The maggots will set you free...

Almost 50 years ago in Canada, a 14-year old boy was sentenced to death for the alleged murder of a 12-year old classmate. The 12-year old was found murdered two days after she was last seen with the 14-year old. Public opinion resulted in the boy being sentenced to life, due to what many thought was an improperly carried out investigation. Some of the evidence from this investigation included photographing and collecting some maggots from the body of the 12-year old. In 2000, the case was reopened.

Part of the research of the defense centers on the maggot evidence collected in 1959. In 2006, the corpses of three pigs were placed at the crime scene to collect additional maggot specimens. For those not in the know with regard to fly lifecycles, the development of a fly from egg to larva (maggot) to pupa to adult is tied to local environmental conditions, such as the temperature. Richard Merritt, a fly specialist from Michigan State University reviewed the specimens and environmental data. After examining the small size of the 1959 maggots, larval growth rates and the temperature, Merritt determined that there was no way that the boy could have committed the murder the day the girl disappeared (the boy had an alibi for the following day).

To check out some maggots in action on a pig corpse, check out Liza's pig cam log on Science Buzz pig!


Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

Great story Julia. This is such an interesting example of how forensics can tell us some hidden mysteries in a crime. The Scientist had a recent feature on this case with some more details. This case even helped bring about the abolition of the death penalty in Canada.

While looking for more on this subject, I stumbled across this interesting book, Maggots, Murder, and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist. I haven't read it yet but the descriptions look pretty fascinating if this sort of ghoulish science raises your interest.

posted on Tue, 10/07/2008 - 1:31pm
EWatson02's picture
EWatson02 says:

It DOES raise my interest. That looks like a fascinating book.

posted on Fri, 10/17/2008 - 12:15am
Candace's picture
Candace says:

that was a cool but yet a creepy kind of article.

posted on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 10:26pm

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