Cover image for Cracking cases : the science of solving crimes
Cracking cases : the science of solving crimes
Lee, Henry C.
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Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
316 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
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HV8073 .L44 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HV8073 .L44 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HV8073 .L44 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HV8073 .L44 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
HV8073 .L44 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Truly a legend in his own time, Dr. Henry C. Lee is considered by many to be the greatest forensic scientist in the world. He gained widespread public recognition through his testimony in the televised O. J. Simpson trial. Since that time he has helped with the Jon Benet Ramsey case and the investigations of mass murder in Croatia.

This book will take the reader through the entire investigative process of five murder cases, with Dr. Lee as the tour guide. The cases include:

the O. J. Simpson case, in which Dr. Lee's analysis of the blood evidence at the crime scene revealed that the Los Angeles Police Department had missed several blood drops on the back of Nicole Simpson, a footprint belonging to a second possible assailant, and the physical improbability of Mr. Simpson's climbing a fence to return to his home.
the "woodchipper murder," in which an Eastern Airlines pilot murdered his wife and then put her body through a woodchipper in an attempt to dispose of the remains.
the Mathison murder, in which a veteran Hawaiian police sergeant claimed to have accidentally run over his wife after she fled the family van during a dispute.
the Ed Sherman murder, in which a college English professor attempted to disguise the time of his wife's death by turning up the air conditioning unit in their house and then using the alibi that he was away from the home sailing on the day the crime allegedly took place.
the McArthur murder, in which a police sergeant shot and killed his wife, but then tried to make it appear that she had accidentally killed herself.

In each case, Dr. Lee presents in scientific detail how he investigated the murders, analyzed the evidence, and used techniques that played a critical role in bringing criminals to justice. He discusses how the criminalist examines blood spatter evidence and uses blood identification, DNA analysis, and other forensic technologies developed in the world's best laboratories. This is a fascinating insider's look by a world-renowned expert into the pursuit of justice in some of the most grisly criminal cases of recent times.

Author Notes

Dr. Henry C. Lee (Branford, CT), professor of forensic science at the University of New Haven and chief emeritus in the Department of Public Safety in Meriden, CT, is a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He is the author (with Jerry Labriola, M.D.) of Dr. Henry Lee's Forensic Files and the novel, The Budapest Connection, as well as Cracking More Cases (with Thomas W. O'Neil), among other works. Dr. Lee was formerly on Court TV's Trace Evidence (now TruTV). He has also been a special news analyst on TruTV and a frequent guest on Larry King Live, Fox TV shows, and numerous other national television programs.

Thomas W. O'Neil (Guilford, CT) is a professional writer and instructor of journalism at Gateway Community College.

Reviews 5

Booklist Review

Lee is Connecticut's chief crime-scene investigator whose fame spread far beyond the criminology profession (in which he is a sought-after consultant) to the celebrity-fixated world obsessed by the O. J. Simpson trial. His report of his involvement on the defense side of that trial is one of five cases recounted here. Expert in the forensics of a crime scene, distinct from forensic pathology, Lee highlights the investigative mysteries that cases pose; in the O. J. case, it was the alleged tampering of the scene by police. Coincidentally, all of the cases recounted here arose out of marital animosity, or more truthfully, wife battering. However clinical and objective Lee strives to be, the heinousness of the crimes breaks through as he describes the victims' postures at the murder scenes. No matter how staged the bloody scene may be, Lee's exacting eye catches any discrepancies, and through various blood and blood-spatter tests, he produces evidence to back up his hunches. True-crime buffs will snap this up. Gilbert Taylor.

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the tradition of Alphonse Bertillon and Lee's close friend and contemporary Michael Baden (author of the recent Dead Reckoning), the latest from renowned forensic criminologist Lee (Henry Lee's Crime Scene Handbook) takes readers through the steps of the investigative process of five homicide cases. Lee exposes the methodologies of crafty killers an air conditioner cranked up to disguise a victim's time of death, a shooting concealed as a suicide, a corpus delecti (literally, "the body of the crime") destroyed via a woodchipper in four of the five investigations; in the fifth, he revisits the mangled O.J. Simpson inquiry. Lee takes his responsibility to the scientific method seriously (which comes through in somewhat cold storytelling) and does not hesitate to place blame where he feels it's due. Justifying his work for the defense in the O.J. Simpson case, Lee criticizes the LAPD investigation as being compromised by bumbled procedure, cross-contamination and the mishandling of crucial blood evidence. Each of the cases considered here not only provides a rousing tale of forensic work, but also details the practical techniques such as bloodstain pattern analysis, crime scene photography and latent fingerprint detection through the use of alkyl-2-cyanoacrylate (Super Glue). If Lee's material has an element of the slapdash, it's probably for good reason after all, he's been a consultant to over 300 law enforcement agencies and is the editor of seven peer-reviewed journals. But attention to storytelling reveals the characters behind the cases, and supports Lee's assertion that "no one person... is responsible for the guilty being found out and successfully prosecuted." B&w photos throughout; color insert not seen by PW. (Apr.) Forecast: The true-crime crowd will consider this essential reading, and with a segment scheduled on ABC TV's 20/20, it may reach a broader audience. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Lee (Famous Crime Scenes Revisited: From Sacco-Vanzetti to O.J. Simpson) is a world-renowned forensic criminologist and chief emeritus in the Department of Public Safety in Meriden, CT. In his newest book (written with journalist O'Neil), he discusses the forensic findings of five cases all involving emotional and physical domestic abuse resulting in the death of the female partner. The cases are absorbing, from O.J. to the Wood Chipper, "which contributed to a change in the American criminal justice system," to police officers who believed their professional experience would be sufficient to turn forensic suspicion away from them to one very angry college professor. The manner in which some of these men decided to carry out their crimes is horrific. Lee carefully sets out the forensic evidence used at trial: DNA, blood spatters, gunshot residue (GSR), bodily injury, stomach contents, and the very important stages of body decomposition. Lee presents the cases in a straightforward manner, relating the forensic evidence and explaining in fascinating detail how the data work to exonerate or convict. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Karen Evans, Indiana State Univ. Lib., Terre Haute (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Lee, a renowned forensic criminologist, reviews five domestic homicide cases that he has worked on, all of them examples of a male fatally assaulting a female to whom he was currently or had recently been married. Sketching out the scenarios surrounding each of the murders, he establishes the chronological flow of events both before and after the homicide, and he brings the personalities of murderer and victim into focus. Often, his detailed accounts of the murder scenes are horrific, bloody, frightening, and graphic. Lee separates the emotional response and focuses on the scientific skills required to ferret out information needed to solve the crimes. This sometimes leads to explanations of the equipment, procedures, chemicals, and so on needed to find and process data. For example, he details how to figure out the angle of the drip of blood drops in order to discover the angle of the blow to a body. A book for teens interested in working in forensics, police work, or true crime.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Lee is one of the US's leading criminologists and forensic scientists, probably most famous for his work on the O.J. Simpson trial. Here he documents how scientific evidence was used, and perhaps abused, by trial lawyers in five different high-profile cases, including the Simpson trial. Each trial reads as a separate story loaded with minute detail concerning the "facts of the case" and couched in scientific terminology. It certainly provides an authoritative and even entertaining look at how forensic science works, or perhaps more appropriately, how it ought to work. There is also a minor subplot in that each of the five documented cases involves a "troubled marriage," three of which involve policemen. Though no one doubts Lee's professional credentials, this book is really aimed at a popular audience and is not a resource work for courses in history or philosophy of science. Lee's overriding theme is that if authorities would just preserve the crime scene and collect enough evidence, scientists could solve most crimes. Fun reading despite pedagogic shortcomings. For more insightful and scholarly looks at how forensic science can be used and abused, see Assassination Science, ed. by James Fetzer (1998). General readers. J. A. Siegel Michigan State University

Table of Contents

Judge Charles D. Gill
Forewordp. 7
Prologuep. 11
Chapter 1 The Mathison Murder Casep. 17
Chapter 2 The Woodchipper Murderp. 65
Chapter 3 The O. J. Simpson Casep. 157
Chapter 4 The Sherman Casep. 231
Chapter 5 The MacArthur Casep. 267
Epiloguep. 297
Notesp. 301
Bibliographyp. 305
Indexp. 307