An Update: Finding a dead body

An update: The local coroner announced this week that investigators had used tattoo and dental records to identify a 62-year-old man whose body was found near a river in August and was referenced in my September 2, 2022 blog. The man’s family told the police he had not been seen since Feb. 28 and that he did not own a vehicle. Police have not yet reported a cause of death. 


The old man in the New York Yankees baseball hat goes for a walk every day at the same time. He leaves his house a little after 8 in the morning, walks for about 30 minutes and finishes up in front of the small café where he grabs a coffee and a bagel. When he’s done eating and catching up on the morning news, he heads back home. He says the walk is his way of keeping trim, but he really goes because it reminds him of the walks he used to take with his wife before she died.

He used to surprise his wife with a white dandelion for her blow and make a wish. On this day though, he’s in for a surprise. When he rounds a curve in the wooded trail, he sees something out of place in the bushes. When he investigates closer, he finds a body. He checks for a pulse but finds none. He’s shaken but thinks to pull out his phone and call 911.

Book ’em Danno

This is how most crime stories start on TV. Prompt the start of the Law and Order “dun dun dun dun daaaaaa” theme song. You can hear the opening introduction in your head.

“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

However, the truth tends to be a little more complicated. 

My local tv news station reported this week on an unidentified body that had been found in the woods. The body had been there for several months and was severely decomposed. The coroner had started an autopsy in hopes of determining how the person had died and whether any foul play was involved. They were using dental records to try to identify the person but had come up with nothing.

In the movies and on television, the police would have the DNA results back in a few hours. They would have the person identified and would be sitting down with the next of kin by noon the next day. They would follow-up with a few more questions to friends and family members of the deceased. They would start to zero in on a person-of-interest within a day or two and would be making an arrest before the week was out.

Complicated Forensics

Oh, if life was only like television. Unfortunately, life is much more complicated and messier. It rarely works that easy. The science is much more complicated than the Cracker Box chemistry we see on television. It takes good old time and discipline. Forensic Science draws from a number of scientific branches, including physics, chemistry, and biology, with its focus being on the recognition, identification, and evaluation of physical evidence. Forensic scientists run fingerprint test, DNA analysis, and pathology reports to determine the cause of death.

Speed is important, but it rarely matches the crazy, haphazard deadlines made up by Hollywood. If that weren’t enough, the Justice System needs better answers than the prosecution relying on “gut feeling” about a person’s guilt or innocence.

Yes, real life is slower, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. It slows us down sometimes to make sure we get things right, that we even enjoy the ride. Yes, that can be a good thing!

TV crime does keep us entertained though. I guess that’s saying something.

13 thoughts on “An Update: Finding a dead body

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  1. Ahhh this is so true. The good news is that even though it takes time in real life, science is always advancing. It’s a lot harder these days to commit a murder and get away with it. With the amount of security cameras, smart phones, and home door cameras… It’s much harder to commit a crime without something seeing you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What😳 His body was in the woods for the long length of time??? How awful!
    You’re right we are used to things being solved in and hour. I suppose if we took our time to figure out details they would get the right murderer. Which brings me to my documentaries I like to watch about innocent people behind bars for murder.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I scare easily unless someone else tells me what’s coming next or if I can Google the story and read about it in advance. If not, my imagination will get the best of me. My wife is exact opposite, can watch anything, no problems. I joke that she watches those crazy crime shows to figure out how to kill me off w/o the police expecting anything. She doesn’t like my joke! Ha, ha!

        Liked by 1 person

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