In June 2011, the Casey Anthony trial in Orlando mesmerized the nation. The 25-year-old mother was on trial for the 2008 murder of her two-year-old daughter Caylee. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty,” due in large part to the coroner’s statement that the cause of death was “homicide by undetermined means.”
In other words, they know that Caylee did not die from natural causes, and they know she was killed, but they can’t prove how.
According to several news articles, this could be due to what experts call “The CSI Factor,” which is an expectation that in our modern scientific era, a forensic pathologist should be able to solve any murder mystery that comes across their stainless steel tables.
In an news story that appeared yesterday on MSNBC, Orlando Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia was quoted as saying that Caylee’s bones were “very dry,” and didn’t “have anything” remaining on them, for that reason, they were not able to perform typical forensic tests. Dr. Garavaglia concluded by saying that this is a case that may never be solved until the murderer steps forward and confesses.
Dr. Garavaglia’s comments reminded me of what Dr. Peterson (Milwaukee Medical Examiner) said after Addie’s autopsy results were deemed “inconclusive.”
On November 17th, Peterson told me that forensic science “is like a camera. The further away you get from the subject, the harder it is to see.”
Addie died in 1901, and that’s a long, long way from 2011.
“That’s the problem with these contemporary criminal dramas like CSI,” Peterson said. “They create unrealistically high expectations.”
If modern forensics can’t determine a cause of death from remains found six months after a child’s disappearance, then it makes it easier to understand how no cause of death could be found from Addie’s remains after 110 years.
According to “A History of Lake Mills,” Addie was shot by her husband, Enoch James Fargo. What makes that story even more compelling is that “A History of Lake Mills” was written by Enoch’s own granddaughter. In addition to the written record, there’s also an impressive paper trail that’s been discovered, establishing that Addie Hoyt Fargo’s life did not end naturally.
* * *