Essay Example on Roles of a Forensic Entomologist

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Forensic entomologists are specially trained professionals tasked with identifying the interaction of insects with dead or mutilated bodies for various reasons (Oliveira-Costa & de Mello-Patiu, 2004, p.165). These professionals are usually tasked with identifying the time of death and possible displacement of dead bodies in certain types of criminal activities where identifying a time of death or displacement activities is difficult using conventional methodology.

The forensic entomologist usually investigates the crime scene for signs of insect larvae, eggs or actual insects both live and dead for his activities. They then rear larvae in the laboratory in order to collaborate the time to over position with the extent of decomposition of known insect species in order to identify fairly accurate times of death or displacement of bodies (Ames & Word, 2003, p.179). Additionally, forensic entomologists also manipulate insect tissue and their eggs or larvae in order to identify exact location in case of suspected movement of the bodies (Benecke, 1997, p.188). Such methodology collaborates with accurate weather conditions and forecasts in order to identify the exact region a body may have originated and when death occurred.

Generally speaking, forensic entomologists fall into three main categories; medico-legal forensic entomologists, urban forensic entomologists, and stored product forensic entomologists. All these professionals usually have entry level, and advanced science degrees in forensic entomology, botany, zoology, and medical biology (Grassberger & Frank, 2003, 257). Additionally, these professionals are always updating their training in order to keep up with the newest methods of evidence collection, management, and storage. Such developments contributed immensely in reducing the initial errors witnessed in the 1960s to 1990s by early forensic entomologists.

Case One

Role of Forensic Entomologist

In the first criminal case, the forensic entomologist was tasked with corroborating the times of death of all the victims of the 1976 Chicago murder. The bodies had obviously been moved either before or after the assassination, but the crime had occurred before the advent of DNA technology to enable forensic scientists clearly place the bodies based on blood and body tissue (Amendt, 2010, p.310). Therefore, the forensic entomologist came on to assist the investigators first corroborate the fact that all the victims, whose bodies were not together at discover, had been killed at the same time.

Another role of the forensic entomologist in the 1976 murder case was to support the unreliable drug dealer defendants verbal evidence. The legal and judicial teams had deemed his evidence as unreliable and combined with the advanced stage of decomposition of the bodies left the teams at a stalemate (Campobasso & Introna, 2001, p.133). Therefore, the forensic entomologist was brought in to use insect-based evidence to link the murder victims to the said murder using exact dates and possibility of body displacement.

The forensic entomologist also used meteorological data from the previous days with his discoveries from insect-based evidence to place the victims and connect them to the murderers using exact timelines of death and displacement.

Possible Flaws and Inconsistencies

The first flaw that the forensic entomologist did was to use the black and white pictures to identify the larvae. Most carrion insects lay eggs that develop into almost similar larvae and puparia. However, for one to distinguish these larvae and puparia accurately, the pictures used must be at their highest resolution, in good light, and color (Benecke, 1998, p.798) Therefore, Professor B. Greenbergs decision to rely on black and white was inconsistent with industry standards. In 1976, photography technology was advanced enough to develop crime scene film in relatively high-resolution colour (Joseph, Mathew, Sathyan, and Vargheese, 2011, p.89).

The second flaw that the forensic investigator did was to assume that because Lucilia sericata is the most common carrion fly in most urban parts of America, the larvae he viewed in his white and black pictures must have been the same fly species (Ireland & Turner, 2006, 176). In forensic entomology, there is simply no room for assumption and all insect species must be identified.


The forensic entomologists inconsistencies and flaws may have been used by a talented defence team to banish the murder crimes faced by the murder suspects (Horswell, 2004). It is supposed to be an exact science that lives, and death relies upon but assumptions and industrial inconsistencies may compromise its reliability in legal as well as judicial proceedings.

Case Two

Role of Entomologist

The second criminal case required the forensic entomologists to identify the exact criminal incident that the bodily remains of the victim were associated with. He was tasked with collecting and developing all insect evidence at the scenes in order to assist the legal teams to place the murder (Clark, Evans, and Wall, 2006, p.145). The professional was also expected to identify the exact time of murder in order to reduce concurrence with the three murders (Tomberlin 2011, p.401). Therefore, using developed insect evidence in collaboration with advanced meteorological data from previous days assisted him to connect the victim to a knifing incident before the estimated timeline.

Possible Flaws and Inconsistencies

The clearest flaw that the forensic entomologist made in the criminal case was assuming that the younger larvae found in the shirt meant that the crime was probably committed at the time the larvae had been laid. Instead of using identification and elimination method, the scientist assumed once again in clear contravention of industry standard.


The presence and use of assumptions in methods that are supposed to be exact sciences undermine them especially if the results apply to major legal and judicial proceedings. Any talented defence team would easily have banished the forensic entomologists evidence-based solely on such assumptive reasoning (Higley & Haskell, 2001, p.288).

Case Three

Role of the Forensic Entomologist

The forensic entomologist in the burn victim case was tasked with identifying the exact date he had died. Although the post-mortem results pointed to a heart attack, police officers needed to understand why the man had burned and when (Gennard, 2012). Additionally, the scientist needed to ascertain whether the body had been moved after or before the burning incident.

Possible Flaws and Inconsistencies

The first inconsistency with the forensic entomologists role in the burns case is the presumptive reasoning relate to burns and body tissue. They presumed that the extent of burning was directly related to exposure time to the source of heat; an erroneous presumption. Some burns are so hot such that even a few moments of exposure destroy the body extensively (Amend, 2007, p.310). Others may be aggravated by the presence of accelerants and chemicals.


Once again, presumptive or assumptive reasoning has no place in the forensic entomologists practice. They should be able to accurately proof even the most direct relationships using both scientific and irrefutable industry methods.

Alternative Case for Comparison

Role of Forensic Entomologist

Renowned Canadian forensic entomologist Dr. Neal Heskell was tasked with placing the suspects of the famous Ken and Barbie murders of 1991. Using insect-based evidence and meteorological/geographical data, the scientist placed the victims within four accurate days of their estimated murder dates and geographical positions convicting the perpetrators Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo to long jail terms (Catts & Goff, 1992, p.254).

The forensic entomologist also contributed to a stronger case against the two suspects whose DNA samples had been collected. Due to the fact that DNA technology and its application in crime-solving was still young and under development, forensic entomology came in to supplement evidence collection and proofing (Anderson, 2000, p.824).

Potential Flaws and Inconsistencies

Dr. Neal Haskell was one of Canadas most experienced and foremost authorities in medico-legal forensic entomology. Most of his work, including that pertinent to the Ken and Barbie murders of 1991 remains flawless according to inspection at latter days. Additionally, his consistency levels with regard to industry standards were identified as flawless to the extent he contributed to the development of better practices in the industry (Nabity, Higley and Heng-Moss, 2006, 1277).


One aspect of the famous Ken and Barbie murders in 1991 is the unique relationship between forensic entomology and DNA testing (Byrd & Castner, 2009,). Before 1990, most criminal cases that involved dead bodies with gaps in identification and placement rely on the former (Amendt 2000, p.92). However, the latter was also under development. This murder case demonstrated the several layers available in evidence management and how they complemented each other before DNA testing became the norm. Dr. Heskells work also demonstrated the effects of good forensic entomology in criminal cases involving several perpetrators and several victims.



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