Archive for Friday, October 21, 2011

Document: Cadaver dog ‘hit’ at missing baby’s home

October 21, 2011


— An FBI cadaver dog reacted to the scent of a dead person inside the Kansas City home where a baby girl disappeared nearly three weeks ago, and investigators discovered soil in the backyard that had been “recently disturbed or overturned,” police said in a court document released Friday.

The affidavit, filed earlier this week in support of a search warrant targeting the family’s home, also stated that the girl’s mother, Deborah Bradley, “made the statement she did not initially look for her baby behind the house because she ‘was afraid of what she might find.’”

Those details and others in the affidavit, publicly released for the first time Friday, led to a daylong search Wednesday of the family’s home, where the parents say then-10-month-old Lisa Irwin must have been snatched in the middle of the night as the mother and two other boys slept. Bradley and the baby’s father, Jeremy Irwin, reported the girl missing on Oct. 4 and have denied any role in the disappearance while insisting police have pointed the finger at them.

‘Scent of a deceased human’

The affidavit stated that an FBI cadaver dog taken into the house Monday indicated a “positive ‘hit’ for the scent of a deceased human in an area of the floor of Bradley’s bedroom near the bed.”

The FBI dogs, which often are used at both disaster and crime scenes, are trained “specially to recognize the scent of decaying, decomposing human flesh,” retired FBI special agent Jeff Lanza said Friday.

“That can be the scent of an actual body decomposing, or residual scents after the body is no longer there,” Lanza said.

Dr. Edward David, a deputy chief medical examiner for the state of Maine and co-author of the “Cadaver Dog Handbook,” said that when a body is left in one spot for several hours, cells are left behind. They continue to decompose and create an odor, giving the dog scents to detect.

He said that while trained dogs may fail to detect the smell of human decomposition about 30 percent of the time, they generally don’t alert when nothing is there. One exception is when human waste is present.

Joe Tacopina, a New York lawyer hired by a benefactor he has not identified to represent Bradley and Irwin, said the dog could have detected “a dirty diaper or 10 other non-human-remains items.”

But granting that cadaver dogs are trained chiefly to detect decomposing flesh, “There’s really no scenario where this baby, God forbid she was dead, would have decomposed in that short a period of time,” Tacopina told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday night.

The court document also indicated police felt they needed handheld digging tools after an investigator noticed dirt in a garden area behind the home appeared to have been “recently disturbed or overturned.” During Wednesday’s search, investigators could be seen digging behind a shed in the backyard.

Other revelations

Among other revelations in the affidavit:

• Officers searched all rooms in the house and the basement after being called to the home Oct. 4. Officers sought evidence but because the parents said the baby had been abducted, the only areas extensively processed for DNA and fingerprints were the baby’s bedroom and possible entry points.

• The parents had told police that three cellphones were missing. The affidavit said a phone had since been found in a desk drawer, but that phone wasn’t one of those reported missing. The missing phones haven’t been found.

• Interviews with people involved in the case revealed “conflicting information for clear direction in the investigation.”


MarcoPogo 6 years, 7 months ago

Yup, not a good sign. Hopefully, this will get somebody to start talking...and telling stories that make sense.

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

That is, if you believe that she actually was drunk.

Which I believed at first, but now I'm thinking it was an elaborate defense set up by someone who thinks she is more clever than she actually is.

Or by her lawyer.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

If we can only get a few more news reporters and cameras down there to obsess over this, all will be well.

Sara Garlick 6 years, 7 months ago

I wish that is an accident had occurred, then someone would just admit the truth and get this over with.

kansasredlegs 6 years, 7 months ago

Wow, not one comment about the reliability of the "cadaver" dog. I'd bet my house that the FBI does not keep stats of the times the dog missed to prove up it's reliability. If that child had died in that home and no bodily fluids (don't forget infant not potty trained) seeped onto the floor or bedding, then someone explain to me the timeframe for a body to fit the definition of a cadaver with decomposing scent. My understanding is that only 6-10 hours passed before Dad came home, so you CSI folks out there, explain what process would have occurred in that timeframe so that the dog would have "hit" on decomposing flesh. Seems very doubtful and seems like police pressure tactics to get Mom to talk even more.

shadowlady 6 years, 7 months ago

Did I miss something?? I do not remember reading where they dug up the bedroom floor or crawl space. but that they did dig up a place in the back yard, and yet no mention of a body being found. I hope & pray the baby is live and well.

DillonBarnes 6 years, 7 months ago

And what experience do you bring to this? Originally, I was annoyed with the media immediately trying to pin this on the parents, trial by media. However, this is pretty damning evidence. Does this mean they are guilty, no, I'm in no position to make that judgement. But when you become so stubborn that you doubt the nose of a trained police dog, you're just ignoring the facts.

Even if the success of a cadaver dog was 50%, that is more than enough to justify more questing and more thorough searching.

kansasredlegs 6 years, 7 months ago

I didn't say i had any experience, hence my question. While i have zero experience with cadaver dogs, i do know that police methodically and many times intentionally fail to report when "drug" dogs are wrong, e'r I mean, alert but nothing located. Happens all the time with drugs and drug dogs, just wondering if there were any issues with "cadaver" dogs.

As I recall about this story though, the police had full access to the house for days. So, the search warrant is just CYA for police just in case parents try to say they did not consent to the search.

I absolutely doubt the nose of any dog when an intelligent animal may pick up on clues provided by the handler's behavior coupled with the reward system for alerting. See what your opinion is when police with dog do a walk around your car, alerts to drugs, police rip your car apart, finds nothing, sorry sir, have a nice trip. Then tell me your 50% philosophy.

DillonBarnes 6 years, 7 months ago

You're not guilty just because the dog gets a 'hit'. It just warrants more searching.

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

No one said these dogs had a 50% rate of being correct. DillonBarnes said hypothetically that "even if it were only 50 percent" he or she would still think it warranted further study. But as we've pointed out, the rate is actually closer to 90 to 100.

Bob Forer 6 years, 7 months ago

Drug dogs are very rarely wrong. The false positives you speak of are not necessarily "false." It could mean that the cops simply couldn't find the drugs because they were so well hidden. Also, the dogs' senses are so acute that they will alert when there have been drugs in the car that were recently removed.

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

I think I just won your house. :-) Seriously, FBI absolutely does keep stats on this and the success rate is in the 90%-plus range. Secondly, the compounds released during decomposition start being released immediately (sometimes before death depending on how close to death the person is) and although they are not detectable by humans for a little while, dogs can pick up on them much sooner. A trained and certified HRD (Human Remains Detection) or "cadaver" dog is pretty reliable from what I've read.

kansasredlegs 6 years, 7 months ago

"pretty reliable"? See what your opinion is of that when your or your family member's posterior is on the hot seat

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

KS red legs -- it sounds like you've had an unpleasant experience with drug-sniffing dogs giving a false positive. I am sorry if this is the case. However, I can't help but feel this is comparing apples and oranges. Totally different kind of dogs with totally different training.

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

Again, it sounds like you have had personal (bad) experience with a false positive of a drug dog. I am sorry for that, but is it not possible that you are allowing this to cloud your judgment a little? You admit that you have no experience with HRD dogs -- why not hold off on the judgmental comments until you talk to people who do?

And if we're going to go down the "if it were me" scenario -- if my child had been abducted as these parents claim -- if my child were missing and I had absolutely nothing to do with it -- I would not have any problem letting law enforcement do anything they had to do. Furthermore, I would not have said something screwy like "I didn't want to go into the back yard because I was afraid of what I might find." DUH, if I woke up and my child was missing, I'd be searching everywhere, immediately. Also (if I were innocent) I would have zero problem with letting them talk to the other children who were in the house that night who reportedly heard something. Heck, I'd let them question the cat if they wanted to. I'd be desperate to get my child back -- not desperate to cover my @ss.

kansasredlegs 6 years, 7 months ago

No problem uh? Just ask Patsy Ramsey about that, oh wait, you can't, she died before law enforcement and prosecutors finally admitted that Mom and Dad had nothing to do with the death of their daughter, Jon Benet. Might want to think twice before you let a bunch of cops, most of whom have only a high school education figuring out whether you should get the "needle" or not. Yeah, let those guys with a 3-hour weekend course in child interview techniques get those kids in a "child friendly" room and see what comes out of that biased interview. Parents are right not to let kids talk, they should immediately take them to a specialist / expert in such interviewing techniques to get to the essence of their memories, not the weekend course guys & gals.

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

And just my opinion but I believe that KC law enforcement is very close to cracking this case if they haven't done so already. After Wednesday's search they removed several items from the house and they attempted to block the publication of the results, but someone, citing the Sunshine Law, was able to get it released. I am not in law enforcement but that suggests to me that they've got evidence they don't really want the mom and dad to know about. Again, just my opinion....

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

The cadever odor can stand on it's own as well. It is not one that a person forgets.

That scent sticks to a body so I discovered while assisting with autopsies. This was interesting however getting to a shower ASAP was sometimes never soon enough.

kawrivercrow 6 years, 7 months ago

More than likely, the odor of decomposition came from the secreta and excreta on a pair of the mother's panties that had been allowed to 'ferment' on the floor. In medicine, if a test of such significance were positive, we would calculate the odds of a false-positive and either repeat the same test, or run a confirmatory alternative test if available. Why didn't they bring in a second dog and see if it displayed the same findings?

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

"More than likely, the odor of decomposition came from the secreta and excreta on a pair of the mother's panties that had been allowed to 'ferment' on the floor."

This would be more likely in a scenario where fluids came from a deceased human. They wouldn't get a hit on something that had come from a living body.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 7 months ago

Let me get this straight. An unidentified person just happens to drop by to steal a baby? And just happens to know where to find the baby?

I mean anything is possible but the "parents" cannot keep their stories straight. If this mom was that drunk how in the world could she be providing the attention that a young child would need at any given moment? Parents can never predict exactly when those moments will surface.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 7 months ago

And then goes through the house turning on the lights looking for all the cell opposed to getting out of the house with the kid...who might wake up and start crying... ASAP.

KansasPerson 6 years, 7 months ago

If it would help at all -- here is a thread of Q&A with two people who work with these dogs.

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