Laurence R. Penn, Forensic Animation/Video Specialist
If you’re a regular streaming TV subscriber, you’ve probably heard of or even seen the documentary on Netflix, “Don’t F**K with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer.” Likely, you don’t remember the events that took place in 2010; but, as the title undoubtedly suggests, what transpired and is expertly told in the original series is disturbing, unsettling, and saddening to say the least. This article will delve into the story, revealing some of the twists exposed along the way, so consider this to be your spoiler alert.
Facebook and YouTube were about five years old at the time, and this is around when social media posts, photos and videos began being coined as “going viral.” One such video was that of an unidentified male fatally harming kittens. As the video spread, a group started to band together online to try and identify the individual to put them to justice for their utterly heinous act. The team used clues evident in the background of the video footage such as doorknobs, electrical outlets, furniture, and even appliances to locate geographically where the videos were filmed. Eventually, another video surfaced of the same individual performing more atrocious violent acts on poor, defenseless felines. This, of course, drives the online group to double and triple their efforts in identifying the monster before he moves on to harm any other creature or, as history has proven, person. Various clues left by the animal killer leads the online team to discover his name and numerous social media fan pages containing photos of himself posing in exotic places all over the world, supposedly as some highly successful and handsome male model. Yet, something about some of the photos isn’t right. As more and more information is uncovered, and with the help of some of the photos, the elusive and always changing location of the man is identified, just moments too late, by architecture and roadways in the photos and GPS data contained in the metadata.
Robert J. Nobilini, Ph.D., Biomechanical Expert
Case Synopsis: Plaintiff incurred injuries to her right elbow and cervical spine as a result of being struck by an SUV while riding her bicycle through an intersection. It was requested that a biomechanical analysis be performed to explain the dynamics of the subject incident and the mechanism of the plaintiff’s injuries.
Expert Analysis: Based upon the police report, photographs of the vehicles at the scene, the plaintiff’s medical records, and the testimony of witnesses, it was determined that the plaintiff’s bicycle was struck on the left side by the front of the SUV.
Damage to the left handlebar and bruising on the medial aspect of the plaintiff’s right thigh were consistent with the top tube of the bicycle being pushed to the right. The impact between the high front end of the SUV and the bicycle handlebar, and the friction between the bicycle tires and the road, caused the bicycle to rotate and move laterally to the right.
Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety/Slip, Trip and Fall Expert
Case Description: While walking on the sidewalk toward the apartment she rented, the plaintiff alleged that she stepped onto an icy patch and fell, resulting in multiple injuries. Plaintiff’s expert opined that the sidewalk had a slight concave surface to it, allowing water from weather events to pool in it. Freezing temperatures allowed the pooled water to freeze, causing the slipping hazard that the plaintiff experienced. The plaintiff sued the property owner and property manager.
Expert Analysis: A site survey was conducted approximately a year after the incident to gather evidence. Still photography and videography were performed, as well as slope measurements. The evidence showed that the incident sidewalk surface was indeed concave; however, it was also sloped to a degree that allowed water to completely run out of the slightly dished area. The survey also revealed that adjacent to the alleged fall location was a decorative stone half-wall that a prudent pedestrian might grasp onto in order to afford stability while walking over ice, if any had been present. The plaintiff alleged that she chose not to grasp the half-wall.
R. Scott King, BSME, Principal Automotive / Mechanical Engineer
The automotive and vehicle safety industries call them “Backover Events”: the accidental, unintended reverse (or backing) maneuver, often resulting in injuries to pedestrians and by-standers. In a recent report to Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates nearly 200 deaths and 8,000 injuries occur each year from these events, despite long-standing vehicle design standards targeting their reduction. To be sure, those design standards and requirements, as well as voluntary efforts by the manufacturing communities, have had a positive effect, for without them the statistics would likely be far worse. Recently, however, the automotive industry took an additional major step to reduce the risk and occurrence of such events. Specifically, beginning with the 2018 production year, all passenger vehicles are required to have backup cameras. Typically utilizing in-dash screens, these devices provide a rearward-looking view typically not provided by the vehicle’s mirrors. A driving force behind this requirement was reducing backover events involving small children that are typically small enough to fit within a vehicle’s so-called “blind spot”. Now into its second year of production, regulators are awaiting data to evaluate the efficacy of these new systems.
Timothy P. Reilly, P.E., Collision Reconstruction / Civil Engineer
Pennsylvania officials have recently announced a new Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement pilot program and the vehicle-mounted camera and radar devices are already operational in several work zones across the state. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and Pennsylvania State Police are partnering in the program to reduce speeding in work zones to improve safety for workers and drivers.
The cameras will automatically capture a picture of the license plate when the radar detects a vehicle travelling 11 miles or greater over the speed limit in an active work zone. Violation notices will be then sent via mail according to the vehicle’s registration address. For the first offense, the owner of the vehicle will simply receive a warning. The penalty for the second offense is a $75.00 fine. Subsequent penalties will be $150.00 fines. Work zones utilizing these vehicles will have signs warning drivers and there will be a website where drivers can track the location of these vehicles.
Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert
An extended family met at a popular resort hotel in a sunbelt state. The hotel had multiple, well maintained pools located throughout their property.
According to an independent inspection of the facilities, no health code violations or standards of care for resort pools were committed. Fencing, self-closing self-latching gates, rescue equipment, and emergency phone were all in place.
As is customary for these types of pools, swimming is: “At your Own Risk” and “No Lifeguard is on Duty.” These signs were also prominently displayed around the pool. Bar staff, waiters, and recreation directors were also stationed at the pools, but no lifeguards were on duty. The adults in this family decided to rest in their rooms on the third floor, but not before dropping their two young sons off at the pool. Not long after the boys were left, without parental supervision, the youngest boy fell unconscious beneath the “shallow water” pool surface; a depth of less than five feet. The older boy frantically attempted to reach his brother until pool patrons noticed the commotion and responded by pulling the child out of the pool and beginning