Anthro Notes – Nov. 8/12
- Forensic anthropologists and pathologists have to work closely on the interpretation of trauma. The
anthropologist provides skills in terms of taphonomy and how it relates to the interpretation of
trauma. Anthropological data and interpretation are vital to the interpretation of mode or manner of
death. Traditional anthropological training of trauma does not usually include ballistics. New
approaches to trauma involve imaging, particularly in child abuse cases. The Dottie Cox case revealed
problems in terms of media responsibilities.
- Danforth Doe: A tooth sample was sent to Dr. Sweet’s lab in BC. Exhibit A aired the Danforth case in
2000. Exhibit A reported that the case was solved because the mtDNA from the sons matched those
from the bones. A problem was that Dr. Sweet’s lab does not do mtDNA and does not have a clean lab.
Dr Sweet’s lab had done some preliminary STRs. The prof was sent the bones and DNA samples from
the sons to do mtDNA work on them. The objective was to use mtDNA to determine if a maternal
relationship exists between the Danforth doe and the two sons. The samples were received from the
office of the chief coroner in Toronto and included a tibia (from Danforth doe) and blood and buccal
smears from the putative sons. There was continuity of evidence – once they were received, there
was email confirmation, documentation, CFS seals and signatures, and storage in a secure location.
The tibia was an evidentiary sample. Blood smears on filter paper and buccal swabs on FTA cards
were comparative samples. Research design – The bones were sampled and tested three times.
Forward and reverse primers were used to address ambiguous results. Results were independently
verified by analysts at Molecular World. The results were done and presented in blind design. The
mtDNA profiles of the two sons matched each other and they differed from the CRS at three bases.
Their profile was not in the FBI database of 4839 profiles. The 95% confidence interval reduces the
probability to 1 in 1667. However, there were 8 polymorphic differences between the two sons who
had the same mitotype and the skeleton from Danforth doe. Summary – The boys share the same
mtDNA lineage. The boys have 8 mutational differences from the evidentiary sample, so they are
excluded from the same mitochondrial lineage as the evidentiary sample. The remains found are not
the biological mother of the boys. The boys are likely brothers, but they could also be maternal
cousins. The STR results from Dr. Sweet’s lab were opened after the mtDNA results were presented
to a committee (blind design). The STRs obtained non-verified results for 4 STR loci – amelogenin,
D3S1358, VWA, and FGA. None of these matched the boys and the evidentiary sample. Conclusions –
The media was irresponsible by reporting an inclusion. The CFS did not provide evidence of a match
as the remains were never reburied. There is a problem of dealing with the sons who thought they
might have had closure. The discrepancy between the expected results (given the circumstances of
the case) and the DNA results may possibly be explained by adoption. Adoption records are not
available from the time period under investigation. The excellent mtDNA yield and results of the 60-
year-old bones reinforces the value of mtDNA technology in cold cases.
- Overview of forensic anthropology: It is an applied branch of bio-anthropology. It involves both
archaeological and skeletal biology skills. It most often deals with unidentified skeletonized human
remains. It has a long history of application, but it was not recognized as a specific branch of the
AAFS until 1972 and the CSFS until 1991. A diplomat (certification) program started in 1977. Canada
has three forensic diplomats (Dr. Melbye, Dr. Skinner, Dr. Reichs). Canada has a late history for the
development of forensic anthropology – why? – level 1 and level 2 cases.
- Roles of forensic anthropology: 1. Site investigation as part of the forensic team. 2. Identification of
remains. Are they human? How many present? Vital statistics – age, sex, stature, handedness,
population (race). Unique characteristics (pathologies or anomalies). They provide information that could be used by the coroner to determine manner and cause of death (this can be done in
consultation with the pathologist, but it is not the forensic anthropologist’s call).
- Remuneration for forensic anthropology cases: Costs have been standardized under the coroner’s act
of Ontario (CAO). Travel to the site is $0.3375/km. $94/hr in field or autopsy. $400/case if it is non-
forensic, and this involves lab analysis and report writing. $60 if it is an animal bone.
- Dealing with the media: Every case is different, but a designated point person for dealing with the
media is an important point of agreement. Premature media notification can lead to major problems
and can make the final disposition agreement more difficult to reach. The media should only be
involved after all investigations are completed and the different groups are concordant (in
agreement). The concerns of landowners and groups acting for the deceased (first nations) should be
considered before media contact. Any media interest should be directed to the agency that has
authority over the burial site at the time of media contact. Media photography of remains should be
avoided. It is disrespectful to the deceased and offensive to representatives for the deceased.
- Preparing for examination in court: 1. Assume any time you are contacted by the coroner that you
will go to court (all cases are potentially level 2 cases). 2. Make sure you understand all your
responsibilities relating to continuity of evidence, time lines, and using destructive techniques. 3. You
will be subpoenaed and during the pretrial period will meet with defense and crown to discuss your
credentials and unpublished material you are accessing. 4. Your final report should be succinct, not
too wordy, and reporting all relevant facts for the case. 5. In court, your professionalism and
demeanor are vital. It can be difficult because your data are often complicated (stats) and the
audience that you are addressing (the jury) are lay people. Keep it simple but exact. 6. Remember
that lawyer speak and science speak are different.
- Regional coroners in Ontario: McCallum is the chief coroner (found in eastern region). There are 9
regions with coroners. The Niagara region has the regional supervisor. In all regions, coroners are
notified of qualified forensic anthropologists.
- Procedures – accidentally found skeletal remains: Remains are found and this is reported to the
police/coroner. The forensic anthropologist/government archaeologist is then contacted. They
determine whether it is a level 1 or a level 2 case. A level 1 case can be native or non-native and
involves the cemeteries act. A level 2 case involves the coroner’s act.
- Discovery of human remains in Ontario – best practices: This is in cases involving human skeletal
remains outside a licensed cemetery. There are many overlapping interests and jurisdictions of
several ministries, agencies, police services, and other government bodies. The discovery of remains
occurs in two basic contexts – 1. Accidental discovery. 2. Discovery as part of an archaeological
project, where the archaeologist is licensed by the ministry of citizenship, culture, and recreation
(MCCR) under the Ontario heritage act. When human skeletal remains are found, designated
personnel (forensic anthropologist or government archaeologist) will be contacted by the regional
coroner. Usually an archaeologist is contacted to assist in determining whether it is a level 1 or level
2 type case. They also assist the landowner in generating information the cemeteries register will
require to determine the nature, extent, and cultural affiliation of the person buried. CRM
archaeology stands for cultural resource management.
- Procedures under the coroners act of Ontario – site investigation: When human remains are first
found, a person who is generally unfamiliar with protocol may contact an agency other than the
police or coroner. In the regional coroner’s office, there is an appropriate contact list of specialists. If
police are contacted first they – 1. Protect the site and minimize disturbance (context). 2. Contact the
local coroner. 3. The coroner contacts the archaeologist/forensic anthropologist to help determine if
the skeletal remains are human and if the site represents a crime scene. They can also help ensure
that if it is archaeological, that the larger heritage resource is secured. 4. Preliminary examination of
the skeleton is essential information for both the cemeteries registrar’s report and for the appropriate representative of the deceased. If the non-crime status is satisfied, the coroner notifies
the registrar of cemeteries and passes on any relevant info. The landowner is responsible for
preserving and protecting the site until a disposition is made under the CAO.
- Under the cemeteries act, the registrar has to formally declare the nature of the site. If it is irregular,
it may be an unintentional interment, an unapproved cemetery, or an unapproved Aboriginal peoples
cemetery. In most cases, the investigations will be undertaken by a licensed archaeologist hired by
the landowner (a list of qualified archaeologists is available at MCzCR/MCCR). The MCCR works with
the Ontario heritage foundation to write guidelines for the cemeteries act (still in progress). The
purpose is to provide the cemeteries registrar with the data necessary to make a declaration, limiting
the amount of archaeological work. The registrar must determine – 1. If interments were intentional.
2. Cultural affiliation of the deceased. 3. Limits and mortuary pattern of the burial area. 4. Description
of any artifacts associated with the remains (grave goods). 5. Efforts to focus on these and not on
detailed excavation. A report must be submitted to the registrar. Once the registrar can make a
declaration and the locale is determined to be an unapproved cemetery, a representative for the
deceased is sought. If the remains are native, then the nearest first nations government is sought. If
the remains are non-native, the registrar will attempt to find a representative through media
notification. If no descendant is found, a representative of the same religious denomination can act
for the deceased. The representative and the landowner will agree to a disposition agreement
outlining what is to be done with the burials. Where an agreement can’t be reached, binding
arbitration is provided under the cemeteries act. The options are to – 1. Leave the remains and
establish a cemetery. 2. Establish a cemetery nearby and move the remains. 3. Remove the remains
and re-inter them in an existing cemetery (the landowner will choose the option and is responsible
for the costs). With an unapproved cemetery or unapproved aboriginal peoples cemetery, if a
disinterment/reburial option is selected, full recovery of the remains and costs will be worked out
with the representative and the landowner. Regional archaeologists and forensic anthropologists will
identify the remains. Sometimes full analysis at a lab is permitted.
- Procedures in level 1 cases: If the remains are human, it must be determined whether they are
historic or prehistoric. If the remains are native (prehistoric), it falls under the jurisdiction of the
cemeteries act administered by the Ontario ministry of consumer and commercial relations. If the
remains are not on a reserve, you have to contact the nearest first nation band, as they are
considered as a surrogate for the next of kin. Disposition is discussed with the chief and the
landowner. The chief has the authority to allow research to be conducted and under what conditions
– where the work will be carried out, how long, if any invasive techniques are to be used, what costs
are involved, publishing of the results. The regional archaeologist can provide invaluable assistance
throughout the investigation, not only in helping with the case, but also by being a liaison between
the government and the first nations. If the remains are human and non-aboriginal (disturbed
remains from an unmarked cemetery of white, black, or oriental), then MCzCR assumes primary
responsibility if there is no next of kin. Premature excavation or surface collection of material can
result in the loss of valuable evidence, jeopardizing the forensic or archaeological interpretation of
- Forensic case studies from Northern Ontario:
- 1. River Street Burial (1979): Case History – Remains were discovered in the spring of 1979 when a
backhoe operator discovered a coffin and skeletal remains. It was reported to the coroner (Dr.
Thomas Herringer) who called in archaeologists (Bill Ross) to the funeral home. The skeletal remains
were later sent to Lakehead University for analysis (Dr. Molto). The remains were part of the river
street cemetery, which was closed in 1885 to allow for a housing development (following edict/order
to have all kin remove remains to a new cemetery). Investigators were interested in the personal
identification of this person and why the burial was not claimed in backed then. Cemetery records were obtained from 1872-1884. Historical information – Prince Arthur’s Landing (now called
Thunder Bay) dates to 1870 when Col. Wolsley landed in Thunder Bay harbour and called it Prince
Arthur’s Landing. By 1873, there were 26 bars in PAL and the population was 1000-3000. Prince
Arthur’ Catholic cemetery started in 1873. It was closed in 1885. The river street burial was exhumed
in 1979. Cemetery records – Historic records are often difficult to read and interpret. In the late
1800s, cause and manner of death were confused and many diseases had different names. For
example, TB was called consumption. The coffin found in 1979 was elaborate, which was a style used
in the late 1800s. The coffin has thick glass coverings. Microprobe analysis showed that the coffin
handle was made of lead-antimony alloy, a mixture common on coffins in the late 1800s. Men’s
clothing was found. An aniline dye was found in the clothing and this was first used in 1879. Thus,
the person should be represented in cemetery records from 1879-1885. Skeletal inventory – There
was a skull with no face, mandible, or teeth. The right ribs 1 and 3 and left rib 4 were present. Whole
pelvis with intact pubic symphyses. Sacrum. One clavicle with well-healed fracture. Left humerus (no
head) and axillary left scapula. Some fibrous tissue. Long bones – left ulna, radius tibia, fibula, and
right femur. Sex determination – The phenice method was used to determine that this was a male.
There was no lateral recurve or ventral arc and the border below the symphyseal face was thick. The
sex using Fordisc was male. An amelogenin test done in 2002 showed it was male. Age estimate – All
epiphyses were fused without trace. S1-S2 was totally fused. There were no sternal rib ends. The
joints were healthy with no arthrosis. He may not have had a rigorous lifestyle. The symphyseal rim
is complete and there is little rim erosion. The symphyseal face is grainy. The face is slightly
depressed relative to the rim. There is some breakdown on the superior ventral surfaces. The age
was estimated to be 45.6±10.4 years, so 35-56 years of age. Femoral bone samples were sent to Dr.
Pfeiffer for osteon aging and it was done in blind. The test results came back at 47.73±8.6 years. In
the 1980s, the osteon aging technique was still relatively new and there was limited validation and
no blind studies. Bone samples – Discolouration of the skeleton was due to taphonomic processes.
The sample was distracted from the distal end of the femur and the inner matrix of the humerus.
Quality assurance – The bones were UV irradiated for 24 hours. Extraction and purification of DNA
were performed in a clean lab. Amelogenin test – The X and Y chromosomes contain a high degree of
sequence homology at the amelogenin locus for development of enamel. The river street burial
skeleton showed two peaks (has X and Y chromsomes). Results – Amplification of mtDNA is
approximately 200bp due to degradation. mtDNA haplotype showed this person was Caucasian. The
amelogenin test was done three times and showed it was a male. One hypothesis as to why not all
coffins were recovered when the cemetery closed was that a lot of the people buried there has died of
an epidemic and there were fears of lingering germs. Glass found with the coffin allowed viewing of
the deceased without fear of contracting an infectious disease. Skeletal analysis: Ethnicity – Fordisc
was unable to give an accurate ethnic affiliation. DNA