Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the Book: The Murder of Karyn Slover

A Suspicious Location

In 1998, police spotted broken concrete at Michael Slover Sr.'s used-car lot, called Miracle Motors, in Mount Zion. Recalling the concrete blocks used to weigh down Karyn's remains, they decided to search the lot. This involved bringing in a forensic geologist, Richard Munroe, to examine the concrete, particularly to see if any of the broken pieces matched edges on the pieces found with the body.

Richard Munroe
Richard Munroe

Geologists study the earth's composition, structure, and history, and are able to identify the place of origin of particular types of soil. The forensic analysis of soil considers the naturally occurring minerals, rocks, vegetable matter and animal matter of a sample, as well as man-made additives. Some geologists claim that soil in a specific area has its own signature, especially man-made artifacts like concrete. Each batch will be different, in terms of composition, types of structures, density, etc. Thus, if soil unique to a crime scene is found in a vehicle, a home, or on a suspect's clothing, it can be linked to the scene. Munroe found that the pieces recovered from the bags were consistent in several ways with the concrete at Miracle Motors.

Munroe also found that the cinders from the abandoned car were consistent with cinders found at the car lot in Mount Zion, but not with cinders found at the lake or on the bridge where Karyn's blood was discovered. They were also consistent with cinders found in the bags used to wrap the body parts, some of which were embedded in the victim's skin. While an area's soil has a signature, that signature, like a human signature, is not invariable, and a scientist can only say that a soil sample found elsewhere is consistent to some degree, high or low, to that at the scene. It is not like a fingerprint or DNA analysis, in terms of a definitive match.

Police excavate one of the marked grids for evidence.
Police excavate one of the marked grids for evidence.

The task force prepared to set up a crew at Miracle Motors to sift through the dirt and cinders there. Apparently Michael Slover Sr. had circled some cars around a particular area, and investigators surmised that it might have been done to conceal the dismemberment process. They marked off an area in the lot for more intensive excavation, planning to remove four inches of topsoil, grid by grid, to sift through it. To their chagrin, the weather turned bad and snow soon covered the lot. Undaunted, they brought in snow-melting equipment and then set up tents to protect the sifting process. In all, they collected (60) 5-gallon buckets of dirt, which took six months to fully process.

Although they would later tell a grand jury they had found bone fragments, it seemed likely these came from their demonstrations to searchers using meat bones, rather than from Karyn (or any human), since this item did not come into the trial. However, they did find two items that proved to be of significant evidentiary value: a rivet from Paris Club jeans, which matched jeans that Karyn had been wearing, and a cloth-covered button from a white shirt.

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