Late one night I was called out to a house in one of the lower economic regions of the city. It was actually my first trip to this particular area. I’d driven past it numerous times on the expressway and never even knew it was there. There are several of these types of areas in this and every other city I suppose. Thousands drive past them on the interstates and main roads and never actually go through them. These are areas of the city I would never drive through if it weren’t for the fact that there were police officers waiting for me.

This particular part of the city was certainly known to law enforcement. The fact that one of the major thoroughfares for rail traffic in the city was only two blocks to the west would have made one think that I was now on the wrong side of the tracks. One look down the street to the neighborhood on the other side of the tracks, and I was immediately aware that neither side was particularly enviable.

As I parked across the street from the address, a police lieutenant appeared from nowhere as I opened the door. He spoke quietly so that only I could hear, “We’ll talk inside.?

He then ushered me past a large group of people that had accumulated in the driveway and we made our way to the front porch. An officer on the porch nodded at me with a look as though he recognized me from some previous scene and opened the screen door. I nodded back politely, though in truth I didn’t specifically recall him. It’s fairly easy for thousands of officers to remember a dozen or so death investigators. It’s not so easy the other way around.

My first clue that the inside of this house was going to be an absolute pit was the circuitous route that the lieutenant and I made to the front porch as we navigated our way through car parts, appliances, and broken toys. People who give little regard to the impression their front yard makes seem to care even less when it comes to the part of their property that is not in the public eye. I have yet to walk across such a yard and enter a house where I would consider sitting down or touching anything without gloves on.

As I entered the house I couldn’t help notice the pie-shaped “snow angel? pattern that the front door had carved in the debris that covered the living room floor. Beyond that, a small path had been trampled in the garbage that forked at the other end of the room and led to other parts of the house. It was along this path that the lieutenant and I now stood along with another officer and two crime scene technicians, each of us seemingly afraid to step off the main path into the surrounding area.

I got the rest of the information I needed from the officer inside the house. A mother had gone to check on her two and a half year old girl and called 911 when the little girl didn’t respond. The officer had arrived at the scene shortly after the paramedics who were in the process of checking for vital signs. The lack of vital signs and the obvious presence of rigor mortis was enough for the paramedics to pronounce the girl dead at the scene. The little girl was also known to have some sort of debilitating disease because paramedics noticed that she had a gastric feeding tube in place.

After the briefing in the living room, I carefully followed the two crime scene technicians into the back bedroom of the house. To say that I was shocked by what I saw is an understatement. The significance of first exposure to that scene was evidenced by the way that both crime scene technicians were looking at me to see my reaction.

Stay tuned for Part II…


15 Responses to “”

  1. 1 Lori
    February 13, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    Oh, don’t stop there!

    BTW, why is it necessary for coroners to “peel” down the skin on the face during an autopsy?

    I’ve never seen anyone’s face “peeled” during an autopsy. The only thing I can think of that you might be referring to is that you’ve seen the scalp pulled down. The brain is removed from someone by first making a scalpel incision that runs from ear to ear across the crown of the head. The connective tissue between the scalp and the skull is then cut as it is pulled or “peeled” from the initial incision. The front half of the scalp is peeled forward to about the brow ridge and the back half of the scalp is pulled back as far as needed to expose enough of the skull to open the cranial vault to access the brain. In most cases there is so much scalp between the crown and the brow ridge that the reflected area covers the entire face of the person. By making the incision in the hairline, it’s easier for morticians to disguise it when they reconstruct the person for viewing.

    Even if the person had been beaten or shot in the face, I’m not sure what would be gained from peeling the face. Most trauma that would be significant enough to cause death would most likely be visible from the inside once the brain has been removed. I’d hate to be the mortician that had to reattach a face.

    A Douglas

  2. February 13, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    Oh man. I can’t wait to hear the rest. Talk about cliffhangers!

  3. February 13, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    Aw man, what a cliffhanger. Please post the rest of the story soon.

  4. 4 Tonya
    February 13, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    I KNOW you did not leave us hanging like that!

  5. 5 Kattgrrl
    February 13, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    Gah! Don’t leave me hanging!!!

  6. February 14, 2006 at 1:36 am

    No fair–build up the suspense and leave us haning! Geesh. Okay, I’ll check back again.

  7. 7 Di
    February 14, 2006 at 2:24 am

    Oh god, hurry with part two, will you?!

  8. 9 piper
    February 14, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    dang,I am anxiously waiting for Part II!

  9. February 14, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    What the others said.

  10. 11 Lori
    February 15, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for the explanation. I’ve actually seen it mentioned in a couple of books recently, most recently Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Your explanation makes sense of what they were probably seeing.

  11. February 15, 2006 at 8:45 pm

    Part 2… Part 2. I think that we are all waiting breathlessly.

  12. February 16, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    Without a doubt the most fascinating blog I have ever read. Also gagging for part two…. 🙂

  13. February 16, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    Please sir, can we have some more?

  14. 15 Lori
    February 17, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve been diligently cleaning my house in case something happens to one of us and the coroner gets called in. I know you have a life but a lot of us don’t and cliffhangers make us cranky.


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