Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harrison Graham: The Corpse Collector

The Morgue

Robert L. Catherman was the acting Medical Examiner who had gone to North 19th Street to view the remains.  News media had crowded near him to hear his comments, but he'd merely said that they knew nothing at the moment about the identity of the victims.  They didn't even know whether some were male or female.

In the morgue, the corpses were put through painstaking procedures to try to identify them and determine the cause and manner of death.  It was believed that the first two found, both black females, had been dead just two or three days, but due to the intense summer heat, they'd decomposed quickly.  Both were in their late twenties or early thirties.  One had been nude, the other partially clothed, a sweater pulled up over her head.  There was no obvious sign of violence, such as a bullet or bludgeoning.

The other bodies would take more work.   They were not identifiable, even for race or sex.  An anthropologist would need to assist by reading the bone structure.  It could be difficult, they knew, to determine a cause of death as well, although two days later, thanks to a broken hyoid bone, they managed to determine that the fourth victim found had been strangled.

By August 11, it was clear that the two most recent deaths had been murder by strangulation.  That made three.  Then the leg and foot bones from the canvas bag were also identified as being from a female.  Autopsies on two more of the remains, what little could be done, confirmed that they had been black women in their twenties, but determining the cause of death was impossible.  The ME adjusted the time of death on the first two as having occurred within the past ten days, rather than two or three.

A woman had come to the scene after hearing about the house of horrors on television, because a friend of hers who lived in the building had been missing for several months: She was 30 years old, and her name was Sandra Garvin.  This acquaintance believed that Sandra could be among the dead.  Within a day of the discovery, three more women were suggested as potential victims.  All had known Graham and all were missing.  One woman, who'd lived with Graham, had not been seen for two and a half years.  A man recognized the clothing from the second victim and believed that she was his wife.

Sandra Garvin
Sandra Garvin

In the meantime, the police continued to look for the man who could clear up some of the mystery.


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