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University of Toronto Mississauga
Forensic Science
Hisham Ragab

Murder, Maggots & Mysteries of Forensic Science Dr. Sherah VanLaerhoven, M.P.M. Ph.D. Forensic Entomology - Use of insects in legal investigations: Civil and Criminal investigations - Primarily Homicide investigations - Determine elapsed time since death or postmortem interval (PMI) - Accurate, sometimes only method available after 72 hours - China (13 century), Europe (1850s), Britain (1930s), North America (1970s), Canada (1992) - Less than 35 Forensic Entomologists World-wide, 10-15 USA, 2 in Canada First Witness to the crime - Arrive within minutes/within 24 hours Elapsed Time since Death - Focus police investigation into correct time frame: identification of victim (missing persons records), make or break alibis (define list of suspects, exonerate innocent) - Two methods: Maggot age and development (up to 2 months after death, accurate to hours, days, weeks), Successional waves of insects (2 months to several years after death, accurate to weeks, months, years) Maggot age and development - Immature stages of: Blow flies (calliphoridae), flesh flies (sarcophagidae), house flies (muscidae) - Arrive immediately after death - Lay eggs on wounds or natural orifices - 3 stages: First instar (2mm, 1 breathing slit), Second instar (2 breathing slits), Third instar (feeding machine! 3 breathing slits) ---Wandering stage (stop eating and leave the body) - Analysis of insect stage of development + temperature records + species = date eggs laid and minimum PMI Adult fly - Different features - Rate of development vs. duration vs. temperature Regina v. Truscott - In 1959, 14 years old Steven Truscott, convicted and sentenced to hang by the neck until he was dead for the murder of 12 years old Lynne Harper, primarily on a time line based on stomach contents. Sentenced later changed to life in prison after temporary reprieve postponed his execution (case that removed death penalty in Canada) - 2001 – filed for review of his conviction - 2006-07 – new evidence heard by Ontario Court of Appeal (Judges McMurtry, Doherty,…) - Evidence still available - Eggs and 2mm maggots from face and abdomen - 6mm Larvae from lesions in buttocks and genitals - Evidence sent to Attorney General’s lab (CFS) Recreation: - Likelihood of colonization prior to sunset (~21:45) if Lynne Harper’s body had been in Lawson’s bush ~19:30 th - If blue flies would fly and colonize with daily high temperature near 30 degrees (7pm, June 9 1959 = 28 degrees) - 3 pigs, 50m apart placed in Lawson’s Bush in
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