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September 4, 2019 40 mins

In 2007, a third autopsy is performed on Janie, which comes to yet another conclusion that doesn't make sense to the Ward family. Catherine talks with a pathologist and a neurosurgeon about the results.  

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:07):
The School of Humans. We found a tape in Ron
Ward's boxes from two thousand and seven. In it, he's
reading a letter that his lawyer, Jerry Sallings, had received
from the Special Prosecutor Tim Williamson. If you and your
clients do not wish to state to attempt to obtain

(00:30):
additional forensic evidence to be used in this criminal investigation,
I suggest you buy your request for any youngty's relief.
The letter informs him that the state intends to do
another exhumation and autopsy on Jennie. Great efforts have been
taken to schedulist exhamation and autopsy. My experts cannot be

(00:55):
present again for several weeks, and doctor Burnell or whichever
family medical expert is present and only observed. Now, come on, now,
Ron is frustrated. He doesn't understand why Tim Williamson doesn't
trust doctor Burnell's conclusion that Jennie was hit in the

(01:16):
face with a blunt object, that her death was a homicide.
Doctor Burnell not just some kind of backyard warm dog.
You know, he's a high incredible pathologist. Why on earth
that he wanted to question a renowned pathologists that him
back here? I have no speculation. The Word family had

(01:39):
painstakingly had Janie's body exhumed and autopsied a second time.
Why did Tim Williamson need to do this again? We
have got to file an injunction. Otherwise we'd be saying
we didn't believe doctor Buranell. We go along with the state.
We didn't believe doctor Burnell. We don't want our daughter's

(02:00):
remains removed and affered with again. No, but we know
it's it's we can't prevent, but we can in assert. Hey, hey, look,
we don't agree with this. We agree with doctor Vernell's
find these and all of the investigation that we've done
is just born. Now what your excuse? We're not agreeing

(02:21):
with doctor Vernell. Three years and over ten thousand dollars later,
Tim Williamson said he did not find any conclusive evidence
that Janie's death was a homicide. In the end, he
can't determine anything, So in August of two thousand and seven,
they exhumed Janey's body one more time for a final autopsy.

(02:45):
I'm Catherine Townsend and this is hell and gone. Janey's

(03:23):
third autopsy is a spectacle. With Mike Masterson's columns Arkansas's
attention is on the case. Everyone is waiting to see
what will happen this time. Tim Williamson finds an out
of state pathologist to perform the autopsy. He wants someone
whose credentials are impeccable, someone who is not controversial, someone

(03:44):
who can help him convince the Ward family and the
rest of the state that he is being completely impartial
the cause of the conflicts and the concerns of the family.
Of anyone in the state of Arkansas doing this, they
had questions that everybody's involvement completely. So we were trying
to stay as independent as possible and give them the

(04:06):
greatest assurance and afford them the opportunity to know that
we've done everything we possibly could do to do an independent,
totally independent, complete review. I got to looking for medical
examiners or pathologists nationally recognized so that we could bring
somebody from out of state inn to actually do this investigation.

(04:28):
And doctor John Plus out of Indianapolis. It was by
far and above the most appropriate choice. We've had a painstaking,
step by step process for the exhumation. The family had
a right to be president as a representative president. We
did not want anyone saying that we had in any
way interfered for a manipulated Jamie's body before this could

(04:53):
be done. So when we had her exumed, there was
a state police president, law enforcement president and a press
presence at the cemetery. We transported her to the state
crime Lab, and because of the family's concerns about they
were concerned that the crime lab might similar another try
to manipulate the findings or tasts, or again the body

(05:18):
before a chance to be examined. We placed her body
into a sealed, locked room and we sealed it controlled
access to it. E Woun put a camera in motion
sens her cameras up. I think they alleviated any concerns
that might be about any manipulation of any evidence. The
words make it clear they don't trust Tim Williamson or

(05:39):
the crime lab. They want to make sure that the
pathologists selected doctor John Plus will do an accurate autopsy.
They asked doctor Barnell to be present, and the autopsy
had been rescheduled so that he could attend, but at
the last minute doctor Burnell had a conflict and sent
a different pathologist to be present for the family. There

(06:01):
were other people supervising the autopsy as well, including an
FBI consultant from ABC and a forensic anthropologist. The first
stop was the University of Arkansas Medical Center, where the
team put Janey's body through a CT scan to see
a three D rendering of her skeleton. Then they brought
the body to the Arkansas Crime Lab where every part

(06:23):
of the body was dissected. Ron and Mona and their lawyer,
Jerry Sellings met with doctor Plus and with Tim Williamson
after they completed the autopsy. Ron recorded the meeting. It
begins with doctor Plus explaining his results. We went quite
a bit further than either doctor Malick or doctor Banell

(06:46):
by literally removing all of the skin from the body
so that we could see any evidence of hemorrhage in
the soft tissues around the bond. We had the advantage
of the three D X ray examination, so we knew
what all was intact before we really went in there
to do that. We found bruises or hemorrhages also referred

(07:11):
to as contusions of the right elbow of the left
back where doctor Mallick had made his incision. I also
found multiple small hemorrhages in the eppibilotis and that's where
sometimes you can get a crouton or a small piece
of bread caught back in your throat and in the

(07:33):
trachea ah, And in my experience, hemorrhages of that type
are seen in people who choke on things. Those are
basically my findings in the examination and my opinion that
at some point or another, just prior to her collapse,
she got something caught in her throat, couldn't breathe couldn't talk,

(07:58):
and as the oxygen level was reduced, she finally collapsed.
After all this time, the words get another opinion that
doesn't make sense to them. No one ever described her
daughter as choking and coughing. They said she was run
on the ground and she would guess, but that was it.

(08:21):
I didn't ebscribe her cho choking, though, is just an opinion. Officially,
doctor Plus leaves the cause and manner of death as undetermined.
He also suggests that Janie could have had a heart arrhythmia.
After Janie's first and second autopsies, her organs were put

(08:41):
in a bag inside her abdomen, but doctor Plus couldn't
make an official diagnosis because Janie's heart was missing. And
you know what happened to the arm someone probably a
h person. An envoment must have hand those in those

(09:02):
That's the only reason I can think of why they
wouldn't be there. Is that normal for a heart to
be missing when you have the other organs. It's not normal,
but it happens. I've seen it had a before. Doctor
Plas also completely disagrees with doctor Manew's most significant findings.
He says he sees absolutely no evidence of his spinal injury.

(09:25):
Ron is shocked and pulls out the photos that doctor
Malik said to him. Photograph sent to doctor Malik himself
that shows the voter ragmen cut in a levelment deck demand.
It shows the spinal chord exposed. Did you put jagging torn?

(09:47):
Did you say that? All? Yes? Okay? And that was
all done by doctor Malik and his examination of an X.
There's no evidence of any hemorrhay. I know this looks red,
and this looked pretty bad when you look at it,

(10:07):
but there's no hemorrhage there that you would expect to
see if it were a blunt force injury of any kind.
And what he made of thought final could conflict. That
was part of his examination of the body. If not
anything that was done prior to the autopsy. It's all

(10:28):
modifications that he has made in his examination on the body.
Doctor Plus also says he didn't see any evidence of
abrasions or trauma on Janie's face. When pressed by the
ward's lawyer, he admits he didn't take any samples from
the face to look out microscopically. Doctor Plus says it's
because it wouldn't have made any difference because he didn't

(10:51):
see any hemorrhaging. Why didn't you tell the samples because
there was no hemorrhy in associatedation with those areas, kailed
that there was no underlying hemorrhage, so there was no
reason to take sections. And again, if for no other
reason than to discuss the findings that doctor Burnell has, well,

(11:12):
that would be true, but I don't think it really
would have made any difference. You understanding interesting? Ron Ward
again pulls out the photographs that doctor Mallick had given him.
Ron says, it looks like there's bruising on Janie's face
and a cut across her nose and blood in her mouth.
And doctor Plus says this, yeah, and you did not

(11:35):
see this a braid in the with her nose, And
I think pecially those blood and there, all right, that's
what it looks like. Again, I would agree with you.
And I don't know what this Isn't a little bit
of blooding are on top of her nose? That's well,
I don't know that either. You do, Yes, I do

(11:55):
you know? I saw my daughter. It wasn't no blood
up here. This meeting gets pretty heated. The words keep
going back to the photographs they got from doctor Mallet
and the x rays that they insist were different from
the ones they saw at the crime lab. And I
don't know when, and I don't know who was involved,

(12:15):
but I think sometimes or none of you've gotten the
wrong idea about what these x rays are. And it
may be just a misunderstanding. Uh. And I don't know
who is misunderstanding, but it's hard for me to believe,
having seen her body and examined her skeleton personally removed

(12:38):
all the soft tissue, what I see is what what
I saw, is what these photographs show, and nothing else.
And there is no there is no injury. I mean,
we you will accept the fact that I did examine
her body, is that right? Yes? We did a thought

(13:01):
feeling about sayin circumstances, right, this is Mona talking. She
tells Doctor Plas about all the suspicious circumstances around Janie's death,
but Doctor Plus says the forensic evidence doesn't match what
she's telling him. People tell me all these things that
you've just told me. I mean, I'm not ignorant of

(13:23):
any of these things. People have made statements about this,
mostly coming from you, Law. But when I look at
a body, I have to develop my opinions from the
body as welf, not from what people may feel are
the circumstances. But I have to look at the body

(13:48):
and scientifically to make an opinion about what went on.
And of no injury. There's just not any injury here
that would have caused your daughter's death. After the meeting

(14:08):
with Tim Williamson and Doctor Plus, there's a press conference.
It's packed with news stations from across the state. As
Ron and Mona leave the press conference, they're surrounded by reporters.
Ron and Mona are trying to hurry through the interviews
because they know that Jane's body is being driven away

(14:29):
back to the cemetery to get reburied. Well, we thought
they were waiting for us, actually, because we were supposed
to be there when they reburied her, because the first
time we got to pray, you know, like a funeral,
you know, like it was another funeral, and like when

(14:51):
we had her exhumed, we got to do that. It's
just so callous, you know, to just do that. It
meant something. There'd been nothing to them. By the time
they got to the cemetery, Janie was buried and the
crew was driving away. They were supposed to have waited
for the wards so that they could pray as their

(15:13):
daughter was lowered into the ground for the third time
once again. Journalist Mike Masterson was outraged at the treatment
of the Wards and thought the third autopsy was horrific
and supposedly they just absolutely skinned her. They there's nothing
left if they wanted to do another autopsy, and that
was not necessary, but they did it so they made

(15:35):
sure there wasn't going to be a fourth exhamation. He
still thinks it's totally illogical that doctor Malick would have
cut and removed part of Janie's spine instead of it
being torn from an injury. See Whybret, you reach out
and tear her spinal cord in the canal. So no,
it's just all a bunch of words. It's dissemblings. What
it is, just words to try to fill air and

(15:57):
try to confuse people. I mean, it didn't confuse me
at all, and it didn't confuse most of Arkansas, I
mean around the state today, all these years later, and
one or two of the questions I'm ask invariably deal
with Jenny Ward's case. You know, are they ever going
to do anything with the Jenny Ward case? What about

(16:19):
Jenny Ward? So it really touched the nerve this whole mess.
We'll be right back. Doctor Plus's autopsy didn't provide definitive

(16:40):
answers to how Janie died. He said she could have choked,
she could have had a heart problem, and doctor Plus
seemed pretty convinced that there was no sign of his
final injury or a blunt forced trauma to the face.
According to the forensic evidence provided by this autopsy, Jane
didn't die from falling off the porch. She wasn't hitting

(17:03):
the face with a baseball bat, didn't run into the
post and then fall off the porch, as Steve Ward
had suggested, and she didn't sustain a spinal injury in
the truck on the bumpy roads. Back to the bank
parking lot. So with this third autopsy, there is very
little pointing to homicide in the forensic evidence, but at

(17:23):
the same time, nothing is definitive about it. Her cause
and manner of death remain undetermined. This seems incredible to
have three different autopsies with three completely different results, and
we needed to know more about how this could be possible.
We found a forensic pathologist through the College of American Pathologists.

(17:45):
Her name is Gray Stuke's and she's a board certified
pathologist and a member of the College's Forensic Pathology Committee.
We asked her to review the three autopsies. Our job
as medical examiners is to determine a cause of death
and usually the manner of death, but that can vary
by a law depending on the state that you're in.
Sometimes the coroner makes it distinction. At our autopsy, we

(18:08):
can see what we see grossly and microscopically, and then
the cause of death ultimately is our opinion. So in
these three cases, people looked at the body, drew their
own conclusions, and then formed their own opinions. I think
some of the variation in the opinions comes from the

(18:29):
fact that the body was in different states each time.
You know, there had been dissections performed on it two
different times by the time the third autopsy happened. So
there's substantial autopsy artifact. There's decomposition artifact. You know, there's
embalming artifact. There are all these factors that could alter

(18:50):
potentially the way that things look. And then even it
you know, someone doing their you know, best job at
an autopsy, there can still be variability in the opinion
that people draw from those findings. To review the complicated
history of Janey's autopsies, let's go back to nineteen eighty nine.

(19:13):
Two days after Jane died, doctor Fowmi Mallick conducted an autopsy.
He said that the cause of death was a hyper
extension neck injury from falling off the porch. The manner
of death was undetermined. Doctor Malick was a controversial figure
in Arkansas. In nineteen ninety one, he quit amid allegations

(19:34):
that he bought several autopsies. In nineteen ninety two, two
out of state pathologists reviewed doctor Malick's work. They didn't
perform their own autopsy, but they did have access to
the report, the photos, and the x rays, the ones
where the side view had a white blob that blocked
most of Jane's neck. These are also the X rays

(19:54):
that the words said were different from the ones they
saw at the crime lab. At the crime lab, they
insisted that they saw X rays where it was clear
that Janey had a broken neck, but the pathologists in
nineteen ninety two said they were not convinced that Janey
had his final injury. They also said the X rays
looked like those of a male skull. They changed Janey's

(20:18):
death certificate, leaving both the cause of death and the
manner of death as undetermined. Then doctor Burnell conducted his
autopsy in two thousand and four, fifteen years after Janey died.
He also concluded that Janey died from a neck injury
and had blunt forced trauma to the face. He said

(20:39):
the manner of death was homicide. Doctor Cox was a
medical examiner at the crime lab at that time, and
he wrote a scathing review of doctor Burnell's findings, mostly
citing the lack of evidence and documentation for doctor Burnell's conclusions.
Doctor Pluss's autopsy was in two thousand and seven, eighteen
years after Janey died, and after two other autopsies he

(21:03):
left the death certificate as undetermined in both cause and
manner of death, and said he saw no evidence of
a spinal injury. We discussed doctor Cooke's review of doctor
Burnell's autopsy in episode five. We asked doctor Grace Dukes
her impressions of that autopsy. Normally, an autopsy, you know,
would include the external exam, documentation of identifying Marx injuries,

(21:28):
you know, any sort of distinctive feature. Then you know,
there would be an internal examination where we examine the organs.
Obviously in an embalmed, decomposing body with a bag of
organs in the abdomen, you know that's going to be limited.
And then you know, putting in sections for microscopic exam,
which would also be relatively limited because the tissues will

(21:48):
be decomposing, and then potentially photographs and X rays, et cetera. So,
I mean, many of those tasks were performed. I think
he is a bit more brief in how he documents them.
It is a significantly you know, more brief report than

(22:08):
say doctor Plus's report, which is very thorough. But the
conclusion that the second autopsy came to that this was
a homicide. You know, if you're going to change a
manner of death to especially to a homicide where people
could be prosecuted. I think it's important to do all

(22:29):
of the documentation of those injuries that you say, you
know were the lethal injuries causing the death in a homicide.
And I think some of that isn't isn't present and
wasn't subject to examination later. You know, doctor Plus couldn't
go back and look at the photographs and look at
the detail and the report necessarily and come to that

(22:51):
same conclusion, and other pathologists couldn't either. Much of doctor
Plus's autopsy and doctor Barnell's, to an extent, are dedicated
to autopsy artifact, that is, observations about the changes on
the body that are due to previous autos, not the
original injury. And so much of the debate over Jane's
cause and manner of death has come from observations of

(23:14):
her face. Ron Wards said he saw bruising, and even
doctor Plus admitted that according to ron Ward's pictures, it
did look like Jane had discoloration to her face. But
there is post mortem lividity. So lividity is the natural
settling of the blood within the blood vessels after a

(23:35):
person dies, so everything just sort of, you know, flows
down to the dependent portions dependent to gravity, and so
the blood is within those vessels, and then over a
matter of hours, the blood can lice and link out
of those vessels and it'll become what we call fixed,
where you know, when it's just in the vessels, you
can push on it and you can make a white

(23:55):
spot on the skin. Once it becomes fixed, well you
can push on it and it'll it'll stay fixed there.
So that happens over a matter of hours. Doctor Do
said it can be hard to tell between injuries and
libidity because if a body isn't embalmed in a timely
manner after death, both of these things can cause what
looks like hemorrhaging under the skin. But in his autopsy,

(24:19):
doctor Plus said there was no hemorrhaging underneath the surface
of the face, so it seems that any discoloration on
Jane's face happened after death. Doctor Plus's other huge finding
was that doctor Malick had removed part of the spinal cord,
which doctor Plus said was an unusual autopsy practice, and
he concluded that there was in fact no spinal injury.

(24:43):
Doctor Duke said that conclusion seems definitive because of the
use of the CT scanner. So the CT scan is
performed at some medical examiner's offices, but it's few. Uh.
It's helpful because you get an image of the skeleton
without having to cut it or scrape tissue off. It's

(25:03):
just as you know, as if you went into a
hospital and they were imaging you and they could see
your skeleton and if there was fracture, if there was abnormality,
and so to have the CT scan of the whole body,
you know, and show having a radiologist examine it and
show that there was not trauma there, there were not fractures,
is very very helpful. Whereas you know, in the first autopsy,

(25:26):
he was the pathologist was looking at all of these
and feeling them and you know, I don't know how
much of the tissue he scraped off or what he
removed or what he cut, but you know, he came
to the conclusion that there were fractures there, and then
the CT scan was able to definitively show that that
wasn't true. We also asked doctor Dukes about a couple

(25:47):
of other theories, including the one that Janie drowned. So
there's a in one of the early reviews of the autopsy,
there's mention of or and in the investigative reporting there's
mention of her clothing being wet and there's sand under
her undergarments, And so I think that's a reason a proposal.

(26:07):
But ultimately, you know, drowning is a diagnosis of exclusion,
so it relies heavily on investigative findings, and as far
as I could tell from what I looked at, investigative
findings in the interviews don't support that the choking. You know,
to have a food bullus stuck in your throat and

(26:30):
you're you know, trying to inhale past it or breathe
past it in your straining and you're you're increasing the
pressure in your lungs, in the blood vessels of your lungs,
in your airways. So you can get those little particual
hemorrhages in a situation like that. But you know that
that can happen. It's it's reasonable. Again, you know, nothing

(26:52):
about the investigation suggests that she was choking. There was
no food bowlus noted in her airway at the first autopsy.
I mean, if it were lodged in there, you know,
in ems didn't suction it out, which is a thing
that happens too as they're trying to clear the airway.
I don't know how much she was I don't know
how much resuscitation was done on her. When Kathy, who

(27:15):
worked at the Ambulance Service, talked with investigators in two
thousand and seven, she said she didn't see anything visibly
wrong with Janie's spine, and she also said she didn't
see any blockage in the windpipe, which could have indicated
that Jennie choked, Which leaves just one more question for
doctor Duke's Could Janey have had a heart problem? Yeah,

(27:36):
I think that has to be considered a possibility because
there are basically negative findings on her. There's the finding
of the larynx and I don't you know this many
years later. I don't know if there's something else that
could cause that or not. But so they're the petiqui
and then there's the history of the wet clothing in

(27:58):
the sand, and so there are other possibilities. There's not
definite proof of any of those scenario. But in terms
of a cardiac arrhythmia, anytime you have a death, especially
in a young healthy person with no findings, you have
to consider that a possibility, just some natural disease process

(28:20):
where she suddenly, you know, collapsed. Like the ward's lawyer,
Jerry Sallings said about the investigative evidence, there's really nothing
more that can be done in the forensic field, and
that's because of a series of errors that built up
over time. It started with doctor Mallet, who removed part

(28:40):
of the spinal cord with no explanation. Jane's fingernails were
never swabbed, the X rays were either poorly taken or lost. Also,
doctor Mallet mislabeled his cause of death. He said it
was a hyper extension injury, but based on his theory
of how she died falling back in her head snapping forward,

(29:01):
it's actually a hyperflection injury. Doctor Bonnell's lack of documentation
made it impossible to understand his findings. He made claims
that were not backed up by the evidence. His descriptions
of the injuries were brief, and by the time doctor
Pluss did his autopsy, Jane's body had significant autopsy artifact. Still,

(29:25):
because of the CT scan, it seems pretty convincing that
she didn't have a spinal injury. We'll be right back.

(29:45):
The third autopsy concludes that there was no injury to
Janie's spine, but we wanted to go back one more
time and take another look at the spinal cord because
that has been the focus of the investigation into Janie's death,
and with no spinal injury, most of the theories about
how Janie died don't make any sense. Even doctor Plus

(30:07):
agreed it is odd that doctor Malick would have removed
part of the spinal cord in that first autopsy. That
is not typical, and because that part of the spinal
cord was removed, neither doctor Burnell nor doctor Plus could
actually see the part of the spinal cord that would
have been injured. Unlike the cord, the vertebrae were intact

(30:28):
and the CT scan in the third autopsy did not
show any fractures to these bones. When we talked with
a journalist, Jason Peterson, the reporter who did the demonstration
of Janie falling off the porch, he brought up one
more theory that Jane had been injured before the party,
but that she hadn't collapsed until hours later. Doctor Plus's

(30:51):
autopsy revealed that Janie did have bruising on her elbow,
and he did confirm that she had the large bruise
on her back. Although a lot of people really didn't
want to talk with me when I called, there were
some who did, and there were some who were actually
quite chatty, And one of them was Billy. He was
one of the three people who said he saw Jane

(31:11):
fall off the porch, and so I wanted to talk
to him and see if he had any theories. And
when I asked him what his theory of what happened was,
he said, and I'm quoting for my notes here, I
know she fell off the porch, but I don't think
the fall killed her. I think she was suffering from
a previous injury. I think something happened to her either
hours before or maybe a couple of days before, that

(31:32):
just caught up with her caused her to fall. And
then Janie had been at the cabin earlier in the day.
I seem to recall that she had gone down to
the river to swim. I also remember hearing that the
guy who drove her down there he was spinning donuts
and Janie was thrown out of the back of the
truck and was injured. That way, and maybe she thought
she was okay but was really injured more seriously than

(31:54):
she thought. Kids take their trucks down to the Buffalo River,
which is about two miles from the cabin, all the
time to do that. And so this is the first
I heard anything about an earlier trip day to the river,
and who may have may or may not have been there.
And so but as I started to think about his
theory and the physical evidence, you know, she had unexplained

(32:17):
sand and gravel, and her clothes were wet, I mean
sand and gravel like under her undergarments, and you know,
falling out of a truck or another person said there
was a fight down by the river. You know, those
those things explained the presence, the unexplained presence of the
sand and gravel in her you know, under her clothes,
and why her clothes were wet. If she saw out

(32:38):
of a moving truck and landing on her head, you know,
face first, that could explain how her neck could have
been that badly injured. Now, how you get to that
middle ground where you're hurt really bad, but you're still
kind of like a walking wounded. You know, you'd need
to talk to someone with more medical knowledge than myself
to see if that's even possible. From what I saw

(32:58):
in the case file, most of Janie's day appears to
be accounted for in the investigative evidence she was is
that her friend Leslie's house, then went to the grocery
store in the pool hall, and then got picked up
by Ron to go to the party. So this theory
that she went down to the river before the party
seems like a stretch. But I bring it up because
I did talk to someone who knows a lot about

(33:20):
spinal injuries. His name is Douglas Cohen, and he's a
Harvard educated neurosurgeon who operates on catastrophic spinal injuries daily.
I wanted to get to the bottom of all of
our remaining spinal cord questions. Could Janey have had a
previous injury that led to her collapse, and is there
any way she could have had a spinal cord injury

(33:41):
if the vertebras surrounding the cord weren't broken. I guess
the first question I would have is having seen the
autopsy report. Apparently in the first autopsy the cord the
spinal cord was either taken out or her parents seemed
to think that the spinal cord was cut by some

(34:02):
type of injury, but then it didn't break any bones,
And we're trying to how likely that would be to happen.
Exceedingly unlikely in a young, healthy, young adult. You can
see something like that in an infant where the bones
aren't kind of well formed and there's more cartilaginous connections.
But I have never seen any direct damage to the

(34:24):
spinal cord without significant bony damage. That would not be
your expectation in somebody who was a young adult. Okay,
so the theory that what about the theory that some
other people have that earlier in the day she was
injured and the injury didn't manifest until she just and
that injury caused her to collapse at the party. You know,

(34:46):
those things are possible, but to get exceedingly rare. Generally,
when you have a traumatic injury, you're going to get
some kind of symptoms, significant complaints, even if you go
on to develop what is known as an unstable cervical spine,
which is reason why you know we see him and

(35:07):
instead of putting hard collars on patients, theoretically you injured
your spinal the structures so that you have an unstable
cervical spinal canal even though the spinal cord itself is
not injured. In theory, that is, a person who without
proper bracing can go on to develop worsening spinal cord injury.

(35:28):
But it is not somebody who will have no complaints
of pain, who will be up and walking around, who
will be, you know, feeling well enough to go to
a party and drink beer. In that circumstance, you can
have a patient with you know, at landish and almost
insufferable amounts of neck pain, very difficult to move around,
great deal of pain literally to get up from a

(35:50):
seated position, let alone to walk around. So it's not
something that you would expect to be clinically subtle enough
for a person to kind of go about is or
her business for the next several hours and then will
of a sudden sustain a life ending injury like this.
That would be very, very unlikely. Is it possible for
a you know, otherwise healthy teenager to fall of the

(36:13):
step less than ten inches high in such a way
that she would sustain this type of entury? Have you
seen that? Well? What I will tell you is that
you can yes a fool like that. Generally, although unusually,
can cause somebody's death. It does not cause somebody's death
through serviable spine injury. However, that would be exceedingly rare

(36:36):
and almost unheard of without any significant bony aftermaldies. When
I operate on, you know, a traumatically injured spinal cord,
it is looking mess in there. Things are torn and
bleeding and bones are broken, so it's not something that's subtle.
What generally kills people when they fall is if they

(36:57):
fall in a particular fashion, either kind of hitting the
back of their head or the front of the head,
they can go on to develop a significant contusive injury
of the brain increased into cranial pressure, and that can
potentially cause death. It generally doesn't happen suddenly. It can
happen suddenly, but at least that would be consistent with
kind of pathophysiologic processes of which I'm familiar. A person

(37:22):
falling off a tan inge step, sustaining a hyperflection injury
with essentially minimal or no bony injury, and then dying
because of a cervical cord injury. It is, as I
mentioned in my experience unheard of, at least in the
clinical setting, right, And what about someone hitting her in
the face, if that had happened, someone hitting her in

(37:42):
the face of baseball bat and her dying from that, well,
that's certainly possible. Again, if you hit somebody hard enough
in the face and they lose consciousness and fall back
and hit the back of their head, that also can
be potentially lethal injury. But you know, you would expect
a profound amount of contucive injury where the bat made

(38:02):
contact with the scalp or skull or no eyescke. I
do recall some mention of some kind of orbital echumoses
on like the second or third uh what autopsy, And
I don't recall specifically, But if you hit somebody court
enough in the face to kill them, you're gonna without
be too facetious, you're gonna leave a mark. The coroner,

(38:26):
most of the witnesses of the party, Kathy who worked
at the ambulance service, and investigator Bill Beach. None of
these people said they saw obvious injuries on Janey the
night she died. And no matter how we stretch the
theories around Janie's death, it seems very unlikely that Jane
could have died from a spinal injury. That means that

(38:46):
any evidence that supports doctor Bannell's conclusion of homicide does
not seem to exist. On June fifth, two thousand and nine,
the Judge of the Third Division of the Sarcey County
Court signed an order. It reads, the Special Prosecuting Attorney
has found no probable cause for the filing of any
criminal charges as a result of his investigation and the

(39:09):
forensic reports, nor has he found it necessary to request
the calling of a grand jury. It is further ordered
that the Special Prosecutor, Tim Williamson is relieved from any
further responsibility. I'm Katherine Townsend and this is Helen Gone.

(39:30):
Helen Gone is a joint production between School of Humans
and iHeartRadio. It is written and recorded by me. Katherine Townsend.
Taylor Church and Gabby Watts are our producers and story editors.
Executive producers are Brandon Barr, Brian Lavin, and L. C.
Crowley for School of Humans and Connell Byrne and Chuck

(39:50):
Bryant for iHeart. Our field producer is Miranda Hawkins. Theme
and original score are by Ben Sale. Available wherever you
get your music. Please visit us at helen gonpodcast dot
com or follow us on socialcial media. School of Humans

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