March 23, 1990
Deputy Chief ME Dr. Roy’s testimony the jury did not hear
Dr. Roy explained that, “The jaws were removed for further dental identification." He said "Dr. Ryan and myself had briefly charted the fillings to see if they were compatible with the information we had and we felt they were, so we were going to proceed with more definitive identification beyond this. We felt that it probably was Micheal Cochran, and we wanted a dentist to confirm this.”
     "Now, you said you felt it was probably Micheal Cochran at the time of the autopsy. Could you tell me what you based that on, at that time?”
    “Mainly the comparison of the dental work with the chart.”
    “Okay. You were provided with a [dental] chart [Exhibit #10 & #11] of Micheal Cochran’s history at that time,” Popkin said.
    “I don’t know if we had it at that time. What we did was chart it. I cannot specifically recall the details. It was quite a long time ago [nine years]. But the fillings were charted, and most likely were compared over the phone with the dentist’s charts. He might have— “
     When you say that you suspect that is what happened, was it your routine to proceed that way?”
     “At the time it was. Now we try and obtain all of these records when a person is reported missing, so we have them on hand right at the time of the examination,” Dr. Roy explained.

Didn’t test for carbon monoxide

Mr. Popkin asked, “Was carbon monoxide something that you could observe at the time of the autopsy in any way?”
     “One thing that can be done is what is called a carbon monoxide screening test where you dilute some blood and subject it to 10 percent sodium hydroxide and watch for the coloration—it works very well for us”
     “Did you find evidence of carbon monoxide in Mr. Cochran’s blood then, on February 25th?”
     “I don't recall if I did that test.”

 Death certificate

     “Okay. Let me show you Roy Deposition Exhibit #6 and ask whether you can identify that.”
     “Yes. That is the death certificate that I filled out on February 25th.”
     “Okay. Now, just examining it here, on February 25th, you listed the immediate cause as inhalation of products of combustion including carbon monoxide, the cause of death.”

[This death certification states under immediate cause (of death): “Inhalation of products of combustion including carbon monoxide.” And under describe how injury occurred it states: “Trapped in hiuse [sic] fire.” It also states “Pend[ing] Inv[estigation].” 

Changed to homicide 96 days after cremation.

“Okay. And let me show you what has been marked as Roy Deposition Exhibit #7 and ask you to identify that.”
     “This is a copy of what we call a supplemental cause of death which we issue when there is further alteration to be done or amendments to be made to the original death certificate; and this one indicates that I have changed item 28(a), the manner, to homicide.”
     “Okay. Was there any manner that was previously listed?”
     “...Yes, pending investigation on the original certificate.”
     “And then by June 1st, 1981, you have changed that to homicide?” [96 days after cremation]
     “That’s right.” 

Identification recorded 63 days after cremation

“Now, what, if anything, did you do to continue to pin down the identification of the victim as Micheal Cochran?”
     “... The jaws were removed, and all of this material was sent to a Dr. Seidel, who is a dentist, for further comparison and verification.”
     “And at that point, what was the process that you expected to take place?”
     “Well, I expected Dr. Seidel to compare the dental charting with the actual specimens—preferably to take postmortem x-rays and compare them with any premortem x-rays that might be available; and on the basis of all of these to tell us whether he felt this was Micheal Cochran.”
Deputy CME Roy saw two bodies severely charred

 “... you have said that the body was severely charred. I would like to represent to you that the fire marshal had an opinion that gasoline was probably poured directly on the body  from the degree of charring. Would that be something that you would defer to him on?”
     “Well, I don’t know that I could prove that. Certainly in review of several fire cases, I have seen bodies as charred as this where I don’t think that as the mechanism.”
     “Okay. Did you know in those cases whether the mechanism was the body falling into and being packed in the embers?”
     “Well, two of them that I’m aware of where there was damage as severe as this was—one in an automobile and the other was in a trailer; smaller spaces.”  
     “Would—in reaching that kind of opinion—the best of the fire and the amount of time that the body was subjected to the heat would be important variables?”
     “That, I think, is the most important factor in causing a body to be severely charred, is just the length of time in which they are exposed to high heat.”
     “And someone who was familiar with the actual fire would need to review the history of the event, in other words, the history of the fire how long the fire was burning, how quickly it was put out—factors such as that in order to decide whether it was probable that there was some accelerant poured directly on the body.”  
     “Well, I don’t really know. I am not a fire marshal.

Deputy ME Roy didn’t test the tissues for gas

“My question was, would you defer to a fire marshal’s opinion on a subject like that?

     “Well, he’s entitled to make that opinion. I’m not sure I would agree with it from examination of the body. I would take another approach to prove that.”
     “Okay. Well, what would be your approach?”
     “Well, I think the body tissues and possibly the blood should be examined for gasoline itself.”
     “Okay. And was that done in this case?”

Deputy ME Roy saw two photos of charred bodies

“Okay. So would you know anything at this point to contradict the fire marshal’s opinion in this particular case?”
     “I don’t know if there would be anything that would contradict it.”
     “Okay. You simply don’t have enough information at your disposal to say one way or the other?”
     “The only answer I have for you in regard to this question is that I have seen bodies in other fires that are as severely charred as this. It is not uncommon.”
     “...You said there were two fires that you recall?”
     “Two that I can recall that I was able to look at photographs of recently and say, yes, these are as badly charred as others.”

Deputy ME Roy didn’t have Mike’s medical records at time of autopsy

“Now, did you have some medical records of Micheal Cochran that were given to you?”
     Dr. Roy replied, “I have some medical records. I don’t recall if I did anything with them or not.”
     “Did you, at any point, make a determination whether it be what you observed at autopsy was consistent or inconsistent with the medical records that you had obtained?”
     “No, I did not.”

Dr. Roy knows of one case of gas poured on a person

“Have you ever examined a person involved in a fire where gasoline has been actually poured on the person; have you ever done that?”
     “I have experience with a case of self-inhalation where a person poured gasoline on themselves out of doors and lit themselves on fire.”
     “What was the carbon monoxide in that case?”
     “I can’t specifically recall the level, but I do recall it was not high.”

Dr. Roy admits Mike was exposed to high heat

“Okay. And you also mentioned somewhere in here that there was some calcine on the ends of the missing extremities. What does that mean?”
     “Well, that’s a change in the bone where basically the protein content is cooked out as a result of exposure to high heat.”
     “Do you always find that in fires?”
     “Okay. Does that indicate extremely high heat?”
     “Well, it indicates that the body was in proximity to significant heat as opposed to bodies which might be found in another portion of the house that are slightly charred and have a lot of soot, may have some heat fractures or heat contracture
but they generally don’t get calcine. They are not that close to the heat source.
     “Just to go back to that last point on this business of determining whether or not gasoline was poured on the body. Would it be important—first of all, is that a call that you have ever made within your professional experience?”
     “Yes. I had a homicide fire death, arson, where there was gasoline involved; and gasoline was detected in the tissues, in the blood.”
     “Okay. In that case, you tested the blood and the tissues directly for the gasoline?”
     “That’s right.”

Roy testifies that his opinion is comparable to 42 yr. FI Ricker’s opinion

“Okay. Now in terms of stacking your opinion up against that of a fire marshal who had investigated fires uniquely for 42 years and that was their only expertise, would you respect the opinion of the fire marshal who made a professional call on that issue?”
     “I think it would be a rather neutral thing. He is entitled to his opinion, but I would also point out to him that I have seen other cases [two photos] of bodies almost as badly burnt as this or as badly burned as this that there was not that suspicion.”
     “Okay. Thank you.”