The book follows the life and career of Edward Oscar Heinrich (1881 – 1953). He was seventy-two years old when he passed away.
Kate Winkler Dawson wrote a book that leaves you thinking about the human brain long after you have turned the last page.
Edward Oscar Heinrich
Heinrich was not just a scientist. He was a chemist, who became a consultant to police, and an expert trial witness. He learned not just how to help police connect the dots between evidence pieces. He learned that he needed different ways to explain scientific findings depending on his audience e.g. fellow scientists, police officers, or jury members.
He was one of the pioneers to spearhead scientific criminology. From his private crime labs he examined, experimenten, detected, and invented new methods and manners to ensure that the story of the crime scene would be heard. He was one of the first to use ultraviolet light to reveal blood, used poison tests while toxicology was still being developed, and he used botany and document analysis.
The author tells the story of Heinrich’s career by highlighting a few of his many cases. However, she does not neglect to tell us about the man in private. We find his personal struggles interwoven with the details of the cases. Heinrich was methodical in his work, jotting down every detail. He also did that with his private finances. Financial security was an everlasting struggle despite his tracking, notes, and lists.
As successful as he was as a scientists, he was not able to manage his income and assets in such a manner that he and his family didn’t have to face financial heart ship. Throughout the book, we read how one of his two son’s was living above his father’s means for a very long time. It makes you wary of him.
At the end of the book however, we read that this son, Theodore Heinrich not just earned a Bronze Star. He was one of the Monument Men, a group of art historians and museum, personnel from fourteen Allied Nations. Their job was to identify and return art that was stolen by the Nazis, to the original owners. Theodore Heinrich is not portrait in the movie ‘The Monument Men’ and there are no pictures of him in the book either.
Allene Warden Thorpe Lamson (April 23, 1904 – May 30, 1933) was 29 years old when she died. Husband David Lamson stood trial four times before Heinrich showed the jury an alternative explanation for the facts as presented to them by the prosecution.
Officially, her case is closed however, when you read the ending, ask yourself if she could have been pushed. Not accusing anyone, just wondering. The case features crime scene reconstruction and pattern analysis.
Reverend Patrick E. Heslin (1863 – Aug 11, 1921) was 57 or 58 years old when he was murdered. Heslin was kidnapped, lured from his home to minister to a dying man, and held for ransom. He was later found with bullets in his head and heart. This case features handwriting and fiber analysis.
Virginia Rappe (July 7, 1895 – Sept 9, 1921) was 26 years old when she died. She worked as a model and as a silent movie actress. Her case is well-known as it brought down the career of Roscoe Conkling “Fatty” Arbuckle, who struggled to recover from three trials. The third time he was found not guilty.
Rappe was quickly blamed for her fate. She drank, stripped when drunk, so they say, had numerous abortions, etc. The autopsy showed that she had never been pregnant. “The result of the post-mortem and the testimony of the surgeons who performed the post-mortem show that Virginia Rappe had never been a mother and further show that she was well and strong at the time of her death.”
Rappe died from a ruptured bladder and secondary peritonitis. This case features false witness statements and finger print analysis.
The Siskiyou Massacre or the DeAutremont brothers involved identical twins Ray and Roy, and their younger brother Hugh. The three brothers “were a criminal gang based in the Pacific Northwest during the 1920s. Their unsuccessful robbery of Southern Pacific Railroad express train and the murder of four crew members, known as the Siskiyou massacre, was subject to one of the largest and most extensive investigations in the region.” This massacre happened in October 1923. All three brothers were ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment at the Oregon state prison in Salem, Oregon. The case features gun serial numbers, estimating a suspect’s identifiers such as height and weight, hair and fiber comparison, and writing samples.
Leon Henry Schwartzhof a.k.a. Charles Henry Schwartz was on the verge of a break-through: imitation silk. Imagine what it could do for the fashion industry. He approached and attracted many investors. If only it was true. Heinrich was reminded of another news related to Schwartz, a heart balm lawsuit. A broken marriage promise and the fiancées sued. Yes, more than one woman. Then one day, after an experiment with ether in his lab that held a gasoline lamp and a wooden floor, Schwartz was dead. This case features the analysis of Schwartz’ lab, the absence of fingerprints and eyeballs on the body, body identification, arson detection, fraud, blood pattern analysis, dental identification, hair comparison, and more.
Bessie Ferguson went by many names. She dated different men, told some that she was pregnant with their child, and they needed to pay up if they wanted her to keep quiet. A scheme like this can only last so long. So, the first part of Bessie that authorities found was her ear. This case features post-mortem analysis using insects and decomposition to establish a time of death, fabric analysis, sand particle analysis, and the reassembly of a dismembered body. Despite Heinrich’s extensive efforts, the case remains unsolved.
Did Martin Colwell kill his former boss John McCarthy who said as last words: “I fired Colwell.” This case hinges on ballistics, fire arm identification, irregularities in bullets and barrels, explaining evidence to the jury, and the use of the comparison microscope invented by Philip O. Gravelle. Gravelle, also a chemist, invented the comparison microscope to be used for identifying fired bullets and cartridge cases. Calvin Goddard later perfected it.
We meets several people who played very important roles in Heinrich’s life. One was August Vollmer, Chief of Police in Alameda County, San Francisco Bay, California. Vollmer was keen on integrating science into police investigations. “He was the first chief to require that police officers attain college degrees, and persuaded the University of California to teach criminal justice. In 1916, UC Berkeley established a criminal justice program, headed by Vollmer.” Vollmer was also “the first police chief to create a motorized force, placing officers on motorcycles and in cars so that they could patrol a broader area with greater efficiency.”
Another indispensable friend was John Boynton Kaiser. Kaiser was a librarian, an avid stamp collector, a treasure trove of information, a published author, researcher, and confidant of Heinrich. After meeting at Washington Stat in 1914, they corresponded almost weekly. Topics? Scientific research, the best books and sources, cases, but also their most private thoughts, insecurities, and wishes that they did not express to their spouses.
Blood Pattern Analysis
On page 268, the author writes that Heinrich advanced some “dubious methods, including handwriting analysis and bloodstain pattern analysis- both now considered junk science.” Personally, I do not think of blood pattern analysis (BPA) as junk science.
Of course, patters change depending on the surface on which blood lands but that doesn’t mean it is junk science. And, interpreting evidence is a skill and not every scientist, no matter how renowned, can explain in plain sentences to the jury what the evidence shows us.
I see BPA as a supplementing, supporting the rest of the evidence, but never as the only conclusive piece of hard evidence that identifies a suspect as a killer to the exclusion of all others.
Last, as usual, integrity is everything. You cannot claim to be a BPA expert if you have no academic credentials and only took a four-hour course. You cannot claim to be an expert in any field if your findings only surface after trying to get the pattern that matches the paying party’s wishes.
I believe that distinguishing between conclusive and supporting evidence is the key here.
Kate Winkler Dawson wrote a fantastic book about the life and career of Edward Oscar Heinrich. It was a joy to read, took me on an internet tour to look up cases, made me search in my library for books about cases and forensic science, and most importantly, impressed on me how important integrity is when we hold someone else’s fate in our hands.
To not buckle under pressure, to not just give anyone the findings that they want instead of the findings that the crime scene gave, is huge.
This book also gave insight in how fragile we are as human beings. The most fabulous brains can still be hindered by insecurities. Just because they understand science does not mean they can handle their family life well.
The book informs and humanizes Heinrich. That is the greatest tribute to any person. Highly recommended reading.
I won this book in a giveaway on Twitter as said before. The decision to review the book was mine. There were no strings attached to the giveaway. However, I thought that an honest review was fair to the author who made the book available for the giveaway. My other book reviews are here.