September 27, 2022

What Does The Red Police Tape Mean – True Crime Blog: Stories and News Published: October 25, 2017 Updated: May 29, 2019 Secret Death Scene Clues: Retired Coroner Tells All

Ken Holmes spent four decades in the Marin County Coroner’s Office north of San Francisco, California. Throughout his time as a death investigator and eventually a coroner, he has solved many mysteries surrounding suspicious deaths.

What Does The Red Police Tape Mean

What Does The Red Police Tape Mean

Holmes talks to A&E True Crime about the little clues that help solve the biggest crimes and the surprising aspects of dealing with death.

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As a death investigator, I was on the road, going to death scenes on 24-hour shifts. When someone dies – a house fire, car accident, suicide, natural or suspicious – a death investigator is called immediately. We examine the body, talk to witnesses, and determine the approximate time of death from the curve (blood pooling in the body after death), death, or temperature. We go through a series of photos and measurements. We identify firearms and ammunition as well as legal and illegal drugs. We count every pill in every bottle at the point of death to determine if the person took the drug.

The coroner determines the cause of death. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that coroners do not require medical training. (One Indiana county has selected high school coroners.) Coroners must complete the same training as police officers.

When I became an assistant investigator, I entered the administrative world and supervised investigators. If the case is very unusual or attracts the media, I will come to the scene and be the spokesperson.

Functionally they are similar, but politically they are different. Coroners are elected, MEs are appointed – usually by the local supervisor or other governing body. MEs are licensed physicians and are typically trained in forensic pathology. (They perform autopsies when necessary, not coroners.) Both reasons are to investigate a death and protect the deceased’s property until it is released to relatives.

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Do you work with police detectives when you show up at a death scene and then investigate?

We do the same from a different perspective. We are detectives or the police department or any agency involved. Their primary focus is, “Who did it—how and when?” The coroner or ME asks, “What happened?” It is their responsibility to provide factual information about the cause and manner of death.

We share photos and information from the scene. In other cases, [law enforcement] asks us when something happens, like the time of death. They need to know so they can investigate. Usually we stand by and scratch our heads and say, “It looks like it went in this order,” and we take that information and work backwards. Sometimes this is valuable to the defense because autopsy information can exonerate someone. Sometimes it helps with legal action. We are an independent provider of facts. Even though we all have badges and go through the same police academy training, we’re not always in law enforcement, but our knowledge is there.

What Does The Red Police Tape Mean

If you look inside the upper and lower lips, you will see that they are connected [to the gums] by a thin membrane called the frenulum. People who have severe epileptic seizures may tear up. And sometimes tears come when he physically chokes, such as by holding something (especially a hand) to his mouth. The frenulum is the floor opposite the teeth. A torn frenulum does not indicate an illegality, but it is something that immediately catches our attention.

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Are the deceased’s limbs crossed or loose? Most people who die naturally do not know anything worse until they die, so their limbs are limp. If they suffocate, the body is tense and the limbs are crossed.

We have had a few deaths involving ethylene glycol (antifreeze). Some were suicidal, but some didn’t even know they were using it. In one case, we did not initially perform a blood test because the deceased was an elderly person. The autopsy physician examined the normal tissue microscopically and observed crystals formed by the antifreeze. When they came back and did a blood test, it was found that the death was not accidental.

A seemingly normal car accident occurs, the driver is hospitalized and his passenger is killed on the spot. They were brothers.

I opened the trunk. I have never seen so much money in one place in my life. The police and I measured it in the dark with our flashlights and I covered it to take it to the county auditor. It was more than $40,000 in small bills.

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When I went to the hospital to talk to the family, I noticed that [brother’s] girlfriend was making very few phone calls. I called the DEA and 20 minutes later an agent was there. The brothers are known to be involved not only in drug trade but also in a huge insurance fraud.

We have identified the woman 44 years after she went missing. The skeleton was discovered by workers clearing new land at Fernwood Cemetery. Buried kneeling in fetal position, arms and skull missing. This is a clear indication – it is not an accident, it is not suicide and it is not an ordinary grave. Someone is trying to hide their identity.

Anthropologists said the bones belonged to a Caucasian woman who was 42 years old or older and only five feet tall. Found near the body: broken glasses and a 1961 coin. Investigators determined the glasses were manufactured in the 1960s. After the Justice Department’s missing persons database fails, two investigators go door-to-door asking if anyone remembers the missing woman. The problem was, we didn’t know how long ago it was.

What Does The Red Police Tape Mean

A woman who lived next door recalled “Mrs. Jones disappeared decades ago. This led to missing persons reports since 1964.

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[The woman] is a long-distance driver from San Francisco and the wife of a union boss who said she left home after an argument. He was angry that her name was not in the records of some of the properties she owned. We managed to find his relatives: “We always thought the husband did it.”

To confirm her identity, we used her DNA from an oral swab crossed with bone marrow from a recovered skeleton. In the early 1960s, you had to wait seven years to declare someone dead. [The husband] later inherited all three properties, but died of natural causes some time later – and before the body was found.

[The woman’s] death was ruled a homicide, but since the head and hands are missing, we cannot even speculate on the cause of death. Basically, we think he got away with murder, but he didn’t live long enough to understand why.

You also handled a high-profile case involving a cult family that called itself “the family”. Tell me about it.

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It all started when three women brought in a 19-month-old boy named Ndigo, who had been neglected even though he was dead. When asked who is the mother, all three replied ‘me’.

We did x-rays in the ER. My inspector was waiting. The x-ray man comes out and says there is something wrong with the image because he can’t see the details. He fires again. He comes back out and says, “This little boy has no bones. They don’t show up on X-rays.

The only thing that causes this is lack of vitamin D and sunlight. Father Winfred Wright had the magnetism of David Koresh or Charles Manson. There are people who have their own attitude and others who just fall in line. For some reason, these women remained loyal to him until they ended up in prison. They were convinced that this man was some kind of messiah.

What Does The Red Police Tape Mean

He lived about a mile from my house. I often saw Wright pass by my house.

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[Editor’s note: In 2002, Wright pleaded guilty to six counts of child abuse and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. He was granted parole in 2010. Ndigo’s biological mother, Mary Campbell, pleaded guilty to child endangerment resulting in death and three counts of neglect. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was released on parole in 2007.]

You worked on a high-profile case called The Barbecue Murders, in which 16-year-old teenage girl Marlene Olive and her boyfriend Chuck Riley murdered her parents.

It started when firefighters saw smoke billowing from a state park in San Rafael. He thought that some hunters were burning the deer carcasses after taking the meat

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