“Dirty Little Secrets”

On most apparent natural deaths, patrol officers may be the only ones dispatched to the scene with instructions to notify police investigators if the M.E./Coroner (ME/C) finds anything out of the ordinary. As such, it is the responsibility of the ME/C to search the scene for anything that may have played a role in the death.

When I first started, it felt a little odd going through the personal belongings of a complete stranger, but I soon learned that many times these searches yielded as many noteworthy—and sometimes unusual—findings as the bodies themselves.

Pill bottles and drug paraphernalia are two of the most common discoveries. The medications that are prescribed give some insight to the medical history of the deceased as well as the name of the person’s physician. A quick count of the pills can tell whether the deceased has been taking the medication as directed or not. Bottles of the same medication prescribed by different doctors within the same time period can indicate a history of “pill seeking.” Bottles of medication prescribed to people not residing at the scene can indicate illegally procured pills.

I recall one scene in particular where I had gone through four of a chest of five drawers and wished I had stopped. When I opened the bottom drawer, there were three Walmart sacks filled with old prescription bottles, each containing medication. Because I found them, I had to document them, take custody of them, and inventory them upon returning to the morgue. I also seem to recall the autopsy took less time than the inventory.

Depending on the person’s lifestyle, drug paraphernalia may or may not be well-hidden. Thinking to myself, “If I were a doper, where would I put my stash?” has proved to be fairly successful. Using this method, I’ve managed to find all manner of objects that have been converted into drug devices.

I worked a scene where a man was being allowed to live in a camper trailer in his soon to be ex-wife’s driveway. She’d thrown him out because of his drug addiction, but allowed him to stay in the trailer provided he didn’t bring any drugs on the premises. Instantly suspecting that her husband failed to obey this condition, I searched the trailer anyway. Reaching into an odd hole punched in the wall, I removed a cigarette box containing two small bags of dope.

Other times the family waiting in the living room is genuinely surprised to learn that I found drugs or paraphernalia in their loved one’s bedroom. There’s nothing quite like being present when a family learns for the first time that grandma knew how to score some weed—or when they realize it was a family member that supplied it.

These searches sometimes reveal all manner of pornography and sexual devices. Perhaps the strangest thing I recall finding was a shoebox full of Polaroids that showed the bottom of hundreds of feet. In most cases, unless the death appears to have resulted from an autoerotic event or the pornography is illegal, I just shake my head, move on to the next drawer, and keep my mouth shut. I damn sure don’t want to be around when the family learns about that side of grandma.


6 Responses to ““Dirty Little Secrets””

  1. February 4, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    I’ve been a long-time lurker, and had just about given up keeping your site bookmarked when you re-appeared. Glad to have you back, and to learn it was a busy schedule that kept you away and not some Dire Circumstance. Keep posting, I enjoy this unusual range of topics.

  2. February 7, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    lol, I got a chuckle over the feet polaroids and grandma’s bag of weed.

    I once worked as a Sheriff Deputy. ME’s see some weird stuff!

  3. February 8, 2007 at 2:35 am

    Briliantlly creepy blog. Great Work

  4. 4 Jen
    February 22, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    I love this stuff! Great!

  5. April 8, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Me, too, I love this stuff.

    I guess the dead don’t care about what is left behind, but what they’re just setting up another blow to the family. I know a guy who found some really illegal porn in his departed dad’s belongings–that was a terrible shock.

  6. 6 kiTTy
    April 23, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Hey! What’s wrong with a fetish of foot arches? Yeah….thats weird but nonetheless could be your neighbor

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