From Sherlock Holmes to Modern Forensic Science
Case Study # 3: The severed hand case
On Monday, July 14, 2003, Oxford, Mississippi cotton farmer John Reagle was arrested after displaying what he claimed was a human hand to bar patrons. On July 15, Reagle led investigators to the location where he found the hand, and a body was discovered in the vicinity shortly thereafter.
14th July 2003, 10:04 pm, Duffy's Bar & Grill
Police officer was dispatched to the scene at 10:04 p.m. in response to a call reporting a man in possession of a human hand at Duffy's Bar & Grill. Upon arrival at 10:10 p.m., the officer entered the establishment and was met by complainant. Complainant said an adult white male patron, John Reagle, was in possession of a container he claimed contained a human hand and was displaying same to other patrons. Complainant also noted that John Reagle had been at the establishment for several hours and appeared to be intoxicated for the consumption of multiple alcoholic beverages.
The officer observed John Reagle had in his possession a plastic storage container and requested him to bring the container outside the establishment for examination. John Reagle claimed that it was the hand of his former girlfriend, Lisa Holman. The officer conducted an external examination and determined the contents appeared to be a human hand,
severed at the wrist. John Reagle was under arrested and transported to the Yoknapatawpha County Detention Center for processing. During transport to the jail subsequent to arrest, Mr. Reagle claimed it was just a joke and the item in the plastic container was really only a strange root he had found on his farm.
15th July 2003, 10:04 am, Reagle farm
Following an interview with the suspect, John Reagle, he was transported to Reagle Farm Road in east Yoknapatawpha County, where he had indicated he could identify the location where he had unearthed a human hand on 7/14/03. The suspect directed the officer to a location on Reagle Farm Road approximately 1000 feet off County Road 418. After exiting the vehicle, John Reagles specified a location approximately 8 feet east of the edge of Reagle Farm Road, adjacent to the cotton field, as the site where he had previously found the human hand. CSU (Crime Scene Unit) was arrived at Reagle Farm Road at 10:20 a.m. and requested for excavation and possible recovery of a body. Police officer identified the area to be excavated. CSU cordoned off the area and documented it. Excavation began at approximately 11:00 a.m. CSU uncovered what appeared to be a human hand at approximately 2:30 p.m. At approximately 3:30 p.m. the body of an adult white male with brown hair was fully revealed. The body was clothed in a yellow, collared, short-sleeve knit shirt, blue denim jeans, and white athletic shoes. The left arm was resting on top of the torso. The right hand was missing. Adjacent to the left hip was a flask-sized bottle labeled "Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey." Adjacent to the left ear was a .45 caliber
semi-automatic handgun. A wallet was recovered from the deceased's right rear pants pocket. The wallet contained a driver's license and credit cards issued to Andrew Fine of 596 Hathorn Road, Oxford. Deceased was tentatively identified as Andrew Fine, pending official confirmation.
Inspector Luwinda Johnson pronounced the body at 4:12 p.m. by visual observation of the state of decomposition. Inspector Johnson speculated the deceased had been dead somewhere between three and 10 days, but withheld an official estimate pending an autopsy. Inspector Johnson said the cause of death appeared to have been multiple gunshot wounds, two to the chest and one to the groin area, but indicated that further details would be available in the official autopsy report. Inspector Johnson also noted it appeared the deceased's right hand was amputated with a moderately sharp blade, but withheld an official statement pending further...