"Could not Be Determined" is a very unsatisfying phrase for the death investigator of any era. It leaves a person with the feeling that something was missed, that perhaps one more test, one more witness, or some unknown piece of evidence would shed a final light of explanation for the circumstances behind the demise of the subject at hand. Yet, in spite of all modern advances, technology, or research, it is the very nature of the mysteries of living, that there will always be some mystery at the end.
Some things in investigations, in spite of the impression given by the media, television, or theatrical productions, simply won't be solved to a tidy conclusion, with 'happily ever-after' or the thump of the gavel of final justice bringing closure.
This text is a presentation and discussion of cases ruled "undetermined" in the files and database of Fremont County, Wyoming, from 1887 through 2015,in an attempt to educate and provide examples to the death investigator of the circumstances, issues, and reasoning that may lead to the conclusion of an undetermined manner of death. Like it or not, while statistically they are only a small percentage of the cases you will encounter in your career, you will have them, and find them frustrating.
Seeing what was, or was not done, compared to what could be done, gives practice in the logic of case analysis. Seeing the historical progression of methods and circumstances helps in understanding the process of today's investigations.
Sometimes, it just is what it is...
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About the Author
Aside from the over 650 hours of State certified medical-legal training acquired up to this point, working in this area of Wyoming has involved experience in high altitude mountain recoveries, desert and remote area recoveries; air crash, fire incident, and water recoveries and investigations; vehicle collisions and traffic fatalities; industrial incidents; archaeological and anthropological recoveries and investigations; medical facility investigations; and the usual expected array of natural, accidental, homicide, and suicide deaths. This includes being the lead investigator on over 600 cases, including the lead on over 220 non-natural deaths.
He is also the author of "Murder, Mayhem, and Mystery: Coroner Inquests in Fremont County, Wyoming 1885-1900, © Mark R. Stratmoen, Pub. Lenore Wyoming Publications, ISBN-10: 146362932X