of crime scene photos, pre hospital EMT ambulance reports, and autopsy photos surrounding my brother's death in January 2002 in Florida? There must be a way around the Earnhart Bill which discriminates against the parents and blood relatives. Obtain all held evidence surrounding my brother's death ASAP -so that everything does not dissappear or get destroyed? (clothing, gun, spent cartridge, etc.)

If Florida law prohibits release of the photos, etc. to next of kin, then you will need to find an attorney and get a court-order(from a judge) to release the materials. If you fear that the police will get rid of evidence, e.g. decide that it is not a homicide, you will need to send them a request, by registered mail-return receipt requested, that they do not dispose of any materials now kept as evidence without contacting you first as you believe that all the evidence they have is personal property of the decedent and you are his next of kin. But you will need an attorney or legal assistance to do this.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am contacting you on behalf of my sister, 20 + yrs ago her common law husband killed their 2 yr. old daughter and then killed himself. He shot the baby in the head and then blew his own head off. My sister has since gotten married and had another precious daughter who is 10 yrs. Old. The thing bothering me is that I feel like my sister is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. She and I were talking yesterday about her daughter she lost. I was extremely close to her. My sis and I had our children at the same time and it sort of made a bond between us. Anyway it just kind of bothered me that she said she can’t love her current daughter as much her murdered one. Is that normal? I mean I know she loves her child but it just bothered me. I can’t let her know I’m talking to you as she always refused to contact POMC. But I am terribly worried about her. I feel like she is a ticking bomb. Can you help me with this? I would really appreciate your response. She really has none to talk to as we live in separate states but I try to get her talk to me. She said it makes her happy knowing we remember her. She has never told her 10 yr old daughter, her current husband doesn’t really know the circumstances either. They are complicated. I have a son who suffered pts and I know what it can do to someone. Thank you for listening.

I think your sister needs professional help; although one frequently hears that the first born is always a little bit extra special to a lot of moms, some of your other comments about her bother me, especially that her husband doesn't know the specifics. I don't think I would tell a ten year-old but your sister does need to be able to talk to her about it when she reaches her mid-teens. It sounds like she is in denial, more than ptsd, and she needs to get it out.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son, 37 yrs. old, died unexpectedly 1 1/2 yrs. ago in front of me. Efforts to rescucitate him were unsuccessful. We had known for 6 months prior that he had been chronically poisoned w/manganese, dating back several years. With treatment, he was improving , but evidently the heavy metals had damaged his heart badly. His levels of manganese were the highest ever recorded, according to his doctor. Suspect is a woman whom he had married 15 yrs. before. Turns out,we know since his death, that she was married to someone to else at the time she married my son. The state police have been investigating, but feel there is not enough evidence to bring charges against her. She worked in a school and had access to the chemical, manganese, there in the science room where it was part of a chemistry set. He suffered terribly, both physically and mentally in those 3-4 yrs. before his death. I am a widow, an older woman. I've been in therapy for the past year, which has helped, but am still devastated by his death and the thought that she may go free.Can anyone help me in my quest for justice?

This case could be reviewed by SOS but it seems that the pathologist is on the right track and there is no other reason for the poison to be in his body. It's time to chat with the prosecutor and see if the state police have filed the case with them and if not, why not. If the prosecutor has seen the case, then he/she needs to answer the question "how much smoke do you need to see before calling it a smoking gun?"

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Regarding the information that you gave on the bruising on my son's wrists, it sounds logical only shouldn't the autopsy report reveal all noticeable markings especially in a homicide? As far as the possibility of the paramedics restraining him their report indicated that patient did not have to be restrained. Where it asked was patient a threat to himself or to others "no" was checked. I am trully bugged by the bruises especially since the autopsy report reveal all noticeable markings especially in a homicide? As far as the possibility of the paramedics restraining him their report indicated that patient did not have to be restrained. Where it asked was patient a threat to himself or to others "no" was checked. I am trully bugged by the bruises especially since the autopsy report did not explain them away or even note that they were there at all. My son was shot on Nov. 23, 2001, the autopsy was not performed until Nov. 26, 2001. Surely the bruising was apparent at that time & I wonder what reason it would not be noted in the report. As for the doctor removing the pellets that lay near the surface, he indicated to us that he tried to save our son by picking all out that he could get but that he could not get them all. When I asked the D.A. prosecuting the murderer of my son if they had the pellets that the doctor removed he replied, that he didn't & that he was not aware that the doctor had removed any. I trust when you say that even if my son had gotton shot outside of a trauma hospital that he still yet could not have been saved. But I will continue to have the question of where the bruising on his wrists come from since it was not noted in the autopsy report or even mentioned & evidence of treatment was needle puncture of the right antecubital fossa. The hospital records indicated that a IV was started & that drugs were given through the IV but no mention of any other treatment other than the intubation & CPR. Even if they were caused by the hospital & any treatment other than the intubation & CPR. my question would then be "why was it not noted in the autopsy report when they noted everything else that was visible externally". I thank you for your time.

As far the bruising being missed by the pathologist doing the autopsy, all I can suggest that he/she did not consider it worth mentioning (bad mistake) or they are having a bad day. If any of the bruising to the wrist was done by needle puncture, they would not have been in an attempt to get an arterial blood sample for blood gases. If there is any mention in the records of "A-line" or "ABG" or "blood gases " or a report that says pH7. something. pO2 something and pcO2 something-then they did one or moe. If not then they remain unexplained.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son's friend from school died last Friday night of strangulation. It was a suicide by accident; kind of. She was trying to get her mom back for putting her on phone restriction but we don't think she meant to really kill herself. She had just turned 11 years old. We went to the wake tonight and she looked so different. She was very bloated and her skin had dark make up on it and almost looked blue. She had a large vein protruding from her forhead. I know this sounds awful but I just wish I understood exactly what happened to her when she died. She hung herself in her closet with a dog leash. Her parents said her feet were still touching the floor when they found her. Can you tell me from this information how she died? Did she suffer? Why wasn't she able to get herself out of the leash if her feet were still touching the floor? We are all very confused by this and I just don't understand how it happened. Thank you for your help. Concerened Friend

Regarding hanging; It is not uncommon for individuals committing suicide by hanging to have their feet in contact with a supporting structure such as the ground, floor, chair, etc. In those who intend to kill themselves as well as those who are trying to get attention or make a gesture, the following sequence happens: The ligature, which may or may not go all the way around the neck, puts pressure on the veins in the neck. It requires the least amount of pressure to block the veins, the highest amount to block the arteries, and in-between to block the airway. The blocked veins prevent blood from exiting the head which in turn prevents blood from entering the head and the veins bulge. Once the blood flow has slowed down or stopped, the individual passes out and subsequently sags creating more pressure on the ligature by losing any support from below. It is unfortunate that many hanging gestures become reality because the person passes out.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I live in Ontario, Canada. In 1997 my baby was sexual assaulted and brutally beaten. She was 1 year 9 months. I left my children in the care of a 14 year old male babysitter. The police never investigated the possibility of rape or the possibility that the babysitter committed the crime. I was ultimately charged with 2nd degree murder of my daughter on Sept. 18, 1997. On June 15, 1999 my charges were withdrawn, due to a dramatic shift in medical opinion evidence. The pathologists who performed my daughters autopsy concealed a hair for five years in his desk. The pathologist name is Dr. Charles Smith from the Hospital for Sick Children's in Toronto, Ontario. The police claim no knowledge of the hair yet it was documented on E.R. reports. Recently, I received from the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons a report that details that the timing of her injuries were 2-3 hours prior to time of death. This is while she was with the babysitter. The police have this report but still no arrests. I could really use some help.

My suggestions are (1) go to the media if police are doing nothing and let the police know you are going to do so. (2) Contact a Canadian attorney and see if there are any laws that would let you file criminal charges against the pathologist who hid/tampered with the evidence. (3) File civil charges against the pathologist and be sure the media knows about it. (4) Don't hold your breath that the Canadian government will do much to a teenage boy even if he is guilty.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I received your e-mail. I live in Canada. Our system is so much different. The doctor who did the autopsy was not certified to perform pediatric autopsies. The investigating officer was having a "social relationship" with the babysitter's mother. Our provincial member of government will not even so much as return my calls. He continues to maintain that the police are actively investigating. To my understanding, the pubic hair that was found is in the United States being tested for DNA. I have been to the media. I brought this to the attention of the governing body of physicians and surgeons. The answer from them is they found at least 5 deficiencies in his performance. Many of them grave errors: no rape kit, timing of the injuries which caused death - this doctor's time frame was 24-48 hrs. prior to death - the college found 2-3 hrs. prior to death. The only reprimand this doctor has received was a "caution" in person. This doctor stated my daughter had a honeymoon period of sum 24 hrs. Her list of injuries were numerous to list a few: severed duodenum, lacerated liver, severed pancreas, lacerated adrenal gland, 13 ribs fractured in 23 different locations. This doctor concluded she was fine and able to go play in a park with the babysitter. The police department still believes it was me who committed this crime. They have tunnel vision and can't see past it. This police department doesn't want to admit fault. The present investigator went as far as to say "I need to check with the college so as I am not misinterpreting what I am reading". The exact quote from the document is "it had to have happened 2-3 hrs. prior to death". This seems pretty clear to me. I am not sure where to go now. I do have a civil lawsuit pending against these parties. My lawyer has never pressed the issue of the arrest of the babysitter. I do not know if that is his position to do so. I have gone to federal and provincial governments pleading for assistance to straighten this mess out, to no avail. The crown attorney prosecuted myself, he is not to willing to provide any details to me. As I said earlier my member of provincial government will not assist me. So where would I try from here.

Since I have no familiarity with the Canadian system and laws, I suggest you contact John Butt, M.D. He used to be the Chief Medical Examiner for Alberta and is currently in Vancouver BC. Mail addresses are : him, Pathfinder Forum, 1681 Chestnut Street, Suite 400, Vancouver BC V6J 4M6 or info@pathfinderforum.com He is the only Canadian forensic pathologist whom I know has a good reputation.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was just five years old in 1976 when he was shot in the head while sleeping on the sofa by our 13 year old male baby-sitter. The baby-sitter said he found my husband's gun (live in boyfriend at the time and Detroit Police Officer) in the hall closet and, as he did many times in the past, was just sort of "waving the gun" around the room when it "accidentally" went off. I have never asked questions about this homicide, or accidental shooting. I had just won my son from my father during a bitter custody battle. I was involved with drugs prior and had cleaned up my act, met this Police Officer, was trying to get my life straightened out, then just a few short months later, my son was killed. I realize it is a long time ago but I have always wondered if it was intentional, or set up, you don't realize the impact of just having these thoughts, and how to I just get on with it or find out the truth? I am unable to talk to anyone about this issue. My now ex-husband (who I married shortly after my son's death) would never talk about it. My father will not now nor never has. Funny thing about the whole scenario was that I was at work, in a bar, when I suddenly began crying and asked for the night off. I was refused. When I came home that night, my boyfriend at the time, the Detroit Police Officer, followed me in his car, the townhouse was surrounded with police and the morgue truck. I was not allowed in. My boyfriend was and he came back and told me what happened. The phone number where I worked was next to the phone. I made sure the baby-sitter had it and knew where I was. The next door neighbor said he heard the shot and rushed over and could not find this phone number so he found my phone book, phoned my dad, after finding that listing under "dad." My father and his wife knew also where I worked and the number but no one called me. When I came home my father and he wife, who lived forty-five minutes away, were already there. I was not allowed in the house. Later, about two or three days, when I returned, I found discarded photos in the trash. My father and my then boyfriend (who later became my husband) made friends immediately as my dad said he wasn't holding it against him. The boy, who I believed when he said it was an accident, was so distraught so I didn't press charges, although I do not know if the state ever did. He came from a Greek family of 8 and moved one week later, never to be seen nor heard from again. I realize it's been 26 years ago but it has been with me all of my life. I was wondering you thoughts on this. I know I should let it go.

There is absolutely no reason to consider the death of your son as an intentional act. The young boy who was babysitting apparently found the gun belonging to the police officer(who was derelict in leaving the gun loaded and unsecured) and played with it, shooting your son. Although such accidents should never happen, they obviously do and the only preventable act in the sequence of events is to secure the firearm and put the ammunition in another secure place if there will be children in the residence. Stop beating your self with the "what ifs" and other possibilities; there is no reason for this child to have intentionally shot your son or been set up. It was a tragic accident, which caused the other family to move and for you to have these ongoing questions. I'm sure it was just another tragic accident due to failure of an adult to be responsible for the gun.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter died from suffocation on 3-31-01. This has been the listed cause of death for 20 months. Today we were told by the prosecutor that a new opinion was offered by Donald Jason, MD, JD, Wake Forest Univ. stating that the cause of death was Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection based of a cross section of that artery. The finding was then shown to the County ME who agreed, supposedly without prompting and then to the original ME who also agreed and is about to reverse his original listed cause of death. Is this type of death possible? Without her knowing about it? How long would it take to develop?

This type of death is possible but extremely extremely rare and usually occurs in individuals with an abnormality in the walls of their arteries. There would be no preceding symptoms that would alert your daughter to the problem and they usually rupture in 30-50 year-olds, sometimes earlier with a history of high blood pressure. To determine if I agree with the diagnosis or not, I would have to examine the slides myself. Cause of Death is determined after reviewing a history, the findings at autopsy/examination, and any additional testing done. Whether or not this finding is *the* cause of death requires looking at everything else.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I do not have a scanner so I have typed the entire autopsy. I'm an attaching it to this email. The ME was asked to check for Red Devil Lye, ammonia, or SloBowl. Do you see in this report that she might have done so. I don't see my self much of any blood work done. My problem is that we were told by many that son was given something that he thought to be Meth but actually was something that took his life. So far with this report there is no evidence. But was there enough research done find out anything like that? Thank you so much for your help in this matter.

Your son died of a methamphetamine overdose; his blood level is extraordinarily high indicating he took a large amount or it was exceptionally pure. Red Devil Lye, ammonia or SloBowl are all strong chemicals that would have obviously destroyed the tissue at an injection site or cause severe damage and bleeding if swallowed or inhaled. This would have been evident at autopsy. There may be "rumors" going around as to what happened to your son, but based on the autopsy and toxicology report, it was a massive methamphetamine overdose.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Dr. Bonnell, First I would like to thank you for making yourself available to those of us that find ourselves in this horrible position of having a loved one murdered and not getting the answers or justice that we need. Our mother was beaten, strangled and then shot in the chest. There was a 36 hour window after her murder that the killer used to clean the scene completely. There was not a lot of evidence left by the time her body was found. They have a stronge suspect but more physical evidence could be very useful. Our question is this: Can finger prints or impressions of a particular hand be taken from a victims neck? If so does this have to be done at the time or is it possible to exhume and do these tests 6 months or more after burial?

There is a technique called "fuming" of the skin with cyanoacrylate but it is successful in the hands of only a few. I do not think there is any possibility of using it to lift prints off a body that has been prepared for interment and interred for six months already. Also, you would be looking for fingerprints and not just handprints or a hand impression. It would probably be a better utilization of time and money to carefully go over the evidence they have to see if DNA is recoverable from any item of evidence that might link the suspect to the crime.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 20 year old son was murdered in April 2001. The trial for his murderer was in December 2001. The man who killed him was convicted and sentenced to life, which in Georgia, in our case, is only 14 years--for felony murder (3 counts) and malice murder (1 count) and armed robbery. At the time of the trial I told the victims assistant that I wanted the evidence back whenever I could have it. I have left several messages in the VA office and have not gotten a response. Can you tell me when, if ever, I can get my son's property back, such as his wallet, guitar picks and clothes? Is evidence kept until the perpetrator is released from prison?

You should contact the police agency which investigated the crime; not all evidence is used in a trial nor even turned over to the prosecutor in many circumstances. The police may still have it. If the police turned the evidence over to the prosecutor, contact the prosecutor and tell him/her how futile your efforts to deal with Victims Assistance have been and what you'd like back. Last step is to contact the judge who heard the case. If this fails, your last recourse is to go to the media with evidence (letters, etc. ) that all of these public officials, who are paid by citizens of the state, do not care about the citizens who pay their salaries.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Due to the facts of hi autopsy would you say it was possible for one to inject themselves for this amount or would you say it was to the hands of another. What does it mean the postmortem lividity is reddish- purple and fixed on the posterior of the body?
Is that possible sign that it might of been dropping the body over a fence??? and that is where he landed on his posterior side??

There is "almost" no limit to the amount of drug someone can inject into their body. Most heroin is only 8-10% pure and those addicted to its use most commonly use a tuberculin (1cc) syringe, then the blood level would be 100 times higher. So it is not simple to say that the level is so high that someone else must have injected it; other information is required and even then it is most difficult to prove.

Post-mortem lividity forms after death as blood drains to one portion/side of the body due to gravity. Reddish-purple is the usual color after death as blood drains to one portion/side of the body due to gravity and the fact that is "fixed" means the body has lain with back down long enough for the blood to drain to the back and to break out from the blood vessels and actually discolor/stain the skin so it does not go away when pressure is applied. It has nothing to do with trauma.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Why would there be bleeding to the nose and conjestion to the lungs, a crushed trachea in a hanging from door.

Bleeding from the nose can occur because the veins emptying the head require less pressure to be obstructed than the arteries pumping blood into the head so small blood vessels can rapture. Long congestion occurs from the lack of oxygen and changes in blood flow as the heart fibrillates or beats ineffectively. Crushed trachea shouldn't happen and in my experience, justifies notification of the police to initiate a homicide investigation.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am in the process of getting the prosecutor at the State Attorneys Generals Office to hopefully allow my family to get an SOS regarding my brothers unsolved homicide. In my last conversation with the prosecutor (DEC 24, 2002) he had some areas of concern and questions he needed answered from me (you).
They are the following:
Who are you?
What is your background, i.e.- resume?
What do you do with the information you receive on the case?
What are the security barriers for the information about the case submitted to you?
In an SOS do you do the work yourselves? What is the protocol?
Please consider eah question. We are eager to have an SOS and the more completely we satisfy the AGs office the more likely they will accept an SOS. Thank you so very, very much!

For my background, etc go to the internet web site 4n6pathology.com. Ignore the portion about fees; the rate apply to my work, not for my "pro bono" work for SOS.
The material sent to SOS is sent directly to the appropriate individual who reviews it him/herself. Confidentiality is maintained even though we realize that some of the information provided to us is public record anyway. We reply only to the individual sending in the information unless they give us permission to do otherwise. We do NOT perform any active inveatigation but review the materials objectively with a new perspective and identify any areas of concern or which deserve additional investigation.

In the past we have helped the Union Township, Ohio Police Dept obtain an exhumation for a second autopsy which resulted in charges filed and a murder conviction. We also reviewed a case at family request and provided our findings do the Fairfax County Virginia Police who were then able to get a confession and a conviction.

Your AG should fell free to contact me by e-mail or by phone as listed on the website.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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How long does it take one to die from a massive overdose? Can someone in that condition climb over two barbed wire fences, and a chainlink fence, and be totally unconcious when the police get there within 2 to 3 minutes. Shows two minutes on the report. I don's see how he got there in the condition he was in. What is your opinion?

It is possible, not probable but nevertheless possible, because injected drugs go into a vein, travel back to the heart, pass through the lungs and back to the heart, and then are pumped throughout the body to include the brain and then have to pass through the "blood-brain barrier" and all that can take a couple of minutes before reaching a lethal level in the brain.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter was murdered four years ago, and there has been no arrest. My questions concern DNA testing. I have been told that the sample contains two different types of DNA, and in another conversation I was told that the sample is small. I have watched several programs such as Forensic Files and I have seen that the technology is present that can separate DNA, but I may be mistaken. My questions are as follows.

Is the technology available that can separate DNA?
How small can a sample be in order to get evidence from it?
What laboratories can process small samples of DNA?
Do different Jurisdictions require that DNA testing meet certain standards? If so, which laboratories that can process small samples of DNA meets those standards?
I am thanking you in advance for your assistance. It is greatly appreciated.


Most samples contain two types of DNA, as distinguished from DNA from two different people. There is nuclear DNA from the nucleus of the cell and there is mitochondrial DNA from the mitochondria. Nuclear is more specific than mitochondrial and is the sample most commonly used. There are two procedures for analyzing nuclear DNA, one basically uses intact DNA strands and the other utilizes fragments which are then multiplied to make the sample larger. Any crime lab which is "CLIA" certified should meet the jurisdictional requirements of any United States court (although judges are known to exercise great latitude in what they allow/don't allow in their courtroom.) The major problem confronting DNA analysis is that most crime labs do not have the funding/trained personnel to test all samples until they have a suspect for comparison. Although "hyped" on TV, few places can actually afford to run the specimens from all rape/homicide kits even though they could then compare their results with a national/state data base.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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How do I go about getting picture's of the Crime Scene and the report's from the Sheriff Dept?I am not exactly in good standing with them since they messed up the investigation on my Child death.Also I am a new Private Detective would that help me as far as getting the picture's and the report's or should I bring that up?I really don't think they will let me have anything but I can try just give me your opinion and I will go from there.Our Sheriff Dept doesn't like people second guessing them and they will tell you that.Let me know and I will do what ever it takes to get them.I do have a Badge and a Diploma and a Id Card with PI on it but we are not suppose to show our Badge to Law Enforcement.I had to get my PI stuff due to them not investigating my child death.I feel with my PI Diploma and taking Basic and Advance Death Investigation that I have found their mistakes.I shouldn't of had to do all of this if they would of done their job in the first place.But I am proud that I did do this.

I would not reveal your PI qualification at all-this will get the door slammed in your face when you are dealing with police egos. First request the information from the sheriff's office. If that fails, schedule a visit with your prosecutor. If these elected officials stonewall you, go to victims assistance or a free legal clinic and see if its possible to obtain them by court order-if not, you will have saved the cost of an attorney. If there is no way to obtain them legally, then you need to get the laws changed.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am sending this e-mail concerning information about my beloved brothers murder. I feel like the police are not doing an adequate job following his case. My brother left one morning to go to school and then in later that day I was informed of his murder. But the most upsetting thing which the police did was claim that his murder was a suicide. When my family viewed his body there were several deep wounds on him which were not there and his wound which he passed from was inconsistent with a suicide. We have tried to get the medical examination of him but they claim that they can not release that informaiton without a lawyers request. Is this true? Also, the police said that they couldn't find any finger prints off my brothers car but when we went back to the crime site we saw blood in various areas which appeared not to be of my brothers. I requested a police report to see what all the things the police stated in their report they claimed they couldn't give out this information. Is this true? I don't know what to do next to bring justice to my brother whom was senselessly killed. Where to go and what to do?

What you can see and what can be concealed depends upon what state you live in. In general, autopsy reports are either public record and available to anyone or they are considered medical records and are releasable to the next-of-kin. Similarly, police can conceal their records if there is an on-going investigation into a crime; but, if they have determined that this is a suicide, then the records should be available to the public.

If you still cannot get the records, I suggest you contact one of your local elected officials such as a County Supervisor or a state legislator.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have been searching the internet for where my state stands as far as the DNA backlog in CODIS and what I can do to help get it cleared up. I know you are not a lobbying group but thought you might know of a good place for me to start. Thanks for your help!

The best place to start is with your local state representative and senator because the only way to eliminate the backlog is to spend money to get the testing done.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I was wondering if you could tell me about how much force is required to break a jaw bone? I cannot find this information anywhere on the internet, and it's in reguards to a case at my school. Someone was hit by a hockey stick, but we cannot determine how hard. If we knew the Newtons of force, or something related in that sense, it could help us a great deal. If you know, or know where we can find this information, please let me know. Thank you.

I think this is one of those questions that is impossible to answer. I frequently get asked by attorneys as to how much force is required to ................ and my answer is almost always that I cannot give you a number such as pounds per square inch, etc. all I can say is that it had to be intentional or with a lot of power. The problem is that the "breakability" of a jaw(mandible) or any bone varies from person to person depending on age, body stature, bone density and where on the bone the force is applied. The jaw is an excellent example; if hit on the tip of the chin with sufficient force, the mandible will stay intact but the forces are transmitted to the base of the skull which fractures. If the tip of the chin is hit from the side, then the mandible fractures, sometimes in one place and sometimes in two. So there is no easy ,and accurate, answer to your question.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered 5 months ago and the police now say they identified 3 persons, my son's classmate; the classmate's cousin and the classmate's friend. The car my son was driving was burnt by these individual to cover their evidence. the police were able to trace where the keg of gasoline was bought that was used to burn the car. None of these individual are in jail and no trial set the police claim that non of the individual will testify against the other and since no one else was at the scene of the crime they cannot go to trial. The individuals all got lawyers. so the case sits with nothing happening. What can I do? Am I entitled to the police investigation records and if so how do I get it and how come the police cannot make the 3 individuals go to trial they were all involved in the crime. the police claim they need to know who the shooter was. all three are involved in this crime regardless who the shooter was.

I suggest you contact the prosecutor/district attorney for your jurisdiction and try to arrange a meeting with you, the police and the prosecutor. In most states the law allows you to charge all three despite not knowing who pulled the trigger; they all participated just as the "lookout" or "getaway" driver is involved. That might put enough pressure on one of them to "turn over" on the others; if not, I still would expect a jury to convict.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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If someone was shot in the head could it make their stomach hemorrhage?

If they survived for a period of time, they could develop stress ulcers of the stomach with bleeding. If the base of the skull was fractured as a result of the bullet wound, blood could pass into the mouth and be swallowed.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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BY CONDUCTING AN AUTOPSY ARE YOU ABLE TO DETERMINE HOW OLD THE WOUNDS ARE FROM A BEATING. ALSO IF THERE IS DRIED BLOOD ARE YOU ABLE TO DETERMINE HOW OLD THIS BLOOD IS?

Dried blood cannot be date with any accuracy. Autopsy, to include microscopic examination and special staining techniques on bruised tissue, can give an estimate to a range of time in which a bruise or bruises occurred but usually not specific enough for what police/prosecutors/defense attorneys are looking for. Certainly one can differentiate between a fresh (less than 24 hours old) and a recent (3-6 days) and older bruises, particularly in lighter skinned individuals. But it is NOT an absolute accurate determination.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am a first year university student in Australia and I am doing an assignment on Blood Splatter Patters, specifically how it dtermines body position, location of blows etc., and how the process may be improved. I was wondering if you would be able to provide me with any information relevent to this particular area. Your assistance and time are greatly appreciated.Looking forwrd to your reply.

I suggest you go to www.aafs.org which is a forensics site, click on resources and then on forensic links.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter disappeared November 12, 2002. She was later found murdered by 5 gunshot wounds to the head. The autopsy report shows the following drugs: BLOOD: Alcohol.Ethanol........0.03 gm% (30 mg/dl) Cocaine/Metabolites.Positive Cocaine Quantitation.Cocaine Metabolite (Methylecgonine)......0.13Micrograms/ML LIVER: Methamphetamine.......0.40 Micrograms/GM The death certificate shows cocaine and methamphetamine as contributing factors to the death. However, the investigator on the case says these are "trace" amounts. My questions are: 1. Are these signification amounts? 2. Could these drugs dissipate between the time she disappeared and the time her body was found? 3. Could her body size ( 70 inches/225 lbs) and the fact that she had recently had gastric bypass surgery affect the toxicology readings? 4. Could taking "pink ladies" (?) for weight control impact the toxicology report?

The low level of cocaine metabolite is truly an insignificant amount. There would be no significant dissipation unless there was significant decomposition in which levels cannot be meaningfully interpreted. The body size and bypass should have no effect. The "pink ladies" could contain amphetamine which might cross-react with the test for methamphetamine. The test for methamphetamine also is frequently positive if there is decomposition even though there is no true methamphetamine present.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son, John, was found by me on December 27th, 2002, shot in the head in his bed at my house. We sleep one room away (a room in between). While I do not hear well, neither of us heard the shot. There was no autopsy. I was in a state of shock. I did not know that I had to request one. The police did not check his hands for gun powder or his head. They did not take finger prints on the gun. I requested they do that after about a month. When three more weeks went by, I said forget it. The gun still had not been sent away for the prints. I have many questions. I cannot get answers or cooperation from our police department (Lawrence burg Indiana) or the coroner's office. I have heard many lies. My questions. My son had a Taurus 43 L or rather a 44. The bullet used (I think) was a Winchester Super x 44 S& W Special 200 grain Silver Tip HP That was the only one missing out of a full box and the gun was purchased two years ago. There was no exit wound. How did he lay a pillow on his left side and then lay his hand and the gun still in his hand on the pillow after shooting himself? He is right handed and was shot in the right side of his head about half way back above his ear. There were no blood splatters - white curtains hand behind his bed with an open head-board. No splatters on the wall which is white. John always closed a drawer if he opened one. Two drawers were open. Never in his 30 years did he leave a drawer open. Five caller I.D.'s were erased for that day - the day before being on them and the day after. There was no exit wound. How did he shoot himself with a 44 and there not be an exit wound? No noise. No blood splatters. Open drawers. Hold onto a 44 which I am told has a bad recoil. I am being made to look like a person who is "a half a bubble off" by the local police department and the prosecutor (Sally Blankenship) and also the coroner. I need answers. My son was very scared of his former girl friend's relation. Known drug dealers. He keep telling me to watch my back as they were dangerous. He and I spent most of our time together. I do believe he had overheard something he was not to hear. John was tested for drugs. I do have that report. There were none. He never used such things. He did not smoke and hated to see people do that, etc. His girl friend was not allowed around her father for the two years they were together. I will not put any more in print as I do know too much also. We have been blocked from getting any reports. I have the police report which I got from an insurance company. They list the gun as two separate guns. They will not let us have the gun back also. The case is closed. Both the police department and prosecutor has stated so. I have hired an attorney and she does not seem to be getting anywhere, but she told me the prosecutor says the case is closed. Due to the police department and coroner not doing what they were suppose to do, I do believe we have been blocked. I need the answers to my questions. So do my family. John cannot rest till we know and can deal with all this. Yes, I cry. I loved my son. He had or has a sister and two brothers and a step father. His dad died when he was 8 years old. He had fell 39 feet on his head on a gym floor about ten years ago. He was on disability. I am 66. He and I spent every day together. No one will help us. We are more or less told to accept things as they are and shut up. Mainly to shut up. I do understand that if I try to talk to the prosecutor that I will be arrested for harrasment. Please give me your opinion.

At first glance, this appears to be either a drug-related cover-up or gross incompetence on the part of the coroner and prosecutor. When I was in Cincinnati, these types of cases from Ohio county always came in for autopsy and the coroner came with them. I suggest you scream blood murder. Call reporter Debbie Dixon from the TV station in Cincinnati, call the Cincy newspaper, the papers and media in Indianapolis and Louisville. Contact the FBI and US attorney in Louisville or Indianapolis. This appears to be a MAJOR STEP backwards for Ohio county.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Why would an autopsy report show a cause of death as an Overwhelming Viral Infection, when it is known that the child in question had meningitis? Why would the same case be handled as a child abuse case? I understand that some times a person with meningitis may have a rash that can supposedly look like bruising, but this child had very little rash, in truth I do not recall seeing any rash, yet there is some mention of a prickly like rash in the autopsy report. Also curious about meningitis is it possible for there to be genetic tendencies towards this illness. I know it sounds like a crazy question, so let me explain. 1969 my sister spent 19 days in the hospital with meningitis, she was not really expected to live, but somehow pulled through. Her symptom/s to the best of my memory was an extremely high fever, in fact she didn't know who any of us were. Those are the only symptoms I remember. We were all put on medication and quarantined as a precautionary measure. June of 1969 my youngest brother died of meningitis, he was about 3 months old. My brother slept a lot the day before his death and moaned almost constantly. I do not recall him running a fever until the night before his death, at which time my parents took him to the hospital. He died the following morning. I never saw him after he was taken to the hospital, but would later learn that he was covered in a rash by the time he died. It was a closed casket. I do not recall us being put on any medication as a precautionary measure. Nor were we quarantined. August of 1981 my second born child died of meningitis.It just seemed like he had a cold. Slight fever, runny nose, etc., although his skin coloring seemed to be slightly yellow, which at the time I thought was just due to a poorly lit room. We had given him children's Tylenol and started giving him 7-up or sprite, cannot remember which. In retrospect I know that his skin was actually yellow, he died just an hour or so later. Due to his unexplained death at that time, we took the youngest of our other children to a local hospital to be checked as one child also had slight symptoms of a cold. We explained the circumstances and hospital staff spoke with whom I assumed was the medical examiner. I cannot explain it, but there was some confusion as one person thought my son had died of meningitis and someone else didn't. In any case, the staff quickly checked my other two children and sent us home. Several hours later someone from the health department showed up at our house telling my father-in-law that everyone in the house needed to be seen immediately by a doctor. So all of us went to the hospital, blood was drawn and test were ran to determine if there was a need for spinal taps. In the end, everyone in the household was put on antibiotics as was one of our neighbors and their family. In 1987 or 1988 my third child became sick, I took him to a hospital, they gave him a shot and sent him home, several hours later I took him to another hospital, a spinal tap was done within minutes after seeing the doctor, he too had meningitis. I was told that in this case there was no way to determine the type of meningitis due to the shot of antibiotics given to him at the first hospital. Something about it preventing the culture from growing. His symptom/s were a severe headache, and it seemed more like he had a stomach virus, couldn't keep anything down, etc., he just continued to get worse through out the rest of the night and part of the next day, which is when I took him to the first hospital. We were not put on medication. I was told later that it is possible that one or more members of my family could be a carrier, assuming that is, that all the cases of meningitis were of the same type. Which of course we will never know for sure. I have also been told that the meningococcal bacteria can live in a person's nasal passages yet that person may never actually get meningitis. By the same token some people do. I guess I am just confused by the whole subject. You also must keep in mind that I was only 10 when my sister and brother had meningitis, so I saw things through a child's eye and of course it has been many years since 1969 and certainly my memory is not as good as it once was. I do realize that this site was for those with murdered children, and my son's death does not fall in that catagory, but due to my experience with perhaps an over zealous medical examiner I was hoping you might be of some help. Let me just state for the record, this is a private matter, I am not looking to sue anyone nor cause this man any grief. I just would like a few answers, it has been over twenty years since the death of my child and his death as well as the aftermath still haunts me after all this time.

The truthful part of what you were told is that "I was told later that it is possible that one or more members of my family could be a carrier, assuming that is, that all the cases of meningitis were of the same type. Which of course we will never know for sure. I have also been told that the meningococcal bacteria can live in a person's nasal passages yet that person may never actually get meningitis. By the same token some people do." Someone might use the term Overwhelming Viral Infection as an "excuse diagnosis" as it were. Obviously it overwhelmed if the patient died. If bacterial cultures came back negative (poor technique or antibiotics already given) then viral might be used because bacterial could not be proven. But in short, diagnosis and treatment for meningitis has changed frequently over the years, varying from treat all contacts to treat only the symptomatic; and child abuse is more frequently suspected than shown to exist, and I guess that is better than the opposite.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have E Mailed you the reports relating to my son's death. My husband and I are unable to get an approximate time of death. We have done a prodigious amount of research ourselves. The couple who provided Greg with the drugs called Poison Control at 2:49 A.M. inquiring about OraMorph 100 SR. Greg called a friend at 4:21 asking her to come and get him,that it was "serious". The coroner did not see Greg's body until the date of the autopsy, September 30. He refuses to speak with us. I know that immediately after death , the body is limp for five to six hours. When EMS arrived at the couple's apartment, rigor mortis had already set in in the jaw. My husband and I have estimated that death probably occurred around eight a.m. the morning of September 29. The EMS physician told us that when he saw the body Greg had been dead at least three to five hours. Greg was in great physical health except for mild asthma which he had from childhood. If you can tell us an approximate time of death, it will help us so much. We are so frustrated trying to get answers.

8 am fits the findings plus/minus one hour. In addition to the rigidity which you describe, the autopsy report describes lividity (livor) on the face. This means there is fixed livor on the face which means he lay face down for at least 6-8 hours following death. If the EMT's/paramedics found him lying on the couchy"

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I had looked at your very impressive resume and saw that you were a Eucharistic Lay Minister, so that was the reason I wondered if you were Episcopalian! Two brief questions:
1. What does hypotension and hypoxia on the Primary Series mean?
2. If a person has abused drugs, how is this determined by the autopsy
?

Hypotension means low blood pressure and hypoxia means decreased oxygen. Findings consistent with drug abuse are hepatitis (liver inflammation), enlarged lymph nodes especially in the area near the liver, foreign bodies or foreign body reaction in the lungs, foreign body reactions in the kidneys, an enlarged spleen, a perforation of the nasal septum (the wall between the two inlets of the nose), needle track marks/injection sites. Most of these can also be seen in non-abusers so you have to take it all in context.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Is the autopsy person different than the medical examiner? Also when one is taken to the hospital and pronounced DOA does that doctor at the hospital who does the finalization to the time of death and all different than the medical examiner and would they also perform some type of examination. I'm trying to figure out whether of not to get the report from the hospital which my son was taken to and pronounced DOA at, or is that something that would be of no value in looking into what might of happened to son.

Most medical examiners are forensic pathologists and would be the persons performing the autopsy. The doctor pronouncing your son DOA normally has very little, if anything, to contribute information wise.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can you tell me have you ever had a case of carbon monoxide poisoning in a car that was determined to be murder or is it always a suicide? There are suspicious circumstances surrounding a death that was ruled a suicide and at this point we have not persued any further evidence given the cause of death. What's your opinion?

Almost all carbon monoxide deaths are suicides or accidents, with suicides predominating when the death occurs in a car or in a garage. I have seen one death where the individual was found dead in a car with a hose going from the exhaust pipe into the car, but testing also revealed they had been sedated with a drug not accessible to the public but accessible to the person eventually convicted. So that would be one out of more than 20,000+ deaths I have investigated, or supervised the investigation.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I wanted to know if a 40 caliber gun could make a 3mmx6mm hole in a human ?

40 caliber is equal to 10mm so I would doubt that a 10mm hole would contract almost 50% down to 6mm max dimension. Let's say I would look at the story real hard and real long.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can the blood alcohol level be detected in a deceased person who has been embalmed and buried? If so, is there a time limit on obtaining correct results?

Basically no. The only sample that could be possibly used is eye fluid but there is no way to assure the validity of any measurement. In addition, most embalming solutions contain one or more alcohols.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Please allow me to introduce myself, My name is Brenda, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the person responsible for contacting authorities in 1994 and filing charges against my uncle John Romero for child sexual abuse he committed against 9 cousins and myself from 1963 to 1972 he was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 10 years in Solano Prison at Vacaville ( Norwalk Superior Court case # VAO58758) This is a landmark case and has gained much media attention due to the fact that it has allowed victims of childhood sexually abuse to finally come forward and bring their abusers to some form of justice if there is any for this hideous crime. I am asked to speak about being a child victim and my life now as a SURVIVOR and hopefully my experience through the court system has paved the way for victims to empower themselves therefore enabling them towards healing and being a SURVIVOR, I have designed a program which is named S.A.R.A.P.E.

I am now faced with a serious dilemma, Mr Jesse Luera, Mayor, City of Norwalk CA has requested that I assist Maria Saavedra, Mother of 6 year old Jackeline Saavedra who was abducted and missing for 1 year and 3 months until her remains were found along the I-5 freeway at 13700 block of Firestone Blvd in Santa Fe Springs CA on November 30, 2002 inside bushes by Cal Trans workers cleaning debris that had not been cleaned for 5 years according to reports the child had not been positively identified as Jackeline Iran Saavedra of Norwalk until February 28, 2003 when DNA tests positively confirmed the remains. Mrs. Saavedra has limited English speaking abilities and is very distraught over her child's death and according to Maria Saavedra the investigators have not been forthcoming with information, to now they have not disclosed the manner or cause of death to her and Mrs. Saavedra further states to not believe that the remains she viewed were those of her daughter which were shrouded in cloth at the mortuary private veiwing and was only exposed at the mouth area with what appeared to be a clamp or screw type tool inside her mouth and either severely decayed teeth and or very broken teeth which Jackeline did not have when abducted, also exposed was the remaining part of a leg that did not appear to have a foot, I can understand Ms. Saavedra not wanting to admit that this is her daughter but I have tried to explain the accuracy of DNA and the fact that Jackeline is the first child to be positively identified with a match on this new DNA database and I have just sent for information of any kind about the database and the accuracy and possibly the written test result information on Jackline so that I may share this information with Maria Saavedra. I have many details pertaing to this case too long to go inot detail here but Ms Saavedra is very much needing your assistance.

The accuracy of DNA testing is well-established and I'm not sure how to prove to mom that it is so accurate. If the testing was done by PCR technique using a stored sample of Jackeline, then there can be no reasonable doubt. Mom might want to ask the police, using the mayor's endorsement as clout, to perform mitochondrial DNA analysis using mom's sample for comparison. Mitochondrial DNA is slightly less accurate than cellular DNA but it is passed from mother to all offspring. I expect that the reason police have not released a cause of death is that they don't have one; the changes to the body after a period of one year outdoors in the typical LA area weather, leave little left to work with. I have experienced two such child deaths here in San Diego and even though we could not determine an exact cause of death, the jury had no problem in convicting one defendant and the defendant in the 2nd case pled guilty. The teeth changes are a result of post-mortem changes and the metallic device was undoubtedly used to provide some structural integrity(the bones of the skull of a 6-year old are not yet tightly fused together.)

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I did not ask for an autopsy on my mothers death. I want to know if there is a forensic test that can be performed on cremains for Arsenic poisoning. She had epilepsy and a drinking problem. I believed that she had fallen. She lived in a 900 square foot duplex apartment with her son (my half brother) his wife and 10 month old grandson. She had been reunited with her son about three years ago and expected to make up for lost time. My mother was not easy to get along with so I wasn't surprised to see things deteriorate rapidly. I thought at the time that my mothers drinking was the problem. When my mother told me my brother wouldn't pay rent or contribute to any bills I spoke with him and he told me it was so she wouldn't have more disposable income to drink on. I had for years tried to prevent her from drinking so I figured that it was a reasonable excuse. But after her death at about the 3 month mark my brother and sister in law started acting strangely even though my sister and I were going to forgo our shares in the estate and help pay down the mortgage for them. They took rent from the estate collected from the other duplex side and squandered it. I paid the mortgage out of my pocket. They also accused me of delaying the transfer of my mothers estate to them. It baffles me because when my Mom died I had a strange feeling something wasn't right but I pushed it aside thinking my brother is my mothers son and no one could do such a thing. My mother was a dark skinned latina so when I visited her a few week before she died I was shocked to see her skin peeling all over her body like a snake, extreme weight loss, very white skin and blackish freckles on her face. I was concerned and asked if she was all right. She brushed me off but I told her when I got back from my sales expo I was going to start bringing her food she liked. I asked her if they were treating her OK, she said every thing was fine but I wasn't so convinced. I felt truly confused and then about two weeks later she died. I'm sorry for making this so long I just felt the need to tell you why I need an answer to this question.

The provided history sounds more like an untreated malignancy than arsenic poisoning. One can test the ashes for arsenic but trying to interpret the results is near impossible because we all have trace elements of arsenic in our bodies anyway. If the level is high, then you have the next problem of homicide/suicide/accident.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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If victim was 18, approx 110-120 pounds, homicide occurred somewhere between 1:30 and 3:30 in the morning (penetrating head wound), and there was 200 cc of food particles mixed with gastric secretions in the stomach...is it possible to determine time of injury? Thank you. I do realize that perhaps more evidence may also be needed in determining this, but I am curious with regards to the stomach contents.

Stomach contents are notoriously unreliable to determine an interval between time of eating and time of death; even though Hollywood loves to use it in movies and shows. There are too many factors which affect the rate of digestion to include, kind of food eaten, type of drink also ingested at the same time, medications the person might be taking, stress factors, etc.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My sister passed away on Monday. Her boyfriend told us he found her hanging in a shop behind his house. He said she had taken a heavy duty extension cord, looped it around the blades of a ceiling fan and hung herself. He said the ceiling was low and her feet were about an inch off the ground and a chair was near by. She was revived by the paramedics but lived only 2 days before becoming brain dead. When we asked to donate organs before removing from the vent the police department was contacted by the hospital and we were told they wanted to do an atopsy. I originally thought that she had committed suicide because she had previous attempts. I did look at her hands and wrist and seen no evidence of a struggle but both of her knees were badly bruised. Her blood alcohol content was .362, she was very impaired. Now here is the puzzling piece to this horrible incident. The ligature marks were low on the neck, maybe an inch above the collar bone. On the right side of her neck they were more apparent and looked like a rope burn, over the front the ligature mark looked to cut the skin, and on the left side they were barely visible. My husband is a criminal justice major and arrived after the body was taken to atopsy. He said from what we described, the ligature marks don't fit the hanging from a ceiling fan senerio her boyfriend described. I told him she had no marks on her wrist or visible skin tissue under her nails and no scratch marks on her neck at the ligature site to indicate she was trying to free herself. But he stated that as impaired as she was she may have passed out from the alcohol. I do know that the police interrigated her boyfriend for app. 3 hours and video taped him and they were fighting the night before. I came home and looked up on the net hanging ligature photos and the ones I seen were high on the neck and deep in color and wide, nothing like what she had, hers were brown and not deep and she had the cut in front and the rope like burn on left which was the widest, the light ones on the left and the cut were very thin.

I congratulate the police for not accepting this death at face-value as a suicide. The ligature markings you describe are inconsistent with the scene you describe. The blood alcohol level is easily in the unconscious range and in some people it might be lethal; it is too high to believe she could do the actions required to suspend herself. It sounds more like a ligature strangulation by another person staged to appear as a suicide.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 40 year old sister was found dead in bed on March 21, 2003 at approx. 10:30 pm. There were no signs of forced entry or trauma to her body. Her retainer was in her mouth and the door was chained, indicating she had went to bed to go to sleep. My family and I have been suspicious from the beginning. She was healthy and had no medical problems that we are aware of, other than a cold, but she was a smoker. She lived in the McLean/Annandale Virginia area from 1980 until October of 2001 at which time she moved to southeastern Ohio to the family farm. She was a real estate appraiser in Virginia. After moving to Ohio, she did not want to continue working in real estate. She went to school and got her bartending license. She began working in a local bar in the summer of 2002. Two days before her death, I spoke with her by phone ( 5:30pm) as I was getting ready to go to work and she told me there was a lot of sh-- going down and she needed to talk to me. She was also supposed to stop by some friends house on 3-21-03 to discuss some things she did not want to talk about on the phone prior to going to work. However I never got to speak with her prior to her death. My sister had commented to me many times about the drugs and welfare in the area. She did not do drugs nor did she approve or allow anyone to do them in her presence. She had also told a friend in California that if anything ever happened to her to look at a certain person, however this was back in november 2002. She worked on 3-20-03 from 5 pm until approx. 3 am. She then went to Walmart, purchased 2 CD's and some Tylenol PM, at 3:14 am 3-21. She had also wrote in a book her hours for the night and how much she made in tips and wages and wrote down 8 pm as the time for her to go back to work on 3-21-03. When she did not show up for work that night, her boss went to her house. They (Sherry and her boss) also had a big conservation about problems between them on 3-19-03, which he said was resolved but I was told by her friends otherwise. Not being able to arouse anyone in the house and her jeep there, he went back to town, got someone from the bar and went back to her house. Still not able to get anyone to arouse, they headed back to town to use the cellphone and call 911. The sheriff's dept. responded and broke the door to get in and found her in bed dead. The coroner was called, (a retired surgeon). No pictures were taken nor was the place secured. I was notified by my mother at approx. 11:55 pm. My husband went to the house at approx. 1-1:30 am to try to secure the door after he was told by the deputy on the phone it was ok. I only lived 3 miles from her, and my parents lived in Columbus, 2 hours away. It was difficult to try and secure it at that time of the morning so he did the best he could. Less than 3 hours after her body was removed, 6 people from the local bar went to her house to feed her cat and remove items my parents would not have wanted to see, so they said. My sister was a lesbian. They said they removed pictures and sex toys. They failed to mention taking other things present in the house that my husband saw when he was there securing the door. Some things have been returned but I am sure there are things we will never know was missing. Our local Sheriff said we need to prove that they were there with the intent to take things and that we will probably not be able to prosecute them. The final diagnosis on the autopsy report states, inflammation of the upper airway, pulmonary emphysema, and toxic levels of Cadmium. 120 mcg/L. (her blood was tested) There was a small amount of Benadryl, Acetaminophen, nicotine, and contine in her blood but that was all. We do not have a death certificate yet. We as the family had to insist on the test for heavy metals. No one from the Sheriff's Office contacted us until 6 days after her death. BCI (Ohio) came in and kept telling us, that there was no forced entry, no trauma to her etc., that the case was gong to be closed, never to be reopened, and that if someone told them they did something to her they wouldn't believe it. They had not even interviewed the names of the people we gave them. We still, after all this kept insisting on heavy metal testing and it was finally done the first part of May. Even after the Cadmium results they don't believe someone could have done this to her. In my research I have found a man poisoned with Cadmium in Pennsylvania in 2002 and a woman in Florida in Dec. 2002 (hers was a combo of Xanax, alcohol, and Cadmium). All info I can find is geared to environmental exposure. Cadmium intentional poisoning in extremely rare and no one seems to know anything about it. I do know it can be inhaled or ingested (which is what we suspect) and when detected in the blood it indicates recent exposure. Her water in the house is rural water, which is what most of the county drinks, including myself and it has been tested but no results yet. Please help !!! Your opinion? My family is so devastated by this and no one wants to listen or believe us.

Cadmium poisoning is very rare which is why it is such a good method of homicide; toxicology requests very rarely look for heavy metals and in the absence of any other drugs, a natural cause of death is usually used. Because of its rarity, law enforcement as well as coroners have little experience in investigating deaths dealing with it and will try to ignore the possibility of it being a criminal event. Unless the water tests come back positive, I believe your sister was a homicide victim

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I've beeen trying to talk to the DA fro 2 days now and will not return my calls. I've been going down there and I'm planning on going today again with a letter. They have reopened my son case and the DNA is back and it was positive but with his dog on the suspects shirt. I've heard this from other people and I trusted the DA to tell when anything new came up as he said. Don't I have rights to to know what is going on???? (as a parent/mother) Please let me know what I can do?

You have rights to know what's going on, provided of course that you are not suspect. The DA may want to keep a close hold on this info until an arrest is made or other investigation results come back. The results from the DNA tests may have lead to the need to do other testing on other evidence. The DA or police frequently withhold information from the next-of-kin out of fear that the next-of-kin might take matters into their own hands, talk to others about the results or even talk to the media. If your DA is as busy as most, I don't think that allowing him/her several days to contact you is unreasonable. Your son's death is your priority but he/she undoubtedly has many other cases to deal with.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I was just wondering how my son autopsy report doesn't say, reason unknown. Instead it say natural death. Cause they said that he died on Feb. 4, 2001. But he wasn't found for seven months after the fact. There wasn't any thing to go on. But the F.B.I. is saying that he was murdered. And also after they found Scott they took him to the coroner office. There is no doctor report or anything. Thank-you for all the help you can give.

There is little I can say with any certainty. If his remains were taken to a coroner office, there should be some investigative or examination report. On the other hand, if left with little to work with and it was a rural coroner office with no experts available, they may have cared less and just put down natural. It is always possible that if it were a homicide and the FBI is investigating it as such, they requested the coroner to put natural on the death certificate so as not to get anybody's attention or media interest activated.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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On july 17,2001 my sons daughter chelsea was with her mother and the mother's boyfriend they say they found chelsea wedged between the bed and wall, she was 18 months old. the coroner ruled it accidental asphyxiation due to compression of chest. well five moths later the mother and her boyfriend had a baby together that baby died at 3 weeks old they say she fell out of adult bed and landed in pile of dirty clothes and sufficated. the coroner ruled this death homicidal asphyxiation and then changed chelsea's to the same, but the problem is the police did not go in and investigate chelsea's death as a hiomicide didnt take pictures until two weeks later so any evidence would be gone or tampered with this was done in cheviot ohio so now its been almost 2 years since chelsea died and no one has been charged with her and her half sister's murder. would exuming the bodies maybe help to find any evidence if the coroners didnt do a proper job in the autospy. any answers or suggestions u can give will be greatly appreciated.

Exhuming the remains will not provide any answers; the only possible positive finding would be bruises inside the mouth from pressure applied during smothering; but that would no longer be identifiable at this time. The police need to investigate as best they can; I doubt there was any physical evidence at the original scene that would be of benefit to a prosecutor anyway. It's time for the prosecutor, police and coroner to get together and decide if they have a prosecutable case; and let you know why they made whatever decision they made. It may be that the case, as it stands now, is terribly week and if found "not guilty", they could never be tried again. However, the relationship between these two adults does not sound very stable and one may turn against the other to provide testimony in the future.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF A 2 YR ( ON AND OFF) DRUG ADDICTION , USING 2 BAGS OF HEROIN A DAY AT THE HEIGHT OF ADDICTION BEFORE TREATMENT COULD CAUSE THE LIVER TO WEIGH 1850 GRAMS OR......IS IT MORE THEN LIKELY THE DRUG NALTREXONE WHICH HAS A BLACK BOX LABEL OF LIVER TOXICITY TO BLAME? NALTREXONE'S LD IS 50 MG. THE PELLET THAT WAS IMPLANTED IN MY SONS BODY WAS 1000 MG, IN WHAT WAS SAID TO BE AN ACCEPTABLE CARRIER. CHEIF OF TOXICOLOGY IN MY AREA TOLD ME TO MAKE " NOISE " SO THATS WHAT I INTEND TO DO. MANY MEDICAL EXAMINERS DO NOT CHECK FOR NALTREXONE POST MORTEM. WHY WAS THIS DRUG RELEASED WHEN IT NEVER COMPLETED CLINICAL TRIALS? THE STATE MEDICAL BOARD INVESTIGATED 7 DEATHS SAYING THAT THE DETOX THAT DR. GOOBERMAN DID CONTRIBUTED TO THE DEATHS OF THOSE ADDICTED. I REPORTED MY SONS DEATH TOO BUT HE DID NOT HAVE THE DETOX. HE WAS 17 DAYS CLEAN GOING IN FOR WHAT WAS CALLED NALTREXONE MAINTANCE. THE STATE DISMISSED MY SON, BECAUSE HE DID NOT HAVE THE DETOX, WHY? HE WAS AS DEAD AS THE REST UNDER THIS SO CALLED DR. CARE. THE STATE LOST THEIR CASE AGAINST GOOBERMAN, BUT THEY OVERTURNED THE JUDGE AND STOPPED THE DETOX FOR 2 YRS. IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT THE DETOX DID NOT KILL THEM, THEY WENT HOME. WHY DID THEY NEVER LOOK INTO THE NALTREXONE IMPLANT THAT WAS IMPLANTED THAT I FOUND OUT WAS EXPERIMENTAL? HIS PATIENTS WERE ALL GUNIEA PIGS. HE DID NO ANIMAL TESTING PRIOR, AND IMPLANTED ANYONE THAT HAD THE MONEY TO PAY, WHEN THE EXPERTS CLAIMED THAT THIS TREATMENT WAS FOR " SELECTED PATIENTS". MANY WERE CASH ONLY DEALS WHICH HELPED HIM TO TRAVEL AND SELL HIS PELLET AND BRING IT TO PATENT , ALL FOR THE TITLE OF INVENTOR, PIONEER. HE HAS SENT THIS ALL ACROSS THE U.S, CANADA, AND OVERSEAS. WAS HEROIN OVERDOSES ON THE RISE, OR WAS IT HEROIN ADDICTS BEING TREATED WITH NALTREXONE.? PRETTY GOOD SCAM PATIENT DIES FROM OVERDOSE AND IS BURIED WITH THE EVIDENCE, I ASKED THE MEDICAL EXAMINER TO CHECK FOR NALTREXONE IN MY SONS DEATH. IT TOOK ME 7 MONTHS TO GET THE REPORT BACK ,ONLY TO FIND OUT THAT THEY DID NOT CHECK. NALTREXONE HAS NEVER BEEN PROVEN TO DO ANY MORE THEN BLOCK THE HIGH FROM OPIATES. THE DANGER OF RELAPSE IS THAT THE ADDICT WILL NOT KNOW WHEN THE BLOCKADE IS STILL WORKING, NEED MORE DRUGS AND OVERDOSE. HOW MUCH OF THIS PELLET CONTRIBUTED TO THE AUTOPSY BECAUSE NALTREXONE IS AN OPIOID? DR. GOOBERMAN WAS STOPPED SHORTLY BUT STILL CONTINUES TO SEND THIS PELLET ALL OVER, THE VERY THING THAT HAS CONTRIBUTED TO THE DEATHS OF THOSE LOOKING FOR HELP,ONLY DYING FROM OVERDOSES. I TRIED TO CONTACT THE STATE MEDICAL BOARD WITH EVIDENCE OF DR. GOOBERMAN ABUSE. THEY TOLD ME THEY CLOSED THE CASE. SO HOW MANY MORE ARE DEAD, THAT THE STATE IS UNAWARE OF? OUR N.J DOCTOR HAVE GONE OUT ON STRIKE, AND SO DID PHILADELPHIA, CLAIMING LAWYERS ARE THE REASON FOR MALPRACTICE RATE BEING SO HIGH. DR. GOOBERMAN HAS BEEN SUED SO MANY TIMES AS WELL AS HE HAD A CLINIC IN PHILLY. IT'S NOT LAWYERS, DR. GOOBERMAN HAS "CROSSED THE LINE "TO BRING THIS PELLET TO PATENT. ALL FOR PROFIT AND GAIN. I HAVE ASKED DOUG BELOOF SOME QUESTIONS BUT NEVER GOT A REPLY. ONE LAST QUESTION, IS IT TRUE THAT LIVER TOXICITY CAN GIVE A FALSE POSITIVE FOR COCAINE? I AM GOING TO MAKE MORE NOISE, I WILL GO TO THE PROSECUTERS OFFICE, IF THE STATE MEDICAL BOARD WON'T STOP HIM. OTHER PEOPLE WERE DISMISSED ALSO BY THE STATE MEDICAL BOARD WHO EXPERIENCED COMA, STOKE, SELF MUTILATION AND THE RELAPSE RATE IS EXPTREMELY HIGH. DR. BONNELL, HAVE YOU EVER CHECKED IN OVERDOSE CASES FOR NALTREXONE? THE PELLET WOULD BE EASY TO GO BACK AND FIND, AS AUTOPSY WOULD READ SURGICAL SCAR IN EITHER THE ABDOMAN, OR ARM. REVIA, HOWEVER IS A DIFFERENT BALL GAME. CAN'T HELP BUT WONDER WHO HAS VESTED INTERESTS BESIDES GOOBERMAN? THANK YOU VERY FOR YOUR TIME.

1850 grams is not exceptionally large for an adult liver, especially if your son was not of small build. The liver toxicity of naltrexone destroys liver cells and would actually make the liver smaller. Liver toxicity will NOT give a false positive for cocaine. Naltrexone is usually not tested for in post-mortem blood because it does not kill by overdose but by liver injury which is usually obvious to the naked eye and certainly seen easily under a microscope. Naltrexone is a short-acting drug. Theoretically, an implanted capsule with constant release of medicine would prevent the heroin user from getting the "buzz" of using heroin and prevent them from overdosing on heroin. I feel sorry for your loss but I am unable to explain the actions of a state medical board or the FDA.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I've heard that when you die, your body is heavier than before. Is this true? If so, why? Is it anything to do with dead skin cells building up, prolonged hair growth or anything like that? Does it also apply to people who simply faint? If this is an inappropriate question, then perhaps you could suggest someone who could answer it for me...

No, this is not true. A body may seem heavier due to decomposition bloating, etc. but it is not heavier. If anything, a body gets lighter as fluids are lost.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can "petechial hemorrhaging" occur when someone is hit? I am involved in a case where a parent in a custody dispute accused the other parent of hitting their child on the inner thigh with an open hand. The doctor, after the parent stated that the other hit the child, diagnosed the injury as "petchial hemorrhaging." Viewing photos, another doctor said it appeared to be dermatitis. However, my understanding of "petechial hemorrhaging" is that it is caused from a lack of oxygen for a period of time. Would it not be true that to cause PH on the leg, that one would have to put pressure on that spot for a period of time?

There are many causes of petechial hemorrhages as well as several mechanisms for causing the hemorrhages. Petechial hemorrhages in the whites of the eyes and the inside of the eyelids is due to obstruction of blood outflow from the head, e.g. strangulation or chest compression by a car after jack collapses. Petechial hemorrhages within the chest cavity are though to be due to increased negative pressure in the chest cavity when someone tries to inhale against an upper airway obstruction, e.g. smothering. Petechial hemorrhages can be caused throughout the body as a result of clotting abnormalities as a result of a blood-borne infection. Petechial hemorrhages can be caused by a slap or blow and are thought to be due to the rupture of tiny blood vessels from the blow.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have a quick question and after looking all over the internet, I'm hoping that you can answer it for me. For a long time now, I've wanted to head toward a carrier in forensic pathology. I'm only 16 right now but it seems like something I would like to do as a carrier in the future. Only recently I've started to feel a little iffy about this. My problem and my question is that it had never even occured to me that in this field I would have to deal with the fact that I would be possably looking at dead children. So, finally, my question is, does it make it harder to do your job having to look at a child, killed in some way? It may seem like a wierd question, but in my search to find someone to ask questions to, I suddenly came upon a picture of a baby that had been shot in the head. I almost threw up. However, I was hardley bothered at all when I went to a nearby college to see the cadaver lab. I purposely wrote an essay saying why I thought I should get to go on this trip with my classmates. Me and five others were choosen to go. I had no problem poking and proding the body af a fully grown man, but now I can't get the image of a dead baby out of my mind and I'm afraid that just seeing that will make me think of a totally different carrier, when this is what I want to do.

The children, especially abused children, are the most difficult and troubling cases for most of us. You have to be able to leave your work behind you when you walk out the door and go home. At your age, it is too soon to decide on a career or rule it out based on current emotions; if you are interested in forensic path, go for it as long as you maintain your interest. If it turns out that you just can't bear to autopsy children, you could still possible work in a large office, e.g. LA, Chicago, NY, etc and avoid those cases. Some FP's approach dead abused children with the rationalization that the child is better off now than when he/she was alive. It works for some people.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 11-1/2 year old son (85 lbs.) was due for oral surgery at 8:45 ? Surgeon provided (1) Vistatril/50 mg to take at 7:30 the morning of surgery on an empty stomach due to the anesthesia he was to have during surgery via IV. ? 7:30 - took pill w/small amount of water ? 7:45 - heard scream, fall and found him in full seizure including blue face and low or no breathing ? 7:47 - called 911 and carried outside to perform cpr as breathing did not return to normal after convulsion ended According to the information I have gathered on Vistatril, it is a mild anti-anxiety with typically low side effects but in adverse reaction or overdose can cause convulsions/seizures. Also, the information gathered states that the "Vistatril" 50 mg capsule is a green/white pill. Question: 1. The pill that was in the vistatril packet was red/yellow. Perhaps this was a generic - is there method of determining which generic it was as I can't seem to identify the generic "how supplied" information on them and the surgeon's office states that it "was" vistatril? Does vistatril ever get manufactured in red/yellow combination?

2. Some information pages specify .3mg x child body weight (85 lbs.) = 25 mg and others specify .6 mg x body weight = 50 mg. Which is accurate on an empty stomach(adult dosage is 50-100 mg)?

Information also states that hydroxyzine is "rapidly" absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and effects are usually noted within 15 - 30 minutes.

After lengthy evaluation/monitoring at the emergency room, the er doctor does not agree that the medication spiked the seizure and because there was no witness at the onset, we are scheduled for an EEG (CT was normal) next week. I feel like either he had an adverse reaction or he was on the borderline of overdose. Hopefully, if the EEG determines no other specific activity, we can assume it was the one-time oral medication and know that there was an adverse reaction/overdose to vistatril.

50mg is the usual one-time dose for an average child over 6 years of age. Vistaril is a green tablet as you describe but the generic name for Vistaril is hydroxyzine which also comes as Atarax and a whole bunch of generics. Atarax comes in 4 different colors. The generic hydroxyzine also come in greens, whites, reds and yellows. I could not find a combination red and yellow but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It could be a generic made in Mexico, Canada, or elsewhere overseas; it could also be a local pharmacist making his own formulations. The only way to be sure is to obtain one and test it for contents. It sounds like an adverse reaction to me I would avoid the drug in the future if at all possible.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have a report that shows the following: Blood morphine=73 ng/mL Vitreous morphine=30 ng/mL Vitreous 6=33 ng/mL With only this information, at what level would it be fatal when a person "snorts" it?

The commonly accepted minimal lethal of morphine in the blood is 0.2 milligrams per liter which equals 0.2 micrograms per milliliter which equals 200 nanograms per milliliter. As far as I know, the concentrations of morphine in vitreous (eye fluid) are not well studied as to lethality or how they correlate with blood levels. Sometimes a person may die of a morphine (heroin) overdose with a sub-lethal blood level because the morphine has depressed their breathing and they are in a ;progressive coma which eventually progresses to death but meanwhile the body continues to process (and lower) the morphine.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Could you please tell me how important metabolic testing is in a case ruled as sids and what the test may show. Also, why would bruises on the baby would not be noted in the autopsy report?

Metabolic testing in Sudden Infant Deaths identifies but a few of the inherited defects in the way the body processes foods and wastes; the purpose is to alert the parent(s) of the possibility that any subsequent children might also inherit the disease. It is RARELY positive in infants who do not show other signs of the diseases, e.g. a "floppy" infant without muscle tone, unusual growth in head size, developmental delays, etc. There is no logic to the testing requirements. PKU (Phenylketonuria) tests are required in every state yet the test for thyroid gland dysfunction, which is far more common than PKU, is not required. In essence, it's a test that is rarely positive at autopsy but you feel like you've struck gold when there is a positive and you can advise the parent(s) regarding future children.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered about a year ago. The investigators have obtained the clothes the suspect was wearing and sent it to the lab for testing. They are hoping to find blood spray as apposed to just blood. The clothes have been washed. What techniques can they use and what chance do they have of finding this spray. The murder was a 9 mm pistol fired at close range to the back of the head execuation style.

The most likely procedure they will use is Luminol which reacts with blood and fluoresces; it usually reacts even if the surface has been washed.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter was shot and killed in east Cleveland. The police have been very uncooperative, and I need to know what my rights as her mother are. She was murdered on December eighth two thousand and one. The investigation has been very slow and we need answers as to why we are unable to attain a report on the forensics work the was supposed to have been done on her car and we feel was never done. please advise me what steps to take.

Unfortunately, as we all know too well, you have no rights as a victim, or mother of a victim. If the police are keeping the investigation open, then they do not have to release any information unless ordered to do so by the court (which will never happen). It is possible that a family member, close friend, or relative is/are suspects and the police do not want to risk you, or someone else, releasing pertinent information to them or the media. Or they are waiting to arrest someone for something else(drug sales, whatever) and make a deal to get info related to the shooting, etc. Your best odds for success in finding and convicting the killer is to not antagonize the police but cooperate with them and provide any information you come across. This does not mean sit back and do nothing. Contact the lead detective on the case at least once a week. If he/she does not return your calls, contact the homicide lieutenant or captain, if he/she does not talk with you, contact the police chief, mayor and the crime reporters of your local newspaper. But be polite and non-challenging. You are just interested in the progress of the case, not challenging their interest or work ethic. And have faith; a lot of these cases get solved when someone who has information, finally provides it out of anger/revenge against the person who actually committed the crime.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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If a decomposed body, 7 days old is found, how can it be determined to be strangulation from a hemorrhage to the strap muscle of 0.5 cm. also the person was using drugs and a toxicology test was never done to see if that was the cause of death. Why do you think they did not do a test? Also what is changes consistant with strangulation mean on cause of death for an autopsy report. Thank you so much for a response your a blessing to those who have questions concerning loved ones.

Making a diagnosis of strangulation based solely on a 0.5cm bruise is a stretch, to say the least, in a decomposing body. To do so without ruling out drugs is a broad invitation to ask the jury to acquit the suspect. I should see the entire report but even if a suspect has confessed, you cannot make an autopsy diagnosis from a suspect's confession.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Is it possible to have petechial hemorrhage from a brain seizure resulting from a cocaine overdose? Also what does this mean on a autopsie report : Signs consistent with strangulation?

Petechiae can be seen in seizures but rarely; signs c/w strangulation means that the prosector is seeing what is usually seen in strangulation cases.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I would like to thank you in advance for any information you give to me. My sister allegedly committed suicide 2 and a half years ago. The only person in the same building as she when it happened was her husband, and he says he didn't hear the shot. She used a .357 and was shot, I think, in the mouth. The first question, I have is if in your professional opinion, when someone commits suicide, does the weapon stay in their hand on not? I have heard many different stories pertaining to that matter. Her right thumb was still on the trigger when she was found, and there was an indentation on her thumb where the trigger was. Is that normal? My next question is, if someone uses a .357, either with the 357 bullets or the .38 bullets. what types of injuries would occur to the back or front of the head if shot at close range? Also, when her husband found her, he told my mother that he held her body until the police got there, yet when the police arrived he had no blood on him, and he told them that all he did was put his fingers under her nose to see if she was breathing. I just figured I would throw that in. I just received the Medical Examiners report and her alcohol level. I don't understand the toxicology report. From 18 ml of bloody fluid, it obtained 50mg/dl of ethanol. Her husband said that she was drunk. The M.E.'s office said she wasn't. Also, the M.E. that viewed my sisters body, and all I can say is viewed, didn't write or draw on the picture where the entrance wound was. I don't understand why he didn't do that. Also, his statement on the back has some inconsistencies. My sister called my mother at 2:00am, and made her promise to take care of her daughter if anything happened. My entire family and I believe that she may have intended on killing her husband. They were fighting that night, which was another thing that was inadvertently left out. The ME stated that she, made suicidal threats. That was not true. The M.E. never spoke to any of the family. Is this standard procedure? It seems to me that he read some of the reports and/or spoke to some officers, and just ruled it a suicide. Also, no autopsy was performed and the bullet is still in her head. The police officers allowed her husband to get the .357 back, and he sold it soon after. Also, just to add a bit more suspicion to the story, after the medics removed her body, her husband and his brother cleaned the crime scene. There are many other things that have made me believe that maybe my sister didn't commit suicide, but I would be here all night long writing. Attached is the main part of the ME's report. Let me know if you think that this was a professional report, or could it have been better. Any information on what you think that I should do would be so greatly appreciated. Again thank you very much.

It is most unlikely that the bullet would have stayed in the head if it were 357 magnum ammo; it might well stay in the head if 38 ammo was used. If 38 was used and the entry was intra-oral then I would expect fractures in the back portion of the skull but not necessaru8ilt any lacerations or tars in the skin. If the husband held her. but did not hold/cradle the head, then he could very well get no blood on himself. Approximately 15-20% of the time, the hand maintains some type of grip or is still holding the weapon, particularly when the thumb is on the trigger. I personally believe, as do most medical examiners, that ALL gunshot wound deaths should be autopsied; however, in some jurisdictions, there are insufficient funds to do so and/or the cost of transporting the remains to/from a forensic facility is prohibitive. I would have thought that North Carolina, which has a state M.E. with regional offices, would have autopsied a GSW death.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My nephew was murdered on June 30th 2003, in his home by his stepfather. My nephew didn't provoke this man at all. My nephew was downstairs in the basement sitting in a chair playing on his playstation. The initial gunshot was while my nephew was sitting in the chair and then he must have reacted from the sound of the shot. he was shot 3 times in his back and once in the leg. It took the police and swat team 2 hours to apprehend the murderer before any medical assistance could be provided. This man also shot my sister several times at he killed her son and told her that he did. I would like to know more about what type of autopsies are performed in a homicide case because I was very disturbed when we viewed my nephew at the funeral home and noticed that their were visible stitches in his head from one side to the other, can you please explain in detail the procedure for an autopsy in a criminal case.

Most forensic autopsies are complete autopsies. A y-shaped incision is made beginning at each shoulder, angling down to the middle of the chest and then straight down to the pelvis. All internal organs are examined and small pieces might be saved to look at under a microscope. The brain and skull are also examined using an incision that usually starts just behind the top of the ear and goes from one side to the other, usually angled backwards. When sewn together, it is usually covered by hair; otherwise, most funeral homes will rest the head in a really soft pillow so the head sinks down and the thread cannot be seen.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can you tell me how much force it takes to break the skin? (references ?) The person is an 20 year old adult male.

It depends upon the object used, the anatomic site of the break and the amount of fat and muscle underneath the site, and how close underneath is there underlying bone; e.g. a lead pipe to the abdomen rarely causes a cut/break in the skin but a skid on concrete breaks the skin over the knee.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Dr. Bonnell, any insight you can provide about my son Dustin's death would be appreciated. He died at the age of twenty this past August 25th. His death was precipitated by an injection of heroin/cocaine. I am seeking the following answers: a) what was the cause of death (respiratory failure, aspiration of vomit, pulmonary edema, etc.); b) what was the time of death; and c) was his death intentional (i.e., was there an unusually large amount of drugs taken). There was no autopsy.

He was last seen alive lying supine in some weeds in a field by a passerby between 11:30 am and 12:00 noon on August 25th. (Undoubtedly he had injected the heroin/cocaine prior to that.) The passerby noticed some movement (scratching his leg). The temperature that day got up to 90 degrees. The next day, August 26th, the same passerby encountered him again at 10:30 am, in the same position. The temperature at that time was around 70 degrees. Dustin was obviously dead. Yellow jackets were flying in and out of his mouth and nose. Authorities were called to the scene.

He was lying in a relaxed-looking position. His hand was in his lap. His eyes were closed. His head was tilted way back. Blood-tinged foam extruded from his mouth and drained bilaterally down his cheeks. There was also blood in his nose and vomit in his mouth. The medical investigator said it was "just a little" vomit. There was a gallon jug of water upright at his side (therefore, no convulsions?) He was taken to the coroner's office and examined by the ME.

The medical examiner found that Dustin's body was in the stage of early decomposition. Rigor had passed and lividity was posteriorly distributed. The report said, "A thick layer of vomitus exudes from the oral cavity." There was skin slippage of the arms, forearms, left foot and ankle. There was green-black marbling within the right lower abdominal quadrant. "Extensive postmortem third degree sunburns are noted." The report also said, "Vague areas of excoriation maximally measuring 3 cm in length are noted over the pretibial areas bilaterally."

Toxicology: From July 12th up until his death, Dustin had used heroin only once (late July) and crystal meth only once (August 12th). I believe that he got the heroin/cocaine combination that killed him around 11:30 pm on August 24th, but am not sure whether he injected it then or not until the next morning. Toxicology results are as follows:

Blood Cocaine Panel: Benzoylecgonine: 178 ng/mL Cocaine, Ecgonine Methyl Ester, and Cocaethylene were all negative.
Blood Opiates: Total Morphine: 82 ng/mL Free Morphine, Codeine, and 6-Monoacetyl Morphine were all negative.
Urine Organic Base: Methamphetamine, Cocaine and metabolite, Codeine and morphine, and Venlafaxine.
Blood Organic Base: None detected. Alcohol Panel, Sample Type Blood: Negative.
Blood Amphetamines: Amphetamine: Negative Methamphetamine: Negative
Immunoassay Drug Screen, Specimen Type: Urine Amphetamines: Negative Cocaine Metabolite: Positive Opiates: Positive Benzodiazepines: Negative

Based on the information provided, the cause of death would be respiratory failure due to the pulmonary edema which was visible as froth exiting the mouth area. The vomiting appears to be that which commonly happens at or just before actually dying. The drug levels do not support an intentional overdose and had he taken a massive overdose, he would have died quickly but there is evidence here that he lay in coma for a while. I cannot give you a time of death because there isn't enough info. Obviously, an autopsy should have been done to confirm that there was no head trauma or abdominal trauma which could have been lethal but not visible externally.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My father died at age 28 in 1982. The official cause of death has never been determined and two years ago the Virginia Beach Medical Examiner told my aunt that it doesn't all add up. Where would I start as far as finding out what really happened? There are many strange things surrounding the case like a letter mailed to the family by an unknown person implicating another individual. Thank you for any info...please feel free to contact me...

Get any and all reports that you can from the Medical Examiner. That should provide info regarding the police department and their case number (although it is unlikely they still have the file, one of the officers/investigators may still live in the area and remember the case. Then go to the newspaper archives to see if anything was written about the death at the time.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am trying to digest the language used in the Autopsy Report of my brother. The report summary states cause of death as "head injury". In the injury portion of the report the following is stated, "The skull exhibits a 3 by 4 inch craniotomy defect in the right fronto-temporal region but is also notable for a 6 inch crack fracture of the midline that begins only 1/2 inch above the orbital roofs and becomes a diastatic fracture of the sagittal suture behind the frontal bone ending at about the vertix". While I presume the craniotomy defect is relative to the craniotomy proceedure performed, I am curious as to the significance of the notable 6 inch fracture and its relation to the injury as the summary also indicates a 6 inch midline fracture of the front and top of the skull. Could this be indicative of a possible fall ?

It is indicative of blunt impact to the head, which could be due to a fall or being hit. There might be description of hemorrhage/bleeding beneath the scalp which might designate an impact point for the cause of the fracture. I am presuming that the craniotomy was **not** for a gunshot wound, which can cause additional fractures.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My former son-in-law, David, died on May 20, 2002 due to GHB consumption which was in his Gatorade. He had gone to an "after" party in the early morning hours of May 11,2002. The party was at a young man's house. While at the party several other attendees said they saw David dancing,etc. then for a period didn't see him and then saw him again on a pull out sofa "passed out" in the fetal position. At some point around 6 a.m. a girl named Sarah checked on David and found that he had turned blue and was not breathing. She said she told some of the others and wanted to call 911 but they would not allow her to do so. They then began arguing about what needed to be done and approximately 1 and 1/2 hours later took him to the hospital. The hospital did CPR and he was put on a ventilator. His parents removed from the ventilator on May 20th. A police investigation was conducted and closed within approximately a month. The report indicated that about 1/2 to 3/4 of the other party attendees said David did not know that the GHB had been put in the Gatorade because if he had he would not have been drinking it. (David carried Gatorade or water with him almost everywhere he went). His family, his close friends and myself do not believe and never have believed that David had knowledge of the GHB whatsoever. David had been part of our family for 7 years. I feel I knew his character. He was a normal young man in the fact that he did like to go out and he did drink alcohol and probably did a few other things I don't know about. The thing I do know also is that he one of the most responsible young men I have ever encountered. He always kept his word. He started working as a computer programmer at the age of 18 and was very proud and conscientious about his job. The night of this incident he was on call from his job and would not jeopardize it in any way. While he was in the hospital I learned that he had talked with my youngest daughter and his cousins about the dangers of GHB and had warned them to stay away from it. He had told them that he had tried it about 2 years prior and had become very ill and would never touch it again. His character indicated that he believed strongly about something you could go to the bank on his word. I have always felt in my gut that someone purposely put the GHB in his bottle to get their kicks because of his adament (sp?) opinion against it. I don't believe that they intended to kill him but it went further than they anticipated. I do believe that the police did an half-hearted investigation (as my attorney put it). It was more than they wanted to deal with. I have custody of David's 7 year old daughter (which he was attending counseling sessions with, at my request, prior to his death in order to work toward regaining custody) and I feel that I owe it to her to do everything possible to reveal the complete story of her father's death. Any suggestions and advice will be tremendously appreciated.

It is not uncommon, unfortunately, that people spike drinks at parties. What used to be spiking it with alcohol, now includes spiking it with GHB, rohypnol, ecstasy, etc; all thought by the spiker to be "fun" drugs and not dangerous. From a prosecution/police point of view, it is near impossible to go anywhere with these cases. As far as who did it, it becomes a "he said she said he said" or I saw John Doe put something in the drinks but no one can say that it was John Doe who put the GHB in the drinks, maybe he was adding alcohol. And then you need to show that the victim was unaware of the spiking as well as proving that he got the lethal drug from the spiked drink and wasn't taking it himself-most difficult to prove in someone who admitted to previously using GHB and **always** has a container of Gatorade with him. I think the best way to deal with it regarding his daughter is simply telling the truth. Your Dad went to a party, someone put some drug in the punch thinking it would be fun but it turned out to be lethal for your Dad. And from that, point out the dangers of drugs, practical jokes, knowing who you're partying with, etc.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 12 year old nephew died 2 years ago immediately after being struck by a pick up truck driver by a 17 year old male, then secondarily struck by another vehicle in the opposing lane after being tossed for about 45 feet. My nephew was on a scooter -the kind that are powered by pushing off with one foot then hopping on. The 17 year old driver stated he did not see him. There was also a passenger in the vehicle. The driver in the opposing lane stating she could not stop although she observed what had happened. The 17 year old pick up truck driver was not tested for alcohol or substances. The incident was at 2:45 p.m.on the weekend, in the summer, on the beach, on a state road, (45mph speed limit) The driver of the truck was not charged with anything, nor was the second vehicle driver involved. The young man called his father on his personal cell phone, and the father arrived post haste and had a lengthy discussion with the trooper before taking his son home with him.The father's employment is related to protection of losses to the business he works for- so he is well acquainted with steps to take to protect information etc. It was later reported to my sister or brother in law that their child had an elevated alcohol level ..of course they are in disbelief, horrified ,and mystified. This has prevented them from seeking any action against the driver, and also I believe the information is preventing them from mourning effectively . I contend there are other possible answers for alcohol in the system: 1. the information was reported to the wrong person( the 17 year old had elevated ETOH). 2. If the child had a blood alcohol , a) it was related to improper collection procedures and/or handling postmortem,t(the body was in hot sun for 2 hours before removal) b)the child had an undiagnosed metabolic disease or condition (he had developmental delays, and obesity etc.), or c)he had consumed a cough or cold remedy with alcohol content or d) been very recently exposed to an environmental chemical containing agents that would give a reading of alcohol, or a false positive reading, e)or the testing machine was in need of calibration. 3. I believe this could also be a tactic to stop further investigation regarding irregularities at the scene regarding the driver who struck my nephew - ie my understanding of Florida law provides for Blood testing of the driver in cases where there is injury/death to another at the scene.. not just breathalyzer. It was reported that no screening, field testing, or body fluid tests were performed on the drivers . Do you have any insight/ recommendations etc? Can you explain autopsy testing, limitations, etc?

The state of Florida has an excellent medical examiner system with regional medical examiners all being board-certified forensic pathologists. The reasons for a falsely reported blood alcohol include all those you mentioned; however I doubt that the method of collection was deficient based on the quality of the M.E. system. It is possible there was alcohol in a medication but rarely would it ever achieve this level in the blood. The exposure time outside is much too short for post-mortem fermentation to have occurred. I know of no metabolic disease or environmental exposure that could cause this blood alcohol level. The lab equipment used for the testing is calibrated every day a sample is analyzed and in addition to the sample, known control value samples are also tested to assure that this particular "run" of samples is accurate. I believe that the testing of the driver is at the discretion of the investigating officer and is not mandatory; however, if required to do so, the driver cannot refuse. I believe that future efforts should be directed to identifying whoever provided alcohol to the victim.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I was married to a truck driver, he hauled cars. He left home on a monday morning which would have been March16, 1998, to go to Fostoria Ohio, to work. He passed a physical on March 18,1998, and on March 19th, he called his boss saying he thought he had the flu, and checked into a motel in Flint, Michigan. On the 20th of March,1998, the maid found him in his motel room, police had to cut chain off the door to get into the room, and he had died. They did an autopsy in Flint Michigan, and it took about 6 months for me to get the results, since I was living in Hillsboro, Ohio. They ruled his dealth as Sudden Death Of A Young Adult. I've never been satisfied with this conclusion, and was wondering since I watch forensic files all the time, if I had Keith resumed from the grave if they could do another autopsy of his organs, or is it to late at this time because it will have been 6 years on the 20th of this month since his death. Keith was a very outspoken man and had enemys that worked with him, and I would like to know the truth in the circumstances of his death, I can't believe you can pass a physical one day, then die the next, and it be called sudden death of a young adult. Keith was 39 years old and in great physical shape, took all kinds of vitamins, a non smoker, and drank a few beers very seldom. The only thing his regular doctor ever said he needed to do was get his chlestrol level down. I seen on tv theres a gaschromatography test that shows poisons that dont show up in an autopsy unless tested with this test, and I was wondering if it was to late to try this type of testing now.

I can't say for sure without looking at the reports but I would expect that the death investigation would have included toxicology in the death of a young man with no cause of death found at autopsy; these tests would include GCMS(Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry). I don't see any indication for an exhumation and it would be useless at this point in time for the purposes of toxicology. There are a certain small percentage of cases that fit into this category and I have seen several of them throughout the years. The most common one is a healthy male who collapses while jogging/running. We know he had some sort of heart arrhythmia but we see nothing at autopsy or toxicology. Autopsy only shows what you can see, and not that they systems are working properly. A wire may look OK but it still shorts out. Someone has a pain but the cause can never be found. The scene sounds secure with a chain lock closed from the inside; this is one of those deaths where unfortunately, we just don't have the answer.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered last year. On the original report from the ME's office, it was listed as Asphyxia via manual strangulation. After being in contact with the States Attorney handling our case the ME's office amended the report to be Asphyxia via manual strangulation with possible compressional asphyxia and reflex cardiac arrest. Could you please tell me what the difference is in these and what it could mean in a trial situation?

Asphyxia with manual strangulation means the person was strangled by someone using their hands to cut off blood supply to the brain or to obstruct the airway or a combination of both. Possible compression asphyxia means that it is also possible that there was compression(usually of the chest) which contributed to the asphyxia or lack of oxygen. When a car jack collapses, or a trench caves in, or when someone is sitting on your chest, it becomes impossible for the chest to expand so that you can breathe. Reflex cardiac arrest covers the possibility (quite remote) that manual pressure on the neck, particularly over one area of the carotid arteries (the pulse you feel in your neck) can cause irregular heartbeats resulting in death.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My brother passed away last Novmber at the age of 26. He was not a habitually drug user,but he might have tried things.He was seeing a psychiatrist for his job related stress.He was loved by everyone had a million friends,very sucessful,a very happy life. He was just under alot of stress from his company in the mortgage business.He was on Zoloft and Ambien.We believe he was also on Neurontin,not sure why though.The cause of his death was acute opiate intoxication.Hard to believe.The psychiatrist claimed that he truly believed my brother wasnt on anything at all.No autopsy because of our religion.My question is if you could answer it is regarding the toxicology report.Opiates were found in him of 0.01 mg/l an cannabis of 0.03mg/l.Is that alot in quantity?Nothing else was found in him except the medication from the hospital and acetone.What is the use of acetone?The doctor thought that he had a heroin overdose.He was brought in unconscious and was like that for 3 days before he passed on.There were no marks at all on him.Is that amount enough to do that to someone?If you could please answer I would tremendously appreciate it.Thank you and G-d bless.

That level of opiate would not be considered lethal in any charts I have seen but it depends upon which opiate it is and whether or not the blood sampled is from the time of admission to the hospital (higher opiate level) or three days later (post-mortem sample which would be lower) and if it is post-mortem, then one must be sure he did not receive any opiates while in the hospital. Acetone is not a "therapy"; it is created by the body when the body does not utilize sugars and fats properly. It is a marker for patients who have diabetes that there diabetes is not controlled; it also is a marker for making the diagnosis of diabetes. I wonder what his blood sugar levels were in the hospital and if the measured his urine foc records, gross negligence, etc. You will need an attorney for this (probably the same you are currently using)

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered on May 1,04..the ME report says he died of blunt head trauma and neck compressions. What exactly does this mean..especially neck compressions? The only thing else I heard was 2 types of hemorraging from the head trauma..subarachnoid and intradural????

Neck compressions usually implies an attempt at strangulation without evidence that strangulation actually caused the death; it usually means the only finding is some bleeding into the muscles in the front of the neck near the windpipe and voice box. Blunt head trauma means impact by a blunt object such as a bar, bat, pipe, table, etc. in contrast to a sharp object such as a knife, etc. which is called Sharp force trauma. Subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding on the surface of the brain, underneath a very thin lining (arachnoid) that covers the brain. Intradural means within the dura which is a dense membrane between the arachnoid and inside of the skull. It is more likely that there is subdural bleeding(under the dura but outside the arachnoid) than true intradural bleeding but both are common results of head trauma.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 21 yr old son died of an intr-oral gunshot wound to the head. I have since then recieved a copy of the autopsy report. My question was why was there no visible damage to indicate that he had been shot you replied you could answer a little better with some knowledge of what the autopsy report said. Well the entrance wound: The soft palate of the mouth has a 3/8"x 3/8" gunshot wound of entrance located 3/8" to the left of the midline. There is an associated graze wound of the tongue. This graze wound is surrounded by abundant gray black material consistent with gunpowder and soot. Direction: Upwards,backwards and slightly leftwards.(I have no idea what this is referring to.) Wound Path: A hemorrhagic track proceeds through the entrance wound through the palate of the mouth and the base of the skull adjacent to the clivus.The wound track macerstes the pons before proceeding through the under surface of the left temporal lobe of the brain and proceeds through the parietal and superior occipital lobes of the left side of the brain. Missel recovered: Between the superior occipital lobe and the skull a markedly deformed copper jacket projectile is recovered and is submitted in a bullet envelope labeled " bulet fragments" Associated Injuries: Multiple fracture lines radiate throughout the base of the skull. High velocity blood spatter is present on the dorsal surfaces of the right and left hand. A small amount of aspirated blood is present within the lungs. I have been told by the medical examiner that they have never had a gunshot wound like this that has been ruled anything other than a suicide .My son has no mental health history was not under any duress. All activities leading up to the last moments we belive before his death were normal routines and consistent with his usual behavior. We have not found any suide notes are anyone in the workplace friends or family who seen anything to indicate that he would commit such a violent act to himself. Even with the weapon missing the investigators still believed it to be a suicide.Was there any further investigating that could have been looked into by medical examiner as to any other manner of death? I was also told there were toxicology analyes performed for the following : Anticonvulsants,Antidepressants,antihidtimines,carbon monoxide,cocaine,ethanol,narcotics,phencyclidine(PCP),phenobarbital,quinine/quinidine,other sedative hypnotics,stimulants.The results of the toxicological analysis were not remarkable.Does this mean there were no drugs in his system.Did they check for everthing. I am just trying to figure out if there was something which would have caused him to possibly be unconcious.As a mother who knows her son I am not finding any answers to indicate suicide. He had a promising future ahead of him.He had an excelent family support system a very good repor with his employer and all his coworkers and we are all seeking answers. Thank you in advance to your reply.

From this information, the muzzle of the gun was within the mouth and both hands were close enough to the mouth for blood spatter to come back onto them. The path of the bullet extensively damaged that part of the brain stem which controls heart rate and breathing resulting in near-immediate death and therefore, little blood loss. It sounds like a small caliber bullet, like a 22 or 25 and since it fragmented after hitting the base of the skull, it did not exit and leave any external injuries.
Because this type of wound requires the muzzle of the gun to be within the mouth and the hands located so that spatter occurs only on the back of the hands, it is usually accepted as evidence that the hands were holding the gun when it was fired. I cannot tell you how many cases I have ruled a suicide in a young individual who does it spontaneously with little reason or forethought. Unlike older individuals or those with terminal diseases who plan their suicide, the young very frequently do it with little planning and what appears to be trivial reasons to those of us older and more experienced. On a personal note, I am working with a friend of mine whose 14 year-old son committed suicide with a rifle for no apparent reason two weeks ago. I hope the mother can find some comfort in knowing that she probably did not miss any "foretelling signs" and she might get some comfort with members of "survivors of Suicide" or another self-help group.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I have two questions for you. #1 If a deceased person has welts on their arm immediately following death, what would those welts appear to look like five days later? #2 If a deceased person has blue around their mouth immediately following death (about 1-2 inches out) why would that go away five days later? Is the blue coloring normal to any death, or does it suggest lack of oxygen prior to death?

The appearance of the welts five days after death would be highly variable depending upon the environment in which the remains are left, whether embalmed or not, etc. Bluish discoloration around the mouth is highly variable and more relevant in life than death. It may be due to lack of oxygen or to different chemicals. It is non-specific for anything.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can an autopsy tell what time a person was murdered? Can it tell how much pain the person suffered or if the person struggled?

An autopsy, by itself, cannot determine time of death. There are many bits of information used to determine time of death. The most accurate is a reliable witness. After that, we use rigidity/stiffness, lividity or pooling of blood due to gravity, body core temperature, last time the newspaper or mail was picked up, insect activity, message machines, computer logs, etc. By analyzing injuries as to how much damage was done and where they are, we can estimate a survival time(e.go. bullet wound of heart dies faster than bullet wound of stomach) and certain types of wounds are called "defense wounds", i.e. inflicted as the victim tried to defend him/herself.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My brother was Killed 20 years ago. They said it was accidental gunshot wound from a 12 gauge Ithaca shot gun using no# 1 buckshot. Said my brother was checking the saftey turned the gun to his face and pulled the trigger thinking the safety was on. They never did an autopsy on him and illegally embalmed him within 7 hours of death and before my parents knew he was dead. The local medical examiner examined him and said the buckshot went in posteriorly and upward on the left side of his face from his mouth to his past his eye. My question is if they were to exhume him and autopsy him now 20 years later could they tell by the wound and the face if it was point blank or from a distance? Because if it was from a distance other than point blank someone else shot him cause his arms were only so long.

It is most unlikely that an exhumation and examination at this point in time would provide the information you are seeking. However, shotgun pellets have a tendency to "bump" into each other once they leave the barrel so the further the target from the muzzle, the wider the dispersal of the pellets, Based on the description of the wound, it was most likely at very close range. -Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Would you consider his case as a murder? My son died 8-16-02, he would have been 20 yrs old 8-20 We was told a friend gave him some pills for a headache , AMITRIPTLYNE. He took one & it killed him. My son was never into the pill thing. To this day this friend of his has never gotton into any trouble. See when she was told the pills she gave him killed him , she got a lawyer .The police have written statements that she was seen giving them to him .The police in this town say since he voluntarily took them there nothing they can do, plus they say he knew what he was taking. I feel this is wrong. Isn`t there something they could`ve done to this girl. You see isn`t it a felony for people to pass out prescription pills or any pills ? I have even asked the police to give me a police report & they tell me to get a coroners report, I already have one of those I want the police report. In my eyes and my daughter eyes this girl murdered my son her brother. Do you know what we can do. I have written things in the news paper in my town asking this girl to please comeforward with the truth.(I don`t mention her name in the paper)BUT you see people know she did it & I figure they would tell her or she would read it herself. I have also written lawyers on the net. Please if you have any info on anything I can do can you please help us.

I have another question the autopsy report said my son had 805 nanogram-millograms in him of Amitriptlyne ? I do not understand what this means, how many pills is it or is it because he was a small framed boy, it was so high ? I also want to know if someone dies doesn`t there bodily fluides come out. Timmy`s didn`t. Timmy had Jeuvinile Rhuemitoid Arthritis, plus Clinical Sleep Apnea & Acid Reflux. Can you please help me out ?

In response to the second question regarding the drug level and body fluids coming out: 805 nanogram-millograms makes no sense. both are weights and there needs to be a volume. I would also need to know what body fluid or organ was sampled. If the value is 805 nanograms per milliliter of blood, then this would be in the toxic range but not the lethal range and I would look hard for another cause of death, e.g. sleep apnea. It is a common misbelief, promoted by the media and entertainment industry, that when people die, they lose all control of their bladder and bowel. This simply is not true. Urine obtained at autopsy is commonly used to screen for drugs.

As to the first question: No, I would not list the manner of death as homicide in this case, even if I was sure that the amitriptyline was the cause of death. Since amitriptyline is not an illegal drug and since it was allegedly given to help your son by curing his headache, I see no malicious intent. Now intent does not always have to be there to convict someone but the act of giving someone a pill to help them, even though it is a prescription medication, would never get a guilty verdict from a jury.

Lastly, one pill would not kill anyone unless he had an allergic reaction to it and I have never read of a case of allergic reaction to amitriptyline.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Is there a form or petition to have a body exhumed?

It varies from state to state. It is not a form per se but rather standard verbiage if a court order or a petition.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was killed in a house fire. I visited your web site and printed out the Second Opinion Service form. I live in Charleston West Virginia Kanawha County. I would like to know how to go about getting the reports you need. Police, Autopsy, Toxicology, Medical, FireMarshell, Paramedic, Charts and Reports. Medical Records form the Western Penn. Trauma Burn Center.

Call the Medical Records department at the hospital and the police department who handled the investigation. Tell them your relationship to the deceased and ask what they heed from you to send you a copy of the records. Their records will have the identification info on the emt's, paramedics, coroner/medical examiner, etc. Then call them, identify yourself and ask them what they need to release the info.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 24 year old daughter was murdered in the early morning hours of Feb. 29, 2004 by her boyfriend. She had been out with her friends and had an blood alcohol count of .15. I have several questions I would like to ask. My daughter had a very bad black eye and alot of swelling on one side of her face, she suffered 7 slashes to her neck none of which were life threatening. I do believe that one may have been deep with some cutting through the muscles in her neck, but none severing any artery's. Her autopsy revealed that she slowly bled to death. Is it possible to get a bad black eye and swelling while you are bleeding to death? Or would these injuries of had to of taken place earlier on? What happens to someone's body when they are bleeding to death? How long did she suffer? Would she of lost consciousness quickly? My daughter also had DNA testing done on scrapings from her fingernails, the DNA report says that the DNA did not belong to her boyfriend. He had noticeable scratches on him that I believe he said she did. If she did scratch him wouldn't his DNA have been under her nails? There have been questions about another individual being involved. However his role has not been determined if it was before or after the attack. He has not been charged. If her boyfriends DNA was not present under her nails, could it belong to someone else? What other information would have been gained by the DNA testing that may have not been shared with me? Would the DNA that they tested be able to distinguish between male and female? I would assume that what ever they tested was different than my daughters DNA would this be a correct assumption? Thank you in advance for your help.

It is certainly possible, and expected, that she could develop a black eye and swelling while suffering blood loss at the same time. They could have happened earlier but not necessarily. When someone is bleeding out, the heart beats faster to try to make up for the blood loss and the blood vessels constrict to try to maintain blood pressure but eventually the person passes out from inadequate blood supply to the brain. The length of time it would take to lose consciousness( and end any suffering) would depend upon exactly what vessels were injured and whether or not she was physically active following the cuts.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 10 week year old daughter was recently murdered by her father. The M.E. who did her autopsy specified that she died from asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to her head. My first question is that when I saw her at her funeral we had given her a bonnet to wear because of the autopsy, but when I put my hand on her little head she had a huge bump that raised my hand about an 1" to an 1 1/2". I later asked the detective about this bump and she told me that that was probably from the autopsy, that it was probably the way they put her back together, but that just doesn't make sense to me. My second question is that her father has petitioned for a second autopsy and has flown someone from Florida to Texas just to do her second autopsy. According to the press they were looking for other evidence and reportedly found old broken ribs. I cried when I heard this because at no time could I ever remember my little girl ever having trouble breathing or bruising on her chest. Is there a chance that she could have had old broken ribs and not have cried or had any bruising or is that just the M.E. telling the defense what they want to hear to help their case? Anything you can tell me is greatly appreciated.

It is very difficult to diagnose asphyxia in an infant and I am very dubious when I hear this. Head trauma, of course, can be lethal. What you felt in the head was probably, as the detective stated, a result of the autopsy and closing the skull after removal of the brain. As regards the old fractured ribs, yes-infants can have rib fractures which are not noticed by the parent(s) who consider the child's fussiness/crying to be from other causes. If there truly are old rib fractures, they should have been identified by the first pathologist and should be readily seen on an x-ray of the chest which is part of the standard procedure for autopsying infants. Depending on the pathologist, there is great variation in the competency of those doing forensic autopsies.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son had gone missing from a party. He was found in the ocean 11 days later. The death certificate stated that the cause of death was asphyxia/drowning. The manner of death was undetermined.
The autopsy report stated that the Pathologic diagnoses was: 1. asphyxia due to drowning 2. Blunt impact to head with focal acute subgaleal hemorrhage (focal left occiptial, acute subglaleal hemorrhage 2-1/8"). 3. advanced decompositional change 4. no evidence of significant anatomic injury or natural disease. While there was alcohol in his system, there were no drugs.
The funeral director told me that the head trauma had bled through to his eye. My question to you is: With this small amount of information, can you determine if he was unconcious before he entered the water (was he helped in?). If so, what would be the amount of time it would take to cause death (the death certificate said "minutes").
I appreciate any light you could shine on this for me. The pathologist that performed the autopsy had died before I received the report, so it has been very difficult to get information. It took threatening an attorney to get the police to release the autopsy report and I still have not been able to get the police report.

In general, it takes approximately 30-60 seconds to become unconscious once the brain is deprived of oxygen(drowning) and then a few minutes before the heart develops an irregular beat and stops. I cannot tell you whether or not he was conscious or unconscious when he entered the water although the injury as you describe it appears unlikely to be severe enough to cause unconsciousness.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was shot toward the back of the head just slightly behind his ear, they say it was sucuide but the case is still open. This was done with a 22 rifle, is that possible? I don't feel that anything is being done. Nobody believes this was a sucuide in the town where we lived. And I don't know how to get it checked into. He had not been drinking and I don't think he had used any drugs because he was an organ doner and they tested before they would accept them. They took the word of a guy that had said he dropped him off.

While not impossible, this would be extraordinarily unusual for a suicide. Part of it depends on the length of his arms and the length from the muzzle to the trigger as well as the trajectory of the bullet after entering the head. Law enforcement and a forensic pathologist need to take an intense, combined, look at the entire case.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son died of a gunshot wound to his head and his girlfriend, who was present, claimed it was suicide. The police took her word for it and conducted an extremely limited investigation. The case was basically closed the next day. The private detective I hired has agreed with me that there are many "red flags" and that the police did not do their job. I met with the First Assistant District Attorney to discuss my questions but of course nothing productive came of the meeting. I believe it is time to contact the media and/or the mayor or other elected officials, as you have indicated is sometimes the only recourse when the police have failed to do their job. My question to you is whether we should meet with the pathologist who performed the autopsy in order to try and convince him that we are justified in considering my son's death very suspicious. ( I talked to him on the phone and asked him why his verdict was suicide and his first answer to me was because the police's investigation said so.) If he should see our point, he might be willing to convince the coroner who then might consider approaching the DA as to the possibility of a coroner's inquest or taking the case before the grand jury. Do you think this is worth our time and if so, do you have any advice when we approach the pathologist?

It should do no harm to speak with the pathologist; as you described, their knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the death are frequently limited and it is the circumstances surrounding the death that determine the manner of death (homicide v suicide v accident). The autopsy cannot tell who was holding the gun with any certainty. At the meeting, which you may want to have with the coroner present, should be factual and not adversarial. It may seem obvious but don't start with "we think you made a mistake" but rather "we're hoping that if there is information that you were not made aware of when you rendered your initial opinion, that you might reconsider your opinion in light of this additional information." The police have told us they will do nothing as long as you have ruled it a suicide but if you think it may be a homicide or change the manner of death to undetermined, then hopefully they will do an investigation.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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The pathologist that performed the autopsy of my 20 month old son stated the cause of death to be Blunt Trauma Force To The Abdomen. He wouldn't testify to that at the preliminary hearing. Since then, other Doctor's have re-done the autopsy. None of which are willing to testify to their opinions. Each opinion has been consistent as far as being blunt trauma force to the head & abdomen. We are approaching the Jury Trial soon. The murder charge has been dropped due to lack of evidence (testimony from these Doctors). We're left w/ only the Class C Felony Child Abuse charge now. Is this normal in murder cases? I feel like the Prosecutor & Attorney General?s Office has given up on my son?s case. In my heart I know there's got to be something else that can be done. Is there any advice or help that you could offer? Anything would be greatly appreciated.

I can think of no reason why a pathologist refuses to testify in court as to opinions they have already put in writing. If necessary, the report can be entered without the pathologist testifying. An alternative is to find another pathologist who will render an opinion in court based on the autopsy findings.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 25-year-old son drowned several months ago in a cold mountain lake. We have several questions regarding both the circumstances of his death and the autopsy and toxicology reports. My son was an expert swimmer who had completed several long-distance swims in cold (43-degree) seawater in his life without problems. He had no history of drug abuse and was working in a job where he was regularly tested for drug use (negative). Yet supposedly he drowned while swimming in a shallow, roped-off swim area in this lake. According to one version of events, he swam out, went under and never came back up. He was said to be under 8 to 10 minutes. A bystander swam out and had to dive to find him. CPR was started by the bystander and was continued by paramedics or EMT's at a local firestation. He was pronounced dead at the firestation by a physician over the radio after an undisclosed length of time. On the autopsy report, the endotracheal tube was found to terminate in the esophagus and his stomach was distended by air. His nose was also filled with "white froth". No water was found in his lungs and there was minimal cerebral edema. One strange notation was "severely congested spleen". His toxicology also came back with "low levels of cannabinoids and amphetamine" in the urine and a .02 blood alcohol level. The exact levels are not disclosed. The drugs used in the resuscitation efforts are not listed. He was given drugs as the autopsy report describes catheter needles still in place in his neck and arm, as well as defibrillator pads on his chest. I am disturbed by the idea that the oxygen was being administered to his stomach instead of his lungs. I have also heard of successful resuscitation of adults who have been submerged in cold water for fifteen minutes or more. I feel that the pronouncement of death was premature and that he should have been transported to a hospital rather than being given up on at a firestation... Also the finding of drugs in his system is very disturbing. We are in the process of having his case reviewed by a state bureau of investigation due to other suspicious circumstances surrounding his presence at this lake and the presence in his hotel room of several intoxicated people who were apparently "partying" there while my son died fifteen miles away. Can you tell me if you find this death as strange as we do? I understand that people can drown without having water in their lungs.

It is not uncommon for rescue crews, particularly those outside of major cities who do not perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and intubation on a regular basis, to misintubate and put the breathing tube in the esophagus. With the breathing tube in the esophagus and getting no cardiac activity, I don't think that he would have survived a trip to the medical center, however close it may have been (sounds like it wasn't close). He may have been exposed to the marijuana at the party if others were smoking it; the trace of amphetamine may have been in a drink, etc. that he was unaware of. I don't think there's any doubt that he drowned (frequently there is no water in the lungs in a fresh water drowning) but the major purpose for an autopsy in cases such as these is to find out why did he drown and that question was apparently not answered. He may have had a cramp, kidney stone, undiagnosed heart problem, etc. The congested spleen is a result of the resuscitation attempt.
Hopefully the investigation may provide some answers for you.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am the sister of a murdered brother and recently found out that my brother's murder was never prosecuted. I need help to find out how to bring charges against the suspect, I have copies of my brothers death certificate, death report, investigative inquiries, etc. He was on active duty, killed by an army peer (all evidence says--yes he did it). The suspected murder weapon was recovered, with bloody gloves, an entry in his wife's diary and yet he was not convicted. There is more information. Can you point me in the right direction. Another thing, this murder occurred 30 years ago.

I would suggest two efforts. First send a letter to your Congressman addressing your concerns. The second is go to the following web site http://www.cid.army.mil/ and use their "report a crime" connection.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Our 27 year old son was murdered in his home on January 14, 2005 and there has yet to be an active investigation on his death. It was set up to appear like a heroin overdose, however the coroner has stated he had no heroin in his system so it was definitely foul play. He stated that he died of no natural causes. His lead person of interest has been his girlfriend, the mother of our granddaughter which we now how custody. The problem is that she most likely poisoned him and they have tested for everything possible but can't find anything. We have been told that unless they know what to test for, they may never find it. My husband has provided books of evidence pointing to different events to the Chief deputy coroner of Marion county, Indiana. We have been pacified by authorities.
How does someone get more action pushed through? Until an arrest is made and a conviction is put in place, our family is in limbo. Any advice would be appreciated.

You must be noisy. Contact the state Attorney General, your US Congressman and Senators, your state congressman and senator, any type of media (TV or newspaper) that will listen. Local media is usually more effective but you can always try the network syndicated shows.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My sister was hit by her daughter on the side of the head with a fist. They were arguing...my sister was an alcohlic, liver transplant patient, low hemoglobin count and had begun drinking again. She went to bed with a migraine headache and sometime in the middle of the night she ended up on the floor, comatose. She was brain-dead when she arrived at the hospital as one side of her brain had been shoved toward the other side. I'm told this may have been due to the hit she took. We do not want the duaghter punished further, however we would like for my sister's death to be cleared up and her daughter held responsible. We were actually hoping that the autopsy--which took 6 months to get--would involve at least a prosecuter/judge situation where court mandated counseling would be decided just. My brothers and I are at loose ends. We don't know what should be done or if we should do anything, but to brush it away seems so wrong. This is truly a case of manslaughter no matter how you look at it. Please help?

This appears to be a straightforward case of impact to the side of the head and a resulting hematoma, or collection of blood, within the skull. If there was a skull fracture (unlikely with a blow from a fist) then it is an epidural hematoma which grow quickly because it is an arterial bleed. Far more likely is a subdural hematoma where the bridging veins that go from just underneath the skull down to the brain, get shifted by the blow and begin to bleed but more slowly. In both cases, the bleeding continues and takes up space shifting the brain toward the other side. I would predict that this would be a case of involuntary manslaughter; the pre-existing disease made the effects of the blow worse than the average person but that does not exonerate under the law.

If the police do not take it to the prosecutor then you need to; however, be aware that if the prosecutor does not want to prosecute the case, all he/she needs to do is to take it before the grand jury and provide the grand jury with insufficient evidence and nothing will be done.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 20 year old daughter was murdered October 8, 2005. She was strangled with an electical cord off a TV....I am haunted by this and have so much pain thinking about her suffering. I need to know..please....what do we know if anything about what a person would feel while be strangled to death in this matter? I'm just so hoping it was quick like all of us would feel. Would she have had a fairly painless death? Thank you for your help.

In the mid 80's, I helped conduct a study where a FBI trainer put the carotid restraint hold on volunteer subjects; the carotid restraint hold cuts off blood supply to the brain and all the volunteers passed out within 10-15 seconds; of course, the hold was released and they regained consciousness. We published this study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

A ligature, like an electrical cord, applies equal pressure all around the neck and characteristically it is applied with enough pressure to cut off the blood supply to the brain and the person will pass out within 10-15 seconds; since the attacker has no intent for the victim to recover, they typically continue to apply the pressure. After one minute of no oxygen going to the brain, the heart develops an arrhythmia which results in inadequate blood flow to the brain so even if the ligature pressure is released anytime after a minute, the victim still will not regain consciousness. After approximately 4 minutes of inadequate oxygen/blood flow to the brain, the person will become brain dead and eventually die.

So basically, if the ligature is applied strongly (as is nearly always the case) the victim will pass out within 10-15 seconds and never regain any consciousness and there fore never suffer any conscious pain and suffering past that first 10-15 seconds. The physical pain is mild, like an abrasion or scrape of the skin but there is obviously a psychological component of knowing that your are going to die during those 10-15 seconds.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I need some advise and or education concerning forensic evidence and I’m wondering if you can point me please. I need information on how to collect earth samples that may have blood in them. The effects of snow on fingerprints on bottles? What information can be gleaned from dried up vomit? How to take fingerprints from a truck interior? And just general all around knowledge. Is there some reading material or someone I can talk to about these types of things?

I would recommend going to http://aafs.org/ and click on Resources.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter was murdered. Local law enforcement tells me toxicology reports take 3-6 months is this true?

It depends on the lab's workload and priorities. Except for DNA analysis, most testing can be completed in a few days. If the mayor were the decedent, it would be done in a couple of days. Talk with the homicide detective or the district attorney's office to see if you can get a higher priority.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was murdered in 2004. We finally had the trial this year in July. His killer was found guilty and given the death penalty. I was not allowed in the court room during testimony because I too had to testify. I did obtain video copies of the entire trial and this week I watched the testimony of the coroner.
My son was 6 feet 2 inches tall. His killer is five ten. The prosecutors claim my son was standing at a barbecue grill when he was shot. He was shot in the upper left chest area. He was shot with a sawed off, single fire, shotgun. The coroner said the bullet traveled down through the left side of his heart, piercing his lungs and then into the right abdomen. He lost a lot of blood at the spot where he stood, then they claim he crawled about 10 to 12 feet before he actually died. He was found on his back with arms outstretched.
My questions are:
1. If he was crawling on his hands and knees, how did he end up on his back? The blood looked like gloves and knee pads
2. Why did the bullet travel downward when my son was supposedly standing and he was almost four inches taller than his killer
The answer to these questions wont change the outcome, however I feel the need to know every possible detail of my son's last few moments

Somebody (EMT's/paramedics/police) may have rolled him over or he may have rolled onto his back himself as he collapsed.

If he was bending forward, the pellets would appear to be going down as they went through his torso, even though they would be going parallel to the ground.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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If my son was kicked with boots in the abdomen, chest and back area, then his body was placed on the railroad tracks and hit by a train. His body was scooped up and thrown off the tracks. The engineer says our son appeared to be unconcous prior to being hit.. Could an autopsy have determined the difference between a beating and the injuries caused by the train? Could a cause of death be determined?
Could a time of death be determined? I was told by a doctor that my son had broken ribs with puntchered lungs and his lungs were FULL of blood. Please try to answer my question as soon as you can. I am going crazy, my son was killed July 21, 2006.

It might be possible. If he were still alive, I would expect that he would die immediately upon being hit by the train and those injuries would show no sign of bleeding. Injuries occurring before that event should show signs of bleeding. So if the lungs were full of blood then those injuries occurred while his heart was still beating for a while. More than likely, he was dead before the train hit him, or at least unconscious from blood loss and the chest injuries.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 2 1/2 year old granddaughter was killed on July 2, 2006. The initial autopsy and subsequent reports deemed the cause of death as "closed head trauma consistent with being shaken." A coroner's inquest confirmed that she was the victim of a homicide. For the twenty-four hours leading up to her death, only two people were with her: her mother and her mother's boyfriend. Six months later, no arrest has been made.
How long can an investigation into Shaken Baby Syndrome take? With only two suspects (and a history of other abuse), might it be conceivable that no one will be held accountable for her murder? How controversial is Shaken Baby Syndrome as a cause of death? Our trust in the system is waning.

How long can an investigation into Shaken Baby Syndrome take? There is no magic time frame; sometimes it takes years or forever. Frequently the couple will have a fight or separate and the innocent party no longer feels the need to protect the guilty party.

With only two suspects (and a history of other abuse), might it be conceivable that no one will be held accountable for her murder? Yes, but in some states there are District Attorneys who will charge both of them with failure to protect the child and use this as leverage to turn one of the adults into a witness rather than a suspect.

How controversial is Shaken Baby Syndrome as a cause of death? Very Very. Many pathologists and clinicians now lump things together as Abusive Head Trauma. The reasons are many; even using football players as aggressors, not enough force is generated to cause the injuries seen. Many believe that the shaking doesn't cause the damage, it's the sudden deceleration when the child is thrown down after the shaking. The criteria used to make the diagnosis are changing as research shows that what we thought to be true, isn't.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can you tell me if prints can be lifted from a box of shotgun shells if it was put in a plastic bag 2 years ago? It is just one of the small pieces of evidance I feel the investigators "missed" when looking for evidance to prosecute my brother for murdering my son. I believe my "father" was involved and gave the monster the box of shells used to murder my son. Even though my sons murderer hid in our grain shed the investigators ignored this box. I KNOW it was not there the day before. I KNOW that box was in my "fathers" den before as I cleaned for them. I know the sheriffs department made serious mistakes and my son would still be alive if they had done thier duty. 1) They refused to look for my brother in a garage my "father" was seen hiding the monster in. The deputy refused to come and look as he chose to believe my "father".

If there are fingerprints on the box, they may or may not be recoverable due to the porosity of the cardboard. Most shotgun shells are ribbed and do not retain readable prints.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was killed on July 21, 2006 if I want his body tested for date rape drugs is it possible to do so without fresh blood. If we have his body exhumed would they be able to test him for the drugs?

Rohypnol and GHB (the so-called date rape drugs) would not be found on a routine toxicology screen; they must be specifically looked for. We all have a low level of naturally occurring GHB in our bodies.

The bloody fingerprint may have come from someone examining the body and removing the wallet or it may also be from someone else who came along and stole the money after he was hit by the train. It should only take a couple of weeks to analyze any fingerprint; almost every police department has a scanner that will scan the print into a computer system to compare it against national data bases.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I am searching for the best forensic lab in the US, we want to have our son's remains exhumed and sent to a very good forensics's lab. Can someone help me find the top lab in the US?

I would suggest contacting the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences: Dr. Barnard
5230 Medical Center Drive . Dallas, Texas 75202 . 214.920-5900 Office .

Or Bexar County Forensic Sciences Center: Dr. Frost
7337 Louis Pasteur Drive. San Antonio, TX 78229 210-335-4063

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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1. After one year and six months can a forensics's specialist tell if a person has been stabbed?
2. After my son's murder my son's wallet was returned to me. I looked at it under a black light in a dark room. I could clearly see a thumb print on one side, three finger prints on the other side of the trifold. I then looked at it thru my zoom lens and could clearly see the rings in the thumb print. there were also what looked like some type of small fibers in it. I contacted the police thinking I was seeing a bloody thumb print. Police took the wallet and soaked it in Luminol and said there was no thumb or finger prints on the wallet. I was told by another police officer that blood can not be seen with a black light. If what I was seeing was siemon could they still get samples for DNA even though it has been soaked in luminol? The fibers were washed away... but I can still see a lighter image of the prints under the black light. The person who killed my son gets sexually aroused when he causes something pain. We know this because unfortunately he is a relative.
3. If my son were alive when a train hit him wouldn't bruising show up after a little while since the heart does not stop instantly. His heart was not damaged. If so how long would it take to start bruising?
After the answer I received from you a few months ago I honestly believe my son was dead before the train hit him but I'm still trying to prove it.

1.It depends on many factors such as the quality of the embalming, the temperature and moisture if buried, etc.

2. Luminol should not destroy semen but the fingerprints may be due to acidity or other variables so that they may be your son’s and not someone else.

2. There is seldom bruising after impact by a train; even if the heart continues to pump blood, it is pumping into the path of least resistance, i.e. all the broken vessels and damaged organs.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 17 year old son was stabbed by an intruder in our home in the early hours of the morning of June 17, 2006. He died one year ago, Sept 29, 2006, as a result. The autopsy describes the wound as about 4 centimeters long on the right side of the neck just above the clavicle. His carotid artery was cut and the blood loss caused a stroke. He was sleeping on the couch in our family den when it happened was probably laying down but may have been awaken by the intruder and sitting up or on the way up. My wife and I and my daughter were in our bedrooms in the house at the time and heard a crash and found him bleeding. As far as we know there was no struggle just the cut on his neck.
The police did a full investigation as best we can tell but have not found the culprit. We are very frustrated and hired our own PI last year. We think it may have been a acquaintance of my son's...he had many questionable friends who have served time in jail. It has been over a year and we want to find out what happened to our boy.

My questions:
1. Can we learn anything about what happened by the nature of the cut? The police did not seem to think so but some doctors we know said we might be able to. All we have is the autopsy. He has been cremated.
2. Should police have collected DNA from the scene and might this be helpful? Assuming the intruder was not there very long could the intruder have left some DNA? Is DNA left by merely touching something (as in a fingerprint)?
3. The police indicated early on that there might be a non-family finger print on the door but they would need to run it through the system. How long does that take?

1. Since he survived for three months, the autopsy report is not really accurate as to what the injury looked like when inflicted; the medical records might provide info. If a stab wound, then some info regarding the weapon might be obtained. If a cut/slash wound, then nothing of value would be learned.

2. It is unlikely that DNA would have been left on any surfaces since the assailant apparently was in and out quickly, not really handling many things (you have to choose what objects to examine for DNA) but fingernail scrapings/clippings from your son should have been taken in case there was any resistance by your son such as scratching, etc. of the assailant.

3. A couple of hours with current computerized systems.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 19 year old son, Colten was murdered 1/26/2008. He was shot 4 times trying to stop a fight. He was shot once in the stomach & three times in the legs, completely demolitioning his main artery in both legs I think my son bleed to death. I saw on the news the fire department cleaning up the crime scene. There was so much blood. How long would it take before he passed out from blood loss? Did he know he was dying?

Since the arteries were damaged, he would bleed quite quickly, loss of consciousness within ten minutes or less. Yes, he probably did know he was dying, as long as he maintained consciousness, since he would be aware of the large amount of bleeding.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I just read an article regarding "touch" analysis DNA testing. What is the true name for this process? Would it be possible to retrieve any DNA from a rock or stone using this process?

“touch” only refers to the method of obtaining the sample and is used to document that the item was in the possession of a certain individual at some point in time. New methods allow for the replication (or multiplication) of the DNA fragments recovered from a sample so the amount of sample required has decreased to next to nothing. A common use is to swab the handle of a recovered gun to prove that it was once in the possession of someone on parole or probation so they can be sent back to jail.

So yes, a sample might be able to be recovered from a rock or stone – but it only shows that at some time, that person had contact with the rock or stone and does not prove they were holding it when, and if, it was used as a weapon.
-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Can a person die of any form of suffocation/asphyxiation/oxygen deprivation/chest compression (ie:layover) and not have petechei or other signs of trauma on the body? Particularly in a case where the person was sedated ( say a .31 blood alcohol at time of death)?

In other words could laying over a person who is that intoxicated in prayer or for restraint for several hours, cause death and not leave physical signs of trauma esp. petechei? Cause of death is undetermined no other drugs in system, only findings are slightly enlarged heart (400g) and congested/heavy lungs (750g). This was a 26 yr old male approx 210lbs.

The pathologist should have retained a sample of eye fluid and tested it for alcohol. Most alcohol overdoses are due to respiratory depression and the blood alcohol level is coming down. An eye fluid (vitreous) level would confirm that.

The findings are consistent with an alcohol overdose. That being said, suffocation, or upper airway obstruction by smothering, will not leave any petechial hemorrhages in the eyes or face. Chest compression, such as overlaying or a car-jack collapse, etc. will leave visible petechiae.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Our son died in bed, supposedly taking an afternoon nap, he was 35. His wife was having an affair with the neighbor, an anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist sold his house for below market value and moved out of town 4 months later. Our son's insurance policy paid his wife $800,000.00. In the autopsy, drugs could not be tested for that would have been available to the anesthesiologist. They can be tested now, 10 years later.........What do I have to do to get my son's body exhumed and a forensic pathology report made?
I tried going to the police, but I feel they botched the investigation and don't want to help me now. Please help me with some answers.

Realistically, there is nothing you can do unless specimens from the original autopsy were saved and properly preserved. The embalming process basically purges all blood from the body and permeates every organ. If he were not embalmed, then there would be too much decomposition by now. If it were an anesthetic death, these are difficult to prove in fresh cases, much less a case like this.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My grandson was murdered at his day care. He was 17 months old. The Autopsy Report stated he had ligature marks from under his chin, behind his ears up to the crown of his head. It is believed his day care owner hung him with a computer cord. The prosecuiting Attorney would not prosecuit. Can finger prints be recovered from the body? How much evidence is required to prosecuit? His death was Sept. 27, 2005 I have a 450 page investigation report. What should I be looking for? Should I request the crime scene photos? What evidence would force an investigation? This murder took place in Wastenaw County, Clinton, MI. No one seems to care about a day care death. This is the second one in 2 years in our family.

Can finger prints be recovered from the body? Very rarely and only for a very short period after death. In this case, they would have no value since the “suspect” had regular contact with the decedent.
How much evidence is required to prosecuit? Enough to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt in the minds of 12 jurors, and once tried, they cannot be tried again if found not guilty the first time around – even if they later confess.
His death was Sept. 27, 2005 I have a 450 page investigation report. What should I be looking for? Hard to say; there would be nothing specific.
Should I request the crime scene photos? Yes, they can be examined for inconsistencies between the photos and the reports; they may also show something missed during the scene investigation.
What evidence would force an investigation? Anything relevant to prove the point.
how long would a 17 month old be dead before EMT's could not rescuitate him?
Depending on cause of death, it may be immediate (unsuccessful hospital resuscitations) to hours (cold water submersion) Is it possible to rescuitate a strangulated child? Usually not. Would an athletic 12 year old girl be strong enough to strangle Hunter? Yes
I did not see any indication of the coronor swabbing Hunter' neck for traces of the strangulation cord or rope. Should this have been done routinely? No

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son died of drowning in March. He went to stay with a cousin and when he didn't call I became worried, as he always called me. He was threatened to be thrown in the creek when it was flooded, which it was that weekend. I reported him missing and informed the police he was threatened. They never took a written statement from me and reported him as a probable runaway. My family and I searched the creek for 3 days. We found him on the 4th day. The police wouldn't help look even after we found his boot. The autopsy stated he had hemorrhaging near his hyoid bone, a seven inch bruise on the back of his neck. bruising on his forehead, and bruising on his back. The coroner stated no foul play. What should I do? I do not feel this was an accident. The police wanted to give polygraph testing to the ones that threatened him. They refused and then the police and coroner told me it was accidental. They even wrote in the paper that it was an accident related to alcohol involvement. His alcohol lever was 0.07, me being a nurse, I know he wasn't drunk. And he would never go near the creek when it was flooded. They did make a couple of arrests for providing alcohol to minors. Why are their not involuntary manslaughter charges or something more for causing the death of someone for providing alcohol. I would really appreciate your opinion on this matter, as it is tearing me apart everyday.

Although this is very limited information, the one fact that arouses my suspicions is the hemorrhage around the hyoid bone, which is in the upper neck just below the jaw. This area is rarely subjected to trauma (hemorrhage) except in strangulations. The other bruises could be from tumbling and hitting rocks/boulders in the creek but this part of the neck is very well protected.

I would recommend you contact Second Opinion Services so that everything you can obtain is reviewed by experts, which apparently, the local police and coroner are not.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was accidentally stabbed on 02/19/2006. The coroners medical therapy describes in his report that an endotracheal tube passes through the mouth and has its terminus in the trachea. The chest has gauze dressings over both precordia. Beneath these dressings are plastic catheters, which enter the chest wall. On the right, the catheter enters the right chest cavity and perforates the upper lobe of the lung. The right lung is not collapsed. On the left, the catheter enters the chest cavity, but does not perforate the lung. An intravenous line is found in the right antecubital fossa. The left antecubital fossa has multiple, fresh, needle punctures. The left tibia, in its middle third, has an intraosseous needle. The left wrist is encircled by 2 hospital identification bracelets.

Stab Wound of the chest report stated the left precordium has a single, 15 by 6 by an estimated 100 to 125 millimeters stab wound. The wound is oriented somewhat horizontally, with the medial corner being sharp and the lateral corner blunt. The wound in the skin is centered 11 inches below the top of the left shoulder and 3 inches to the left of the anterior midline. It is further centered 3 3/4 inches below and 1 inch medial to the left nipple.

The wound pathway perforates the skin and soft tissues of the chest wall and the left 5th intercostal space. The tract the perforates the left chest cavity, the pericardial sac and penetrates the heart. The wound tract in the heart is through the apex of the right ventricle and then into the wall of the left ventricle. The estimated maximum depth of penetration is 10 to 12.5 centimeters (100 - 125 millimeters or 4 -5 inches).

The wound path is associated with extravesated blood along the tract, a measured 96 milliliters of liquid blood in the pericardial sac and a measured 2400 milliliters of clotted and liquid blood in the left chest cavity. The left lung is collapsed. The left precordium has patterned, linear abrasion or very superficial incised wound, located immediately adjacent to the entrance wound. The patterned injury is found at the 10 o'clock position, in relation to the stab wound and is separated from the stab wound by a 6 millimeters space. This patterned injury then extends upward and medially, with a length of 42 millimeters and width of up to 2 millimeters. One to 2 millimeters long serrations are seen along this wound.

My questions are:

There were no pictures taken of my sons body at the crime scene
The police, detective, and emt described the wound as one small puncture wound
My husband and I saw my son at the crime scene and we saw only one puncture wound
When they took autopsy pictures it showed a scratch above the wound that know one else saw or described in their report. In the autopsy report the coroner said that on the right, the catheter enters the right chest cavity and perforates the upper lobe of the lung.
The coroner states that my sons right upper lobe of the lung was perforated by a catheter.
The coroner states that the left lung is collapsed.
How did the left lung collapse?
Could the perforated right lung or the left lung have caused more trauma and contributed to my son's death?
I want to know could the scratch above the wound have been caused by emergency room doctors etc? I want to know could my son have survived this stabbing?
After my son was stabbed he walked from the family room to the bathroom, and from out the bathroom to where he collapsed in the dining room and was unconscious from then on. He never said he was in pain. It seemed like he didn't know that he was stabbed Do you think he felt any pain?
The ambulance was called at approximately 3:01 pm and arrived on the scene at 3:04 pm. I begged the emt operators to put my son on the gurney and take him to the hospital. There response was that they were waiting for lifeflight. They had my son laying on the cold pavement from 3:04 pm until they put him in the ambulance at approximately 3:27 pm. Lifeflight couldn't find the location because the usual location they use is at the hospital or a shopping center lot near the hospital. Lifeflight arrived at approximately 3:44pm and left the scene at approximately 3:52 pm, arrived at the hospital at approximately 4:10pm. My son was pronounced dead at 4:12 pm.
I want to know if my son could have survived. He was alive for almost 1 hour and 9 minutes after he was stabbed. If he could have gotten to the hospital within 15 mins or even 30 minutes could he have survived.


Answers:

How did the left lung collapse? 2400 milliliters of clotted and liquid blood in the left chest cavity; this is 2.5 quarts of blood compressing the lung so it has collapsed down even though not struck by the knife.
Could the perforated right lung or the left lung have caused more trauma and contributed to my son's death? No, these catheters are very short and cannot go any deeper than just below the lung’s surface if the lung is fully inflated
I want to know could the scratch above the wound have been caused by emergency room doctors etc? No. The left precordium has patterned, linear abrasion or very superficial incised wound, located immediately adjacent to the entrance wound. The patterned injury is found at the 10 o'clock position, in relation to the stab wound and is separated from the stab wound by a 6 millimeters space. This patterned injury then extends upward and medially, with a length of 42 millimeters and width of up to 2 millimeters. One to 2 millimeters long serrations are seen along this wound. This is consistent with a scratch/abrasion by a serrated knife blade.
I want to know could my son have survived this stabbing? No, not in my opinion.
After my son was stabbed he walked from the family room to the bathroom, and from out the bathroom to where he collapsed in the dining room and was unconscious from then on. He never said he was in pain. It seemed like he didn't know that he was stabbed Do you think he felt any pain? If he didn’t know he was stabbed, then he didn’t suffer any physical pain; if he knew he was going to die, there may have been psychological pain but it doesn’t sound that way.
The ambulance was called at approximately 3:01 pm and arrived on the scene at 3:04 pm. I begged the emt operators to put my son on the gurney and take him to the hospital. There response was that they were waiting for lifeflight. They had my son laying on the cold pavement from 3:04 pm until they put him in the ambulance at approximately 3:27 pm. Lifeflight couldn't find the location because the usual location they use is at the hospital or a shopping center lot near the hospital. Lifeflight arrived at approximately 3:44pm and left the scene at approximately 3:52 pm, arrived at the hospital at approximately 4:10pm. My son was pronounced dead at 4:12 pm. I want to know if my son could have survived. He was alive for almost 1 hour and 9 minutes after he was stabbed. If he could have gotten to the hospital within 15 mins or even 30 minutes could he have survived. In my opinion, no. Even if he were kept alive, the lack of oxygen supply to the brain due to blood loss, would have eventually resulted in him being declared “brain dead” due to resultant swelling of the brain resulting in an inability for blood pressure to overcome pressure inside the skull so blood flow to the brain would drop to zero.


-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My son was shot in his home 3 months ago. The case was closed as a suicide with the death certificate arriving the day before the burial, and before the crime lab reports had not even come back--if they have yet been sent. Information is being kept very evasive with us, and I will follow up with others for more detail because we don't know what to do. We only know--that this was not a suicide. We found that the gun in question had not been sent to the crime lab as of 14 days after his death, and have since hired a PI to give us assistance. The gun, by the way, was found lying on his chest in what my husband calls "dressed right dress", and his hand lying gently on his stomach just below the gun. My son was shot in the right temple with a 9mm, and the door to the room was closed when he was found. The officers admitted they wore no gloves, checked for no prints, and did not check on any other room in the house, the phone for any messages, etc., citing "their was no reason to". My question to you. We found spatter on the outside of the door--we believe it is back spatter and the door had been opened about 30 degrees when he was shot, and 2 very clear fingerprints in this spatter. We have not touched this. I ordered a deer light the day we got the death certificate citing suicide, which was 8 days after I found his body--which I was told had been dead for "well over 24 hours", and went into my sons home to find this on the door. I am leaving much detail out in order to confine my question. How can we get anyone to check this out, and would this even be admissable into court since was not recovered at the original scene--which by the way, I don't believe was treated like a crime scene due to all procedures which I have read up on. We have spoken to the sheriff department and they still say there is no reason to go back and check into this. I have pages more of circumstances, &nb sp;u ncovered in the days prior and after, and more evidence stacking up, but time is passing and I am concerned about the degradation of the prints and spatter. I am wondering if this is not going to be admissable--could I have it taken to someone independently--and do you know of anyone we could send this to.

You need to contact the local prosecutor and explain your concerns, calmly. Depending on your state, the state police may be allowed to step in. If the police have already determined it to be a suicide, then they may never submit any evidence for analysis. The weapon should be swabbed for DNA analysis to see if there is DNA from anyone besides your son. The spatter should be documented as soon as possible (by anyone) by photo with a ruler in the photo. Close up photos of the prints should be done as soon as possible and compared to prints that may be on file for your son, or fingerprints at the coroner/Medical Examiner office they handled and ID’d the remains. Check with your PI as to state laws regarding admissibility of evidence that he recovers.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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How long would it take lividity to appear in the hands of a hanging victim. If lividity had settled in the hands (stocking and glove) and the body moved before lividity was set would evidence of lividity remain in the hands. Also may I ask if you have ever encountered a hanging case where the ligature had broken, (eg leather belt) and the body fell to the floor landing in a perfectly aligned possition. These are just a few of the questions I have concerning the death of my son which was very poorly investigated.

How long would it take lividity to appear in the hands of a hanging victim: In most circumstances, less than an hour. If lividity had settled in the hands (stocking and glove) and the body moved before lividity was set would evidence of lividity remain in the hands. Lividity can become partially fixed; depending on the length of time in the hanging position and the time when moved, some lividity may stay behind since it has “fixed” and can no longer shift.

Also may I ask if you have ever encountered a hanging case where the ligature had broken, (eg leather belt) and the body fell to the floor landing in a perfectly aligned position. Not sure what you mean by a perfectly aligned position, but I have seen ligatures break, the person regain consciousness and move, then the brain swelling caused by the period of no oxygen supply causes the person to die.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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Is it normal to have upper airway contusions in a hanging death. Does a spleen size of 98g have any significance, does the spleen shrink with not eating and how long does this take to occur. If the gall bladder and stomach are empty how long since the victim drank anything.

Is it normal to have upper airway contusions in a hanging death: Yes, depending on their location and the type of ligature. Does a spleen size of 98g have any significance, does the spleen shrink with not eating and how long does this take to occur: This spleen size is within normal range for an adult or teen. Eating has nothing to do with the size of the spleen. If the gall bladder and stomach are empty how long since the victim drank anything: The gall bladder usually doesn’t contract and expel its contents as a response to liquids except for dairy products. Depending on the type of liquid, e.g. so-called clear liquids, they may pass through the stomach in minutes.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I Live in California. My 16 yr old daughter was murderd on Sept.16 it has taken now almost 5 months to get any dna reports back. The detective finally told us he received the report and that they had found semon that was the only thing in the report and that now they would start comparing that to 4 of the suspects dna that the detective had sent. I was told that it could also take as long for the results of that to come back as it did for the first dna to come back. could you please tell me how long it should to compare semon to someone dna.

The actual analysis of the 4 samples would take less than a week and the comparison just minutes by a computer. The problem for the long turnaround is a huge backlog of cases in California as well as the budget and personnel cuts.
I was wondering if you might have any suggestion on anything i could do to help speed things up?
Ans: political pressure; contact your state representative and state senator's offices; crime labs usually respond to the politicians who approve their budget.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 19 year old niece was murdered in December 2008. I have just been given access to the autopsy report. There is a summary of what a witness stated happened: according to the witness, my niece’s boyfriend sat on top of her and used his forearm pressed against her neck to strangle her. She was a very petite young woman. When the prosecutor sent the report, he stated that at first glance, the findings may not jibe with how the witness says my niece died.
The actual findings state that she appears to have been strangled in such a way that allowed blood into brain, but not back out. Her face was congested; Her brain was slightly edematous, she had an abrasion on her right upper neck under chin, the abrasion measures 7x2 cm and runs obliquely from 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock……the hyoid bone was intact, however, she suffered severe bilateral conjunctival hemorrhages, fractures to the cricoid cartilage, a hemorrhage on the overlying submandibular salivary gland (left), a hemorrhage to her tongue, left, submucosal.
It is difficult for me to decipher all of these medical terms….what is it that may have raised the prosecutor’s hackles in thinking the witness statement may not have been correct? Do the injuries jibe with the statement? Please advise, and thanks in advance for your response.

The injuries are most consistent with the fingers, especially the index finger, being under the chin and causing the abrasion seen on the right side of the neck with the thumb causing the focal bleeding area on the left side(using the left hand). You would not see this injury pattern if the assailant leaned forward using the forearm only. Sitting on the chest also makes it hard to breathe. The pinpoint hemorrhages seen in the conjunctivae of the eye (inner eyelids and “whites” of the eyes) are due to pressure applied to the neck which allows high pressure arterial blood flow into the head while obstructing low-pressure venous drainage. Because of the increased blood flow with outlet obstruction, tiny capillaries burst and cause the visible bleeding.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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I believe my daughters suicide was staged, Can you detect any of the following meds such as metformin, lantius, enalapril hydrochlorothiazide.The reason is her husband is a dietetic and we feel he could have been administering these meds without her knowledge

These drugs, used to treat diabetes and hypertension, would not be found on the usual drug screens and would need to be looked for specifically. The most commonly used lab for such specialty tests is National Medical Services in Willow Grove, PA. They could let you know if **their** lab does such testing. I have no financial interest in this lab.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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2 questions...
1. If the medical examiners office ran a full toxicology on my son after being fatally struck by a truck but didn't run it for weed, why would that be?
2. Would a bac of .21 be enough alcohol for a small framed 16 year old boy to make him appear to be hallucinating?

Thank you for your time.

1. Most offices run a tox screen that includes "weed" (tetrahydrocannabinol) but this office may not because there is no accepted correlation between levels and effects.

2. It could but most likely the observer was interpreting bizarre behavior (more likely at this BAC) as hallucinating. Most tox screens do not test for hallucinogens.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My daughter, Joan, died February 1, 2012 from an accidental prescription drug overdose.  She was 18 years old.  The 54 year old man that provided her drugs was acquitted from second degree murder charges and negligent homicide.  
My question for the experts is regarding the validity of the Medical Examiners testimony.  The ME autopsy reported that Joan’s cause of death was Acute combined drug toxicity.  The last drug that Joan was provided that night was a special delivery requested by her perpetrator.  A local dealer brought him Opana.  The autopsy report stated that the Opana level was above the reported limit.  

The ME was summoned to testify at the murder trial.  He confirmed the laboratory findings, acknowledging the toxic dosage values of the drugs in her system. The defense attorney began his line of questioning and he concluded after presenting a document that was accepted as evidence by judge and DA.  This document was a scientific study with a small sample size.  The data indicated that a higher level of Opana was considered lethal based upon the fatalities in that particular study. The physician briefly looked at the study and agreed that the lethal level was indeed higher. 
With that,  he testified that with this new information/data, the Opana level measured in my daughter’s blood was no longer considered to be a lethal level. 

Needless to say, our family was shocked and saddened at what had just taken place, due to the new found evidence of a single study. The lethal measure of the Opana level was an important component in a hopeful conviction. 

Do all Medical Examiners or Physicians signing the death certificate have State or National guidelines that are referred to in determining the lethal toxic level of any prescription medication? 

There are no state/ national guidelines for determining the lethal level of medications; there is one book Disposition of toxic drugs and chemicals in man by Randall Baselt which is published every few years and is a summary of the published literature regarding drugs. Lethal drug levels will vary depending on circumstances, e.g. a chronic user of pain medications will develop a tolerance and what might be a lethal level in someone naïve to opiates might be just a therapeutic level in the chronic pain patient.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 22 year old sister was murdered 33 years ago and the crime has never been
solved. My family and believe the person responsible is a family member.
All the evidence was destroyed in a fire, the warehouse where  the nypd
keeps all the evidence.

Can we have the body exhumed to check for any dna that may be under her
nails?

Too late

-Dr. Harry Bonnell
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My son was found in the river dead. This was in november, to cold to swim. The Coroner said the cause of death was drowning. He had very little water in his lungs, could he have got the water from laying up against the dam where the water had so much current. I would like to know whether or not he drowned or was dead when he  went in. I think he could have got some water in his lunges from the force of the water coming from the dam.

Not all drowning deaths will have water in the lungs; sometimes the vocal cords spasm closed and obstruct the airway so no water enters.  Usually there is water/fluid in the stomach from reflexively swallowing.  The real question is what was the level of drugs in his body and why did they call it a “heroin” overdose. Heroin usually transforms almost immediately into morphine and 6-monoacetyl morphine and this is what the toxicology lab normally finds and reports.  These levels might indicate whether or not he was dead from an overdose and someone dumped his body in the reservoir or whether he may have been under enough influence of the drug to accidentally fall in.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My Nephew was shot and killed Jan 15,2015. He was shot and killed by the grandfather of his 2 youngest children. He recently had moved out from his home, some of his things were still in the house. His girlfriend broke up with him hours before he died. He was going to the home to get his belongings as he was moving away to get him self together and work. It happened at 5:23 pm just starting to get dark, his car was parked in the driveway. The 911 call the shooter stated that he seen his car in the driveway and then heard something at the window and was fearful for his life and started shooting 4 shots. So he shot my nephew thru the heart entered 2 inches below left nipple somehow went thru the heart hit diaphragm and out the other side thru the liver and exited. Then my nephew was supposedly able to run around the deck down towards the lake and we found him lying on his back arm stretched all the way up straight and only blood seen was a small smear on his belly on the right side, one leg straight other bent, mud on left side of forehead 58 yards from where the shooting happened.  Is that possible? Then after autopsy (still waiting on report) at funeral home I noticed lots of bruising on the fore heard with swelling and bumps, bruising, then the start of black eye and bruising on hand between thumb and index finger.  They are not charging saying he was an intruder. Which is hard to believe, however I seen him right before the murder and he had no bruising. So does bruising  like this happen after an autopsy or did this trauma have to have happened before death? The bruising continued to worsen and had to apply more make up to cover it up. Can you go a long distance after being shot thru the heart and liver?

Yes you can run along way after being shot, or stabbed, in the heart. Even if no blood goes to the brain, it takes approx. 15 seconds to pass out but if any blood is getting to the brain, one can stay conscious for more than a minute.  Because it was a bullet doing the damage, I would expect that nearly all the blood would bleed out into the chest cavity and not outside the body, so there should be little to no blood at the scene.  The facial and hand bruising are most likely due to impact with the ground as he passed out and yes, you can get post-mortem bruising.

-Dr. Harry Bonnell

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My 4 yr old grand daughter died from severe hypernatremia. There is a long story behind this, but my question is:  How can the ME rule it consistent with accident?  Can he read the mother’s mind?  She said that she put salt in her feeding bag because she wasn’t feeling well and thought that would help.  Detectives notified the ME that they thought this was a criminal case for many reasons……. She didn’t even call 911, but messaged my son that the child was sick and to come home!!!!  The detective acts mad and won’t talk to us and says the ME said it was an accident and now there is nothing she can do.  They were so sure that even the DA was just waiting for an autopsy report before making the arrest.
Does the ME really hold that kind of power?  Who do we talk to for answers?  Will the ME talk to us?

The M.E. should talk with you. Manner of death (accident) is simply an opinion and not a scientific diagnosis.  The M.E. has tried to evaluate intent, which s/he cannot due of course.  That’s for the police and prosecutor to decide as to whether or not to charge and for the jury to ultimately determine.

Many a prosecutor has successfully prosecuted a homicide where the M.E. put the manner as accident; the most common example of this is traffic accidents involving a drunken driver.  The manner of death is accident but criminal charges are filed. There is no reason why the police should not give the case to the prosecutor.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell
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My daughter was murdered in massachusetts, her remains which were mostly skeletal ,were found on the beach after a storm ..the Massachusetts medical examiner's cause of death was ruled a homicide...I would like to know if my daughter was still alive when she was dumped in the ocean..the medical examiner's ruled homicide in part because her body had been tied to weights when she was found ..a diatom test was not performed..because it was not needed.and it doesn't hold up in court...would you know of anyone who could perform the diatom test, via bone marrow from her femur.so that I may know the complete story of what happened to my daughter..I feel like I can't begin to move on  until I know everything I possibly can about how she died.. 

No reputable organization does diatom testing because it is unreliable especially on submerged tissues.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell
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My best friend's son was killed in a car wreck at 21 in 2012. He was driving at a high rate of speed, and had been drinking. Lost control of vehicle and ran head on into a tree. He had a passenger that survived with only a scratch on his leg. Josh, the deceased son, was able to crawl out of vehicle. Passenger said he walked a few feet from the vehicle holding his lower stomach and kept saying his stomach hurt. He sat down and feel over. Life saver arrived going to take him to local hospital, they said he flat lined when landing so they flew him to UAB, great hospital. There he passed away the final time. DR's said his spleen had ruptured. The autopsy report said cause of death was hours of blunt force trauma. I'm familiar with what blunt force trauma means. But what does it mean by "HOURS"?  And does that also mean that he suffered for the 5 hrs from wreck til death? Thank you for your time. I have wondered this from the day it happened. 

Hours is the interval between the injury and the time he was pronounced dead; it does not indicate conscious pain and suffering.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell
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If a pathologist/medical examiner is asked to review an autopsy report and give a second opinion, what conclusion could be made that wasn't with the autopsy itself? The deceased has been cremated, so there's obviously no re-examination available. So what different information/opinion could be concluded from a different examiner just reviewing the initial report? In asking for a second opinion, does this mean the report is inconclusive? Is it always like that? Is there such a thing as "without a doubt" (like in the TV shows)? Also, (like in shows) could the report be an inclination of what detectives, media, etc. believe it to be? Simply because the DA uses the same pathologist to prosecute? Lastly, what is the difference (if any) between a pathologist/medical examiner and a forensic scientist? Are both used in a case or just one or the other? Thank you in advance for your expertise.

The terminology is vague from place to place., A medical examiner should be a physician board-certified in forensic pathology but in many areas s/he can be any doctor who does a death investigation. A forensic scientist could be anybody who wants to call himself one. Reviewing an autopsy report by itself can only result in a different interpretation of the meaning of the autopsy findings. A quality autopsy review also involves reviewing all photos and microscopic slides as well as toxicology reports and investigative reports because the autopsy report cannot be adequately interpreted in a vacuum; photos and slides may show something missed in the autopsy report.  There is nothing “without a doubt”; the standard is “reasonable medical certainty”.

- Dr. Harry Bonnell
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