Welcome to the first of a series on an actual death which I investigated; probably the most interesting of my career. What makes this case so intriguing is the wide variety of forensic and investigative methods that were used and the incredible challenge in mandating the Coroner’s duty of establishing:
Who was the deceased?
When did they die?
Where did they die?
What was the cause of death?
By what means did they die?
In Kenny’s case I had none of these answers… to start with. Let me set the scene.
One hot summer morning, on beautiful Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, a cyclist was coasting downhill through a curved, thick, wooded stretch on a rural road when she caught the overpowering whiff of decaying organic matter. Stopping to investigate, she peered over a steep bank, seeing a blackened mass crawling with insects one hundred feet below. Thinking it was a deer that’d been hit by a car, she was about to leave when it occurred that deer don’t wear running shoes.
She punched her cell and, in fifteen minutes, the place was swarming with cops.
I arrived within the hour to examine the corpse. The police had the scene secured, photographed, GPS’d, and were doing perimeter grid searches with a service dog. As required by law, no one had interfered with the position nor condition of the body. The first thing that struck me was the cadaver’s bizarre condition.
Post mortem mechanisms of body breakdown are fairly predictable and uniform. There is a long recognized scientific process of ‘Mortis’ or changes in composition. It starts with ‘Palor Mortis’ which is a color difference once oxygenated blood stops flowing. ‘Algor Mortis’ comes next – the cooling of temperature which heads towards an equilibrium of the surroundings. ‘Rigor Mortis’ occurs within a few hours. It’s the stiffening of muscle tissue caused by an enzyme change. ‘Livor Mortis’, or lividity, is the gravitational settling of blood which creates a distinctive pattern on the lower sections and pressure points. ‘Putrefaction’ is the breaking down of tissue and the gassing off which creates the horrible smell associated with rotting meat. ‘Decompositon’ is lengthier and leads to the finality of ‘Skeletonization’ or ‘Mummification’.
In Kenny’s case, everything was going on here. He was supine, or lying on his back, with his left arm folded across his chest and his right positioned under his torso. Both legs were outstretched with his buttocks lodged against a large stump, preventing him from descending further down the hillside. Kenny’s face was gone, exposing a grotesque sneer like something from Pirates Of The Carribean, but the back of his scalp was intact holding a long mess of light brown hair. His only clothes were a baggy T-shirt, athletic shorts, and a pair of brand-new, unlaced Nike runners.
Kenny was The Body-Farm’s poster boy. His skull was a combination of skeletonization and putrefaction. His anterior (front) torso was in decomposition, but his posterior (rear) still showed lividity with minor rigor present in the neck and shoulders. Algor was at scene temperature and palor was all over the place. Curiously, his left arm and hand had mummified, right ones were decomposing, his exposed legs – from thighs to ankles – were only bones, but his feet were perfectly preserved inside the rubber shoes. To compound matters, Kenney was a mess of maggots and a swirl of flies.
There was one clear culprit at work. Heat.
But a variance in heat.
Kenny was lying on a north downslope, positioned parallel to the summer sun’s high east-to-west path. There were rows of evergreens between Kenny and the openness of the upper road which created a picket-fence effect, letting direct sun exposure at different times on different body parts. Full sun had been most prevalent on his center which mummified the arm/hand, but the shield of his shirt trapped in torso moisture, allowing a normal decomposition. His pelvis had been semi-shaded, though his legs had full sun, resulting in skeletonized bone. Kenny’s face was also obliterated by sun exposure and the quicker breakdown of the sun-beaten areas was exacerbated by insects who found the softer tissue easier to feed on.
So all I had was an apparent male found deceased in a very suspicious manner, as if killed somewhere else and dumped off this roadside. But who was he? When did he die? Where did he die? What caused his death? What were the means? Was the classification a homicide? An accident? Suicide? Natural cause? It was also apparent he’d been there for a considerable time. How long?
Time would tell.
This was the start of a long, complex investigation before I found out what happened to Kenny.
Garry Rodgers has lived the life that he writes about. Now retired as a Royal Canadian Mounted Police homicide detective and forensic coroner, Garry also served as a sniper with British SAS–trained Emergency Response Teams and is a recognized expert-witness in firearms. A believer in ‘What Goes Around, Comes Around’ Garry provides free services in helping writers throughhis crime and forensic expertise. Garry’s new supernatural thriller No Witnesses To Nothing is based on a true crime story where many believe that paranormal intervention occurred. An Amazon Top 10 Bestseller, it’s available on Kindle and print on demand. You can connect with Garry via his Website: www.dyingwords.net