Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death

By Jessica Snyder Sachs | Go to book overview

II CHEMICAL CLUES

Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.

—JOB 12:8

ON THE EVENING of October 20, 1992, another road-weary motorist heading east out of Knoxville steered his car onto the dimly lit side road of Cahaba Lane to relieve himself. The odor hit him as soon as he walked behind the highway billboard that rose high above the lane's backdrop of trash-strewn woods. But it wasn't the usual ammonia reek so typical of such spots. It struck him more as sickly sweet. He nearly screamed when he realized what he was close to standing on—half-unearthed by scavengers was an arm, or what was left of it, curving down to a mat of tangled hair and the blackened balloon of a face.

The metro desk at the Knoxville News-Sentinel picked up the police dispatch just in time to make the morning edition. With the hills around Knoxville coughing up some forty to fifty bodies a year, the story warranted no more than a brief "police-blotter" report. Nonetheless, it grabbed the attention of one particular segment of the News-Sentinel's diverse readership. Dressed far too scantily for the gusty autumn day, the women huddled close as

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Corpse: Nature, Forensics, and the Struggle to Pinpoint Time of Death
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Prologue i
  • 1 - The Body Handlers 11
  • 2 - Reasonable Doubt 27
  • 3 - The Bone Detectives 47
  • 4 - The Witness Was a Maggot 69
  • 5 - Bug Sleuthing Crosses the Atlantic 93
  • 6 - A Model for Murder 119
  • 7 - The Dirty Dozen 147
  • 8 - Perfecting the Postmortem Clock 171
  • 9 - Plants, Pollen, and Perpetrators 197
  • 10 - The Pathologist's Garden 219
  • 11 - Chemical Clues 229
  • 12 - The New Mod Squad 247
  • Further Reading 259
  • Index 261
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