Forensic pathologist weighs in on cracking difficult autopsies

Dr. Wagner
Dr. Wagner

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – After five months of investigating, the Allen County coroner’s office finally made a ruling on what officials are calling an unusual case.  The death of a man found in a burned-out car back in August is now being considered a homicide.  NewsChannel 15 caught up with a forensic pathologist to ask what it takes to crack a case like that.

Dr. Scott Wagner couldn’t speak on specific cases.  Instead, he gave us an exclusive look into the world of forensic pathology, and how sometimes when people try to cover up a crime it can actually make it easier for investigators to solve.

“It might be hard to find, but there’s always a clue,” Forensic Pathologist Doctor Scott Wagner said.

It’s what Doctor Wagner said he and other forensic pathologists spend hours searching for.  Sometimes something as small as an x-ray or lab test can solve mysteries.

“That’s the first thing that we think of when we’re working on a case is that we are doing this for the family, society, for the friends, for the neighbors to help keep everyone safe.”

Doctor Wagner helps solve all types of cases.  He said an average autopsy case takes about six hours to determine when and how someone died.

“The average case probably takes about six hours by the time you do all of the work.  So, you put a homicide on top of that where there are a lot of injuries, lots of things going on it could take 20, 30 hours to solve a case.”

Believe it or not, he said when people try to cover up homicides, often times they leave behind evidence which can help them figure out how the person died.

“The more that someone interacts with a body, there’s more of a chance of evidence to be transferred.  The more time somebody spends, the greater chance they’ll be discovered.  Sometimes things I think people do to cover up actually alert people more that something is wrong.”

He did add that every autopsy and case is unique.  Forensic pathologists, the Coroner, and police all work together to solve crime.

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