BLOOD ON THE STEP (II)
RECAP: In the previous installment, experiments were described in which it was shown,
1) That a stream of liquid (as blood) freely falling onto a hard surface (such as the step or front walk at Nicole's condo) will generally produce SPLATTER. This is a pattern of fine droplets radiating away from the point where the stream impacts the surface, and a pattern is seen in both the collection of droplets and in the shape of individual droplets. The extent to which the splatter pattern is conspicuous is generally equal to the height of fall up to 18 inches (the limit of the experiment), and down to 6 inches. Splatter is not seen when the liquid is poured from 3 inches or less. Splatter is relatively independent of flow rate. The pattern produced by individual small drops may be different.
2) That the extent of the pool on the horizontal surface, and also across the riser to which the pool drains if it is the surface of a step, depends on the RATE OF FLOW. At slow flow rates, a pool of only a few inches extent, and a trickle down the riser only a couple of inches wide is seen, even if the flow continues for long enough to eventually deposit a pint of liquid or more. At very high flow rates, the step is flooded, and the pattern down the riser can be wider than two feet. The pattern seen at Nicole's step can be roughly simulated with a flow of 1 pint in 5 seconds, deposited 3 inches from the edge of the step. This is within the range of flow rate expected for the initial gush from the carotid arteries.
DISTRIBUITION OF BLOOD AT CONDO: We are here trying to understand the significance of the blood pattern at the crime scene, and so it is necessary to describe just what that pattern is. Figure 1 (in the previous installment) shows the distribution east of Nicole while her body is undisturbed. From the criminal trial, we have a diagram of the front steps which I have reproduced here as Figure 9. It is possible to draw on Figure 9 the pattern downstream from the body, and that will be developed later.
First, however, we would also like to know the distribution of blood under and behind the body. Another photograph, Figure 10, taken after the body was moved, is helpful for that. Although it is excellent for depicting the blood pool on the first step (after the presence of three fallen leaves is accounted for) the implications of blood under the body needs some interpretation. This is because the original blood pattern was disturbed by the coroners in sliding or dragging the body, and by their own footsteps. However, areas that appear unstained in that photo can be assumed to have been outside the main pool, and the most heavily stained areas can be assumed to have been within it. We have also assumed continuity of the pool in the areas obscured by the body, and have been slightly influenced by implications of a photograph (Figure 19, described later) which shows the first riser.
After combining information from all of these sources, the picture of Figure 11 emerges. In this, the body has been edited slightly to better depict the bent legs. The main blood pool is shown in black, except under the body, where it is show in gray. The pattern of blood running down and leaking out of the grout lines has been omitted.
POSSIBLE LOCATIONS: Also shown in Figure 11 is a fine white thread in the blood pools, identified as "6" Limit." This is an irregular line drawn six inches inside the edges of the blood pools. It is the locus of places closest to the edge of the pool that are 6" from any edge. It is believed that because of the lack of splatter, Nicole's throat was close to the surface over which she bled (certainly closer than 6 inches, probably about 3 inches). With a carotid gush of one pint in 5 seconds or greater, the resulting flood would extend outward 6 inches or greater (producing a pool 12 inches across), according to the experiments described previously. The location of this source must therefore be at least six inches interior from the edge of the resulting blood pool; the "6" Limit" shows the boundaries of those possibilities. From this, we see that there is a very narrow (1-1/2") channel up the middle of the first step where Nicole's throat could have been slit, and a triangular region on the walk, widest at the base of the step (about 14" wide there) and tapering to a point about 20" east of the step.
Those are the regions permitted for the throat slashing solely on the basis of the edges of the main blood pools. Other considerations further limit the possibilities, and one of these is downhill flow. The regions downhill (east) from Nicole's body can be accounted for by blood draining from the body in the position in which it was found, but a considerable amount of blood was shed uphill from Nicole's final throat position, and that can only be accounted for by 1) an initial carotid gush occurring in one of those uphill locations, or 2) a relatively long period of draining in one of those locations, followed by the relocation of the body to its final position. Of these, the second seems bizarre. It requires that the throat was slashed in a downhill location, the body was moved up to the step to bleed, and then the body moved to the final position (either deliberately by the killer, or via "death spasms") and then the legs became projected under the fence (by one of the same mechanisms). The first explanation is that the throat was slashed in an uphill location, and the body was relocated (in one of the ways mentioned) to its final position.
THE LIKELY SEQUENCE: The entire appearance of the main blood pools can be explained by a sequence in which the throat was slashed with Nicole's head face down immediately over the first step in the middle of that pool's width, and with the throat three inches from the edge of the step. After a period that is not necessarily more than five seconds, the head is moved backwards (east) a few inches until it is over the walk, then the body is rotated clockwise so the head is north. Since her throat is still bleeding greatly at this point, the blood which is later behind Nicole's shoulder is explained by this rotation. In the final maneuver, the head is turned so that it is laying on its left cheek. The entire process, from throat slashing to final appearance, is done in less than ten seconds. This accounts for the blood on the step and riser (carotid gush), behind the shoulder (last stages of carotid gush during rotation of the body), and down the walk (draining).
CONFIRMING INDICATION: Shortly after the criminal trial, one of the tabloids printed a pair of controversial crime scene photos. One showed Goldman as he was found, the other showed Nicole's face and head after the coroner had rolled her onto her back, a black bar discretely covering her throat. I have severely cropped the picture of Nicole's blood covered face, and show that as Figure 12. Most of the left eye is shown at the upper right, a small corner of the right eye is at the lower left; the upper lip is at the bottom of the picture, and the nose is in the center. Although there are parts of the head (particularly the right cheek) that are not completely drenched with blood, we see here that the nose is completely covered, even its lower surface, and blood appears to even be up into the nostrils, and on all surfaces there.
This is of some significance, since Dr. Golden found that blood was not aspirated into the trachea. (Insofar as the throat wound was across the epiglottis, it is possible that damage to that structure created lose flesh that blocked the airway.) Under the circumstances, the blood was not inhaled into the nostrils. And, it could not have run in there during the draining while the victim was lying with her left cheek on the ground, because the nose was too high then. The blood on the bottom of the nose and up into the nostrils is an indication that Nicole's face was directly in contact with the surface over which she was bleeding when her throat was slashed, or at least was during some moments of that process when the blood flow was so great. This agrees with our earlier interpretation based on lack of splatter.
BLOODSTAINS ON SECOND STEP: The long sought blood stains on the second step described by Bosco at p. 105 are finally seen in Figure 10. This figure has been cropped and rotated 180 degrees so that we can see it in the aspect of Figures 9 and 11, with the top of the stairs at the top of the picture. The result is Figure 13, in which construction lines have been added in blue. There appear to be two wide (an inch or so), matched, rectangular stains at the upper right (on the front edge of the right side of the step) and two very thin and parallel lines to the left of that. Bosco says of these, "What is to be made of the two dark, dense striation blood-stains (linear, straight-edged bloodstains from some type of instrument or tooled object) on the second step...?"
Now, I take dimensions off my own body (I am about 6'1", 200 lb.) and I find that from my body centerline to my right arm at the shoulder is about 10"; from the base of my hand to my arm pit is 22". I would like to know where the killer could have been if he reached to the step in such a way as to have the base of his right hand at the edge of the step where the bloodstains are. I draw a 22" arc from that place at the second step. (See blue construction lines in Figure 13, which is from the perspective of looking west. The actual construction was done in the orthographic view of Figure 11, but that figure is already too cluttered to also show the construction lines.) Then I draw an east-west line through the center of the blood pool on the first step to represent the possible killer's centerline. Perpendicular to this, I construct a north-south line that extends 10" inches either side of the center line to represent the killer's shoulders. Then I move that shoulder line along the killer's centerline until the right shoulder touches the 22" arc from the second step. This then shows us where the killer's shoulders were if he was squatting or kneeling over Nicole when he reached to the place of the bloodstain on the second step, if that happened. By this means, we find that the killer's shoulders would be 8" inches back from (east of) the front edge of the first step to meet this condition. And, this is almost exactly where we would expect his shoulders to have been in the posture in which he slit Nicole's throat. (From the coroner's interpretation, we believe that the killer worked from behind Nicole with the knife in his right hand.)
We know that after Nicole's throat was slashed, the right hand glove and the knife would have been drenched in blood. I have suggested that after the killer slashed the victim's throat, he moved her into about the position in which she was later found. It is reasonable to think that he might set the knife down while he used his hands for that maneuver. And, here we see that exactly an arm's length away from where he would have been after slashing the throat there is a blood stain of the size of a knife. (There are two such stains, and I take this as an indication of an action to bang off the knife superficial blood. The two fine lines to the left of the principal second-step stains, I take as a continuing effort to rid the knife of loose blood by banging the edge of the knife blade on the step. Finally, I take the odd splatter of very fine drops of no particular direction on Nicole's shoulders -- Lang and Vannatter, p. 178+2 -- to be a last effort to fling loose blood from the knife and/or glove before proceeding to another phase of the activity for which a good grip on the knife is needed.)
As a result of the foregoing, I believe that after he had slashed Nicole's throat with it, the killer put the knife on the right side (front edge) of the second step for the few seconds it took to reposition her body into about the position in which it was found. He then recovered the knife and banged and shook the loose blood off it. By this, the blood stains on the second step and the splatter on Nicole's shoulders are explained.
(I also notice in Figure 1 that there are dark places on Nicole's right thigh, just above the knee. I wonder if these are not smudges of blood from when the killer touched her while he repositioned the body. But, the picture is black and white, and the indication is vague, so I'm not sure.)
THIN PATCH ON NORTH SIDE OF FIRST STEP POOL: Figure 13 shows a detail of the first step, looking west. The blood pool there is sharp edged, heavy, and distinctly defined everywhere except for a bulge on the right side where the pool appears thin, and with a poorly defined edge.
Last year, in an analysis that considered only the plausible strides of the man in the Bruno Magli shoes, and did not consider the appearance of the blood pool, I constructed the right hand figure in the chart, "Crime Scene" on our site. In that, I took into account that the man in the Bruno Magli shoes had a partial bloodstain on his soles when he was at the edge of Goldman's alcove, but then had thoroughly drenched shoes when he was at footsteps "A" and "B," on the second and third step in the Bodziak diagram. From this, I considered that he had stepped in the blood pool with both feet in going between the two places. I showed my hypothetical footfalls as "1" for the left foot just in front of Nicole's chest, and "2" for the right foot on the north end of the blood pool on the first step.
Now, in the detailed appearance of the pool on the step I see apparent confirmation for that idea. From timeline considerations, I believe that the man in the Bruno Magli shoes stepped in the blood at about 10:35, whereas Nicole's throat was slashed at about 10:10. Thus, the blood had been lying on the first step for 25 minutes at the time it was stepped in, and would have thickened and begun to coagulate somewhat. The footfall into the north side of that pool would both have carried away some of the blood there, and would have squeezed and splashed blood from that location. The pool would have become thinner at the location of the foot fall, and in fact we see that the blood pool is thinner on the right side. But, if this blood had just been shed, and was not thickened, it would have redistributed itself, and filled in the void created by the footstep. Since we do not see this, we take the fact as support for the idea that the footstep occurred a significant time (25 minutes) after the pool formed.
Notice that it is also hypothesized that the man in the Bruno Maglis stepped in front of Nicole's chest with the left foot, but we do not see any thin place there. That is because the area downstream from Nicole's throat was renewed with fresh blood after the man in the Bruno Maglis went through at 10:35. This is unlike the blood on the step, and allows for the void caused by the foot fall to be filled in.
From these considerations, I believe that the thin and indistinctly edged bulge on the north side of the step pool is the place where the man in the Bruno Maglis stepped as he left the scene of the crime.
NICOLE ERECT? A small number of scenarios explicitly assert that Nicole was in an erect posture when her throat was slashed. We have already seen that the lack of splatter associated with the main blood pool is a contrary indication. So is the blood on the underside of the victim's nose, and up her nostrils. Not previously discussed is the fact that even though the slit throat would project much blood forward and perhaps to the side from the neck, a considerable amount would also dribble down her chest (even if she were being been bent backward) and ultimately fall to her feet. There was no blood on the top of her feet, though. It has been conjectured that in the process of dying, Nicole suffered "death spasms" and one of the most likely of these, if she were erect, would have been a compulsive movement to lift her leg, but then the foot would come back down onto an increasingly bloody surface. No blood was seen on the soles of Nicole's feet.
The concept that Nicole was erect is contrary to almost every documented indication at the crime scene. It simply did not happen.
COMPLETE INTERPRETATION OF THE BLOOD POOLS: Various parts of the blood stains in Figure 11 are identified by number. These now can be interpreted as follows: (1) The blood on the first step is due to the slashing of the throat over that location. (2) The blood behind Nicole's shoulder was shed about five seconds after the throat slashing began, when blood flow was still very great, and the killer was repositioning the body to a north-south orientation. (3) The blood downhill from her throat was the result of draining after her body had been repositioned. (4) The stray bloodstains on the north side of the first step may be the place where blood from the perforated left carotid artery spurted, but there is no good indication of the fact. (5) The blood stains on the second step are probably the place where the killer briefly set, and later tried to knock blood off of, the knife between the time he slashed the throat and completed moving the body. (6) The thin place on the north side of the blood pool on the step is the place where the man in the Bruno Magli shoes stepped with his right foot upon leaving. The arc of blood under the word "Nicole" in Figure 11 is something for which I have no specific explanation; however, unlike most of the other stains, there is noticeable splatter associated with this one.
[To be continued]
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (3/15/99) NG_529