Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Fletcher: A Simple Case of Murder

The Head Wound

Dragovic had extensive experience with victims like Leann Fletcher and despite the nature of his work, went out of his way to treat them with respect. Some ME's can distance themselves from their subjects, effectively forgetting that the autopsy subject was once a living, loving human being with hopes, fears, aspirations and desires. In many cases, detachment is the only way to get through the sometimes gruesome process of identifying remains and determining cause of death. For Dragovic, however, he was unable to detach completely and found that it was essential that his subjects be accorded the respect and dignity that everyone deserves. In his mind, there was no need to have Leann's semi-nude body exposed for the world to see while he examined her head.

"Ve vill begin vith the head," Dragovic said. Even though he had been in America for many years, when he was deep in concentration, Dragovic's accent became more pronounced.

"The scalp is covered by medium length, blood-stained hair. The normal contour of the head is distorted by the extensive laceration of the scalp and accompanying fractures of the cranium."

He gently turned Leann's head toward him and began to describe the entry wound.

"On the lateral aspect of the right side of the head is a circular wound measuring 11 millimeters across. The scalp surrounding the wound is blood-covered and there is significant fracturing of the cranium beneath. Portions of the bone and brain have been evacuated, consistent with a blow-out wound such as a gun-shot. There is a circular pattern of blackened powder or soot, approximately 10 centimeters in diameter. This is consistent with a gunshot wound..."

Dragovic went on to do a complete autopsy on Leann, and shortly after he and his assistant completed the procedure, he met with detectives from the Hazel Park police.

"Well?" asked Cleyman, now struggling to get Robert Goulet's version of "If Ever I Would Leave You" from Camelot out of his head.

"I'm putting down homicide," Dragovic said. "The powder burns indicate that the shot was fired from about 18 inches away from her head and the bullet traveled in an almost horizontal path through her brain."

"Eighteen inches?" Cleyman stretched his right arm out and made a gun out of his fingers, pointing back at his head. "Like this, huh?"

"Yes, but now make your arm horizontal and make sure the path of the bullet is parallel to the ground," Dragovic said. "It's all but impossible." Cleyman's arm was outstretched and to point his fingers at his head would have required him to break his wrist.

"Homicide it is. This just gets more and more interesting," Cleyman said. "I'm going to talk to Mr. Fletcher again."

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