Vigo County Coroner/Pathologist Dr. Roland M. Kohr ordered toxicology tests as part of the autopsy to help determine how Charles Raymond Chumley Jr., 30, died.
"Contrary to what's depicted on television," Kohr said the testing process isn't completed in an hour. "In real life, it can take two weeks -- sometimes more, depending on the tests -- to complete and can be very expensive."
Reported missing Dec. 10, Chumley's remains were discovered in a rural northeastern wooded area March 14, approximately one mile from where he was last seen. After apparently spending three months among wildlife and in the winter elements, Kohr confirmed the body was found clothed and partially decomposed, with no apparent wounds from physical violence.
The body was transported to Terre Haute Regional Hospital for autopsy March 15.
Kohr sent tissue samples to AIT Laboratories, Indianapolis. Two sets of tests will be performed, one to detect the presence of alcohol, drugs or other types of volatiles that might be present in the body and a second test to confirm the initial findings.
"AIT is one of the best labs in the country," Kohr said, adding the initial testing usually provides a definitive answer 95 percent of the time. "I expect the results to be back within the normal 10-14 days."
Unable to comment further on other specifics of the Chumley case, Kohr used his extensive knowledge and more than 30 years of experience to talk about forensic science and offer an opinion about what has been coined as the "CSI effect" on the public's unrealistic idea of criminal investigations.
Because popular crime shows are highlighting forensics, people expect sophisticated high-tech crime fighting techniques to be used in every case. However, often times there are simpler and less expensive ways to do the job.
"The public thinks DNA testing is exotic and the only way to do things," he said. "But if we relied on DNA (in the Chumley case) we would still be waiting to identify the body. The use of dental records was quick, efficient and inexpensive."
Kohr said X-rays, which have been around for years and are readily available are used to help find wounds, especially on bodies in a high state of decomposition.
Weather conditions and location are also crucial factors to help determine the time of death.
"Insect activity, which might not be an issue during the winter months, can be very valuable in helping to determine time of death," Kohr said.
Although the human body can generate levels of alcohol/sugar during decomposition -- making it potentially difficult to determine a blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of death, Kohr said toxicology tests would detect if illegal or prescription drugs were in the blood system before death.
However, toxicology results might not be enough to determine a cause of death.
"The toxicology has to be evaluated with the autopsy results and interpreted with the body trauma," he explained. "Just because a person has a high level of alcohol in their system at the time of death, doesn't mean they didn't die of a heart attack. Everything, all the information gathered during an autopsy (and at a crime scene), has to be taken into consideration."
A profile in forensics
Vigo County Coroner/Pathologist Dr. Roland M. Kohr, 56, Terre Haute, is the medical examiner for Clay, Vigo, Parke, Putnam, Owen, Greene, Monroe and Sullivan counties in Indiana, and Clark, Edgar, Crawford and Cumberland counties in Illinois on a regular basis and for many others when requested.
A 1979 graduate of Indiana University (A.B. Biological Sciences) and Indiana University School of Medicine (M.D.), Kohr is one of a small handful of Board Certified Pathologists and Forensic Pathologists in Indiana.
Some of his many certifications include:
* Diplomat, American Board of Pathology,
* Appointment by the State of Indiana governor to the Coroners Training Board (1993-96) and the Commission on Forensic Sciences (1996-99), and
* Board of Directors, Indiana Association of Pathologists (1998-2002).
Recognized by the American Medial Association Physician's Recognition Award for Continuing Medical Education seven times from 1987-2005, Kohr's articles on various medical and forensic issues have been featured in nine different publications since 1985.
Kohr has also been declared as an expert witness in numerous trial proceedings for his knowledge and expertise in forensic science.