Autopsy 6/26/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

When I’ve been hurt, I often let my dark side indulge in evil thoughts.  I don’t think this is uncommon.  It’s probably fairly common to think about killing someone, and unfortunately these fantasies are becoming all too real in recent years.  But for me, like most of us, these relatively fleeting thoughts are left in the realm of fantasy. 

Unfortunately, one of these fantasies came too close to reality.  No, I never tried to hurt anybody, but the reality more or less struck me in the face.  Shortly after my divorce was finalized, and still engulfed in the pain, I started a job as the director of the forensic lab at a police department. 

In the early days, as I intentionally chose to become a workaholic in an effort to keep my mind off of my losses, I was asked to witness my first autopsy.  As a (civilian) member of the command staff, I received the daily intelligence briefings and had heard of the accident not too far outside of the city in an adjacent town.  It was a western city, sparsely populated so most of the towns shared our resources for their police needs, including our surgeon on autopsies.  I was so new I was still in the training mode and under the guidance of the former director.  Excitedly he came into my office to tell me that I should go witness my first autopsy.  I wasn’t surprised.

When the victim was wheeled in, my heart dropped.  She had the same hair color, same body frame, same facial structure, and a striking appearance to my former wife.  It’s one thing to fantasize violence against an ex-wife, but something entirely different to see her on an autopsy table.  As dark as my fantasies had been, never had I actually wished her any harm whatsoever.  With the pale of her dead skin, I worried that maybe it was my ex-wife as closely as they appeared.

She had been run over by a fully laden truck.  The driver, her lover, and she had been arguing.  They pulled into the town and decided to have a beer.  After one, he decided he was unhappy where he had parked his truck and decided to move it, illegal with any alcohol in your system but his blood alcohol level was very low when it was tested, so this was a technicality as he was nowhere near impaired.  But, as he decided to move the truck, he didn’t say anything to her.

Fearing that he was going to abandon her, she ran out after him, and attempted to climb into the truck under the tarp in the back with the cargo.  I believe she was standing on the wheel as it began to move, causing her to fall off and she was forced under it.  The wheel drove over her back, hip to shoulder, with such weight that her intestines were pushed out of the bottom of her body ripping through her jeans. 

It was far more gruesome than any fantasy I had ever had.  There is a strange difference between fiction and reality.  In one of our cases, the victim (if you can call him that) had many security cameras inside his apartment.  Some focused outside (through the windows), but most were actually turned inward which, apparently, is a common practice for drug dealers.  He talked his lady friend into shooting him, with threats and rewards.  And it was all caught on his security system.

Every day (or nearly so), heck even as I write this, I see people shooting each other in movies.  I watch movies where they hack each other up (in movies about medieval times) and never have trouble with it, and yet, on this video, my physiological response was very different.  We watched it, often, and every time, for every group (detectives, prosecutors, defenders, and expert witnesses) I clenched up.  My blood pressure went up, my teeth clenched, my stress went through the roof.  At some point, I stopped watching.  They didn’t need me in the room, but the room was next to my office.  The volume was always on maximum so they could hear the softest conversations, and I knew the exact point in the argument where the gun would go off, and I couldn’t handle it.  There’s a part of our consciousness that can apparently turn itself off when we know it’s not real.  Seeing that woman on the table was too real, and has disturbed me to the core of my being, even today. 

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