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Trail of Bones

More Cases from the Files of a Forensic Anthropologist

Mary H. Manhein

Publication Year: 2005

A fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and an expert on the human skeleton, Mary H. Manhein assists law enforcement officials across the country in identifying bodies and solving criminal cases. In Trail of Bones, her much-anticipated sequel to The Bone Lady, Manhein reveals the everyday realities of forensic anthropology. Going beyond the stereotypes portrayed on television, this real-life crime scene investigator unveils a gritty, exhausting, exacting, alternately rewarding and frustrating world where teamwork supersedes individual heroics and some cases unfortunately remain unsolved. A natural storyteller, Manhein provides gripping accounts of dozens of cases from her twenty-four-year career. Some of them are famous. She describes her involvement in the hunt for two serial killers who simultaneously terrorized the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, region for years; her efforts to recover the remains of the seven astronauts killed in the Columbia space shuttle crash in 2003; and her ultimately successful struggle to identify the beheaded toddler known for years as Precious Doe. Less well-known but equally compelling are cases involving the remains of a Korean War soldier buried for more than forty years and the mystery of “Mardi Gras Man,” who was wearing a string of plastic beads when his body was discovered. Manhein describes how the increased popularity of tattoos has aided her work and how forensic science has labored to expose frauds—including a fake “big foot” track she examined from Louisiana's Kisatchie National Forest. She also shares ambitious plans to create a database of biological and DNA profiles of all of the state's missing and unidentified persons. Possessing both compassion and tenacity, Mary Manhein has an extraordinary gift for telling a life story through bones. Trail of Bones takes readers on an entertaining and educating walk in the shoes of this remarkable scientist who has dedicated her life to providing justice for those no longer able to speak for themselves.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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1. The End of the Road

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pp. 1-10

Larry Fisher was walking home along the railroad track that day near dusk. He was in a hurry. It was getting late and he didn't want to lose the last light of day that guided him. Looking ....

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2. The Lady from the Gulf

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pp. 11-23

It was early July when the lady from the Gulf was brought to my laboratory. Occasionally, the mornings were still cool with a pleasant breeze from the southwest, directing the heady scent of ...

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3. Coming Home

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pp. 24-38

IN the summer of 2003,1 watched the backhoe from the shade of a sweet gum tree at the edge of a small cemetery in southern Arkansas. For some strange reason, the words to "When Johnny ...

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4. Friends for Life

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pp. 39-45

THE small beagle who raced ahead of his owner along the bayou that day stopped abruptly, sniffing something in the loose soil just a few feet from the water's edge. He began to dig vigorously ....

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5. Sisters

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pp. 46-52

THOUSANDS and thousands of vehicles traveled the overpass ramp every day. Unknown to the drivers, something lay beneath it, waiting to be discovered. For two years, the remains rested ...

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6. Alone in the Woods

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pp. 53-57

AN unretrieved backpack was the only evidence that Peggy Watson had walked that way on that particular day. Sometimes Peggy would skip school, like any teenager, leaving her backpack ...

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7. They Walk Among Us

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pp. 58-67

MANY strange cases have made their way to my laboratory over the years. Some are a little stranger than others. In the fall of 20011 received a rather unusual phone call just before my ...

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8. Tattoos and Other Body Alterations

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pp. 68-76

IN 1990 in the front parking lot of a small truck stop in the city of Hammond in southeast Louisiana, the driver who was returning to his truck from his evening meal lost it soon ...

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9. Precious Doe

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pp. 77-85

FBI Agent Sue Stiltner arrived at my office one day in 2002. She was in Baton Rouge to consult on an FBI case and asked David Smith, a detective with the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's ...

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10. Unidentified Homicide Victim

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pp. 86-91

IT was the summer of 2001 when we watched the backhoe pull up to the grave in the corner of the small rural cemetery in Greensburg, Louisiana. Detective Dennis Stewart with the Louisiana ...

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11. Mardi Gras Man

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pp. 92-97

OFFICER Mula's voice on the other end of the phone resonated with the rich French ancestry of so many of the law enforcement agents with whom I had worked over the last twenty-plus years ...

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12. Unexpected Cargo

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pp. 98-101

THE railroad tank car loomed ahead of me. It looked much larger up close than such cars do when you see them rolling along the ...

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13. Imaging Resources, Cold Cases, and the IDA Database

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pp. 102-108

SOME of the services the FACES Laboratory provides to agencies all across the country include efforts to clear up images captured on video cameras. One such image was brought to our ...

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14. Under Siege

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pp. 109-121

SOMEONE was killing Louisiana's women. In fact, women were being murdered at an alarming rate, and many of them were dying in the shadow of Louisiana's capitol of Baton Rouge. In ...

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15. Space Shuttle Columbia

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pp. 122-127

ON Saturday, February i, 2003, at about 8:00 A.M., I remembered that I planned to go outside my house in Baton Rouge to see if I could view the space ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780807155578
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807131046

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2005