The following is an expanded version of Item 10 on my “Top 10 Unique Things I’ve Done? list:

I was called out in the middle of the night to a scene where a woman found her estranged husband dead. The man had been living in a conversion van parked in the driveway since their separation. Upon examining the body, I found a used syringe underneath the man and a fresh needle stick in his arm.

I looked around for some sign of illicit drugs and couldn’t find any out in the open. It’s been my experience that IV drug abusers are not known for “picking up their toys? before getting their fix. For that reason, I suspected the wife had attempted to clean up the scene before I arrived but had not seen the syringe. The officers there doubted that possibility because the van was locked on their arrival with the keys inside and the wife did not have a key.

Upon learning that, I searched a little harder the second time around. Searching is one of the more interesting parts of this job. To alter a famous phrase: “Life’s like a search of a complete stranger’s personal property—you never know what you’re going to get.? It’s amazing what some people have tucked away in their drawers and closets. In this particular case, there wasn’t really anything too shocking.

I generally start searching those areas where I would be inclined to hide drugs or paraphernalia. As it turned out, the husband had stuffed a Crown Royal bag behind a loose section of paneling on the wall of the van. Inside the bag was a large amount of powdered substance in three plastic bags and a few accessories.

When it was time to leave, I got the impression that neither of the officers was interested in taking custody of the unknown substance. It was nearing the end of their shift, and whichever one took the substance would have to write an additional report and return to the central lab to book in the substance as evidence. I knew my protocols were much more user-friendly, so I offered to take it. All I had to do was sign in the substance at our internal lab, and I was going back to the office anyway. Needless to say, the officers were happy to let me take custody.

I left the scene anxious to get to the office and then home so I could get some more sleep before morning. In those situations, I often find myself traveling faster than posted limits. Ordinarily, I’m in a marked agency car, but on this particular night I happened to be in my car. Prior to the scene I just worked, I hadn’t been called out, so I hadn’t yet stopped by the office to trade cars.

Whether I was tired or just didn’t care, I initially failed to notice the patrol car that was keeping pace with me from behind. As soon as I saw him, I started pulling to the side of the highway even before the officer turned on his lights. I’ve never been employed as a drug mule before, so it never occurred to me that I needed to hide the drugs that were lying in plain view on the seat next to me.

As the officer came up to the window he shined his flashlight in my face and almost immediately I could tell—even in my momentary blindness—that his flashlight was aimed on the passenger seat.

It was then that the gravity of the situation hit me. I wasn’t in a car marked “Medical Examiner.? It was 3 a.m. and there I was stopped for speeding on an interstate with three bags of dope in the front seat. Any instant I expected to be jerked from the car by my hair and thrown face down on the asphalt with a knee in my back and a gun at the back of my head. I scrambled frantically in my head for the shortest explanation as possible.

Instead, he spoke. “Out kind of late aren’t you??

I explained the situation, showed him my identification, and told him the city dispatcher could verify if he wished to call. He said that wouldn’t be necessary and added, “I figured it was something like that, or you were the dumbest drug smuggler I’ve ever seen.?

As for the substance itself, it turned out to be heroin that would have yielded a few thousand dollars on the street once it had been cut for distribution. The apparent lack of a cutting agent at the scene suggested the deceased had unknowingly injected himself with uncut heroin.


11 Responses to “”

  1. April 8, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    If the rest of these are half as funny as this one, I am looking forward to the week!

    Sometimes it’s not always about dead bodies I guess.

  2. 2 Lysa
    April 8, 2005 at 7:33 pm

    I would make some comment about Darwinism and awards, but it would probably be highly inappropriate.
    Interesting. I wish there was a ride-a-long program for Coroners offices.
    I’d love to see what you guys see.

  3. April 9, 2005 at 1:49 am

    My encounters with persons in official capacities (law enforcement, etc.) have usually (knock wood) inspired trust in their mental focus and professionalism. Both you and the officer get high marks for keeping your cool :-). Hilarious.

  4. April 9, 2005 at 9:37 pm

    I love reading your stories about your work. Fascinating.

  5. April 9, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    Just like Sherlock Holmes…or Hercule Poirot! I just love mysteries!

  6. April 10, 2005 at 2:23 pm

    you know i find this regular sunday reading now….
    thanks so much for sharing your very exciting job….
    While doing it in such an articulate way …

  7. 7 ty
    April 10, 2005 at 8:51 pm

    very nice writing.

  8. April 10, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    I really enjoyed this. I will, as they say, be reading you again.

  9. April 10, 2005 at 9:43 pm

    yeah, i love reading your site as well. great stuff

  10. 10 DAWN
    April 11, 2005 at 8:34 pm


  11. 11 Terri Poposky
    April 12, 2005 at 8:17 am

    I agree with Dawn… You should write a book.

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