REPORT FROM FORENSIC EXPERT ON SECOND OPINION BOARD AT

RIO RANCHO OBSERVER’S UNSOLVED CRIMES

        

Having reviewed the information available in the John Sherman case, it is clear the case should be reopened and investigated further. The facts presented clearly show the initial investigation was conducted extremely poorly and without proper crime scene investigation procedures. Evidence was not collected at the crime scene, and no part of the scene was preserved or adequately photographed in the case future investigation was pursued.

 

The findings of the medical examiner are also suspect, based on analysis of both the autopsy worksheet and report. At least one discrepancy can be noted between the worksheet and report (in description of the deceased’s urine), and autopsy findings appear possibly biased toward a preconceived idea regarding the manner of death as suicide. The medical examiner seems to exhibit a great lack of objectivity in pursuing the Sherman autopsy, and in more than one aspect, the autopsy demonstrated a serious lack of thoroughness. The pathologist notes livor mortis as fixed, “except in areas exposed to pressure.” This would indicate that livor is not completely fixed, but blanching. Notes made by the decedent’s mother on the autopsy report indicate injuries and other conditions not noted in the report, including dental abnormalities (substantiated by the presence of a bloody tooth evidenced in photographs). Mrs. Sherman also notes her son was born with a hole in his heart, and that this condition had led to the heart’s enlargement. Based upon this information, if the decedent had suffered from a congenital ventricular or atrial septal defect causing cardiac enlargement, the pathologist should have noted some degree of cardiac hypertrophy or cardiomegaly upon examination. It is not known if surgical intervention was required to close the hole in the heart, but if it was, a thorough investigation of the heart could have revealed evidence of it, depending upon the method used to patch the heart. The autopsy makes note of blunt force injuries on the subject’s hands, which do not support the theory of suicide if viewed in as potential defensive wounds and unless the decedent somehow made the blunt force injuries to himself, this seems obvious).  The pathologist also apparently told Mrs. Sherman the types of cuts found on the wrists, arms, and throat of the deceased were common in suicide cases. However, investigation of suicide statistics reveals suicide by cutting of wrists or throat to be uncommon. Individuals are more likely to commit suicide by shooting themselves, ingesting poison, or hanging themselves than by slashing of the wrists or neck. Statements as to the subject’s activities reveal he was an avid sportsman with access to and knowledge of guns, and therefore probably more likely to commit suicide by firearm. Furthermore, in cases where suicide was committed by cutting of wrists, pictures depict cuts as being more often horizontal than vertical, as in this case, and where suicide was committed by slashing of the throat, cuts depicted in pictures are more often across the front of the throat, not to one side (an angle to one side is harder to accomplish), also as this case exhibits. Simply the fact that one of the wrist wounds extended to the tendons indicates the amount of pain experienced would have been intense, as the deeper the cut becomes, the closer to a major nerve (here, the median or ulnar nerves) it becomes. It may also be hypothesized that the wound to the neck was made last, after a great deal of blood had passed out of the subject’s body and blood pressure had been reduced — if the blood pressure had been high enough when the neck wound was made, there would likely have been visible evidence at the crime scene indicating pressurized “spurting” of blood from the neck area, particularly in the presence of a cut jugular vein. Since the wounds to the wrist would have rendered the decedent unconscious within a matter of a few minutes, it seems unlikely the neck wound could have been made in such a short amount of time when the blood pressure was higher with no evidence of its result.  Toxicological test results reveal the deceased’s blood alcohol level to have been 0.176%. Coupled with the fact that the decedent was a diagnosed hypoglycemic who could not handle much liquor without passing out, it is extremely unlikely he was even conscious at the time the cuts were made, therefore ruling out suicide as the manner of death in this case. Psychological profiles of the subject based on statements of relatives and friends also indicate the decedent was not in a suicidal frame of mind and had not exhibited pre-suicidal behavior further support this.

 

Other considerations include why the deceased would have left the driver’s side door of the van open in the middle of the winter when the heating system in the van reportedly didn’t even work, and why he would have left the van running as it had been, according to reports. In addition, photographs show the decedent’s pants unbuttoned. If the decedent himself unbuttoned his pants, it would seem to indicate he was comfortable doing so in the presence of whoever was with him, i.e. someone he knew. Finally, the numbers of wounds on the body are more than adequate to cause death, and, as Dr. Lipson stated, amount to “overkill.” If the subject meant to kill himself, it is not likely (nor, given his physical condition, could have) he would made that many cuts, hence whoever did make the wounds made more than necessary, indicating that individual wanted to make sure there was no way his or her victim would survive.