Plastic Tape/Twine wrapped around Conner's Neck

Collected on: April 13, 2003

Collected by:  Jeff Soler, Richmond Police Department

Reason:  Wrapped around Conner's body

Received by:  California Department of Justice crime laboratory, Ripon, CA

Received on:  August 21, 2003

Case No:  CV-02-10941

Request No:  20, item identified as RICH-1

Tested by:  Pin Kyo, Criminalist Serology & General Examination

Bates No. for Report: N/A

Results: Not the cause of death


Initial Suspicion

The twine was wrapped around Conner and so was collected at the same time.  The Prosecution dismissed it as debris picked up while Conner was washing ashore, but the Defense argued that it was placed on Conner by human hands.


The testimony

The twine was first examined by Dr. Peterson during Conner's autopsy.  "As received, one and one half loops of plastic tape are around the neck of the fetus with extension to a knot near the left shoulder.  The skin is uninjured beneath this loop, and the slack between the loops and the neck is roughly two centimeters . . . a little under an inch [0.78740 inch]." The twine was wrapped over Conner's right shoulder, under his left arm, and around his neck and tied in a bow on his left side. The twine did not cause any damage to the skin on the neck nor to the neck organs, so it was not a cause of death.  Dr. Peterson suspected he might damage Conner's head if he attempted to remove the twine over the head and so he cut it on the right side, removed it, and handed it to Officer Soler.  Dr. Peterson was asked if the twine could have been placed on Conner post-mortem, but he said that was outside his expertise.  [Trial Testimony, Dr. Brian Peterson]


The question of whether the twine could have been used to tie a bag in place came up during the Dr. Peterson's testimony in the Preliminary hearing:

Q. ... The baby had no animal feeding on it whatsoever, and the baby's found with a plastic tape that's knotted around the neck with enough room so that a bag could have been underneath that tape; isn't that correct?
A. That's a little --
Q. Let me break it down for you. There was enough room between the tape, as it was knotted, that was underneath the -- around the neck and underneath the arm to have put a bag underneath that; isn't that correct?
A. I think that would be possible.

Other Observations

Dr. Cyril Wecht, who examined Conner's body but who did not testify, told Greta van Susteren that Conner's head measured 28 cm circumference and his neck measured 20 cm (On the Record, October 27, 2004).  28 cm = 11.02360 inches; 20 cm = 7.87400 inches.  He confirmed the measurements in another interview with Fox News, and expressed his disbelief that the twine accidentally wrapped around Conner's neck.  He also conjectured about the baby being in a bag.

And you know that twine around the neck and over the shoulder, on the arm? How about if there is some kind of a bag that is over the baby that is held in place with that tape, and the bag dissolves and breaks apart in the water and the tape remains? There are a lot of explanations. The baby's head was 28 centimeters circumference. I measured 20 centimeters around the neck. You talk about something coming over the head, the body's floating in the water? You couldn't do that in a million years.  [Source]

The tests

Pin Kyo examined the twine for general analysis.  People's 253 A-I depict the envelopes and twine as she received them and her examination.  People's 253E shows the twine with the bow tie, which Kyo says was loosely tied.  People's 253I shows the very tight overhand knot that Kyo said remained after the bow was untied, but was not connected to the bow.  She did not try to untie the knot.  Under cross, Kyo clarified that the knot was under the bow such that she could not see the knot while the bow was tied.  The twine was approximately 50 inches long.




Kyo said the twine had a musty smell, not just an ocean smell but a little bit muggier, mustier.  It had bugs, insects, algaes and dirt debris, but no hair fibers and no barnacles.  [Pin Kyo's Trial Testimony]


Sarah Yoshida examined the twine to determine its composition: a polyethylene, man made plastic material, used in the fishing industry but more commonly used for packaging, shrink-wrap, and twine.  She was not asked to do a comparison with the Target bag, found nearby, which is a shrink-wrap used for pallets.  [Sarah Yoshida's Trial Testimony]


The Court Artist's Sketch

The picture on the left is a court artist's sketch, which was drawn from the autopsy picture that was shown on the projector.  The sketch seems to show too much gap between the twine and the neck, as Peterson says there was less than an inch gap and Wecht said the neck was almost 8 inches around.  An artist's sketch is not intended to be to scale, just to give a visual representation.  This sketch does show the twine wrapped around the chest, passing under the left arm and over the right arm.  The picture on the right shows the twine laid out as it was cut from Conner.  Peterson said the bow was on the left side, and he cut it on the right side of the neck.  So, it appears that the two short pieces formed the loop around the neck, and the long trailing ends are what is wrapped under Conner's left arm and across his right shoulder.

The Prosecution argued that this twine is debris that Conner became entangled in as he washed ashore.  If the loop was already tied in the tight knot, then the loop would not be large enough to slip over Conner's head.  If the twine was a single length, it is unlikely that it would tie itself into a tight knot and then tie itself into a bow



With all the other evidence that Conner did not wash ashore, the most likely scenario is that the twine was placed on Conner by human hands.  It was not the cause of death, but served some other purpose.


The failure of the State to identify the bugs, insects, algaes and dirt debris that were on the twine amounts to destruction of evidence which could have identified where Conner's body was during the interim between his death and being placed on the Richmond Jetty.