Beneath the Surface of the Tara Grant Case

A stranger would not conceal remains in the victim's home, particularly if the corpse was mutilated and desecrated to the end of dismemberment. Mutilation signatures are left exposed. Strangers remove mutilated remains and hide them.

Dismemberment is such a shocking circumstance to many. In your professional experience, how common is dismemberment, and what leads to it?

Dismemberment is very uncommon. The proliferation of entertainment television about organized crime has educated less-hardened criminals about why gangsters dismember. One might be tempted to interpret dismemberment as a sign of extreme emotional tension between the killer and victim, or even a perversion, but the most common reason for dismemberment is actually crime concealment. Specifically, eliminating the head and limbs eliminates the ease with which a corpse can be identified, including through dentition and fingerprints. DNA is easy enough to attempt to match. Thus, in high profile cases especially, dismemberment is thankfully obsolete, for police obtain DNA in order to better match remains later found.

Those who dismember are often found to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time. Of course, that begets the question of whether that person drank the alcohol in the first place in order to carry out such a dehumanizing exercise.

Dr. Michael Welner is chairman of the The Forensic Panel, a national forensic science practice. Dr. Welner, an associate professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, is also researching an evidence-based measure, the Depravity Scale (www.depravityscale.org ), which invites Americans to participate in surveys that are being used to help develop a legal standard of what represents the worst of crimes. Dr. Welner's analysis of important cases of the day appears exclusively on ABCnews.com.

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