How a small town murder investigation stimulated science on the forensic frontier.
Figure 1: Det. Paul Dostie at the site of the shallow grave where the victim was found.
At first, no one knew how she died or when she was disposed of in a shallow grave on a ridge above Mammoth Lakes, California. Her remains were found in 2003. It has taken four years to figure out who she is.
“In homicide investigation, on Day One you want to know who the victim is, and if it’s a woman who the husband or boyfriend is,” Detective Paul Dostie said. Dostie, a propensive 20-year veteran of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department (MLPD), caught the case. Mammoth Lakes, a ski resort community 8,000 feet up the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, doesn’t get many murders. This was his third homicide.
“The vast majority of the time when women are killed it’s by a significant other. Women don’t get into bar fights and get stabbed,” Dostie said. “Once we have a positive identification we have a place to go.” He meant the suspect. Dostie thinks he knows where he is.