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Science

[Our Metropolis]

Of maggots and men

CSI consultant Goff solves crime with bugs

This is an excerpt from the radio show Our Metropolis, a half-hour issues and affairs program that airs Tuesdays at 6 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and his hosted by the Greenspun Media Group’s John Katsilometes. Tune in next week to hear the rest of this interview with Dr. Lee Goff, entomological consultant for the FBI and the CSI television shows, who is curator of CSI: Crime Scene Insects at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

Audio Clip

Our Metropolis with Dr. Lee Goff
What are we going to see when we walk into Crime Scene Insects?
Basically, the exhibit will take you through the ways insects can become part of evidence in a crime. We zero in on homicides, which is 98 percent of what we do. … We have some scenes of a couple of bodies in different stages of decomposition—not actual bodies, but Fiberglas models—and a couple of case histories with all the information you need to try to solve a case.
You work closely with Anthony Zuiker and the producers of the CSI shows, right?
I’ve been a consultant since CSI first started. In the book I wrote, A Fly For the Prosecution, a lot of the cases in the book they’ve used as plots for the TV show. They have been very cooperative in the exhibit. In fact, [CSI actor] William Petersen has taped an interview that we play, him and I talking about forensic entomology.
You’ve been involved with a number of murder investigations, more than 250 over the years. Can you pick one of your more memorable cases?
We had a woman who had been missing for 13 days. Finally, on New Year’s Eve afternoon, they found the body. It was all wrapped up in layers of blankets. I went out and made all my collections and did my analysis, and I could account for 10 and a half days of insect activity. She’d been missing for 13 days, wrapped in these blankets. I was happy with that, because common sense tells you that if you wrap something up, it’s going to take a while for insects to get there. But the defense attorney had these two and a half days he wanted to do something with. So I went out and got a 50-pound pig as an animal model and duplicated the wrappings. Then I looked for kind of an overgrown area to put it, and found a spot in my back yard. Then I watched to see how long it would take for the flies to get in. It took two and a half days, which gave me 13 days and took away any potential alibi. It locked in the time of death.
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