Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Kevin Neal, Convicted of Murder by Forensic Entomology

Cause of Death

The toxicology report came back indicating India had a blood-alcohol content of .02 percent. Although this may surprise a layman, the pathologists expected such a result. Just as with grapes turning to wine, the decay process of a body often leads to sugar fermentation within the body; as bacteria break down cellular material, one of the byproducts is ethyl alcohol. The tox screen also revealed that the girl had not been poisoned.

There were also no telltale marks on the corpses to indicate that a weapon had been used to kill the children. Nature had left more flesh on Cody's remains than on India's, but neither his mummified soft tissue nor the bones on either child showed  evidence of obvious entry or exit points for bullets or scratches on their bones that a knife blade would normally leave. There was not any flesh on the children's skulls to examine for the typical signs of asphyxiation, but the coroner's opinion was that some manner of asphyxia was the cause of the children's deaths. 

This conclusion was supported later by the forensic entomologists who would review the case. The entomologists did so by examining how the insects had consumed the flesh of the bodies. Following the doctrine espoused by Sung T'zu, they expected the skulls to be skeletonized and bleached by the sun — after all, there were so many orifices on the head where the blow flies would lay their eggs. The lack of clothing also gave the insects access to the children's genital regions, which meant that the feeding larvae would eat their way up through their abdomens to their chest cavities.

If there had been knife or bullet wounds, the pattern of insect consumption would have been different because wounds are even more attractive places for oviposition (egg laying). It isn't unusual for one hand to be skeletonized or at least infested with insects while the other is untouched. Wily investigators will know that this indicates the victim probably had defensive wounds on the hand that attracted the insects.