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The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Case
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The Baby's Body
Timeline of Events
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On March 1st, 1932, the nursemaid Betty Gow brought the twenty-month-old, to the nursery for his evening meal. Gow then dressed the baby in a flannel shirt she had fashioned that very evening and placed a store-bought shirt overtop (Fisher 1999: 3).
Seventy-two days after the kidnapping, On May 12th , the badly decomposed body was discovered two miles from the Lindberg home in a wooded area (Fisher, 1999: 21). William Allen, a truck driver walked approximately fifty feet into the wooded area along Princeton Hopewell road in order to privately relieve himself. He found the corpse lying in a shallow grave. The boy’s skin was black, leathery and wet from the rain. The hands were missing, and his left leg was missing from the knee down (Fisher 1999: 22).
A tentative identification was made by police using the home-made flannel undershirt. Later, Gow and Lindbergh made a positive identification at the morgue. At this time, Charles Lindbergh Jr. was identified by his teeth, hair, uniquely overlapping toes and dimple on his chin.
The autopsy was to be conducted by the Trenton county physician Dr. Charles H. Mitchell, however, due to severe arthritis, he had to walk the mortician Walter Swayze through the entire procedure. This information was withheld until 1977 (Fisher, 1999: 23).
Below and to the right of the left ear inside the baby’s skull, Dr.Mitchell noticed four fracture lines radiating from a point of impact. He also located a decomposed blood clot in this area, which can be taken as evidence of a haemorrhage. This meant Baby Lindberg the baby was alive when the wound was inflicted. The skull fracture and the blood clot led Dr. Mitchell to the conclusion that the baby had been killed by a blow to the head. However, how the injury actually occurred could not be determined.
A forensic pathologist typically performs a forensic autopsy in order to determine the cause of death, mechanism, time and manner of death through the examination of a corpse. He/She is concerned with the study of medicine as it connects to the application of criminal law (Lyle, D., 2004: 133). The Pathologist may also examine the victim’s clothing for trace evidence, and note condition of the clothing itself.
Photographing the autopsy
: currently, a corpse would be photographed, with clothing, and without at different stages during the autopsy. However, Baby Lindbergh was only photographed where his body was recovered. If Baby Lindberg was properly photographed, we may be able to use these photographs today and employ more current forensic methods to determine a more accurate cause of death.
: Currently, the Medical Examiner may summarize the findings from an autopsy, which may later be used as evidence in court. Every detail of the autopsy along with any conclusions about the cause of death should be included in the report. The autopsy report in the
Lindbergh Baby case was completed by Walter Swayze, and only one page in length. If a more thorough report had been completed by the appropriate medical professional (ideally a paediatric forensic pathologist), it might have provided us with more investigative routes today regarding the time, manner, and mode of death. This may have also aided in crime scene reconstruction
Identifying Baby Lindbergh
The condition of a corpse when it is discovered depends on a variety of factors including, actual time of death, exposure, type of weather, and burial. Environmental factors must be taken into consideration when determining time of death. Using Casper’s law, we can determine that a body will decompose twice as fast when exposed freely to air than if in water, and eight times quicker when exposed than if buried in the ground. The climate also plays an important role in the rate at which a body decomposes. The speed at which a body decomposes can be decelerated
For the most part, Baby Lindbergh’s body was exposed; this may have sped up the process of decomposition. However, the weather from March to May in Trenton would have been quite brisk, and his body was found in a partially shaded area, which may have slowed the rate of decomposition.
A forensic anthropologist applies physical anthropological theories and techniques, to provide answers in the context of a criminal investigation regarding human skeletal analysis and identification. Forensic anthropology can be employed to determine gender, age, race, cause of death, and nature of injuries. Unless the child has reached puberty and is starting to show some sex characteristics, such as a narrower pelvic region in post-pubescent males, it is not generally possible to determine the sex of the child’s skeleton. However it may be possible to determine race, based on the characteristics of the nasal aperture of the child’s skeleton.
In the case of Baby Lindbergh, a forensic anthropologist would need to identify more obvious Caucasoid traits such as slopped orbits, or a narrower nasal aperture to determine race. Approximate age can be determined by examining the epiphiseal plate (a plate found at the end of each long bone present in children and adolescents), sutral closing and the length of the bones themselves. However, the most reliable method for determining age in small children is by examining the stage of tooth development present in the corpse.
Three points of identity featured
Visual comparison is one of the more frequently used methods of determining the identity of a body (Koehler & Wecht, 2006: 132). This is usually done through a closed circuit monitor or in-person by the closest relative. If a body is badly decomposed, or the manner of death has caused significant alterations to the person’s physical characteristics, this can be difficult. In these cases, it is requested that the next of kin provide a detailed description of the clothing, including any unique features to aid the police in making a positive identification.
Baby Lindbergh was discovered in an advanced stage of decomposition; however, Lindberg and Gow were able to make a positive identification, based on the toddler’s uniquely overlapping toes, his nose, and dimple. The police were able to initially assume that the body they had discovered was in fact Baby Lindbergh, based on the one of a kind, home-made, flannel night shirt he was wearing when they discovered the body.
Baby Lindberg may have never been positively identified, if it was not for the flannel shirt he was wearing or his overlapping toes. Today, Baby Lindbergh’s identity could be confirmed by matching Baby Lindbergh’s
profile drawn from traces of organic materials left behind in his home, to the body, using tissue, skin cells, fingernails, bones, or teeth (Koehler & Wecht, 2006).
When a body is in an advanced state of decomposition, a coroner or forensic pathologist may request a forensic odontologist determine the identity of a corpse. A forensic odontologist is a dentist who applies medical knowledge to death investigations and other criminal matters. They may be able to provide identity, through the ability to recognize and compare patterns of the deceased’s teeth. ( Koehler, S. & Wecht: 142).
In Baby Lindbergh’s case, his teeth were not used as an aid to determine specific identity. However, they were used to determine an approximate age, for the reason that, “the stages of tooth development follow a particular sequence according to age” (Welsh, 2010). Based on the presence of less than twenty deciduous teeth, Dr. Mitchell was able to conclude the age of the deceased was consistent with the age of Baby Lindbergh.
It is highly unlikely an odontologist would be able to confirm Baby Lindberg’s identity through dental records. In North America, children do not generally visit the dentist until they are at least two years of age. Therefore, even today it would most likely be impossible to confirm a toddler’s identity based a comparison of antemortem x-rays to on past records. However, an odontologist may be able to compare bite patterns left on teething rings etc. to the bite patterns of the body.
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