We've talked about the most shocking cases law enforcement officers have come across before, but once cases hit the forensic labs, things can get even crazier. These forensic workers are not afraid to share some of the wildest things they have come across in the lab. Trigger warning: some content may be considered graphic for some users. As always, content has been edited for clarity.
A Bit Messy
“Years ago when I was working as a DNA analyst, our lab received a limp Caesar salad from a local restaurant, take out box and all. Apparently, the guy who ordered the salad said that it was served with blood in it. The restaurant owner said not possible and that the customer must have bled in it so that he wouldn’t have to pay. The customer then decided to promptly bring his salad to our lab along with his DNA sample to prove that it wasn’t his. Turns out that it was and he unknowingly bled into his salad somehow.
Oh, there was also that one time a dad sent in a bunch of his daughter’s soiled feminine hygiene products in to the lab to test for male remnants.
Most shocking thing though was the time a bunch of DNA samples came. To make a long story short: one large vehicle, lots of substances, two strung out hormonal couples, one rubber being passed back and forth (yes…flipped inside out), and two pregnant couples uncertain about the paternity of each baby.”
Nature Finds A Way
“In doing my MSc in forensic pathology and anthropology, there is a final practical exam component. The examiner hauled in a large cardboard box. The type/size you would store documents in.
When dumped on the table, it looked like a broken plant pot. No piece was bigger than 1.5 inches diameter. He then goes “could you find all the pieces of example of bone and reconstruct it please?
Turns out it was a ~16 year old girl whose boyfriend had caved her head in with a stone and cut her into tiny bits before burying her in a field.
Only reason she was found was because her decomposing flesh caused the plants right hear her body to be oddly large and lush for a dry forgotten field.”
Check Your Ancestry
“That he WAS the father. I’m a bookkeeper/billing guy at a clinic and we tested a baby to see if this guy was the father. Mom and dad were both blonde hair, wife had blue eyes, both looked super white. Kid was REALLY black. Was tested earlier and he didn’t have a condition, he was just black. The dad wanted a paternity test cause when you have two white parents and a black kid, raises some questions. Turns out the mom had a black grandfather that didn’t show up in their skin and that she didn’t know about. Kid was biologically theirs, but just looked totally different.”
“So, not forensics (entirely), and not me. I had a professor in college that was pursuing her doctorate while working at the Mayo Clinic.
Year after year, a man came in to be tested for a disorder/disease that killed his father at that very hospital. Year after year, he tested negative. But every year, he got tested in an effort to stay ahead of it. Because, genetics.
One year, he tested negative as usual, but the staff had an idea. They cracked open the archives, dug his father’s file out & put it next to his. DNA wasn’t even close.
Poor guy has no idea his late father was never his biological father at all. And the hospital has no right or obligation to inform him.”
Innocent Death, Guilty Father
“Had the honor of discussing with a Soldier in charge of forensics for military examinations and he told us this story.
Death at a refuge camp. Woman. Apparently dead in her sleep. The persons in charge of cleaning her body noticed male substance in her genital areas and gave the alarm. Due to the lack of personnel, the soldier had to help a doctor/Coroner determine the cause of death.
Heart failure. No signs of violence. At least 7 different male bio prints in her. They got very confused, and could tell something was off, but not much more due to the language barrier. They then had the idea of calling a fake soldier and real translator on site, to figure out what her family and countrymen were saying away from the identified translators ears.
Turns out her father was using her as in he was selling her and her siblings services for money under threats. There was a full network on camp he operated, and he had an ABSURD amount of cash hidden on him when he was arrested.
He is now in jail in his country of origin, and his family have been offered protection by our government, but I don’t know much else beyond that.”
“My friends ma used to work in forensics and we got told a bunch of stories, the most memorable being of when they found the dead body of a girl hacked into bits inside a bin bag. They at first thought some sicko had murdered her and cut her up, you know like sickos do. But after further investigation they discovered something in her lady parts along with a giant hole. Some science discoveries later and the something was an acrylic nail. Turns out she and her girlfriend were doing it when her gf’s nail snapped and ripped her open from the inside and she bled out. The girlfriend, in a moment of panic, chopped her up and tried to dispose of the body.”
Frozen In Time
“During my internship, there was a fire from a plane crash. There was a small airport in neighboring town, and part of the crash site overlapped with Bridgeport, so they were involved, too. It happened over the weekend, so I wasn’t there to help, and several departments helped with recovery. I saw the fresh crime scene photos of the bodies burnt to a crisp that Monday. Blown up, the photos that is, not the body. (I swear that pun was NOT intended.)
While they obviously can’t do a full autopsy, they still go through the medical examiner’s office. The only way to ID them at times is through dental records. Now I have seen many pictures in text books, and crime scene photos of bodies burnt to a crisp. A six-foot-tall man can appear three feet tall because the muscles shorten as the bodies burn. Often, especially with an airplane crash, the torso and head are all that remain. They often have an appearance as if they are fighting with their arms up because of the shrinking. That’s the only way I know how to describe it. At autopsy, the body is on the table and while I knew what to expect from the photos, nothing can compare to seeing it in person. I didn’t even get to the creepiest part yet.
The skull and teeth do not burn in a fire. Often fire victims appear to be ‘screaming’ at the time of death as if in such a state of fright. I was traumatized seeing this ‘expression’ on burnt corpses before, as I said, in textbooks, crime scene photos, but to see it in person is just absolutely surreal. It’s as if his pain and suffering and fear were frozen in time. I realize that it’s not necessarily the case, but that’s how it appeared. I often had trouble getting this image out of my head before, but this was tenfold!”
Are We All Wearing Masks?
“My very first autopsy. A homicide. I also helped to process this scene, too. We went up to the medical examiner’s office. It’s a matter of procedure at times for detectives to go and in this case, was to retrieve bullets removed by the pathologist. When they go to examine the brain, they make an incision from behind one ear to behind the other ear and go around the top of the scalp between the two. Picture how headphones go on. They then proceed to peel back the scalp just a bit. That skin is quite thick, much thicker than you would imagine so just pulling it back ever so slightly, usually no more than beyond the eyebrows, IMO, it literally looked like a realistic rubber mask! I mean the nose and the lips and the eyelids, etc. It was like something out of a horror movie! Just bizarre! The detective who was my supervisor started laughing! I said, ‘Rich, how on earth are you laughing?’ He replied, ‘Wendy, the look on your face was absolutely priceless!’ I was as white as a ghost with my jaw on the floor! ! He took a photo! I mentioned in another answer how the detectives in the forensic identification unit that I worked with would bet on which interns would faint or not! I was pretty close. Thought for sure I was going down! I was woozy, and I may have looked as white as a ghost, but at least I was standing and not unconscious on the floor!”
That’s Not Her Twin!
“One of the creepiest cases I ever worked pertained to a young 17-year-old who was killed in a car crash. I cleared the scene and prepared to notify the family- it was just hitting 2:30 a.m. The victim was a young beautiful blonde girl whom we identified by her driver’s license (the car was also in her name).
As I knocked on her parents’ home, I had a uniformed deputy with me. A lady cautiously answered the door then allowed us to come inside.
I cleared my throat and calmly told her that an accident had occurred and that the vehicle was registered to her daughter. ‘I am sorry to inform you that your daughter was killed. Although we believe this is her, we need a positive identification.’
The mother gasped and yelled ‘NO WAY’ and I showed her the driver’s license and registration. Mom kept denying it was her daughter that had been killed and that this must be a joke.
All of a sudden, a young girl walks into the living room and asks what is going on. This girl was identical to our victim- she could have passed as an identical twin.
Eventually… it turned out her daughter had lent a classmate her ID and car. I had to now notify the real mother … to me, that was pretty creepy.”
There Was Nothing They Could Do
“In NY a bank manager and his life partner were held at point in a nighttime home invasion. The manager’s partner was then kidnapped and the manager was told to go to his bank branch when it opened the next morning and take thousands of dollars and drop it in a designated remote location, after which his partner would be released. And don’t call the police or FBI.
The manager did as instructed, taking bundles of money from the bank vault, which, by the time other bank employees called the FBI, had been removed from the drop site by the kidnappers.
Later that day we found the kidnapped man’s car in a parking lot and set up a surveillance on the car. Within the hour I casually walked past the car and noticed blood on the trunk lid. I called off the surveillance and used a tire tool to pop open the trunk. There I found the missing man with a bullet hole in his forehead. His body was cold and white as a sheet, obviously dead, with that new 3rd eye the size of a .38 slug. Then the real investigation began…”
Quite The Spook
“When I was a teenager (18) I was asked to witness an autopsy of an auto accident victim. It was of a woman who went through her car windshield and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The creepiest part was that a cadaver laying on a gurney a few feet away sat up and scared the living daylights out of me and the other two witnesses. The medical examiner said that sometimes muscle contractions occur where a dead person will sit up.
Imagine what was going through my mind when I was a cemetery sextant and family counselor working in a cemetery in Oregon about 10 years ago.”
Not So Handy To Have Around
“I moved from a lab where chemists and trace evidence were each stand-alone departments to one where chemists cross trained in Trace disciplines. So I had years of experience, but only with evidence (a relatively low emotional impact discipline) and clandestine labs.
One day a few months into my new job, I was headed to lunch when I saw hands on a fellow analyst’s lab bench. Curled around like Thing from Addams Family, but upside down – and 2 of them.
The other analyst was an expert in tape analysis. A girl had been discovered in the back country of the mountains with her hands taped together. She had only been dead a short while and it had been cold where she had been dumped, so the hands were in apparently perfect condition. Because of the measurements done in tape analysis, removing it will destroy the evidence, so the hands were removed above the tape and sent in.
I didn’t go past his bench again until I knew that case was done- I kept imaging them flipping over and scurrying after me!”
One Heck Of An Internship
“I was a civilian in forensics. This was at my grad school internship with a large metropolitan police department.
This is NOT the worst crime scene I have seen, just the one that I processed that haunts me the most for a reason that has absolutely nothing to do with being grizzly. More for emotional reasons. This part of my career in the criminal justice system was cut short for health, so didn’t process too many, relatively speaking. I sure have seen an awful lot of photos, though.
August 1996: I had a crime scene that was in the confines of a small two door Dodge Shadow. There was a dispute between the driver and his backseat passenger that resulted in a shootout! I don’t recall who started it. I presume the driver because I believe the number of spent bullets was higher in the rear. So one thing never understood was how could that have been? You would think the passenger would have been able to kill the driver before could get to that point. Perhaps there is something I am forgetting or just recollection is off. It was in 1996 and I was an intern. I was often in lab processing evidence. What an experience this was!
The driver’s eight-month pregnant girlfriend was in the front passenger seat. She and her then unborn child were the only survivors. IT was a hot summer day, and children were playing and people were out and about. The vehicle crashed into a curb, and she stumbled out on to a sidewalk covered in blood and tiny fragments of broken glass, as it shatters, but auto glass, thankfully doesn’t come off in hundreds of shards! She was grazed by a bullet in her arm. She had some lacerations on her face.
Despite knowing exactly where every bullet came from and who shot who, and no reconstruction was needed, and that no one would be prosecuted for their actions, it’s still police procedure to process, and there was also still a living witness.
Back at the garage, that’s where the real gritty part of the Investigation began, it was awaiting us like a painkiller awaits its next victim at the dentist. We dreaded it because we knew what we were in for. What a mess! It’s different when there’s blood on a roof over your head in a car!
Good grief! We had to put coveralls on, and I had to cover my head just to avoid getting the coagulated mess in my hair! Not to mention broken glass, most of which we removed eventually by removing the door, but we had to tape windows that weren’t fully shattered so they didn’t get loose as we jostled the vehicle. That’s the one good thing about auto glass! It’s manufactured intentionally so if it ‘shatters’, is still stays ‘intact’ within the framework!
Blood, especially in excess, has a weird odor and it gets extremely sticky. I think there was some brain matter on the windshield or one of the windows, too. However, I have seen and smelled far worse than blood! Being a crime scene investigator is not for the faint at heart!
There were bullets and blood everywhere! We tore things to pieces! I mean the seats, the roof, the console you name it, we practically had to strip it down to an empty shell. We had to remove these things just to get at the bullets. Not easy to aim at your target behind you while you’re driving!
I wasn’t present while the bodies were still in the vehicle, but I obviously, saw the photos, including of the girlfriend just after the event.
That’s the part that haunts me the most is the poor girlfriend covered in blood, and pregnant with mascara dripping down her face from crying. What really tugs at my heartstrings: The real tearjerker was she wore a maternity shirt saying ‘My soon to be son’ covered in his father’s blood! Shocking that’s all she escaped with regarding physical injuries The trauma resulted in her going into labor. She delivered at the hospital that day. She will undoubtedly have emotional scarring the rest of her life. That little baby boy is hopefully a 22-year-old man now and hopefully on the straight and narrow and not like his father. I got to meet him when we went to visit her at the hospital.”
Do The Interns Get The Dirty Work Around Here?
“I currently do not work in forensics but have encountered quite some interesting cases during my intern years.
While we were witnessing postmortem I witnessed a case where a woman in her 40s had 6th degree burns and was almost charred to death. She died after falling into a fuming chimney while working nearby.
Her posture revealed the state of shock during the death called as pugilistic attitude, also few interesting points were observed and noted.
The suspect in the case is her brother who pushed her to death following a dispute with her and her husband. But the possibility of accidental death was not ruled out either, since people didn’t see anyone near the scene during the incident. What so ever be the reason, her death did not have any mercy on her.
Second case is death by poisoning of a woman in hers 20s. The case read as, the lady had a fight with her husband in the morning. The women consume the pesticide in rage after her husband left for work in the field. They were farmers. The poison didn’t work. She forgets and continues with her daily chores. Her husband returns and things gets sorted until the third day when she got admitted in hospital and succumbed to death. Her husband got to know about this when her condition deteriorated.
Autopsy confirmed the death by poisoning. The poison never stopped working.
Our session got over. And a week later our assisting professor discussed the 1st case with us revealing the proceedings.
The case was later identified as a witch hunting case where the women were taunted and treated like a witch by the villagers and her brother under pressure did push her to death. People witnessed the incident but no one opened about it.
The case is even sadder now until the interesting thing which was observed were taken into account. The charred body of the women had full intact hairs on her head. None burnt. Theory could be made on her posture but would fail against the degree of burns she carried.
Sad still? Yes.
Creepy? Oh! Yes.”
The Beast with Five Fingers
“I had to transport a car load of physical evidence to the state crime lab in Atlanta.
The evidence included both hands removed by the coroner from a particularly loathsome corpse, snipped off with a pair of humongous metal shears and dropped into a pail of formaldehyde.
An OPEN pail of formaldehyde.
I asked for a lid for the pail. There wasn’t one.
On the way to Atlanta, every horror story I had ever read, especially ‘The Beast with Five Fingers’ ran through my head. Also, I was afraid it would spill and I would have to clean up the mess. It was with unspeakable relief that I turned it all over to the lab.
On the way back from Atlanta, light of heart and heavy of foot due to the relief of having that out of my car, I suddenly realized three things:
(1) I was doing 95.
(2) There was a police car on the side of the highway with a radar.
(3) I was in Henry County.
Those of you who don’t know Georgia can judge the meaning of this by the howls of laughter emanating from those who do know Georgia.
But I suppose they decided that an unmarked car with four whip antennas going 95 MPH through Henry County must be official. Nobody else would be that stupid.”