Forensic Science
4:23 pm
Mon July 25, 2011

SLU conference investigates criminal deaths, forensic science

Saint Louis University is hosting a conference this week on advances in criminal death investigation and forensic science.

Conference organizer and SLU pathologist Dr. Mary Case is the chief medical examiner for St. Charles, Jefferson, and Franklin counties. Case says that this year, the biennial event has drawn about 200 participants from across the country.

She says they’re here to learn about the latest methods for investigating homicides and other suspicious deaths. “These are people primarily that work in medical examiner and coroner offices, as what we call death investigators. We have some doctors, we have some lawyers, we have some nurses…”

The four-day conference will cover how to carry out death investigations in a wide range of circumstances, including cases of child abuse, drug overdose, and battlefield fatalities.

Case says one popular conference speaker is poison expert John Trestrail. She says these days, cases are of criminal poisoning are rare, but they do happen.

“And he’s going to talk to us about what kinds of poisons are used, how those cases are detected, and how they’ve been handled in the court. Sometimes he actually brings along a little sample box that has a bunch of very deadly kinds of poisons and he kind of passes it around.”

Case adds that those poisons are safely contained in small, tightly-sealed vials.