William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Monday, 8, June, 2009

Forensics In The News.

Filed under: Forensics — williamthecoroner @ 21:57

This post will discuss the David Carradine case. It is always sad to have someone die by accidental means. It is worse when that person is a public figure, as there are folks who will attempt to profit from it. Dale Ernhardt’s autopsy photos were published for no other reason than prurient interest. I will not show photos, nor will I do anything to add to the distress of the family. However, for those of a more sensitive disposition, I suggest you don’t read this post.
David Carradine, the actor, was found bound and dead with rope around his neck and genitals in his private room. I have not seen the official reports, but from the information that I have been able to glean from the news this death is consistent with an autoerotic asphyxial death.

The brain does funny things when it is deprived of oxygen. Oxygen deprivation can lead to an euphoric feeling, which is said to enhance orgasm. Lack of oxygen can also explain the phenomena of near death experiences, odd sensations, tunnel vision, and a bright light at the end of a tunnel. Auto-erotic asphyxia is usually done by males.

As an aside; it has long been my contention that men and women are equally stupid, but that stupidity manifests in different ways. Men are more likely to have anonymous sex in freeway rest areas or cruise the docks. Women are more likely to stay in abusive relationships or marry someone on death row. My forensic experience has strengthened this contention.

I have seen several cases of auto-erotic asphyxia. Mostly, the victims are men. There can be cross-dressing, or pornographic materials at the scene. Several cases have been found in the Rocky River Metropark. That seems to be the place to go for weird sexual activity al fresco in the Cleveland area. Some cases have had extensive marks of equipment on beams or tree branches. This is not a one-time activity, people who enjoy this incorporate it into their masturbatory rituals, and the ritual becomes very rewarding, reinforcing the behaviour.

Everyone’s sexuality is different, though.  Some people can be quite adept at tying themselves up.  Neck padding is common, but not a requirement.  The forensic literature has many examples of interesting sexual behaviour, some involving hydraulic earth-moving equipment, a VW beetle, and gear shift knobs.*  And those are just cases presented at the New England Academy of Forensic Sciences.  Richard Callery, the Delaware CME, usually makes the diagnosis of “Too much free time,” and I think he’s correct.

Some families are relieved to learn that these are not suicides, others would really rather not learn the proper classification.  Stingray, of Atomic Nerds covers this issue better than I can.

*These cases are in the literature.  No.  I’m not giving you references.  If you have access to PubMed, you can find them.  If you do, YOU have too much free time.


  1. This was a sad case. I loved Kung Fu. Cool post though.

    Comment by Dave — Tuesday, 9, June, 2009 @ 11:01 | Reply

  2. If you are talking about the guy with the VW Beetle and the swingset chain and the gravel clearing in the woods…

    I have long used him as an example of many things:

    1) How does someone come up with these ideas? It’s certainly not the kind of fetish that is stumbled upon accidentally.
    2) At any point during the tying of the chains and the weighting of the gas pedal, why didn’t they think “Hm. What could go wrong here?”
    3) At no point in the process did the thought “Dear Jesus, what if I’m found like this?” occur to our victim.

    Last but not least:

    4) That was an awful long run for a short slide. I mean, orgasms are fun and everything, but some people turn them into work.

    Comment by Tam — Wednesday, 10, June, 2009 @ 19:17 | Reply

    • The primary diagnosis is “Too much free time,” I just can’t put that on the death certificate. Yes people are stupid. And people do things out of sexual need that are really stupid.

      Finally, for some folks, it seems to be the whole ritual. Not just the orgasmic release, but the whole car, chains, whatever. Some people get very, very single-minded about their orgasms. The problem occurs when the process becomes more important than their partner.

      Comment by williamthecoroner — Wednesday, 10, June, 2009 @ 19:29

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