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Second Opinion ServicesSM (Unsolved /Cold Cases)
Case #3

Listed below is a profile of a victim written by the victim's family. Also included is the letter received from one of POMC's experts, Dr. Harry Bonnell, after reviewing the case information submitted by the family.

An Investigative Profile of the Death of Corliss Diane Ancrum Corliss Diane

In August of 1990, our daughter Corliss Diane began a telephone relationship with James (alias Teddy), the son of our friends. Teddy, as he was called, was at that time residing with his parents and they felt he would be perfect for our daughter.

Corliss was coming to Arlington, Texas to visit us for her 25th birthday on October of 1990, and she had agreed to meet Teddy for the first time. The two of them seemed mutually satisfied with the other, therefore, they agreed to continue becoming acquainted after she returned to her home in Hempstead, New York. They spoke by telephone several times daily and wrote to each other often.

Corliss had mentioned to us prior to meeting Teddy, that she was considering moving to Arlington to be closer to us. After meeting Teddy and his family, she felt this was the opportune time to relocate. Since she had made the decision to relocate to Texas, Corliss resigned from her job where she had worked for 3 years in December, 1990. Teddy agreed to meet Corliss in New York with a surprise engagement ring he had purchased for her and had shown to my husband and I the evening prior to his leaving Texas for New York. They had also planned for him to help her drive her new Chevrolet Cavalier back to Texas. Prior to arriving in Texas, they drove to Atlanta, Georgia where Teddy had relatives he wanted Corliss to meet. They arrived in Texas on December 31, 1990 around 11:30 pm.

Shortly after arriving in Texas, Corliss soon realized there were behavioral traits in Teddy's personality which raised concern. He became possessive of her and wanted to dominate all of her time. As her parents, we became concerned because we had not raised our daughter to be out of the house from sunrise to sunset, so we approached her about this unusual behavior. She was understanding and promised to try to be home more, and to also participate by doing chores around the house. Teddy became very irate with us and voiced his opinion to us on more than one occasion.

In order to stop the arguing between Teddy and her parents, Corliss felt it would be best to move into her own apartment and on January 31, 1991, she did just that. Shortly thereafter, Teddy moved in with her and that's when the real problems began. Corliss felt she could not confide in her parents where Teddy was concerned, so she chose to confide in her friends in New York and some new friends she had made upon moving to Texas. We later learned from Corliss's friends and co-workers that Teddy had been physically abusing our daughter and had publicly threatened her at work.

Corliss had confided to one or more of her friends that she was planning to leave Teddy but was afraid that if he found out, he would kill her.

It is our understanding that Teddy was aware of Corliss's plans to end their relationship and he was very upset. On March 18, 1991, at 5:30 PM., Corliss arrived at their apartment after working all day at Ford Motor Credit where she had recently obtained employment. The two of them argued and at approximately 6:00 PM, Corliss left the apartment. She arrived at our home which is a 15 to 20 minute drive, at 7:00 PM. It was apparent she was very upset. We asked her what was wrong. She replied, " I hate Teddy! I can't stand him, he makes me so sick and we will talk later."

This was the day of a very big boxing match between Tyson and Douglas. We had several of our friends over to watch the boxing event; and they will attest to several annoying telephone calls to our daughter from Teddy during the evening. Around 11:30 pm or 11:40 pm, Corliss decided to return to her apartment. We had not pressured her to talk about whatever was troubling her and therefore felt she would be fine in the morning. It had always been a rule in our home for her to call us upon arriving home so we would be certain she returned home safely and, of course, this night was no exception. We were straightening up the house when the telephone rang around 12:20 am on March 19, 1991. It was Teddy on the other end and when my husband answered the telephone, Teddy asked my husband "How was Corliss when she left your house." My husband's reply was "Why, is there something wrong?" He responded by saying, "Corliss came home, I was in bed with my back to her, she went into the closet, I heard hangers, and she fell, and I can't get her to come to!" Her father asked Teddy if he had called 911, and he stated he had not. Her dad then asked him to please call 911 and her mother and I are on our way. We hung up the phone and immediately left for her apartment. Upon arriving at her apartment, we were met by an ambulance and several police units. We entered the apartment which was a mess; it looked as though there had been fighting, and someone had been attempting to clean up in a hurry. Corliss was lying on the floor of the bedroom and paramedics were working on her. She was non-respondent to anything they tried on her. We noticed Teddy standing in the living room, wearing only a pair of torn blue jeans. We asked him what had happened to Corliss, his response was, "She fell while in the closet of the bedroom, and hit her head on the night table."

The paramedics removed Corliss from the apartment and transported her to the hospital. Teddy arrived at the hospital and was present when Corliss was pronounced dead at 1:18 am on March 19, 1991. At the hospital, we noticed several fresh scratches at the base of Teddy's neck, which were pointed out to the police officer on duty at the hospital. Teddy was questioned at the Police Department, three days after the funeral (March 26, 1991) and stated he had received the scratches earlier the morning of March 18, 1991 while playing basketball.

We also learned during our own investigation that prior to calling 911 for assistance, Teddy had called his parents' home and spoken with someone for several minutes. The state of Texas has stated they do not maintain nor provide a printout of telephone calls made within the local area. The Detective assigned to investigate Corliss's death was able to obtain this information. Detective Tom of the Police Department had been assigned to this particular "crimes against persons" case.

Corliss's remains were turned over to the Medical Examiner's office in Texas which is a normal procedure. He returned a decision that our daughter had died of natural causes. This ruling not only shocked us but was untrue. How could a 25 year old lady who was examined by her physician prior to leaving New York have a medical problem that would have caused her to die, yet show no warning signs? We demanded the ruling of Natural Causes be investigated further! The Doctor refused to change his rulings. Texas is a state where no charges of murder can be filed against anyone even in a suspicious death, unless the medical examiner rules the death homicide! No charges have been filed against Teddy or anyone else who participated in Corliss's death.

Friends organized a petition drive to the police and the Medical Examiner with at least 1,000 signatures, urging them to investigate the unanswered death of Corliss Diane. To date, no one has responded.

After much disgust and desperation, we hired a private world renowned Pathologist to exhume Corliss's body and determine the actual cause of death. Based on his autopsy findings, death was caused by strangulation resulting from a chokehold. Incidentally, the second autopsy was videotaped from start to finish, by a professional videotaping recording company. Following this exhumation, we discovered what would be considered the continuation of a cover up.

Upon exhuming Corliss's body, the pathologist discovered her airway passages, larynx, vocal cords were missing. These parts should not have been removed at all. We immediately contacted the Doctor, who assured us the parts in question were placed in a plastic bag and into her abdominal area. With his information, we contacted the funeral home, who was in charge of Corliss's funeral arrangements.

The funeral director stated he never saw a plastic bag and did not remove anything from Corliss's body.

These missing parts, along with other information, were essential in determining what exactly happened to our daughter. Due to gross negligence on behalf of the medical examiner, our attorney filed a lawsuit.

The following are just some of the reasons we have determined our daughter was murdered rather than dying of natural causes and one person out there knows what happened to her.

  1. On the morning of Corliss's death, Teddy went to her bank account and withdrew $350.00 from her personal bank account. He wrote a bank check for the withdrawal. On that same day, we were told by Teddy's parents that he was heavily sedated and could not give us the keys to their apartment nor were we allowed to obtain any of her belongings. We wanted to choose a dress for her burial but were told by Teddy's mother that she would select her clothing and get it to us.
  2. There were 25 pieces of evidence gathered at the crime, 18 of which were blood samples. To date, none of the blood samples have been analyzed. There were particles of blood under Corliss's nails which we were told were not enough to do a DNA testing.
  3. The parents of Teddy purchased their home from one of the Police Department's officers, Jan, whose husband at the time was employed by the FBI. The officer questioned the detective in charge regarding the suspicion of Teddy for Corliss's death.
  4. Teddy cannot account for 10 minutes from the time Corliss collapsed until the time he called 911. We feel this time was used to contact his parents and informed them of what had happened and to hastily attempt to clean up the apartment.
  5. Teddy stated he obtained the scratches on his neck, during a game of basketball early the morning of March 18, 1991, yet no one could corroborate his story when questioned by the police.
  6. The police noticed the broken television, blood stains on the walls, bedding, ceiling, shower curtains, carpeting, broken debris throughout the apartment, broken furniture and yet they felt "none of this was out of the ordinary." (Presumably, most Texans live like this?) During a press conference held by the Police, it was stated that the blood all over the apartment was caused by Corliss's period. This press conference was prompted by our appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show (we were not included in the news conference).

Based on information gathered during our own investigation, we have determined that our daughter did not die of natural causes, and also that several complaints have been filed against the medical examiner for various misjudgments from his autopsy findings.

Our story has appeared in several newspapers and the National Enquirer. In November, 1992, we appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the circumstances surrounding the death of our daughter. The family has collected and obtained evidence such as pictures of the apartment, the 911 tape of Teddy calling for help, and much, much more. One fact is, Teddy's family moved him out of the state of Texas to Kentucky 3 days after our daughter's funeral, where he has since married. Teddy was contacted by detectives on several occasions and agreed to come back to Texas to take a polygraph test. The test was scheduled twice, once on April 5, 1991, and again on April 15, 1991. Both times Teddy did not show and did not offer an explanation.

We discovered that Teddy's parents abandoned their home exactly two (2) weeks after the August 14, 1992 exhumation and moved to Kentucky. Through our investigating, their house taxes were current, their home was not in foreclosure and there was no reason for them to desert their beautiful $100,000 home.

In conclusion, we will supply any further documentation you should so desire; however, we just wanted you to become familiar with some of the unusual circumstances surrounding the death of our daughter, Corliss. Although this nightmare has been going on for more than two years, we know in our hearts our daughter cannot be laid to rest until the questions surrounding her death are answered. We will press onward and pray that someone will hear our cries and pleas for help in resolving the wrongful death of our beautiful daughter, Corliss Diane.

Supposedly, there were only two people in the apartment at the time of our daughter's death, Corliss and Teddy. She's dead and he's not talking. We realize that nothing will bring our beloved Corliss back to us, but how can we mourn her death when we cannot explain to ourselves or anyone else what happened to our petite, 112 pound precious daughter?

Certainly, no one deserves to die at the hands of someone else and any death of a child is unexplainable to the parents. However, our daughter was very open and giving of herself and her time to others, to her church, and as a typical young lady, she was looking for someone to share her life. She thought she had found that someone in Teddy and had planned to pledge her love to him on August 10, 1991. Unfortunately, or should we say fortunately in one sense, this wedding did not take place.

Our daughter, Corliss was loved by everyone whom she came in contact with and never said a harsh word to anyone. These and many more reasons make accepting her death close to impossible. Maybe with the help of your program and continued trust in God, some of the questions we have will finally be answered and this murder solved.

Upon your request, we will provide you with any documentation, copies of newspaper articles, a tape from the Oprah Winfrey show, and any other information needed to complete a story that can be presented to your audience and hopefully, to the person or persons responsible for the death of our daughter.

 


Dear Parents Of Murdered Children, Inc.

I have reviewed the materials you sent me in this case, particularly the police investigative report, the autopsy report, and the Inquest Report Addendum. On behalf of all competent forensic pathologists, I offer apologies to the family for what has occurred.

The autopsy report is severely deficient in many ways:

  • There is more than a half-pint of blood in the chest cavities and no reason is found for its presence.
  • The presence/absence of petechial hemorrhages (pinpoint bleeding) in the whites of the eyes, is not described. Their presence, or absence, is a basic description in any forensic autopsy.
  • Bruising around the mouth is ignored with the belief that it may have been due to CPR. Bystander CPR was not done and there is no evidence that the responding paramedics were queried as to the presence/absence of the bruises and whether or not they may have caused them.
  • There is no description of the neck externally nor the internal organs which are now missing. The description of the neck organs is also a basic requirement of a forensic autopsy.

I can think of no rational reason why this death has not been ruled a homicide by the Medical Examiner's office.

We have a woman with no other explainable cause of death who has blood beneath her fingernails and the person reporting her death has scratch marks on the neck. We have a woman with no head trauma and the person reporting the death said she fell and hit her head on a table. We have a woman whose swollen brain and "wet" lungs are explainable by strangling/smothering and whose microscopic exam confirms early death of brain cells because of a lack of oxygenated blood to the cells, with fresh bruise marks on her lips and the person reporting her death has a fresh cut on his hand.

Commonly, a pathologist will put a "hold" on a body, or delay its release in order to see if any additional bruises reveal themselves, particularly in dark-skinned persons. Bruises seen on her neck by other individuals may very well have not been visible at autopsy 10 hours after death, but became visible later to be seen by others.

The Emergency room physician treated this patient for only 35 minutes, all of which involved emergency resuscitation and lifesaving measures. To cite his finding of the head as being "atraumatic" as relevant, is ridiculous; he was not carefully looking for trauma, much less subtle signs on the neck which may not have shown up so early anyway.

I do not understand how "several reviews and conferences" regarding this death could ignore the fact that there was no description of her neck in a possible strangulation situation.

On page 9 of the Inquest Addendum, the author waxes eloquently about possible natural causes, NONE OF WHICH SHE HAD. He then addresses unnatural causes and in paragraph labeled "v)" states that the pathologist reported no evidence of bruises, abrasions, neck muscle hemorrhage, fractures, lacerations, or petechial hemorrhages. This is true; HE DESCRIBES NOTHING. The only mention of the neck is in the external description where he states that "The neck and chest are symmetric..."

In fact, we know that strangulation, or cutting off blood supply to the brain, can be accomplished leaving minimal trauma. This has occurred n neck restraint holds by law enforcement personnel as well as criminal cases. The hyoid bone of a young woman is frequently not yet fused into one bone so that there may be strangulation without fracture. But we'll never know that this woman's neck looked like at autopsy.

The author then goes on about natural diseases, none of which she had, and none of which would be consistent with a history of being normal 30 minutes prior to death. The toxic causes are not relevant in this case either; drug screens were negative and her fiancé was in the same environment yet lived. The mechanical obstructions are what we are talking about in this case and the autopsy performed was inadequate for this purpose.

Despite the inadequacy of the autopsy, there is no doubt in my mind that Corliss was a victim of homicide due to the brain getting insufficient oxygenation; the method may have been manual strangulation to cut off the blood supply, suffocation preventing air from entering her airway or restrictive asphyxia (preventing her from inhaling by putting weight on the chest). In any case, with reasonable medical certainty, she was murdered.

The Medical Examiner should admit his mistake; the police should pursue the investigation; the District Attorney should prosecute and not hide behind a Grand Jury where the information provided to the grand jury can be limited and the proceedings not made public.

Please feel free to give a copy of this letter to the family. This death cries out for adequate investigation.

Sincerely,
Harry J. Bonnell, M.D.

 


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