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Friday, June 10, 2011

UCF Forensic Anthropologist Dr. John Schultz Takes the Stand in Casey Anthony Trial


University of Central Florida Professor Dr. John Schultz took the stand today in the Casey Anthony trial. As an Anthropology student at UCF with an Archaeological Methods class scheduled for next Fall semester, I was interested to see Dr. Schultz’s testimony.

Forensic Recovery of Human Remains: Archaeological ApproachesDr. Schultz attended University of Florida for his PhD and University of Indianapolis and University of Stonybrook, New York. Dr. Schultz is an associate professor who specializes in biological anthropology. His research interests include forensic anthropology, taphonomy, and ground-penetrating radar methods for forensic and archaeological contexts. Recent publications have focused on the application of ground-penetrating radar for detecting controlled forensic graves, taphonomy of commercial cremations, and taphonomy of skeletal remains from historic contexts. Dr. Schultz also works with local law enforcement agencies on the search, recovery and identification of human skeletal remains. He recently published a book titled Forensic Recovery of Human Remains: Archaeological Approaches (with co-authors T. Dupras, S. Wheeler and L. Williams, CRC Press, 2005). Dr. Schultz was recently featured on the Discovery Channel's series, "Mummy Autopsy".

Dr. Schultz Testimony

Dr. Schultz assisted the Medical Examiner in the case findings. Schultz describes how Caylee's bones were dispersed at the scene.

Some bones of the arm, hand bones and lower legs were found in Area A along with the left foot. Chest and humorous bones were found in Area B. In Area F we see the trunk of the body showing that the lower legs were dragged to this area. Carnivore damage was evident on clavicles, shafts of femurs (proximal), and parts of the pelvis found in this area. The trunk evidently was deposited in that area because of carnivores.

At this point the trunk was carried away from Area A to Area F. In Area D we found the right foot with carnivore damage. One hand bone was found in Area E and in Area G the spinal columns with ribs detached from distal end were discovered. When we started to separate out the bottom of spinal column we discovered it was consistent with animal damage. That part of the spinal column is attached to the pelvis.

Ribs, which were dislocated, were found in Area H. At this point we haven’t seen most of the spine. In Area I, Dr. Schultz found Cervical Vertebrae #12 and Lumbar Vertebrae #5. Overall, Dr. Schultz explains that 20 vertebrae were found.

The bones were dispersed in several areas, leading Dr. Schultz to concur that “As the trunk was being dragged, bones were not being held on by certain ligaments and they dropped to the ground. Some vertebrate are in two parts because the bones have not fused yet in the body.”

The Skeleton Dispersals

When the skeleton was deposited in Area A, it may have been relatively intact. “We did not see any use of tools to dismember the body prior to dumping”, Schultz explains.

The hip bone, known as the “Ilium”, was buried in such a way that would allow for a significant amount of time for it to dry out completely.

Schultz explains, “Many of the bones were located under the leaf fall. It was a swampy area, so it’s quite possible that when the area was filled up with water, actions from the water, silt suspended in the water, would have buried the bone. The bone was found close to palmetto trunk.”

Dr. John Schultz was also surprised to find the mandible still attached by some hair fragments.

Response From Findings

“When we were trying to figure out the time of death, overall the bones were dry with no marrow or tissue. This process would take time.” Schultz replied.

The importance of this testimony means the body had been there since mid summer.

“The body must have been there for at least 6 months for that type of decomposition to take place.” Dr Schultz explains.

The Defense then asked about x-rayed bones and whether or not Dr. Schultz x-rayed the bones. The findings were that there was no evidence of trauma. No childhood fracture or abuse. This doesn’t of course rule out the use of Chloroform, to slowly and lethally kill the child over time.

Defense: “Any evidence to you that the child had traumatic evidence prior to death?”

Dr. Schultz : “No.”

Defense: “How far was Area A from the paved road? Did you participate in the measurement at all.”

Dr. Schultz: “A 3D scanner was brought in and the measurements were provided to me by Ronald Murdock”.

The Defense was trying to explain that the majority of the bones in the bags recovered were from Area A. However, there was no way to determine if there were bones missing since field crews were surveying different areas at different times, and all results had not been compiled.

The discussion of duct tape concluded that the tape was not covering the entire nasal aperture. The nose was decomposed, therefore it was impossible to determine whether that particular area was covered by the tape. Dr. Schultz explains that the mouth would have been covered.

After a review of the dispersal of bones in the various areas Dr. Schultz was dismissed for the day.

2 Comments:

Andrew said...

It's always really fascinating to see a real trial with real forensic evidence analysis, instead of what we get from CSI on TV.

Forensic anthropology is a growing field, at least here, in Eastern Europe, and we still have a long way to go...

Lauren Axelrod said...

@Andrew

I completely agree with you. I don't ever watch those shows because I know I would be yelling at the TV the entire time, thinking do Forensic Anthropologists really wear tight dresses and high heels to work? lol

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