Pushing Up Lilies

Challenges Faced by Death Investigators

Episode Summary

Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies, I'm your host Julie Mattson. In this episode, we're diving deep into the often challenging aspects of my profession as a Death Investigator. Join me as we explore the grim realities that death investigators encounter on a daily basis; from the heartbreaking cases of infant deaths to industrial accidents, we'll shine a light on the difficult and sometimes disturbing circumstances that surround these investigations. * Listener discretion is advised.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:31 Hey, y'all, I hope everyone is having an amazing week.

0:34 I know it's been a busy week for us.

0:36 We just got back, you know, from North Dakota and I said that was an accent.

0:41 That's weird.

0:43 Isn't it weird how you spend time somewhere and then you kind of pick up their accents?

0:46 I've noticed that of my husband.

0:49 He says Texan words now that he didn't used to say, and he makes fun of the way I talk all the time.

0:55 I find that funny whenever he says y'all or something, I'm like, hey, you're turning into a Texan.

1:02 But anyway, I hope everyone's week has been amazing.

1:06 I spent yesterday was my Monday at the medical examiner's office and we got a couple of calls, but we do get involved.

1:17 I think I've told y'all in hospital deaths if they've been in the hospital less than 24 hours or if their hospitalization was due to trauma or if it was like a suicide or a car accident, something like that.

1:35 They still have to call us.

1:37 Even if they die after that 24-hour cut off.

1:42 If someone has a car accident and dies a week later, then they call us to report it.

1:49 I did have a case where someone had passed after their 24 hour stay and it was from suicide.

2:00 We take those calls at our office, but we don't, we used to have to, but we don't go to the hospital anymore.

2:06 We are able to call our transport and just have them go pick up for us.

2:13 One thing that's important though on those calls is to get the blood samples from the lab from when they originally were admitted.

2:23 And that's because drugs or alcohol may have been involved in the death and our doctor wants the actual blood sample and not just the lab results.

2:37 There may be some other tests that they want to run on that and that first sample when they first arrive at the hospital is very important.

2:45 Now, usually, I think after 5 to 7 days, the hospital discards those so they're not always obtainable, but we do try to get them.

2:57 This particular one I think was five days prior, we did still have the blood available to us in the lab.

3:06 And so the hospital gives us those samples and we take them with the body to the medical examiner's office.

3:15 Little things that you don't think about that.

3:18 We have to take into consideration whenever we're getting involved in a hospital death.

3:23 But that is how my day started yesterday.

3:27 I spent the afternoon walking through a homeless camp and that is very interesting.

3:36 Let me say, I have to say I've never done that.

3:40 I also have to say that target needs to devise a plan to keep their baskets from being stolen from their parking lot.

3:49 Y'all.

3:49 There were so many target baskets in this homeless camp.

3:55 They need to do something.

3:56 I mean, it wasn't just Target, but target baskets stood out because they're red, there were baskets from all kinds of stores, but the other ones were metal and of course they all kind of look alike and the target one stood out a little more heavy duty because of the plastic, but they need to do something because there were a ton of target baskets back there.

4:20 I don't know, maybe have a weekly round up and start going to all the homeless camps and getting their baskets back.

4:26 I don't know.

4:27 Anyway, it was crazy.

4:29 It had rained a lot a couple of days prior.

4:34 It was very muddy and there were, I mean, muddy clothes, single shoes laying around everywhere, you know, just trash.

4:46 But I mean, this guy had a little kind of tent made out of a tarp pretty well put together.

4:52 Actually, it looked like it probably sheltered them really well.

4:57 Of course, it had been raining a lot.

4:59 But, wow, I was just taken aback because, I mean, I walked quite a bit back into this area which was kind of behind a skilled nursing center.

5:12 It was amazing how many people have probably and do probably still live back there.

5:19 Of course, everyone had kind of left the area because there was police present and I'm sure there's a lot of drug use going on back there.

5:29 But anyway, I spent the afternoon going through the mud and like I said, it was a very slippery.

5:38 It's tricky with a gurney when you're trying to get a body out.

5:42 But that's not part of my job.

5:44 But I really felt bad for our transport crew because they were struggling to get out of there with that gurney, especially with the body on it because, you know, if you hit a rock or whatever and you tip over, you don't want the body to fall off.

5:59 Those were challenges that they came up against.

6:02 It was an interesting afternoon.

6:04 I was glad that it wasn't raining at the time.

6:08 We were there because that would have complicated things a lot.

6:11 But there were a lot of rocks back there too.

6:13 That made it hard for them to get the gurney out.

6:17 You know, it was interesting just when you think you've seen everything in this field, you know, you come across something like that and you're like, gosh, in my 20 years of doing this, I don't think I've ever been in a homeless camp.

6:31 You make note of things like that, and you get to see kind of the world from a different perspective, and you feel really, I don't know, I don't know.

You0 It's just a different… you feel a different type of way, you know, when you're exposed to all these different things and the world in general.

6:50 And I feel lucky, you know, I mean, like when I go into a hoarder house, I'm like, wow, I'm better housekeeper than, than I thought I was, you know, but I feel lucky to have the things I have when I walk back into an area like that and I see everyone's belongings wet and in the mud and this kind of thrown about.

7:15 The afternoon was exciting.

7:18 And then of course, you know, when something like that happens, we have to go back to the office and we write our reports, which is not super complicated, but a lot of our follow up is, you know, calling family and asking questions and people are, you know, upset.

7:38 This is most of the time surprising when we're involved for people, you know, they're rightfully upset, and they don't answer their phone.

7:50 Sometimes it's hard to get the answers that we need.

7:54 But follow up is important.

7:56 Again, you know, when I got back to the office.

7:59 I tried to make some phone calls.

8:01 I was able to talk to some people at the scene of the homeless man that helps a lot to kind of fill in some of the blanks because, you know, we do have questions about drug use, medical history, those types of things.

8:16 I just kind of thought I'd fill y'all in a little bit on how my day went because every day is so different.

8:23 That's what I really love about.

8:25 This job, there are no two days that are alike.

8:30 You know, one day we may just sit in the office and take hospice calls and answer the phone and answer questions from funeral homes.

8:41 You know, family members that call asking if the autopsy results have been posted yet.

8:47 One day may just be that and, you know, I'm fine with that.

8:52 I love the days where I do get to kind of sit and do some follow up and get some of the office work done.

9:00 But I really do like going on the scenes because I mean, that's where we learn.

9:06 And again we do learn every day and that's part of it I think is just continuing to build on what, you know, and you know, we all want to be or most of us want to be the best at what we do.

9:23 And I love just taking every day and learning from it.

9:28 That's why I want to start kind of providing education to my audience because there's a lot that I never thought about when I first started this job that's involved in it.

9:40 And it's much more fun and I hate to use the word fun in death investigation, but it's much more fun than I thought it would be because I really get to use my head.

9:51 I mean, I really get to ask questions and be inquisitive and it's ok because that's part of my job.

9:58 You know, a lot of us like being nosy and we don't have a right to be.

10:03 But in this position, you know, we have every right to be, we have a lot of unanswered questions.

10:09 And so we have to talk to people, and we have to ask questions and it is uncomfortable for the people that we're talking to.

10:17 It's many times the worst day of their life and we're bombarding them with all these questions.

10:22 And so we try to be thoughtful about that too.

10:25 But then again, the quicker we get our questions answered, the quicker we can get answers for the family.

10:33 That is also important.

10:35 On another note, I want to mention that at about 128 Eastern time this morning, a container ship struck one of the support pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland.

10:55 I don't know if y'all have seen videos, the bridge collapsed completely.

11:01 The dally, the ship that struck it suffered fire and collision related damage as well.

11:08 The Baltimore Fire department said that at least seven vehicles fell into the water.

11:14 Two people were recovered from the river but seven people are still missing.

11:20 This bridge was a steel arch shaped bridge that opened in 1977.

11:27 Again, it was 1.6 miles long and there were four lanes on it, two in each direction.

11:38 The ship that struck it is a container ship and it's about 981 ft long and it was registered in Singapore and operated by a great shipping company.

11:51 It just struck a support column and there are videos online and I looked at them, they're horrifying.

11:59 I know that when I knew it was about to happen, I was watching the video and I saw the ship coming towards the bridge and I saw the cars going across and I was like, hurry, hurry, hurry.

12:07 Like I was just hoping that the cars would get off.

12:10 Of course, they didn't know what was about to happen.

12:13 But I was just like praying that those cars would get off the bridge before the ship struck.

12:19 But the bridge broke apart in several places.

12:22 Sections of it are protruding from the water.

12:26 Of course, the vehicles on the bridge at the time it collapsed or in the water and the boat or the container ship caught fire.

12:36 And it looked like in the video that the ship lost power because it was completely dark on the ship when it struck.

12:46 I don't know if that affects the steering abilities.

12:48 I'm sure it probably does.

12:50 But anyway, of course, several vehicles and people fell into the water.

12:57 There were about 20 workers on the bridge at the time it collapsed again.

13:03 I think there have been about seven people reported missing.

13:07 I just wanted to put that out there.

13:09 If you haven't heard about it, say a little prayer for all those people and also for the rescue teams and just, you know, a lot going on there today, wanted to cover just a couple of stories for y'all just so that you would kind of know some other latest events that were going on.

13:29 This is a horrifying story y'all.

13:32 I just want to say, first of all, unbelievable almost.

13:36 I have never worked a scene like this, but this happened in February of this year, February 9th, a Kansas City mother was charged with a felony after putting her newborn baby in the oven.

13:51 When the 911 call came in that the baby was unresponsive.

13:56 Police found the baby upon arrival in a car seat near the front door.

14:01 Now the mom is Mariah Thomas and she's 26 and she said that this was a mistake.

14:09 She thought she put the one-month-old in her crib for a nap.

14:12 On that Friday, Zariah was the baby's name, and she was found with burn marks and was wearing melted clothing.

14:23 EMS did pronounce her on scene.

14:26 Mom was arrested and charged with endangerment of a child resulting in death and that was on February 10th.

14:34 Now, Mariah had dealt with mental illness since she was a child.

14:39 But when she got pregnant, she stopped taking her medication.

14:43 Like many women have to do because a lot of those medications aren't proven to be safe during pregnancy.

14:51 Of course, you know, when you go to get prenatal care, they tell you don't take this medication during pregnancy.

14:58 And so a lot of women's issues mental and otherwise may go untreated during a pregnancy.

15:05 Those are things that we don't think about.

15:07 But since giving birth, her mental health condition had worsened, and she felt like no one cared about her and we all know how much attention newborn babies get, right?



I guess she felt maybe a little bit jealous of the baby.

15:23 She felt like no one liked her, everyone liked the baby, I guess maybe she hadn't even restarted her medications yet.

15:30 There was a lot going on in her head and I'm not making excuses for her.

15:33 I'm just kind of explaining the background behind this story, but she is facing between 10 years to life in prison.

15:43 She was indicted by a grand jury.

15:46 Her pretrial hearing was set for March 19th.

15:49 I'm not sure I couldn't find any information about that.

15:53 But before police were contacted, the grandfather, apparently who she lived with came home and could smell smoke and found the baby dead in her crib.

16:04 Mom said she thought she put the baby in the crib.

16:07 Instead she put the baby in the oven and turned it on.

16:13 This is such a sad story in more ways than one.

16:17 I mean, not only did this baby lose its life but the mental health of the mom, I mean, there's a lot of mental health issues and it sounds like that she had been trying to take care of them because she was on medications before the pregnancy.

16:32 But postpartum depression is a thing and people still have mental health issues during pregnancies that go untreated something to think about.

16:41 But really, really sad.

16:43 This baby was only a month old, and she may have very well known what she was doing, especially because she felt like the baby was getting all the attention.

16:53 But her story is that it was a mistake.

16:58 She thought she put the one-month-old in her crib for a nap, cribs don't have doors.

17:04 I don't know how you can mistake an oven for a crib.

17:09 But nonetheless, super, super sad story.

17:14 I thought of another story when I was just thinking of you know what that baby would have had to go through is a story about a man in England again.

17:25 I don't like to ponder on the kids’ stories too much.

17:27 I like to talk about them a little bit because it's my reality, it's part of my day.

17:33 I see it a lot. They're the worst.

17:36 I don't love going on those scenes at all.

17:40 I mean, I despise them actually.

17:43 I know that, you know, we have to, it's part of our job but it's hard, it's hard to recover from something like that when you've seen it.

17:50 It's not something that you can unsee, I think every death investigator will tell you that that's the hardest part of our job is to see deceased Children, especially when it's at the hands of a parent or an adult who is supposed to be responsible.

18:09 I'm going to put that out there.

18:10 But anyway, this man in England, this is another, I mean, it's a horrifying story.

18:16 This happened in Runcorn, which is an industrial town in England, and this happened back in 2010.

18:26 But the story is similar.

18:28 And so I was trying to find kind of a similar story to cover this week.

18:33 But there was a man who's 54 trapped in a giant industrial oven and he suffered a horrible death as well.

18:42 He worked at a kayak manufacturer.

18:46 It's called Piranha Moldings, and the manufacturer has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter after the worker was trapped.

18:55 The man was Alan Catterall, again he was 54, and here's what happened.

19:02 He was a senior supervisor.

19:05 He had worked there for 12 years, not a beginner, not a new guy, not experimenting to see what would happen.

19:13 But he went inside the oven to scrape dripped plastic off of the inside of the oven because I mean, we all know what happens when something gets in an oven and then the ovens turned on.

19:25 It starts smoking, it starts smelling a burning smell.

19:29 He went inside the oven to scrape off this stripped plastic and they made kayaks, another worker who was engaged to Mister Karol's daughter turned the oven on and didn't realize that he had gone inside.

19:48 Apparently, he tried to escape.

19:51 There was a crowbar in there, I guess it was used during the day-to-day operations.

19:57 Anyway, it was there, and he tried to escape using the crowbar.

20:01 No one knew he was in there.

20:03 He suffered severe burns and eventually he died of shock.

20:09 Now the oven was designed for the doors to close and lock when it was on.

20:17 And the purpose for that is to save energy so that he doesn't escape.

20:22 But you know, he called for help, but nobody could hear him in factories like that.

20:26 It's super, super loud.

20:29 The oven designer was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety act.

20:33 This man was a father of three.

20:37 So such a sad story.

20:39 Again, he was a senior supervisor.

20:42 He did die from shock on December 23rd of 2010 and again, not a new employee.

20:48 He'd worked there for 12 years.

20:51 Nothing in place to make people aware when someone's in there and apparently going in there and scraping off the plastic was something that they had to do regularly since the accident.

21:01 They have fitted the oven with an escape hatch, but no one really knew he was in there until they saw smoke seeping from it.

21:10 But this particular oven could reach temperatures of 536 °F.

21:16 It was used to mold kayaks.

21:19 You know how thick the plastic is on kayaks.

21:22 But if the company just would have considered the risks, you know, involved with that, he would still be here.

21:30 I don't know, safety, especially in industrial jobs.

21:35 We see a lot of industrial related deaths and most of them are preventable.

21:40 Some of them are user error.

21:43 Honestly, people just don't know how to use equipment that they are put in charge of, but a big majority of it is that, but in this case, it was more just safety measures were not in place before this happened.

22:00 I guess a part of my job is and, and it's sad.

22:04 I kind of carry it in my day-to-day life.

22:06 I think to myself every time, what's the worst that can happen in almost every situation?

22:12 What's the worst that can happen?

22:14 And if I prepare myself for that possibility, I can prevent a lot of things from happening, I feel like anyway, and I always kind of told that to my kids.

22:26 Ok, what's the worst that can happen in this situation.

22:29 You know, if you get in the car with this kid who's had 10 accidents, the worst that can happen is you could die in an accident with him because he obviously can't drive.

22:39 It puts a lot of things into perspective.

22:40 It probably made my kids a little bit paranoid, but you kind of have to think that way and you start to think that way in this position in our job.

22:49 When you see that people do stupid things again.

22:53 I'm not comparing this to the accident with the oven.

22:57 Obviously, he was doing his job, and they just didn't have safety measures in place, but people do dumb things.

23:04 You know, a lot of days at work, we just kind of sit and shake our heads and we're like, why, like, why did they do that?

23:09 It could have gone down so much differently if they just would have put some thought into the process.

23:17 I'm headed into the office this morning.

23:20 It's funny because all my friends are like, oh, I hate that you do that.

23:23 Your job is so sad, and my job is sad, but I signed up for it and the things I see that's my everyday life.

23:32 That's like what I'm used to.

23:34 I don't bring it home and I don't, you know, I'm not a depressed person but it does take a special person to not be able to bring it home.

23:43 And I guess in some ways we do because we're a little more cautious and things like that.

23:49 But we, I think, and I speak for most of us, I think we don't come home depressed and sad and go straight to bed.

24:00 It's just the way we look at it.

24:03 I guess our focus is on doing our job.

24:08 Not that we don't think about the person, but our focus is doing our job.

24:12 We obviously love it.

24:13 It's hard to get a job in this field and it's because those of us who do it love it and we don't want to stop doing it.

24:20 But there is hope for those of you who want to get in the field because the population is a growing like crazy.

24:28 I mean, people are never going to stop having kids.

24:31 I don't know about y'all city but the apartment complexes here are crazy.

24:37 They're going up like crazy.

24:39 The population is only going to grow more and there has to be enough of us to do the work.

24:45 There is hope and then some of us are going to retire someday.

24:48 So don't give up if you want to get into this field because it's very rewarding in its own way.

24:54 But it does take a special person.

24:57 I hope that everyone has an amazing week, warm wherever you're at and stay out of trouble because I do not want to work that hard today.

25:09 I am over it. No, I'm kidding.

25:11 Anyway, have a great day and I look forward to talking to y'all next week.

25:15 Again, if you have a story that you want us to cover, get on the website PushingUpLilies.com, there is a place for you to request a specific story and I have talked to some people who are going to be guest hosts so that will be coming soon.

25:31 I also do have some police friends that are interested in telling some of their stories.

25:36 Look forward to talking to you next week.

25:38 Bye.

25:39 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

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25:54 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at PushingUpLilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.