Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=41663
Story Retrieval Date: 9/22/2014 11:14:54 AM CST

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Spilotro autopsies described

by Kelli Conkey
Aug 01, 2007


Prosecutors displayed the grisly photos of the decomposing bodies of the Spilotro brothers in the Family Secrets mob trial in U.S. District Court Wednesday. 

Dr. John Pless, a forensic pathologist who conducted their autopsies, testified that the bodies had been buried in an Indiana cornfield for at least a week before they were unearthed in 1986, covered in sand and only wearing underwear.

He said there was no evidence the mobsters were buried alive, but that they had died prior to burial as a result of “blunt force injuries”—wounds that would not be consistent with the use of a weapon such as a bat or lead pipe. Instead, the brothers were likely beaten by foot, fist or knee, he continued.

Pless said he didn’t know the number of assailants involved in the murders.

During cross-examination, the defense asked Pless if it was “possible they were buried alive.” Pless said it could be possible.

Michael Spilotro suffered fractures, a broken nose, head and neck injuries and aspiration, which, Pless explained, happens when “something has been sucked into the airways.”

However, aspiration doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has been strangled, he added.

Because of the intense bleeding, Pless said, Michael’s right lung was almost entirely filled. The accumulation of blood in the lungs, he added, caused asphyxia, or lack of oxygen.

It was determined that Anthony Spilotro had severe coronary heart disease and evidence of a bypass procedure, Pless said. Both were likely factors in his death, he continued, but ultimately, Anthony died of head, neck and chest injuries, and, like his brother, asphyxia.

Pless said the bodies were identified after the Spilotros’ dental X-rays, acquired through their brother, Dr. Patrick Spilotro, a dentist, were compared with X-rays of the corpses’ jaws.

Alleged members of the Chicago mob are on trial for a number of murders committed in the 1970s and '80s.