On Monday, March 7, I took a prearranged absence day from school and was at the office all day. I was hoping to see some autopsies or go on a call, but none were scheduled for that day and no calls came in the entire time I was there. Teri was on call so I spent the whole day in her office reading books from her collection about serial killers and the adventures of a former CSI, eating chicken, and fetching papers from the printer.
On Tuesday more happened. A call had come in that morning and the decedent from that call was at the morgue, so Teri took me with her to try to get the man’s fingerprints. He had been dead about 10 days before his body was found, so decomposition had started. He had a green color to him and his fingers were extremely putrefied and we couldn’t get prints using the scanner or ink. Teri said if we really needed the prints, she could rehydrate his fingers, but that would take at least another two hours. Mike said that since he was still facially recognizable, we did not need to get his prints. Teri also told me that in certain cases with decomp, she has been able to peel the whole dermis of the decedent’s hand off, place it over her own hand (with gloves on of course) and get the prints that way. She probably shouldn’t have told me that because now I really want to try it.
On Wednesday, I was given the task of putting blood spots in their case files. It does not sound very interesting, but I could read the case files as I was putting blood spots away. I read all of the homicides I came across, and most of the traffic and child fatalities, along with some suicides. Most of the deaths were naturals and those were not as interesting to read. The pictures below are of the shelves the case files are stored in (I went through about three of those whole cabinets with blood spots) and what a blood spot envelope looks like. The actual sample is in the envelope, and the front of the envelope has the decedent’s name, case file number, date of death, and the medical examiner who performed their autopsy. The picture is of the back of one of the envelopes since I can’t be taking pictures of someone’s personal information.
Thursday was definitely the most interesting day of the whole week. That morning there had been a double traffic fatality, so Teri filled me in on that and told me all the details. Then around 3 she got a call for a body that had been found floating in a pond. Jeff had been diving in that same pond previously, trying to find the body of a missing man. So we got in the car and went out to the pond and Jeff came as well. There were a ton of people there. Along with us, there were paramedics, the forensics team, the Greenville County Underwater Recovery Unit, and about seven cops, along with the bio-care van. The man had drifted over to the side of the pond and Jeff and four deputies got in the water to keep him near the edge and shield his body from the news helicopters. They got him in a body bag and onto a stretcher, which they then put on the bank and tilted so all the extra water would run out of the bag. Then we took his body over to a tent (also to shield from the view of the helicopters and the family, who were waiting at the front of the property) and took the necessary pictures, then double bagged the body and it was put in the bio-care van. Teri and I went to make the notification to the family. We were pretty sure it was the missing man, but we couldn’t make a positive ID so Teri asked the man’s father and step-mother (the next of kin – they are always notified first) what tattoos he had and they told us exactly. They matched the ones found on the body so unfortunately we had to tell them that it was their son that had been found in the pond. Teri had me get their contact information and then they went and told the rest of the family. Here are some links to the story that were published by local news stations:
This has been a very interesting week, and I am looking forward to going back again. I am glad that I am trusted enough to do things like make sure blood spots get to the right file and get someone’s contact information accurately.