Neal H. Haskell, Ph.D.

After review of documents pertaining to the death investigation of three 8 year old boys, James Michael Moore, Steve Edward Branch, and Christopher Mark Byers, conclusions have been reached regarding that evidence. Documents which were studied included: autopsy reports on the three decedents; Crittendon County Coroner's scene report by Kent Hale; Crittendon County Coroner's Office Supplmental Report of the three decedents; testimony of Regina Meek; Mississippi River Discharge Observations; numerous scene and autopsy photographs of the three decedents; climatological data for May 1993, NWS Memphis, Tennessee; Astronomical Observation Data for May 5 and May 6, 1993.

With respect to observations of lividity on the remains, Crittendon County Coroner's Office Supplmental Report states that "lividity will blanche with pressure" (this was approximately 1500 hrs. (3:00 p.m.) on May 6, 1993). This statement suggests that lividity is not fully set. Referring to three separate authoritative references on this type of postmortem occurrence, lividity will set in as short a time as 4 to 5 hours to possibly as long as up to 12 hours (Spitz and Fisher 1993, Gerberth 1996, Clark et. al. 1997). With the bodies in water at ca. 60 degrees F (Mississippi River Discharge Observations) lowering the body temperature would speed the process. Therefore, a shorter time in the range would be expected. It is the opinion of this forensic scientist that this is of critical importance to this case and it is difficult to understand why counsel for the defense did not obtain an opinion from a qualified forensic pathologist to discuss the issue of lividity blanching as a time indicator of death. Appointment of a forensic pathologist, qualified in this area, should be of the utmost priority. Also, some wounds on the left side of the face of Steve Branch and wounds in the upper leg/groin area of Christopher Byers could have been the result of feeding by either acquatic Anthropods (crawfish) or freshwater fish.

Observations of fly larva in the eyes and nostrils of two of the decedents and in the eyes of the third suggest that there was insect colonization by carrion insects. However, there were none of these specimens collected for further analysis by a qualified forensic entomologist, nor were there macro photographs specifically identifying the area of insect presence, nor any other documentation, other than another mention of the presence of the larva in the autopsy report. This is a major oversight by the death investigators and the medical examiner. Insects are one of the best indicators of time of death of any of the available techniques. It was certainly a known procedure by May 1993 and fully accepted by forensic scientists including the American Academy of Forensic Science and courts across North America. Again, the reluctance of defense counsel to use a forensic entomologist for consultation during trial is not understood. Species identification of the observed specimens could have answered the question to time and duration of the postmortem interval. These specimens would have been deposited prior to submersion of the bodies, but only during daylight hours. Therefore, the bodies would have had exposure during daylight or exposure to significant aritificial light at another location (eg. inside a house, shed, or garage). There could have only been two opportunities for that to have occurred - the period from 1800 hrs to 1950 hrs. on the evening of May 5, 1993 or following sunrise on the morning of May 6, 1993. During the evening on May 5, this time would have been shortened due to the suggested area for the murders being shaded and therefore having less light available as darkness approached. The other possibility is that there was a lighted building where the deaths took place and flies were present and active while the bodies were exposed under lighted conditions. This could also explain why there is little or no blood at the scene, even thought there were sufficient wounds on the bodies to generate considerable bleeding (again a question to be answered by a qualified forensic pathologist).

The most significant entomological aspect is the complete absence of mosquito bite reactions on any of the bodies. These bodies were nude and if killed in the evening around sunset/dusk or early morning as suggested by the lividity, mosquitoes would have been at their most active periods. It would be unthinkable, with the observations of the police investigator (Regina Meek) in testimony, that the presence of swarms of mosquitoes would not have left hundreds of bite marks on three nude boys being killed in that type of environment. The only conclusion would be that they were not nude nor murdered in that brushy, wooded, swamp like area. Again, there should have been a forensic entomologist assisting with the defense counsel during trial

s/Neal H. Haskell, Ph.D. 5-2-98

Jasper County, Indiana