Variables to consider when Determining Post Mortem Blood Alcohol Levels via True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

Immediately following the release of the autopsy reports on November 19th, I contacted Thomas Mollett, a forensic investigator, fellow true crime author and friend, and asked him his opinion on Shan’anns Blood Alcohol Levels. They were found to be three times the legal limit for driving. How likely was it, I asked, that these apparently high levels were from “normal” decomposition?

SUPPLEMENTAL

Autopsy reports show Shanann Watts, daughters were asphyxiated – TimesCall

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Pathology is an extremely complex science, and many factors play into the biological processes that occur after death.

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The three basic pillars one uses to calculate whether the BAC is “normal” or not are related to:

  1. the time the body is exposed to the elements [here time of death is a factor, unknown in this case, but with a relatively short window either way]
  2. the ambient conditions of the body [temperature, humidity etc.]
  3. circumstantial evidence is also a vital tool to gauge alcohol content, including eye witnesses, Shan’ann’s drinking habits, and her appearance in the Ring camera footage when she arrived home [described but not released thus far]

During our first communication I miscommunicated to Mollett that Shan’ann’s corpse was recovered after only 48 hours, which I guessed wasn’t enough time to reflect the high alcohol levels found. This was an initial error on my part; it took closer to 70 hours for Shan’ann’s corpse to be discovered and exhumed.

Based on this initial miscommunication, Mollett also believed the BAC level was likely higher than a natural rate [which as I say, was also what I suspected].

I asked Mollett to investigate the BAC levels and I’m grateful to him for doing so in detail. Obviously part of his thorough investigation corrected the original 48 hour error.

Below is Mollet’s unabridged report on the BAC levels.

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9 COMMENTS
  • Helen

    Helen

    I think Chris tied Shanann to the bed after she fell asleep, put a pillow case over her mouth to prevent her from screaming, made sure she watched through the monitor how he smothered Bella and Celeste, and then came back to the bedroom to strangle her.

    Reply
  • BAMS13

    BAMS13
    Helen

    You’re going to get in trouble from Nick now… lol.

    Reply
  • nickvdl

    nickvdl
    BAMS13

    Bams, can I let you take it from here? I can’t always be the one cracking the whip 😉

    Reply
  • BAMS13

    BAMS13
    nickvdl

    Haha! Always happy to try and exert my low ranking power anytime. You’d think those virtual whip cracks can be heard loud and clear though. 😉

    Reply
  • Syzia

    Syzia

    Helen took it to the next level here

    Reply
  • Marie

    Marie
    Syzia

    Oh yes syzia, I agree

    Reply
  • Karen

    Karen

    Well, that report certainly cleared up so many things. Now we know. The body certainly is a fascinating animal in death as much as life. I do know that when officer Coonrod was in the kitchen he didn’t have a peek in the sink to see if there were breakfast dishes in there to find out if the kids had eaten so we couldn’t see if there was a wine glass. Nor did I see any at all throughout his whole walk through the house. Thorough report

    Reply
  • Sylvester

    Sylvester

    “Important moments at Watt’s well site” is really stunning. I hope everyone can blow it up on a computer monitor rather than a cell phone. You really get the sense of vastness of that site – miles and miles in every direction of land dotted with wildflowers. The tank battery site even seems dwarfed in proportion to the land. As the drone makes it’s lazy pass from the air you then see the sheet, hugging the scrub. Look a little closer and you see the black garbage bags. It was rather stupid of him to discard the sheet on top of the land after it had fulfilled it’s purpose to conceal and drag. Same with the garbage bags. Maybe he thought in the vastness of the land those items, like his family, would simply vanish.

    Reply
  • Karen

    Karen
    Sylvester

    Sylvester, do you know if they sent the drone out before Chris said anything or after? For the life of me, I can’t remember. Thank you kindly

    Reply

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Immediately following the release of the autopsy reports on November 19th, I contacted Thomas Mollett, a forensic investigator, fellow true crime author and friend, and asked him his opinion on Shan’anns Blood Alcohol Levels. They were found to be three times the legal limit for driving. How likely was it, I asked, that these apparently high […]

via Thomas Mollett’s Forensic Report on Shan’ann Watts’ Post Mortem Blood Alcohol Level — True Crime Rocket Science / #tcrs

Witness: Man Was Forced to Participate in 3 Slayings to ‘Dirty His Hands’ — TIME

Three people were strangled or smothered to death in a Kansas drug home over a rape allegation and one of the suspects was forced to participate to save his life, according to court testimony. The details about the case were revealed during a preliminary hearing that ended Wednesday with Shawnee County District Judge Nancy Parrish…

via Witness: Man Was Forced to Participate in 3 Slayings to ‘Dirty His Hands’ — TIME

Son Accused Of Dismembering, Dissolving Parents In Acid — CBS Pittsburgh

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – A 28-year-old man was arrested in Louisiana on charges of killing and dismembering his parents at their Tennessee home. Joel Michael Guy Jr. was arrested Tuesday on a fugitive warrant in Baton Rouge, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office said. He’s accused of killing his parents, Joel Michael Guy Sr., 61,…

via Son Accused Of Dismembering, Dissolving Parents In Acid — CBS Pittsburgh

Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

BOSTON (AP) — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez has sued a company after some of his jailhouse phone calls were apparently listened to by an unknown person. Hernandez’s lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston charges Dallas-based Securus Technologies Inc. with negligence, breach of contract, and invasion of privacy. It demands that Securus…

via Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

BOSTON (AP) — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez has sued a company after some of his jailhouse phone calls were apparently listened to by an unknown person. Hernandez’s lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston charges Dallas-based Securus Technologies Inc. with negligence, breach of contract, and invasion of privacy. It demands that Securus…

via Aaron Hernandez sues over hacked jailhouse phone calls — WTNH Connecticut News

this day in crime history: April 20, 1986

Memorial to the incident in Edmond, OK036750-police-raid

On April 20, 1986, Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill went on a shooting spree in a post office in Edmonds, OK. Twenty people were shot, leaving fourteen dead and six injured. At the conclusion of his rampage, Sherrill turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. It is believed that the shooting may have been motivated by a reprimand that Sherrill had received the day before. The incident is often credited with inspiring the phrase “going postal.”

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Patrick Henry Sherrill

Wikipedia – Patrick Sherrill

Time – “Crazy Pat’s” Revenge

Nobody Move!

USPSmemorial Memorial to the incident in Edmond, OK

On this date in 1986, Postal Service employee Patrick Sherrill went on a shooting spree in a post office in Edmonds, OK. Twenty people were shot, leaving fourteen dead and six injured. At the conclusion of his rampage, Sherrill turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. It is believed that the shooting may have been motivated by a reprimand that Sherrill had received the day before. The incident is often credited with inspiring the phrase “going postal.”

Further reading:

Murderpedia – Patrick Henry Sherrill

Wikipedia – Patrick Sherrill

Time“Crazy Pat’s” Revenge

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The science behind forensic toxicology

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Featured Image -- 122
WRITTEN BY: Katherine Ellen Foley

When we get our blood tested for cholesterol, it doesn’t take long to get the results. And if someone turns up at the hospital with what looks like a drug overdose, doctors can perform a quick test to verify their suspicions before treatment.
But unlike popular crime series like CSI, in which investigators whip up test results in the span of a quick montage, most forensic toxicology reports take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. This can be an excruciating wait after mysterious deaths and unsolved crimes. Why does it take so long?
Quartz spoke with Robert Middleberg, a toxicologist from NMS Labs in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, to find out.
Unlike other medical tests, where technicians isolate a specific compound like cholesterol, Middleberg says that you don’t always know what you’re looking for with forensic toxicology. “If you have a young person who is found dead in bed and there’s no history of drug abuse, you’re looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack,” he tells Quartz.
Testing times

After a body is found and an autopsy is performed by a pathologist, a separate lab will look for any environmental or pharmaceutical toxins that could be the killers. Without any clear clues, Middleberg says they will start testing for about 400 different substances. “We never know what we’re going to get,” he notes. It takes creative intuition to guide a cycle of testing and interpreting the results of tests to inform further testing.
Once an initial analysis returns a match for a particular substance, toxicologists must gather more specifics for the official report. Bodies that have already started decaying produce some toxins naturally, like ethanol (another name for the alcohol we drink) and cyanide, so toxicologists may have to perform additional tests to determine whether these played an active role in the cause of death.
All of this is further complicated by the fact that samples often arrive in less than ideal conditions. “If somebody is pulled out of the water after being missing for two or three weeks, these samples are very, very bad,” Middleberg says.
Unlike testing in an emergency room to confirm an overdose, pathology focuses on specifics. “For [medical toxicologists], sometimes it doesn’t really matter exactly what’s there,” Middleberg says. “In our world, the pathologists want to know exactly what it is and how much.”
Not every test is a complicated affair—despite all of the unknowns, Middleberg says that most labs try to have a turnaround time of 3-5 days for ruling things out and 7-10 days for identifying the specific factors leading to death.
Looking for clues

Like detectives, toxicologists look for clues to narrow down which tests are necessary. Knowing a subject’s history with drug or alcohol use obviously helps. There are also several somewhat macabre rules of thumb that tip toxicologists off to seek substances they wouldn’t normally test for:
Bright red blood as a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning
A green brain as a sign of exposure to hydrogen sulfide
Chocolate brown blood as a sign of excess methemoglobin poisoning
Hair falling out can be a sign of chronic arsenic or thallium poisoning
Blue skin can be a sign of gadolinium poisoning
Cocaine and methamphetamines can change the shape of the heart
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Inmate who killed Jeffrey Dahmer reveals why he murdered the serial killer

CANON CITY, Colo. — The inmate who fatally beat serial killer and sex offender Jeffrey Dahmer in prison in the early-1990s has revealed his reasons for doing so in a new interview.

Christopher Scarver, who was incarcerated at the same Portage, Wisc., prison as Dahmer back in 1994, recently divulged the details of his killing to the New York Post.

“Some people who are in prison are repentant — but he was not one of them,” he told the Post, recounting details of Dahmer’s brutal and unapologetic taunts to other inmates.

Scarver said in the interview Dahmer used to fashion limbs out of the prison food, applying ketchup on places to represent blood.

Though they were taunts, the actions represented a more chilling reality. Dahmer was arrested in 1991 after police found human remains and decomposing bodies in his apartment. Dahmer later confessed to 17 murders, many of which included the rape and dismemberment of the victims.

In 1992 Dahmer was sentenced to 15 life terms in prison after a court rejected his insanity defense.

Despite Dahmer’s abominable past, Scarver told the Post the killer initially left “no impression” on him.

“I never interacted with him,” he told the Post. He would watch from afar, avoiding contact due to Dahmer’s friction with other inmates.

That was until Nov. 28, 1994.

Dahmer, 34 at the time, and another inmate were tasked to clean the bathrooms — unshackled and unattended.

Scarver, then 25 and himself a convicted murderer, was with them. He told the Post he’d kept a newspaper clipping that detailed Dahmer’s killings.

He found his fellow inmate to have a lust for flesh, and was “disgusted” with the details of his actions.

Scarver told the Post he’d gone to retrieve a mop when he felt someone poke his back. When he turned around, he saw Dahmer and the other inmate “laughing under their breath.”

“I looked right into their eyes, and I couldn’t tell which had done it,” he told the Post.

But after the three men split up, Scarver decided to follow Dahmer to the locker room.

He told the Post he confronted Dahmer with the news article, asking the killer if he’d really done the things described in the story.

When Dahmer tried to escape, Scarver then took a metal bar and swung it at his head, crushing Dahmer’s skull.

Scarver then found the other inmate, Jesse Anderson, and did “[p]retty much the same thing.”

Scarver told the New York Post he believes the prison officials left them all alone on purpose, knowing he hated Dahmer and wanted him dead.

“They had something to do with what took place. Yes,” he told the Post.

After the murders, he pleaded insanity, but later changed it to “no contest” in exchange for a transfer to a federal penitentiary.

According to the New York Post, Scarver was then sentenced to two life terms on top of the one he was already serving at the time.

Scarver had been sentenced in 1990 for the murder of his former boss during a robbery, the Post notes.

He is currently incarcerated at Centennial Correctional Facility in Canon City, Colo.

Scarver now spends some of his time writing poetry for his website.  Related: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/why-killed-jeffrey-dahmer-prisoner-5600323?ICID=FB_mirror_main

Medical Students Don’t Learn About Death

The following is part 1 in a series about death and dying in the medical context. This reflection was written by me earlier this year, before I sought out a Palliative Medicine elective. Part 2 will follow soon.

death_and_dying-300x239

Until the last week of my sub-internship, I had never had a patient die on my watch. To be sure, I had patients on the cusp of dying – and some who did die, of course, when I was already on another rotation. I have been around dying patients who were on our team but were being taken care of by the other resident/medical student. But never a patient of my own, until my final year of medical school.

I have never been sure whether to consider myself lucky or unlucky. Is that a morbid way to think about it? That maybe I was lucky (and my patients were lucky) that they didn’t die on my watch? That maybe I was lucky that I hadn’t had to experience those awful and heartbreaking conversations with a patient’s family. In the Russian roulette game of hospital care and medical education, I felt spared.

At the same time – and I feel almost selfish for saying this – I considered myself unlucky. I had never been around a dying patient. I had never known what it meant to take care of someone in their final days. I had never had the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and a physician from those difficult moments.

My first clinical experience with death was during my sub-internship, with a woman with end-stage ovarian cancer. I had scrubbed in on her most recent debulking surgery, and I had followed her post-operatively. Though her overall prognosis was poor, she was progressing well after this most recent operation. Her pain and abdominal bloating were slightly improved. She was even about ready to go to a rehab facility; all the arrangements had been made for transfer.

But then she started failing – started not being able to get out of bed. Started being more confused about herself and her surroundings. Started sleeping more of the day. She was physically and mentally breaking down. The cancer burden was overwhelming her body, and she was not able to hold up.

This experience was undoubtedly sad, but the experience for me was compounded by the suddenness and relative unexpectedness of it all. “She was not dying when I met her!” I naively believed.

She did have terminal cancer, after all.

The emotional impact was heightened for me because of the fact that only one of her family members was with her until the end. I felt bad that nobody she knew from outside the hospital was there for; yet I hope our medical team was able to be a somewhat second family to her in her final days. I visited in on her, spoke with her relative, did everything non-medical I thought to try to make her comfortable (I didn’t know much).

When she passed, I imagined the briefest moment of stillness amongst the chaos, but the hospital quickly moved on. There was no closure, no reflection, almost no conversation. When the other team members who had helped take care of her found out the news, there was a general statement of sadness, but then it was back to work as usual. There was more work to be done, other patients to take care of.

I heard that the nursing and floor teams held a small commemoration for our patient later that week (as they do for any patient on the cancer floor who dies). I wasn’t aware it was happening, and I’m positive none of the medical team was present.

Do doctors not mourn, too? Don’t we all need a moment to breathe, to reflect on our relationship with that patient, and to acknowledge our emotions about their passing?

Why don’t they prepare us for this?

markmdmph

The following is part 1 in a series about death and dying in the medical context. This reflection was written by me earlier this year, before I sought out a Palliative Medicine elective. Part 2 will follow soon.

death_and_dying-300x239

Until the last week of my sub-internship, I had never had a patient die on my watch. To be sure, I had patients on the cusp of dying – and some who did die, of course, when I was already on another rotation. I have been around dying patients who were on our team but were being taken care of by the other resident/medical student. But never a patient of my own, until my final year of medical school.

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