University of Missouri - Columbia.
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Posted 04.10.06

Forensics Academy Names Hall Distinguished Fellow

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Outside a hotel a heated argument between two men escalates until one man pulls a knife and stabs the other in the chest. Nearly 24 hours later, the killer dumps the body on the side of the road and drives away believing he won't be caught. He's wrong. Thanks to professionals like Robert Hall, associate vice provost for research at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and others who study medicocriminal entomology, the murderer can be identified with help from some very small creatures - insects.

Robert Hall."Insects, in many cases, can help confirm an alibi," Hall said. "This is due to the entomologist's ability to determine the time of death based on the outside temperature, the access insects have to the body, and daylight. Once these three factors are determined, entomologists can often say when a victim died."

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Insects are cold-blooded and they will swarm to a dead body within 30 minutes during the warm season of the year. Most insects often go to the face first, Hall said.

If the insects are present, experts extract them from the decedent and place them in boiling water to kill the insects and stop their development. According to Hall, various insects extracted from the body can tell an entomologist if the body has been moved from one location to another. In addition, the age of the insect can tell the entomologist how long the decedent had been dead. Hall has been called to court to testify numerous times, and the entomologist's testimony has confirmed or disproved a defendant's alibi many times.

Hall recently was recognized for his work in the field of forensic entomology by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and named a Fellow at their meeting last month. This is the highest rank in the Academy, which is the premier association for forensic scientists in the world.

AAFS has more than 6,000 members from the United States and Canada. Academy members include physicians, attorneys, dentists, toxicologists, physical anthropologists, document examiners, psychiatrists, physicists, engineers, criminalists, educators, and others. All members are those who are devoted to the field of forensics in some fashion.

"It is an honor to have been selected to be a Fellow and to have my work recognized by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences," Hall said.



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