Murder of a girl in Kaohsiung County

This court case involved the kidnap and murder of Danielle van Dam, a 7-year old girl from San Diego, California (Ryan 1). The crime occurred on February 1, 2002, when the girl disappeared sometime in the evening from their home and was discovered by her parents to be missing the next morning. The parents called 911 in order to report the missing child and the body of Danielle was discovered three weeks later. The suspect in the case was David Alan Westerfield, whose residence was approximately two houses away.

Initial search of the residence of Westerfield showed that his clothes were stained with blood that was positively identified to be of Danielle’s. In addition, Westerfield’s home computer contained files of child pornography. The case involved forensic entomology techniques that involved the collection of maggots from the body of Danielle. The victim was discovered in a state of decomposition and it was important that the time of death of the child was established based on the forensic evidence that was provided by the developmental stage of the maggots.

The forensic entomology evidence was provided by David Faulkner, a researcher of the San Diego Natural History museum. Faulkner was able to scientifically prove that the time of death of the victim was some time between February 12 and 23, suggesting that Danielle was still alive for the next few weeks since her abduction. The rate of decomposition of the victim’s body was pronounced because it was left exposed in a nearby park and thus the heat increased the rate of decay.

The suspect, Westerfield, was convicted for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of the 7-year old girl, Danielle van Dam and the penalty imposed was life imprisonment. Source: http://www. courttv. com/trials/westerfield/071702_ctv. html This report described the forensic entomological evidences of a court case involving the murder of an undisclosed female victim in Kaohsiung County, Taiwan (Pai 795). The body of the female victim was discovered in a sugar cane plantation on August 29, 2003.

Positive identification of the victim was done by the parents. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) typing was performed for provide additional proof for the positive identification of the body. The victim was last seen on August 27, according to friends. The body was found to be burnt and decomposing, with maggots present in different areas. Forensic entomological assessment indicated that the maggot species was Chrysomya megacephala and were of the second instar developmental stage. A less number of maggots were at the third instar stage.

Based on the developmental stages of these insects, the time of death of the victim was estimated to be around 50 hours before the discovery of the body in the sugar plantation field. The suspect in the case admitted his responsibility in the killing, saying that he killed the victim 46 hours before the body’s discovery. The suspect was convicted for the murder of the young lady. The court case involved a German high-profile homicide case that needed the support from forensic entomology (Benecke 55).

Two insect species were employed in analyzing the time of death of the victim. The ant species, Lasius fuliginous, is known to produce a specific stain that may mark any places that this insect has been subjected to pressure. The homicide case thus involved finding ant stains in the shoes and clothes of the victim. In addition, the maggots of the blow fly species Calliphora spp. was analyzed to determine the approximate time of death of the victim.

These two species were checking in both the victim’s body and the suspect’s shoes and correlations were established that the suspect was indeed present at the site of discovery of the body. The information gathered from the maggots’ developmental stages positively correlated with the time that the suspect was last seen together with the victim. The forensic entomological evidence was accepted in court and the suspect was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

This is one of the earliest reports that describe the use of forensic entomological data in court cases of homicide. This medico-legal support may provide credible evidence that could prove that a criminal was indeed part of an unlawful incident.

Source:

http://www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/pubmed/10489592? ordinalpos=2&itool=EntrezSystem2. PEntrez. Pubmed. Pubmed_ResultsPanel. Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel. Pubmed_RVDocSum