Category Archive 'Forensics'

06 Jan 2015

NYC Medical Examiner’s Days of Gory

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For the morbid, those yearning to be horrified, or the merely curious, the New York Post reviews, Working Stiff, the memoir of New York Medical Examiner Judy Melinek (written with T.J. Mitchell).

Some of the deaths described are Darwin Award winners, others (like the chap tossed down an open manhole who landed in a pool of boiling water) are absolutely bloodcurdling to contemplate, while others are merely anecdotally intriguing.

There was the subway jumper at Union Square, for example, whose body was recovered on the tracks of the uptown 4 train with no blood — none at the scene, none in the body itself. She’d never seen anything like it, and only CME Hirsch could explain: The massive trauma to the entire body caused the bone marrow to absorb all the blood.

“Everyone in the room agreed,” Melinek writes, “that I had the coolest case of the day.”

Finding a bullet for a gunshot wound, meanwhile, can be particularly baffling. Melinek says her favorite is “bullet embolus”: “A slug enters the beating heart at just the right spot and with precisely enough momentum to get flushed into the circulatory system, then surfs through smaller and smaller vessels until it gets stuck somewhere far removed from its point of entry.”

In one case, a man was shot in the chest, but the bullet was found in his liver.

During her tenure, the most popular suicide spot in New York City was the atrium in Times Square’s Marriott Marquis hotel. Melinek autopsied two jumpers: One, a 26-year-old man, leapt from the 43rd floor.

His right arm and left leg were recovered on the 11th floor, his other two limbs on the seventh floor, and part of his skull wound up in the elevator shaft.

Her other jumper, also a man, jumped from the 23rd floor. One leg was found on the 10th floor, his torso on the ninth.

“I suspect these people imagine they are going to plummet gracefully down and land with a melodramatic thump in the lobby,” Melinek writes, “but I never saw that result. The ones I saw had pinballed off a variety of jutting structures on the way, each impact causing damage to a different plane of the body. Not graceful at all.”

Read the whole thing.

23 Oct 2014

King Tut: The Awful Truth

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ArtNet quotes a Daily Mail article describing the unhappy result of a virtual autopsy of the late 19-year-old boy Pharoah.

The golden burial mask of King Tutankhamun shows a young man with strong, idealized features: a strong jaw, full lips, high cheek bones, and a regal brow. Thanks to high-tech 3D imaging, reports the Daily Mail, the truth has finally been unwrapped, and it is far less pretty.

Tut underwent a “virtual autopsy,” with CT scans, genetic analysis, and over 2,000 digital scans used to generate a computer model of the pharaoh. Previous attempts to reconstruct Tut’s visage were fairly attractive, based on the theories that he had sustained facial injuries in a fatal chariot race crash or when he was murdered.

This new research not only indicates that Tut was born with the misshapen features and prominent overbite that he took to his grave at 19, but that he was physically unable to participate in chariot racing. (A fracture in Tut’s skull is now believed to have been sustained after his death.)

The boy king, the new science reveals, was sickly and crippled, with twisted, malformed hips. He suffered from epilepsy and malaria, and had to walk with a cane due to a club foot. It would have been impossible for him to stand in a fast moving chariot. So what was likely responsible for these deformities? Incest, which was not considered taboo in ancient Egypt. Genetic testing strongly indicates that King Tut’s parents were brother and sister, and Tut is known to have married his half-sister at the tender age of about 10.

Read the whole thing.

04 Nov 2013

Tuthankamun’s End

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Tuthankamun’s mummy caught fire in his casket after embalming.

Scientists haven’t confirmed the reality of the mummy’s curse, but they have got new information of Tutankhamun’s death (of injuries inflicted by a high-speed chariot crash), and they have additionally concluded that a poor job of embalming caused the pharaoh’s mummy to catch fire via spontaneous combustion.

Daily Mail.

23 Aug 2010

Government Caused the Financial Crisis

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Edward J. Pinto at AEI has a paper providing a thorough history and analysis of exactly how federal housing policies created the current financial crisis.

The major cause of the financial crisis in the U.S. was the collapse of housing and mortgage markets resulting from an accumulation of an unprecedented number of weak and risky Non-Traditional Mortgages (NTMs). These NTMs began to default en mass beginning in 2006, triggering the collapse of the worldwide market for mortgage backed securities (MBS) and in turn triggering the instability and insolvency of financial institutions that we call the financial crisis. Government policies forced a systematic industry-wide loosening of underwriting standards in an effort to promote affordable housing. This paper documents how policies over a period of decades were responsible for causing a material increase in homeowner leverage through the use of low or no down payments, increased debt ratios, no loan amortization, low credit scores and other weakened underwriting standards associated with NTMs. These policies were legislated by Congress, promoted by HUD and other regulators responsible for their enforcement, and broadly adopted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSEs) and the much of the rest mortgage finance industry by the early 2000s. Federal policies also promoted the growth of overleveraged
loan funding institutions, led by the GSEs, along with highly leveraged private mortgage backed securities and structured finance transactions. HUD’s policy of continually and disproportionately increasing the GSEs’ goals for low- and very-low income borrowers led to further loosening of lending standards causing most industry participants to reach further down the demand curve and originate even more NTMs. As prices rose at a faster pace, an affordability gap developed, leading to further increases in leverage and home prices. Once the price boom slowed, loan defaults on NTMs quickly increased leading to a freeze-up of the private MBS market. A broad collapse of home prices followed.

01 Jul 2009

Sir Marmaduke Mustard… In the Jousting Ring… With a Broadsword

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Photo: James Stewart

Investigations of a skeleton found buried under the floor of the chapel of Stirling Castle in 1997 have dated the remains to the Midde Ages, and forensic examination has determined that the remains were those of a well-muscled male individual, who had done considerable riding, who had been wounded in battle, and who died a violent death.

The Telegraph:

Archaeologists believe that bones found in an ancient chapel… are those of an English knight named Robert Morley who died in a tournament there in 1388.

Radio carbon dating has confirmed that the skeleton is from that period, and detailed analysis suggests that he was in his mid-20s, was heavily muscled and had suffered several serious wounds in earlier contests.

He appears to have survived for some time with a large arrowhead lodged in his chest, while the re-growth of bone around a dent in the front of his skull indicates that he had also recovered from a severe blow from an axe.

He eventually died when he was struck by a sword that sliced through his nose and jaw. His reconstructed skull also indicates that he was lying on the ground when the fatal blow was delivered.



(D)espite the warrior’s relatively young age of about 25, he may have suffered several serious wounds from earlier fights.

Researchers thinks it is also possible he may have been living for some time with a large arrowhead in his chest. …

Some research was carried out on the skeleton at the time of its discovery, but a lack of technology meant it was difficult to assess the remains in more detail.

Since then scientists have been able to perform laser scanning which revealed the wounds.

Bone regrowth around a dent in the front of the skull suggested the man had recovered from a severe blow, possibly from an axe.

The warrior had also lost a number of teeth – perhaps from a blow, or a fall from a horse.

The fatal wound, however, occurred when something, possibly a sword, sliced through his nose and jaw.


The Scotsman:

Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland’s head of cultural resources, said: “It appears he died in his mid-twenties after a short and violent life.

“His legs were formed in a way that was consistent with spending a lot of time on horseback, and the upper body points to someone who was well-muscled, perhaps due to extensive training with medieval weapons.

“This evidence, and the fact he was buried at the heart of a royal castle, suggests he was a person of prestige, possibly a knight.”

The skeleton was excavated from beneath a floor in 1997 when archaeologists were working in an area of the castle which turned out to be the site of a lost medieval royal chapel.

Some research was carried out at the time, but only limited information was gleaned. Advances in technology and analytical techniques prompted a re-examination of the skeleton, which produced the new results.

They showed injuries suffered prior to the man’s death, including a large arrowhead in the skeleton which appears to have struck through the back or under the arm.

Gordon Ewart, of Kirkdale Archaeology, who carried out the excavation and some of the research for Historic Scotland, said: “There were a series of wounds, including a dent in the skull from a sword or axe, where bone had re-grown, showing that he had recovered.

“At first, we had thought the arrow wound had been fatal, but it now seems he had survived it and may have had his chest bound up.


London Times

In addition to the three serious wounds, the knight lost a number of teeth — perhaps from a blow, or a fall from a horse while jousting. A large arrowhead found in the skeleton appeared to have entered through his back or under his arm. Crystalised matter attached to the arrowhead may have been from flies or other insect larvae and could have been from clothing the arrow forced into the wound.


Makes you glad you work in an office, doesn’t it?

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