Werner Spitz Discusses His Life's Work: Death
DETROIT – Dr. Werner Spitz has been studying death for a lifetime.
Spitz said studying the phenomenon of death is truly his passion in life. And since his retirement as a medical examiner, Spitz said he has kept working because it's the only thing that doesn't bore him.
"That is my passion. I have no hobbies," Spitz said.
Spitz is often recognized as one of the most respected forensic scientists worldwide. After 45 years of work, he said he is still up to the challenge of helping solve some of the most mysterious cases.
"I may be one of the oldest, and perhaps the oldest, in this country that is still working full time and enjoying it as well," Spitz said. "I cannot envision stopping it. I cannot make myself sit and look at Lake Saint Clair. I've gone fishing and done all the things that people do when they retire and I cannot tell you how bored I get. But when I go to work, I'm not bored."
Before a long career in several high-profile cases, Spitz served on two prestigious panels that investigated the death of President John F. Kennedy. He said he immediately ruled out any notion of a conspiracy in Kennedy's death because the president's neck wound proved the bullet was fired from behind him.
"But (the neck) was an exit wound, so there was no conspiracy, otherwise he would have been caught in a crossfire," Spitz said.
More recently, Spitz testified in the Casey Anthony murder trial. During the trial Spitz told the jury he thought it was a shoddy investigation and that the autopsy conducted by the Orlando medical examiner was flawed. He said he believes the examiner's office staged photos of Caylee Anthony's skull and that duct tape was placed on her skull after the body had decomposed.
"The Casey Anthony case is surely one of the significant ones because it needed not to be this way," Spitz said. "There was no reason for it to be a case that ended up this way. Not that the verdict is wrong. No I don't agree. The verdict is always right when the jury has spoken. But there were so many openings. So many unanswered questions."
Spitz said the questions will continue to haunt him.
After about a half century of cases, Spitz said there are two Detroit-area cases that definitely stick with him: The Oakland County Child Killer case from the 1970s and the crash of Northwest Airlines flight 255, which crashed in Romulus in 1987, killing all aboard except one 4-year-old passenger -- the deadliest sole-survivor plane crash in U.S. history.
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