Sunday, December 03, 2000

Homicide evidence: The flies have it

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — To many people, flies are annoying pests that serve little — if any — purpose. But a Columbus police officer relies on the beady-eyed insects to help him in his job — solving homicides.

        Ken Tischler, a detective with a master's degree in insect toxicology, tracks the life cycles of flies and the larvae they leave in corpses to help determine how long a person has been dead.

        When a body is found outdoors, he grabs his rubber gloves, shovels, pails and glass vials.

        “If you get killed outside, the first thing to find you is a fly,” Detective Tischler said.

        Within a minute or two of death, flies head for wounds or orifices, or cut the skin for a “blood meal,” and then lay eggs, he said.

        Detective Tischler uses a process known as species succession to determine the order in which each fly species inhabits a corpse.

        He used the process to determine how long a pregnant 15-year-old had been dead and how she was injured. The girl was killed about a month before her decomposed body was found.

        “He was able to pinpoint with in six hours when she was left in the ravine. He was right on the money,” said Greg Peterson, an assistant Franklin County prosecutor.

        A 16-year-old confessed that he had struck her in the head with a rock. But Detective Tischler's analysis of brain matter contradicted that.

        “It led us to believe that the rock he had picked up and he said dropped on her head, he actually dropped on her stomach,” Mr. Peterson told the Columbus Dispatch.

        With that evidence, prosecutors convicted the teen-ager of an additional murder charge in the death of the unborn child.

        Other bug experts have been known to use similar techniques.

        Neal Haskell of Indiana used his knowledge of insect life cycles three years ago to estimate the times of death for an 11-year-old girl and her 4-year-old half-brother whose bodies were found in a field near Urbana.

        Detectives who also are bug scientists can use the technique only from May through September when the weather is warmer and flies are plentiful.


Children with mental problems often have nowhere to turn
For Daniel, 'the bottom would drop out'
Where to get help for troubled youths
Brain tumor studies planned
Community may gate streets
CROWLEY: For Steve Henry, 'I do' gives way to 'No, I didn't'
Greetings from 'Mt. Rumpke'
PULFER: Pet limits
Rally fights Klan with calm
WILKINSON: Portune has own ideas for filling his council seat
BRONSON: Bombs away
A city divided
Boehner prods CSX to repair crossings
Boone Co. Democrats ponder fate
Caught speeding? Help the needy
College may locate near airport
- Homicide evidence: The flies have it
Ky. Hindus break ground for temple
Pioneer days at Gov. Bebb preserve
Somerset schools settle harassment suit by student
Study-abroad program enriches Miami students
Title thrills Highlands fans
Traffic light at firearm buyback
Vietnam veterans slow to unite
Water skiers laugh off cold self-torture
Kentucky News Briefs
Tristate A.M. Report