Murderous Methods: Using Forensic Science to Solve Lethal Crimes

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9780231131186: Murderous Methods: Using Forensic Science to Solve Lethal Crimes
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How did a piece of wood lead investigators in the Lindbergh kidnapping case to Bruno Hauptmann? Who, besides O. J. Simpson, knows something about the death of his ex-wife? And just who was the "Vampire of Düsseldorf"? These are just some of the questions Mark Benecke explores in this compelling and surprising history of criminal investigative methods and techniques.

Benecke, a leading forensic scientist who is frequently called upon to help solve crimes throughout the world, takes the reader through some of the most infamous and intriguing murder investigations in the United States, Germany, and Canada. In discussions of the cases against O. J. Simpson, and others, Benecke carefully explains the ways in which police and forensic scientists gather and analyze evidence. Going beyond the media frenzy that surrounded many of these investigations, Benecke considers how science, intuition, and an occasional lucky break can lead police to the guilty party. He describes the history of forensic technology as well as forensic scientists' tricks of the trade, including DNA fingerprinting, soil analysis, and the use of facial reconstruction and pollen analysis to learn more about unidentified corpses.

Murderous Methods is peppered with other fascinating stories that bring the reader closer into the minds of criminals and the ways in which criminal investigators work. Benecke introduces readers to bizarre and horrifying criminals such as Peter Kürten, "The Vampire of Düsseldorf"; Karl Denke, a cannibal and one of the earliest known serial killers in modern history; and Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, a Canadian couple who committed a series of brutal rapes. Benecke shows that even as scientific scrutiny helps investigators to understand more about crimes and the criminals who commit them, whenever humans are involved events may go in unpredictable directions. In particular, he looks at how unreliable eyewitness accounts and public fears and prejudices have led investigators down the wrong path.

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About the Author:

Mark Benecke is an internationally known forensic scientist and the author of Medical Detectives and The Dream of Eternal Life: Biomedicine, Aging, and Immortality, as well as numerous other books published in China, Korea, Germany, Denmark, and the Ukraine. His prolific papers on DNA, forensic entomology, and blood splatter analysis have been published in a variety of scientific journals, and he has hosted shows on forensic science for the National Geographic Channel. A complete guide to Benecke's life and work can be found at http://www.benecke.com.

From Publishers Weekly:

Despite the subtitle, many of the cases recounted by Benecke, a German forensic scientist specializing in the use of insects, were not solved by forensics. For example, Peter Kurten, the sadistic sex killer known as the Düsseldorf Vampire, was turned in to the police by his wife. Among the scientific issues Benecke does touch on are facial reconstruction (and the importance of knowing the victim's hairstyle) and studying pollen from the nasal cavities of corpses to determine the date of death. Still, Benecke's exhaustive knowledge of criminal history is not always presented in the best light. Although he attempts to use classic cases to illustrate his points, the examples are not always apposite. For example, his handling of the Lindbergh kidnapping is confusing: he begins by building a case that the famed aviator, a legendary prankster, was responsible for his baby's abduction, a practical joke that went horribly wrong; then Benecke abandons that outrageous theory for the official one to bolster his thesis about the primacy of scientific evidence over fallible eyewitness testimony, but overlooks the value of testimony tying the kidnap ladder to Bruno Hauptmann, the man eventually convicted of the crime. (Nov.)
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