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SecretScribe
07-20-2007, 05:36 PM
Hi, me again. :hi: Sorry to ask so many questions. This time I need help with an autopsy description. I have pasted the whole descriptions down below and just need to know where I have gone totally wrong in terms of facts and/or tone and/or anything else. Please help me not make a twit of myself!

Excerpt:
Wessels tucked a file under his arm and they followed him down to the basement. Frieda was now prepped for the final indignity of a violent death.

Andrew was relieved that time in the fridge had diminished the resemblance to his wife. Now she looked like a wax doll, no longer a person. Pity the smell didn’t disappear too, he swallowed several times.

Wessels spoke to them over the girl’s corpse. The x-rays had already been done, and Wessels had had thankfully removed the duct tape covering her genitals and sent it to the lab.

‘There is evidence of torture.’ As he spoke he pointed out the injuries, turning her over to show her back. Thulani gasped.

She had been whipped and there were burns on her breasts and genitals. It looked like electrical burns. The sort of thing Andrew had seen in the bad old days during the liberation struggle.

The security forces had sometimes used torture to obtain information about insurgents and plans for terrorist attacks on the civilian population. Sometimes they had used torture just because they could, because they had the power.

They stared at the bruises, cuts and burns covering the young woman’s body while the photographer quietly moved around the body to capture every angle. Ngwenya was looking grey and finally took a step backwards, turning away. They could hear him taking deep breaths to steady himself.

‘And then of course there is the pentagram. Pre-mortem like the rest of the injuries.’ Wessels was studying the incisions intently. ‘Should be able to give you some information on the knife used, but probably not enough to do anything with.’

Andrew studied the crudely incised symbol, soon to be divided by the autopsy’s Y-incision.

Wessels had moved to a position from where he could check the injuries to the girl’s genitals. Andrew could hear Thulani taking short breaths, but avoided eye contact with the younger man.

‘Well, she was brutally raped and sodomised and the whole bloody mess was then covered in tape. There is evidence of a hymen.’ Wessels looked up. ‘So before she was brutalised, the girl was a virgin. Don’t see that much any more these days.’ Andrew looked up briefly, then back to the floor again, mesmerised by a small stain.

Wessels’ voice continued, ‘He or they used condoms, doesn’t look like there’s any semen here. I’ll prepare slides and let you know if I find anything.’

‘Cause of death was exsanguination.’ At this Andrew looked up sharply. Wessels had moved to the girl’s head and was studying her neck. ‘She bled to death. Her throat was cut deeply. She would have bled out quickly. Death was fast.’

As Wessels started cutting, Thulani ran from the room, his face grey and eyes huge. Wessels shrugged and carried on working. The only other interesting facts to emerge from the autopsy were that her stomach was almost completely empty and that some time before she died, the girl had suffered a massive blow to the back of her head.

Wessels said, ‘It does not look like blunt force trauma, more like the head connected with a hard surface. She could have fallen, or someone may have slammed her head into a wall or the floor. There was bleeding inside the cranium. She would have been unconscious by the time her throat was slit. From the amount of intracranial swelling, I would say that she was unconscious for a few hours before she was finally killed.’

Wessels left the body to his assistant to close up. As they moved into the change room, Wessels summed up, ‘The beating looks as though it happened over a period of several hours. I have sent off blood, urine and tissue samples to the lab, we’ll have to wait for the results of that. Besides her stomach being empty, there are also signs of vomiting. Hardly surprising given the extent of the injuries.’

Wessels pulled a hanky from his pocket and wiped his brow. ‘Time of death was around midnight, give or take an hour. The nightie she was dressed in was brand new, not expensive, bought at Pick ‘n Pay. We found a few fibres. And we combed the pubic area, found quite a few foreign hairs there. I’ve sent everything to the lab. The nightie looks like it was put on her just before the body was posed and her throat slit. There was very little sweat or other fluids on it. We’ll have to wait for the lab results to get any more info.’

Andrew thought that this amount of anger looked personal. He had yet to meet the brother, but wondered if he would go so far as to “punish” her for her involvement with a coloured boyfriend. Then stage the crime to look like a ritual, perhaps to steer the police in the wrong direction.

Wessels continued, ‘Have to tell you Andrew, I have seen some horrible things done to people by other people, but this one just feels worse. She was young and pure and someone took that from her before killing her.’

Andrew just nodded. He could feel anger stirring in his gut. Anger was good, it would propel him forward, help him to get the job done. He wanted this killer. The bastard was not going to get away with it.

‘Could be personal, but I’m still wondering about the blood caught in the bowl. He may have kept it, or drunk it. Some sort of vampire fantasy. Hell, I don’t know how these guys' heads work. You know, Lindiwe mentioned that it was full moon that night,’ Andrew said.

Wessels’ eyebrows shot up at that, but he didn’t reply, just shook his head.

‘The question is whether this is a psychosexual killer, or a real Satanist ritual. Must say, I’ve never seen one like this before.’ Andrew continued.

Wessels said, ‘I just give you the facts, you have to do the detecting. I haven’t seen one like this before either, so I can’t help with that.’

‘Thanks Wessie.’

Once Wessels had left the change room, Thulani emerged from one of the stalls. He washed his hands for a long time and splashed water on his face.

Once they got into the lift, Andrew started feeling better and he noticed that Thulani seemed to be looking a bit brighter too. The cloying smell of the morgue always made him feel nauseous.

Tish Davidson
07-20-2007, 08:25 PM
A real autopsy would be much more methodical and would be more medically descriptive. It would describe the wounds (breadth, depth, etc) , bruises, and the cause of death in more clinical and objective terms. It would look at internal organs for abnormalities, too. The coroner would then use the clinical description to state what he or she believes caused the wounds and any indications from the state of the body (time of death, water in lungs, etc) that would help identify what happened to the victim or find the killer if the victim was murdered. Basically its facts at the autopsy, conclusions after all facts are in.
You might want to look at the Web site Practice Guidelines for Autopsy Pathology to get an idea of what pathologists include. http://arpa.allenpress.com/arpaonline/?request=get-document&doi=10.1043%2F0003-9985(1999)123%3C1085:PGFAP%3E2.0.CO%3B2

You can see a copy of the Ron Goldman (from OJ Simpson Trial) autopsy report here http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cas47.htm

Redhedd
07-20-2007, 08:27 PM
I worked as a morgue tech/forensic photographer for some time and I wrote an entry in my blog detailing an autopsy from the POV of the tech.

http://www.dianarowland.com/weblog/?p=192 That might help you with some procedural details.

Comments on the text you posted:


‘It does not look like blunt force trauma, more like the head connected with a hard surface. She could have fallen, or someone may have slammed her head into a wall or the floor. There was bleeding inside the cranium. She would have been unconscious by the time her throat was slit. From the amount of intracranial swelling, I would say that she was unconscious for a few hours before she was finally killed.’


I'm not sure I understand the difference you're trying to make between blunt force trauma and her head connecting with something hard. Do you mean there's no tool marks or impressions in the scalp of a blunt object? I would also question the bit about knowing she was unconscious by the amount of intercranial swelling. You'd be able to see where trauma occurred, but I'm not so certain you could guarantee unconsciousness.

Also, I'm also really not so sure you'd be able to tell how much hyman was left if she'd been 'brutally raped.' And stating that she'd been a virgin from that info would definitely be a stretch. Yes, the hymen is broken during sex, but it isn't necessarily obliterated on the first time. And, of course, the use of tampons puts all of that into question as well. The pathologist would most likely merely document that there was trauma to the vaginal and rectal area. Also, a more detailed examination of the uterus and cervix would take place after the incision. The uterus etc would be removed and examined to make sure she wasn't pregnant. Then the cervix would be examined to see if she'd ever had children. (In a woman who has had a vaginal delivery, the cervix looks like a line. Otherwise it's circular.)

What are the signs of vomiting you mention? Most bodies have some upchuck after death simply from being moved around. (Which is why you put a towel over their faces when you turn them over.)

And, again, not so sure you'd be able to state that bruising injuries were caused over several hours. Several days, I could believe, because you could see obvious signs of healing. Also, when you cut into the bruise you can see how deep it is and how far along it is in healing. But I don't think a few hours would give enough time to be able to make that call.

Aaaaand, time of death is not an easy thing to pinpoint, especially within a couple of hours. Rigor mortis is very inexact, since it can vary highly depending on what the person was doing right before death. Someone who's been in a fight will rigor up very quickly, while someone in a nursing home who's been bedridden may take several hours. Livor mortis (lividity) is slightly more exact, but even that gives a pretty broad range. Body cooling is a fairly decent method, but I think I'd want your pathologist to say something about the temperature of the liver vs. the temp of the room where she was found. I know that our pathologist is very reluctant to give a time of death unless someone actually SAW the person die.

Instead of just saying that he combed the pubic area, I would have him say they did a full rape kit, which includes pubc hair, head hair, nail scrapings and trimmings, as well as mouth, vaginal and rectal swabs.

And, the pathologist is probably not going to be able to tell that there was no sweat or other fluids on the nightie. First off, if her throat was cut, it's going to be totally soaked in blood. And remember, the body will be sitting in a body bag for several hours in a cooler awaiting autopsy, which gives blood all sorts of time to soak into things. That sort of determination re types fluids would most likely be done at the crime lab utilizing alternate light source.


I hope that helps you with the technical details. If you want other info, feel free to PM me.

Soccer Mom
07-21-2007, 05:33 AM
FYI: we never go into the room and view bodies anymore. The doctor takes lots and lots and lots of pictures and diagrams the injuries of the body. he also writes a thourough report, but those take some time to get.

Redhedd
07-21-2007, 05:56 AM
That's probably depends on where you are as well. All of our local law enforcement agencies attend autopsies for homicides.

Soccer Mom
07-22-2007, 02:03 AM
I'm in a large metro area. We might have five docs on call at once. Our detectives would do nothing but live at the ME's office.

Redhedd
07-22-2007, 05:39 AM
Yeah, that would definitely make a difference! I'm in a suburb; in an average year we have fewer than 10 homicides.

SecretScribe
07-23-2007, 12:14 PM
Hi there

Thank you so much for the info already given. I am obviously not going to get all the detail right as I have never attended an autopsy, so I am wondering how much I can abbreviate and still keep a sense of authenticity. Don't know if you can help with that.

The body was discovered outdoors, lying on a rock and the head was thrown backwards. I describe blood droplets on the nighty - wrong?

A few things that are important to the story - her head was bumped at some point (she was unconscious but I can bring that in later with a witness account), she was a virgin, the beating happened in order to get information, so it would have taken some time. She also had electrical burns and was whipped. All of this would have taken place over a period from Friday night to Saturday night.

Really hope you can help, I don't want to spoil the whole story with inaccuracies.

Thanks again

Soccer Mom
07-23-2007, 08:11 PM
Was here head repeatedly struck or pounded? Was she lying down or standing when she was struck? It makes a big difference as to the spatter. There are so many variables. It sounds morbid, but I suggest re-enacting the murder. Use a cantelope. Drill a hold, fill with a viscous substance. Chocolate syrup (room temp. not cold) makes an excellent blood substitute. It's about the right consistency. Then treat the cantelope like the victim's head. Study the spatter. That should give you some good clues.

SecretScribe
07-23-2007, 08:47 PM
Hi Soccer Mom, and thanks, not sure my housemates are going to understand the chocolate splatter! The girl was tortured and then during the torture she fell and hit her head hard, causing her to become unconscious. As the perpetrators would no longer be able to get info from her, they decided to kill her and then cut her throat, so the head wound didn't actually bleed out, just internally. Not sure how to re-enact a slit throat (?) Would the throat wound have sprayed only, or could it have dripped down? This is what I currently have - some spray onto her dress, but most dripped down into a bowl and then the area around was swept clean - it is sandy. She was lying on her back with her head hanging backwards over the edge of a large flat rock.

Soccer Mom
07-26-2007, 06:23 PM
Here is a great resource for crimewriters. It's got links to some great forensic sites. Enjoy (http://www.dvshop.ca/dvcafe/writing/crime.htm).