E. Turvey, MS
Knowledge Solutions LLC
1961 Main St., PMB 221
Watsonville, CA 95076
April 3, 2000
Mr. Mark Dinkel
Salina Regional Public Defender
234 N. 7th, Suite A
Salina, KS 67401
Ph# (785) 827-9961
Re: State of Kansas v. Artis T. Cobb
This examiner, Brent E. Turvey of Knowledge Solutions LLC of Watsonville, California was asked by Mark Dinkel, an attorney representing Artis T. Cobb, to review case material related to the asphyxial death of Casey Blount and the subsequent "dehydration" death of her one-year-old daughter, Alannah. This examiner was further asked to provide an opinion on the accuracy and veracity of statements made by Artis Cobb relating to the known forensic evidence in these related cases.
In order to complete this task, this examiner made a review of related case material including, but not limited to, the following documentation:
Crime scene photos of both victims;
2. Autopsy photos of both victims;
3. Various Junction City Police Department investigative and forensic reports;
4. Various Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) investigative reports;
5. Various Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) crime lab reports;
6. Autopsy report of Casey Blount, dated July 25, 1994;
7. Autopsy report of Alannah Blount, dated July 25, 1994;
8. Pattern Analysis report by Norm Reeves of BPA Consulting, undated;
9. Historical information and records relating to Casey Blount and her husband, Jade Blount;
10. Various financial information and records relating to Casey Blount and her husband, Jade Blount;
11. Transcript of interview with Artis Cobb by FDLE Agent William Pheil and KBI Agent Ray Lundin dated July 26, 1997;
12. Statement of Artis Cobb dated August 6th, 1997;
13. Investigation Report by Agent Ray Lundin dated August 6th, 1997;
14. Retraction of statement by Artis Cobb dated August 7th, 1997;
15. Investigation Report by Agent Ray Lundin dated August 8th, 1997
This examiner found major discrepancies between the two descriptive statements given to authorities by Artis Cobb (July 26 and August 6, 1997) and the known forensic evidence relating to the deaths of Casey and Alannah Blount. This conclusion is based primarily on the consideration of the following issues together in context:
1. The statements made by Artis Cobb describe the victim being held down by the arms and struggling. However, according to the autopsy report and visible in the autopsy photos, there is no evidence of injury to the victim's arms or trunk to support the conclusion that this occurred;
2. The statements made by Artis Cobb describe his ejaculation into the victim. He does not describe the use of a condom. However, no sperm evidence related to Artis Cobb was found to support the conclusion that this actually occurred. This would be expected, as sperm evidence relating to other individuals was found;
3. The statements made by Artis Cobb describe forced sexual intercourse between himself and Casey Blount. She is described as resistant and requiring restraint. However, there is no evidence in the autopsy report or photos to suggest forced vaginal or anal penetration. This type of corroborating evidence would include bruising to the thighs, and anal/ vaginal tearing, lacerations, bruising, or ecchymosis. While this issue by itself is not conclusive, it becomes of interest when considered in the context of the other issues in this section;
4. None of the statements made by Artis Cobb account for the kitchen knife, evident in the crime scene photos, which is on the carpeted floor in the living room. If the knife was involved in any part of the crime, this would represent a significant discrepancy (it is unlikely, though not impossible, that a mother with a small child would leave a kitchen knife on the floor in such a manner);
5. The statements made by Artis Cobb suggest that he touched the top of the television when standing up after having intercourse with Casey Blount. However, according to a KBI Laboratory Report dated September 11, 1997, comparison of Artis Cobb's fingerprints with unknown impressions at the scene achieved a negative result;
6. The statements made by Artis Cobb suggest that Andrew Jones was with him in the victim's home that evening. However, according to the KBI Laboratory, none of the unknown impressions at the scene match Andrew Jones.
7. None of the statements made by Artis Cobb account for the internal and external evidence of manual strangulation/ neck injuries to Casey Blount. This evidence is detailed in the autopsy report (Evidence of Injury, pp. 2-3) and visible in both the crime scene and autopsy photos;
8. The statements made by Artis Cobb describe the suffocation of Casey Blount with a pillow from the couch. However, there is no evidence to support the conclusion that this occurred. In point of fact, it would be redundant to the manual strangulation and the placement of the sock;
9. None of the statements made by Artis Cobb account for the placement of a baby's sock in Casey Blount's throat. According to the autopsy report (Evidence of Injury, p.3), and visible in autopsy photos, a baby's sock was found in Casey Blount's throat, completely occluding her airway;
10. The match to the sock described in item #7 was found at the base of the stairs, the sock was baby sized, and the baby's high chair was downstairs in plain view. Therefore, a rational argument may be made that the killing of Casey Blount necessarily involved knowledge, direct or indirect, of the baby. None of the statements made by Artis Cobb refer to the presence of, or contact with, the baby, Alannah Blount.
11. There are no witnesses or alleged participants that corroborate the crime related activity described by Artis Cobb.
12. The autopsy report of one-year-old Alannah Blount states that she died of dehydration. This opinion is argued by virtue of the overall dryness of the victim's various tissues and the lack of other anatomic defect. However, a review of the relevant literature suggests that this may be insufficient reason for such a finding. According to Bourne, et al (1996):
"Because the clinical history and postmortem markers in cases of dehydration may be unreliable, careful biochemical assessment is required in each case. Postmortem serum sodium, potassium and chloride levels are much less reliable markers of antemortem fluid and electrolyte status than samples taken from the vitreous humor."
Kirschner & Wilson (1996) agree with this assertion, stating also:
" the ability to evaluate the state of hydration at autopsy is limited Sunken eyes, depressed fontanelle, and serosal membranes may be indicators of moderate to sever dehydration. Skin turgor is generally not a good indicator in the dead child.
Refrigerated bodies develop significant postmortem drying artifact, which may mimic dehydration when a small infant is left refrigerated overnight."
Of further significance on the issue in this case are the following facts: (1) According to the autopsy report (External Examination, p.2), Alannah Blount showed no signs of "chronic rash in the diaper area." A diaper rash would be expected if a child wore the same diaper for more than a day. (2) According to the autopsy report (Internal Examination, p.3), and evident in the autopsy photographs, Alannah Blount still had chyme particles (partly digested food passed from the stomach into the duodenum) as well as fecal material in her digestive tract. If the child was alive for more than a day, this food should have been completely digested and the diaper subsequently soiled in less than a day's time. (3) Dehydration from neglect would have taken more than one day after the death of Casey Blount, unless that neglect began prior to her death.
Given these facts in combination with the limited reliability of the methods used to determine dehydration, and the apparent absence of tests on the victim's vitreous fluids, this examiner is unable to accept the cause of death given in the autopsy report of Alannah Blount at face value. This examiner makes no claims as an expert in the area of forensic pathology. Having said that, the issues above described, unless otherwise cited, clearly fall into the realm of general knowledge. As such, the evidence relating to the facts and circumstances in this case begs certain questions that apparently were not addressed at the time of autopsy, and certainly were not addressed in the autopsy report.
The possibilities raised by these facts could be used to suggest a more direct involvement of the offender in this case with the death of Alannah Blount. This could tend to increase the significance of issue #10 described in this report.
I swear and affirm to the best of my knowledge that the above statements are true under penalty of perjury.
E. Turvey, MS
Bourne, A.J., Byard, R.W., Cooper, R.T.L., Moore, L., and Whitehead, E.J., "Dehydration Deaths in Infants and Young Children," The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 1996, 17 (1); pp.73-78
Kirschner, R.H. & Wilson, H.L., "Fatal Child Abuse: The Pathologist's Perspective," pp.325-357 from Reece, R.M., Child Abuse: Medical Diagnosis and Management, (Williams and Wilkins, 1996)