On January 22, 1991, the wife of a Marine Corps officer found her husband lying dead in the backyard of their home on the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro, CA (Fig. 1). He was lying on his right side, dressed in a white terrycloth bathrobe, which covered his tee shirt and pajama bottom. The victim’s Ithaca double barrel 12 gauge shotgun was in front of him with the stock under his legs and feet. A lawn chair was on top of him.

Two small blood stains measuring less than five inches in diameter were observed by the crime scene investigators in the grass about 8 to 10 inches in front of the victim’s mouth. The only other blood on the ground was under the victim’s right shoulder with an origin visible from the victim’s right ear, nose and mouth. No blood was present on the ground below or above these three areas. The base physician arrived at the scene within 30 minutes after the body was discovered. He examined the victim and pronounced him dead, as well including in his official report an estimation blood loss (EBL) at 50cc.

The Naval Investigative Service conducted the death scene investigation and determined the victim had sustained an intraoral shotgun wound but no exit wound. The decedent’s body was sent to the Orange County Sheriff/Coroner’s Office (California) for a post mortem examination. There was extensive photographic documentation of both the death scene and autopsy. In addition, skull x-rays were taken by the medical examiner.

The death certificate, dated January 23, 1991, stated death was “immediate.” This was defined on the certificate as “the interval between onset and death.” The “onset” was defined as the “Gunshot Wound, head.” The “Manner of Death” was recorded as “suicide.”

Figure 1

Figure 1. The body in the backyard of his home; the shotgun is in front of him with his legs over its stock; a lawn chair is on top of the body.