Behind The Tape
Sunday, December 20 2009
Today we will talk about hangings. (Please forgive for the sick Christmas humor! That was pretty bad.) This is really Yuck stuff anyway though, and a great deal of humor is required if one is to get through it. With that said, let's forge ahead!
When I'm called to a hanging my first question will be, "Is this a suicide?"
Most hangings ARE suicides. My job is to look at the body and determine if my dead guy, (let's call him "Fred" today!) really committed suicide or if someone murdered Fred and staged it to LOOK like a suicide.
So let's say I walk into the room, and there's Fred, hanging by the chimney with care. (Excuse me again!) Fred is suspended from the balcony railing by a rope. Okie Dokie. The very first thing I look at is how the rope is wrapped around his neck. Most true hangings produce a classic V-shaped pattern in the neck. There will be a void where the rope doesn't have contact with the neck and everything else will have a groove where the rope dug into Fred's neck.
I will not be concerned too much at first if I see that Fred's hands are tied. Believe it or not, some people go to great lengths to keep themselves from "saving themselves" if they decide, "Crap! This hurts! I change my mind!"
If Fred is hanging beside a stool, he probably just stepped off the stool, rather than doing a swan dive off the balcony. While it doesn't rule out murder, it is something to look for. I'm also gonna examine the balcony. Does it look like a struggle took place? Does it look like Fred willingly Peter Pan'd or did he have help getting over that railing?
Did Fred have health problems or a history of suicide attempts in the past? Contrary to the popular myth that people who talk about suicide don't actually COMMIT suicide, most people who kill themselves have talked about it and have tried several times in the past. In addition to the physical evidence, it's also nice to know that Fred was having an affair with his secretary and her husband is a 6'5" hulk who has recently stopped attending his Anger Management Classes.
What's another thing I'm going to look for, Class? You there! You in the back! Answer the question! What is another thing (that we've talked about) that I will be looking for?
YES! We will look at Fred's post mortem lividity pattern! Where did his blood settle when he died?
When we take Fred down, we'll be very careful to secure the rope, careful not to disturb the way it's wrapped or tied around his neck. Once Fred is lying beside the Christmas tree, we'll start looking a bit closer at his lividity pattern. Let's say the room initially looked like Fred tied a rope around the railing, put a stool under it, stepped on the stool, tied the rope around his neck, and then tied his hands with the rest of the rope, before he stepped off the stool. If this is the case, what should Fred's lividity pattern look like?
You there! Sleeping in the back! Yes, you!
CORRECT! Fred should have pooled blood in his legs! (and maybe an eggplant face)
We lift Fred's clothing and guess what! Fred's blood is pooled and fixed along his back. There is no classic V-shaped groove around Fred's neck where the rope is tied. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . . Fred just got a lot more interesting.
Now would be a good time to check out the secretary's husband who has booked a flight to Barbados for Christmas.