Dr. Henry Lee’s Forensic Files: Five Famous Cases Scott Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and more…

By in Evidence on July 20, 2013

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Dr. Henry C. Lee is considered by many to be the greatest forensic scientist in the world. His vast investigative experience (over 6,000 cases!) and participation in many high-profile trials have earned him not only the highest respect from the law enforcement community but also widespread public recognition. Here Dr. Lee once again gives avid fans of true crime an intimate glimpse into the real world of crime investigation, combining his unparalleled expertise with a clear and lively narrative.

Beginning with the infamous Scott Peterson trial, Dr. Lee vividly recounts his investigation of the case, focusing on the crucial issue of physical evidence. As a criminalist who examined the remains of both Laci Peterson and Conner, he brings a distinctive perspective and unique voice to the case. He also weighs in on the verdict.

Next, Dr. Lee considers the much-publicized abduction of Elizabeth Smart from her family’s Salt Lake City home. After a fruitless ten-month search, Elizabeth was found alive in a Salt Lake City suburb with Brian Mitchell and his wife, both of whom appeared to be mentally unstable. Dr. Lee—who investigated this compelling case—demonstrates the importance of physical evidence in reconstructing this crime. He also describes the role of brainwashing and outlines distinct similarities with the Patty Hearst case.

In the final three chapters, Dr. Lee examines the case of a novelist accused of murdering his wife–who had also been the suspected link to a similar death in Germany—where a woman also fatally fell down a flight of stairs; the murder of a man’s wife in which both the husband and her lover are considered suspects (with an outcome that is guaranteed to shock!); and the killing of a witness of an accused arsonist shortly before his trial, with a stunning conclusion that derived from Dr. Lee’s intriguing investigative work.

In each case, Dr. Lee presents — in addition to an engrossing narrative — the scientific details of how law enforcement investigated the crime, using the most recent advances in modern forensic tools. This is a fascinating insider’s look by a world-renowned expert into the pursuit of justice in some of the most sensational and intriguing criminal cases of recent times.

3 thoughts on “Dr. Henry Lee’s Forensic Files: Five Famous Cases Scott Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and more…

  1. Loyd E. Eskildson "Pragmatist"
    1
    8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Rather Disappointing!, August 21, 2006
    By 
    Loyd E. Eskildson “Pragmatist” (Phoenix, AZ.) –
    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Dr. Henry Lee’s Forensic Files: Five Famous Cases Scott Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and more… (Hardcover)

    Dr. Lee’s book begins with the well-known Scott Peterson and Elizabeth Smart cases. He details all the evidence collected (and sometimes not collected), and takes readers from the crime to the trial. Unfortunately, forensic evidence did not play a role in either case. In Scott Peterson’s case, Dr. Lee concluded that it wasn’t the evidence that did Peterson in – rather his post-disappearance actions and court attitude. On the other hand, it was interesting to not that the original jury foreman was removed (reason unknown) – since he was both an attorney and an M.D. the jury might have been led to a greater focus on the inconclusive evidence and the verdict turned out differently.

    As for Elizabeth Smart’s nine-month disappearance, the case seemed to have been solved in spite of the Salt Lake City Police. Elizabeth’s younger sister (in the same room when the kidnapping took place) was convinced that the man police suspected was not the one, identified the correct individual, and helped in the drawing of his portrait – thus, leading to Elizabeth’s safe return. (The kidnapper and his wife were judged mentally incompetent for trial; nonetheless, they had brainwashed Elizabeth so much that she did not try to escape, and originally denied that she was the one everyone was looking for.)

    The third case involved an individual whose wife was found dead at the bottom of the stairs. While Dr. Lee was called as a witness for the defense, it was not enough to overcome the eerie fact that the defendant’s first wife had similarly died, and that her injuries seemed to great for having simply fallen part-way down the stairs.

    The fourth case was quite straight-forward – an arson, followed by the murder of a key witness, and the fifth, while rather salacious, was also not that challenging.

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  2. Jamison B. Ballard
    2
    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    A little bland, September 17, 2007
    By 
    Jamison B. Ballard (Cincinnati Ohio) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Dr. Henry Lee’s Forensic Files: Five Famous Cases Scott Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and more… (Hardcover)

    It’s allright, but a little bland and dry. Not a whole lot of details at time. Had to ‘force’ myself to read on during some chapters. Really don’t feel like I learned anything new about the Peterson or Smart cases or about forensics in general.

    Brad

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  3. Stephen Mccaskill "www.crimesceneblog.com"
    3
    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Good Overview of How Forensics Works in Real Cases, March 13, 2007
    By 

    This review is from: Dr. Henry Lee’s Forensic Files: Five Famous Cases Scott Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, and more… (Hardcover)

    Dr. Henry Lee has worked on over 6,000 cases in his years as a forensic scientist. In this book, he details some of the work he performed during what are arguably the most high-profile cases of the last 20 years as well as a couple lesser-known cases.

    The first cases, Scott Peterson and Elizabeth Smart are cases that almost everyone in America and even outside the country has at least some knowledge. Dr. Lee brings into more detail the investigation, from a forensic point of view, of the two cases. He highlights not only the forensic work, but the prinicpal of basic police investigation; secure the crime scene. In the Smart case in particular, there is a tremendous amount of scene contamination and in the Scott Petersen case you see how some evidence was not properly catalogued and the problems those missteps led to in court.

    The third case, that of Michael Peterson is one that is very familiar to me, since it took place in North Carolina, but may not be as well-known as the first two investigations. It involved the death of Kathleen Peterson, the wife of Michael Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of a set of stairs in their home one night. Michael claimed she had fallen after several glasses of wine and some prescription drugs, but the District Attorney believed he killed her, especially after learning his first wife also died from a fall on a stair case in Germany, where they were living at the time.

    In this case Dr. Lee is actually called to testify, which gives us a glimpse, not only into the science but the art of forensics. Many folks are well-trained and can performing the myriad tests and evaluations that can be made on hair, fiber, and blood evidence taken at a crime scene. One of the Dr. Lee’s strengths, is in his ability to explain the information gleaned from the sometimes scant evidence and what is shows in easily understood terms.

    The final two cases were not ones I was familiar with at all, having not been heavily covered by the media and not local to my area. They are nowhere near as complicated or questionable as the previous cases, but still give Dr. Lee a chance to explain more of the processes involved in forensics to the reader. One case, in particular, which started with the intentional burning of the Salisbury, MD Town Hall, opens one up to the aspects of a fire investigation and the special techniques required to determine if the fire was set or an accident.

    One of the best parts of the book is when Dr. Lee stops the narrative to explain, to some degree, the science behind the particular evidence he is discussing. There is a good overview of blood spatter evidence and what is can mean. There is also a short discussion on what can occur during a fire and how that leads investigators to determine the origin of the blaze, the most important clue in an arson investigation. These overviews are by no means complete, but they do let you see just how much information can be gathered from a few drops of blood.

    If you are looking for a book that delves deeply into the science behind forensics, visit Amazon.com and pick out one of the many criminal text books now available online. Dr. Henry Lee’s Five Famous Cases does not purport to give you an in-depth knowledge of how forensic works.

    What is does do, and I think handles well, is give you a glimpse into the real world of forensics. A place where answers don’t come out of a printer in 20 minutes, where DNA does not eliminate all but the suspect, and where even the best police sometimes make mistakes. Five Famous Cases is essentially a book that lets you see why forensics is so important, but that even with all the modern science of blood spatter evidence, carpet samples, and shoe imprints, there is still a good deal of old-fasioned detective work that still has to be done in order for a case to be won.

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