What happened

What happened

We blurt it out without thinking; it’s a common question when someone has died unexpectedly. What happened, where did it happen, why, how…? Knowing the answer can help make sense of the senselessness of death. And in the new book “Morgue: A Life in Death” by Dr. Vincent Di Maio and Ron Franscell, knowing what happened could lead to a conviction.

Even as a little boy, Vincent Di Maio “assumed” he would become a doctor.

It was “not a conscious decision,” he says, but many family members had taken that route so he entered medical school, which he “detested.” When it was time to finally choose a specialty, he remembered how his father (also a physician) had “dragged” him to various New York City morgues on his rounds. Di Maio was comfortable with and fascinated by death and corpses. He chose pathology, too.

“Pathologists,” says Di Maio, “are doctors’ doctors” but the science itself is imperfect. “Most coroner systems” don’t produce quality work, he claims but yet, they’ve solved many, many crimes. The work “isn’t nearly as glamorous as TV makes it,” but pathology has answered all kinds of questions about death.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect its practitioners.

Di Maio says that pathologists learn not to let violence bother them. “You can’t live expecting everyone to be… a psychopath,” he says, and he learned early that “What I have on the tray [during an autopsy] is not a person but a body….The person, the soul, is gone.” In his long career, Di Maio has seen his share of dead bodies, and he’s solved a lot of crimes – some of them, decades old.

In Maryland, he weighed in on the deaths of multiple infants by their mother.

“I am angry,” he says, “that I still don’t know her true death toll.”

He was involved in the solving of a Civil-Rights-Era bombing. He was there at the last exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald, and he consulted on the Phil Spector trial. He solved a few “secrets and puzzles.” He even saved a man from capital punishment.

Overall, he says, when looking at forensic evidence, it’s all about reasonable doubt.

“In matters of death and life, that’s our only moral standard.”

There was one mistake I made with “Morgue”: I had it by my bedside.

Not only did authors Vincent Di Maio and Ron Franscell keep me up reading way past my bedtime, but they also kept me awake with real-life gruesomeness and tales of murder and mayhem solved. Yes, there are times when a strong stomach is required to proceed, but there’s also an element of can’t-look-away, too. Di Maio’s stories are well-told and true crime fans may recognize them; if so, you’ll also enjoy knowing how those cases were closed and buried.

Sensitive readers, know that this is probably not a book for you. Nope, but CSI lovers and true crime fans will be overjoyed with it, so get your hands on “Morgue.” Miss it, and you’ll forever wonder what happened…

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@gmail.com.

More in Life

Homer students pose after their performance from the musical Shrek on Saturday after the three-day Broadway Bootcamp theater workshop with director Jim Anderson in October 2023, in Homer, Alaska. (Emilie Springer/ Homer News)
Intensive Broadway Bootcamp offered in Homer in August

During the five-day bootcamp, youth participants will work with top performing artist educators to develop leadership skills through theater arts.

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Young actors rehearse their production during a drama camp put on by the Kenai Performers in their theater near Soldotna on Thursday.
Kenai Performers’ drama camp trains young actors, puts on ‘super’ show

When they arrived, most of the actors had never performed before, but in just a week they’ll put on a real show

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
A copy of Howard Weaver’s “Write Hard, Die Free” rests on an ink-splotched guard rail in front of the Peninsula Clarion’s defunct Goss Suburban printing press on Thursday.
Off the Shelf: ‘Write Hard, Die Free’ an exciting and incisive window into history of Alaska, journalism

Immediately after the death of legendary Anchorage reporter and editor Howard Weaver, I picked up a copy of his memoir

This 1961 drawing of the Circus Bar, east of Soldotna, was created by Connie Silver for a travel guide called Alaska Highway Sketches. The bar was located across the Sterling Highway from land that was later developed into the Birch Ridge Golf Course.
A violent season — Part 1

Like many such drinking establishments, Good Time Charlies usually opened late and stayed open late

Dillon Diering and Sarah Overholt dance while the Tyson James Band performs during the 45th Annual Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival in Moose Pass, Alaska, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We’re about community’

Moose Pass throws 45th annual Summer Solstice Festival

This summer salad is sweet and refreshing, the perfect accompaniment to salty meat and chips. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Fueling happy memories

Fresh salad accompanies an outdoors Father’s Day meal

File
Minister’s Message: The way life will be

“Is this the way it was all meant to be? Is this what God had in mind when He created us?”

Photo provided by Art We There Yet
José Luis Vílchez and Cora Rose with their retired school bus-turned-art and recording studio.
‘It’s all about people’

Traveling artists depict Kenai Peninsula across mediums

Promotional Photo courtesy Pixar Animation/Walt Disney Studios
In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) shows up unexpectedly. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters Summer 2024.
On the Screen: ‘Inside Out 2’ a bold evolution of Pixar’s emotional storytelling

Set only a year after the events of the first film, “Inside Out 2” returns viewers to the inner workings of pre-teen Riley

Most Read