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Coroner Talk: “Body Identification from the perspective of the victim”


In her own words

This arcane cavity was a vault, a cage, a bunker. I felt cooler and weaker with each footstep.  We stopped.  I tried not to breathe.  The pungent odor inside that chamber was a suffocating mix of used kitty litter, rotten eggs and unwashed Styrofoam meat tray from the market carelessly left out overnight.  Disinfectant did not neutralize the foulness of death, grief, or confusion.  He’d been submerged inside a desolate, warm, bog for a week before being exhumed.

My eyes closed reflexively. Detective Landeros leaned in and quietly said: “When you’re ready.”

I felt I’d never be ready.  How can a wife ever be prepared to gaze upon the bludgeoned, detached head of her spouse five feet away? Seconds passed like minutes. My eyes slowly opened whereupon I saw Al’s contorted face, supported by a white sheet wrapped tightly around his severed neck. His eyeglasses were missing.  His face was knotted, his eyes puffy and black, incongruent with his light gray skin. Wide lacerations crisscrossed his head like a network of roads. His mouth was open and round with a swollen tongue which protruded off to the right at an angle. A cavernous gash framed his badly swollen right eye where a section of scalp was missing.

It was horrific. He was badly defaced. What did he do to deserve this viciousness?  What kind of monster inflicted this destruction?

A thousand questions littered my brain.  The three letter word everyone waited for was lodged in my throat.  My stomach wanted to heave.  My knees buckled.  Arms supported mine.  I was a marionette.  They waited patiently but no words came. The procedure was repeated.  I again faced the decomposing, torn mask of a face that used to smile at me, at a mouth that offered encouragement.  I finally blurted “Yes!”