The Forensic Science Examination


Decedent:            Oswald, Lee Harvey.

Date of examination: 4 Oct.1981.

Place of examination: Baylor Medical Center, Dallas, TX.

Time of examination: 10:00 a.m. (CDT).



External Examination


The remains were received in a moderately rotting wood coffin measuring 203 cm (80 in.) in length with a depth of 61 cm (24 in.) and an estimated width of 61 cm (24 in.) with the thickness of the casket sides being approximately 2.5 cm (1 in.).5 The exterior aspects of the coffin showed moisture softening of the wood and a diffuse dark brown-black splotchy discoloration with several markedly tarnished apparent metallic ornaments noted about the sides. The above measurements do not include the wooden top of the casket which dismembered upon removal from the casket itself.


The interior of the casket showed similar splotchy brown-black discoloration and moisture-softening of the wood texture. A portion of fabric mesh material, representing remnants of the fabric lining of the top of the casket, had fallen upon the decomposed remains covering the anterior torso area. This was removed to reveal a clothed markedly decomposed body lying on its back upon the casket floor, lower extremities extended and straight with the upper extremities flexed at the elbow and with the hands resting upon the anterior abdomen at the approximate level of the waist. The skull faced anteriorly. The body rested upon a straw mat bedding material, markedly rotten, which currently possessed a thickness of approximately 2.5 cm (1 in.).


The clothing upon the body showed variable degrees of disintegration caused by postmortem change. The clothing was in normal position upon the remains with the outer layer of clothing consisting of relatively intact coarse-woven dark (dark-brown) suit coat and matching trousers secured about the waist by elastic band rather than belt. Few remnants of a disintegrated light-colored shirt were identified and a relatively intact black standard necktie was in usual position within the anterior torso midline and about the neck. A relatively intact pair of white with green diamond pattern boxer undershorts were also in position upon the body in addition to dark socks upon the feet; shoes or remnants thereof were not identified within the casket. The body, with the exception of the skull, as will be described, was not removed from the casket nor was it dislodged, therefore, the posterior aspects of the clothing and body were not examined. None of the clothing was incised or removed from the body.


Upon entry into the casket a moderate malodor emanated from the decomposing body. As measured in the casket from superior skull to heel region on the left, a body length of 177 cm (69 ½ in.) was obtained. A gold wedding band and a red stone ring were removed from the fifth digit of the left hand (subsequently identified by Mrs. Porter as representative of items placed upon the body at the time of initial burial). The head structures will be described below. The clothing present upon the anterior torso was displaced laterally revealing diffusely decomposed markedly shriveled and shrunken friable soft tissue which, where remaining, showed primarily saponification and adipocere formation with a pair of postmortem tissue disintegration defects noted within the bilateral pectoral chest areas measuring 15.25 cm (6 in.) on the left and 10.2 cm (4 in.) on the right. The remaining anterolateral ribs were markedly friable and crumbled with mild pressure. The majority of the soft tissue of the anteroabdominal wall was totally disinte­grated and contained within the body cavity was a beige plastic bag measuring 69 by 50cm (27 by 191/2 in.) with an approximate 28 cm (11-in.) diameter which contained a minimal amount of pasty tan decomposed tissue estimated at 20 cm3. The existing thoracoabdominal cavity was lim­ited posteriorly by brown-black friable decomposed soft tissue as described for the anterior torso. Embalmer stuffing material filled the body cavity. The exposed feet showed partial skeletoniza-


­5The original measurements were made in inch-pound units.




tion. The skin covering the lower extremities was markedly shriveled with marked dissolution of subcutaneous soft tissue and muscle so that the present diameter of the lower extremities was estimated at approximately one third of the in life circumference. The intact skin upon the distal lower extremities had a friable consistency, was more dry than wet, shriveled, and parchment-like. The length of the right tibia as the body existed within the casket was 38 cm (15 in.). (Ac­cording to Trotter-Gleser data for white males, the estimated stature is 174 cm (5 ft 8 ½ in.)


The body as existed in the coffin showed no evidence of mutilation other than postmortem disintegration; the same statement applied to the remaining clothing. Patchy areas of variable-colored mold formation were also noted about the body exterior. The body was maintained in anatomic continuity by virtue of decomposed soft tissue. The remains and casket were devoid of maggots with few crawling insect forms noted.


The head was removed from the remainder of the body by incision of the mummified soft tissue maintaining the skull, cervical and thoracic vertebral column in normal continuity. This incision was made at the approximate second cervical vertebral interspace. The skull was covered by patchy areas of both mummified soft tissue as well as adipocere formation. The calvarium for the most part was free of soft tissue, however, a few strands of approximate 10 cm (4 in.) in length straight dark brown-black scalp hair were noted embedded within mummified scalp soft tissue adjacent to the right frontal scalp. A previous autopsy saw cut in the usual fashion was present on the calvarium with an anterior inverted V-notch in the right frontal region. The calvarium was maintained in continuity with the remainder of the skull by virtue of decom­posed mummified tissue. The previously sawed calvarium was not separated nor was it easily dis­lodged. The interior of the skull was not examined. The supraorbital ridges of the skull were male in character and the nasal aperture was slightly ovoid with a sharp inferior sill. The mastoid prominence of the left temporal bone revealed an irregularly ovoid 1.0- by 0.5-cm defect pene­trating to the interior of the mastoid bone with the defect edges rounded and smooth (Fig. 2). The mandible was maintained in anatomic continuity with the skull by virtue of decomposed soft tissue at the areas of articulation with the skull and by an embalmer wire perforating the max­illary and mandibular anterior jaw structures. This wire was cut and the mandible was readily disarticulated from the base of the skull so as to enable postmortem dental examination.


No incisions upon the body were made except for that necessary for removal of the skull from the vertebral column and for subsequent disarticulation of the mandible and exposure of the dentition. Because of the friable condition of the body it was elected to remove the skull only from the casket with minimal disarticulation of the remains in accordance with the desires of next of kin. The above examination was performed with the remains within the casket and without removal. Only manual manipulation of the remains was used so as to afford the obser­vations noted above. No histologic sections nor toxicologic specimens were retained.


Dental Examination


Initial cleansing of the teeth was followed by a series of radiographs and photographs to doc­ument the status of the dentition before any further disruption. After the mandible (Fig. 3) was disarticulated from the maxilla (Fig. 4), they were further cleansed, photographed (Fig. 5), radiographed (Figs. 6 and 7), and the complete dentition independently charted by each fo­rensic odontologist. Dental study casts were also made (Fig. 8). The complete postmortem charting is in Fig. 9 with a comparison to the antemortem records in Table 3.


Dental Comparison


It was necessary to answer two questions concerning the dental records prior to the disinter­ment. The first question was that of the date of the dental interproximal radiographs (Figs. 6 and 7) which Dr. Norton had obtained. From the list of Available Antemortem Dental Records (Table 4), it is noted that Oswald's initial dental health record was completed at Marine Corps




(Photos not shown)


FIG. 2-Right (a) and left (b) mastoid processes of Lee Harvey Oswald as photographed on 4 Oct. 1981. Note the evidence of prior mastoid surgery in b. (Antemortem records of left mastoidectomy noted on military enlistment and separation medical records in October 1956 and September 1959, respectively.)




(Photos not shown)


FIG. 3-The dentition of Lee Harvey Oswald as photographed on 4 Oct. 1981: mandibular teeth: occlusal view


FIG. 4-The dentition of Lee Harvey Oswald as photographed on 4 Oct. 1981: maxillary teeth: occlusal view.




(Photos not shown)


FIG. 5-The dentition of Lee Harvey Oswald as photographed on 4 Oct. 1981: (a) maxillary right quadrant and mandibular right quadrant.



Recruit Depot in San Diego on 25 Oct.1956. Dental radiographs were made on that date and also on 27 March 1958 (No.3, Table 4). The teeth indicated as carious and restored by Oswald's dental health records were compatible with radiographs made on 27 March 1958.


The second question was whether or not all inconsistencies in the dental records could be ex­plained and the records documented as being authentic. Charting errors are common, espe­cially in a dental health record that has entries by many different practitioners as in the mili­-




(Photos not shown)


FIG. 5-The dentition of Lee Harvey Oswald as photographed on 4 Oct. 1981: (c) maxillary left quadrant and (d) mandibular left quadrant.



tary. The Forensic Dental Examination Summary (Table 3) indicates that the following errors were found and explainable:


1.            Maxillary right third molar (No. 1, Universal System)

Tooth noted as missing on several examinations and radiographs was actually unerupted and is not normally found in the radiographic view used.

2.            Maxillary right second molar (No. 2, Universal System)




(Photos not shown)


FIG. 5-The dentition of Lee Harvey Oswald as photographed 4 Oct. 1981: (e) maxillary anterior teeth and (f) mandibular anterior teeth.



Occlusal-lingual metallic restoration incorrectly charted on 25 Oct.1956 which was really oc­clusal caries as documented on radiographs of 27 March 1958. Occlusal-lingual metallic resto­ration also was confused with the same restoration in the adjacent tooth (maxillary right first molar).


3.            Maxillary left first premolar (No. 12, Universal System)

Maxillary left second premolar (No. 13, Universal System)

Maxillary left first molar (No. 14, Universal System)




(x-rays not shown)


FIG. 6-The postmortem and antemortem dental radiographs of the right maxilla and mandible of Lee Harvey Oswald: (a, b, and d) postmortem radiographs, 4 Oct. 1981 and (b) antemortem radiograph, 27 March 1958 No. 3 Maxillary right first molar-restorations demon­strate more similar radiographic morphology when antemortem angulation (b) is duplicated in (a) versus that in (c) and (d). No. 5 Maxillary right first premolar-restoration demonstrates identical radiographic morphology in all radiographs.


FIG. 7-The postmortem and antemortem dental radiographs of Lee Harvey Oswald of the left maxilla and mandible: (a, C, and d) postmortem radiographs. 4 Oct. 1981 and (b) antemortem radiograph, 27 March 1958 No. 12 Maxillary left first pre­molar-restoration demonstrates identical radiographic morphology in all radiographs. No. 15 Maxillary left second molar-restoration demonstrates identical radiographic morphology in all radiographs. No. 17 Mandibular left third molar-antemortem angu­lation (b) is duplicated in (d) resulting in similar tooth contacts in postmortem radiographs. No. 19 Mandibular left first molar-restorations demonstrate similar radio­graphic morphology in (b) (antemortem) and (c) and (d) (postmortem). No. 20 Mandibu­lar left second premolar-similar pulpal anatomy in (b) (antemortem) and (c) (post­mortem).




Compound error involving charting on 27 March 1958 of: (1) interproximal restorations ver­sus caries and (2) one tooth anterior in the arch than correct (that is, on adjacent contact areas of No. 12 and No. 13 versus No. 13 and No. 14) which is correctly documented on the radiographs of the same date.


4.            Maxillary left third molar (No.16, Universal System)

Same error as maxillary right third molar described above.


After much study of the dental records, it was decided independently by each team member that the dental records were authentic and could be used to support an identification made from the dentition. Figures 6 and 7 demonstrate the high degree of consistency between the antemortem and postmortem radiographs. Identical radiographic morphology was obtained when comparing both sets of radiographs in the maxillary right first premolar (No. 5), the maxillary left first premolar (No. 12), and the maxillary left second molar (No. 15); and similar radiographic morphology was demonstrated in the maxillary right first molar (No. 3), the maxillary left first molar (No. 14), and the mandibular left third molar (No. 17). (The Univer­sal Tooth Numbering System was used.) Additionally, similar pulpal anatomy was demon­strated between antemortem and postmortem radiographs in the mandibular left second pre­molar (No. 20).


Based upon the consistency of the dental charting, the dental radiographs, the dental rec­ords, and the lack of any unexplainable, inconsistent items, positive dental identification was made.


Summary and Conclusion


A news conference was held at approximately 3:00 p.m. (CDT) on 4 Oct.1981, at Baylor Medical Center for the examination team to announce that based upon the forensic science ex­-


(Photo not shown)


FIG. 8-Dental stone casts of Lee Harvey Oswald made on 4 Oct. 1981. Note the bilateral crossbite and the rotation of the maxillary left incisor.

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