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A 1674 illustration of a human stomach. (Credit: Courtesy of the Wellcome Collection)

It was 10 p.m. when the two men held up a blue Dutch Brothers coffee kiosk in Eugene, Oregon. They were wearing dark clothing and had covered their faces with handkerchiefs. The first man told the lone barista to turn around with his hands on the back of his head and close his eyes. They likely hoped that the second man could grab the cash while the other watched the barista. But the plan went wrong. The barista got out his gun and shot and killed the first man. The second man tried to get in a few shots, but soon ran away on foot.

The kiosk’s surveillance cameras were out of order, and nearby cameras did not capture the two men on video. The case might have reached a dead end there if not for the criminal’s autopsy and, specifically, the identification of what the dead man ate for dinner that night.

As a forensic analyst for the Eugene Police Department, Lisa Pope doesn’t perform autopsies, but she is sometimes in the room to help tie up any forensic loose ends. Pope was there, in 2010, for the autopsy.

“[The Medical Examiner] was examining the stomach contents, which is a part I don’t like because it doesn’t smell good,” Pope recalls. “But I started paying attention—he was pulling out food that wasn’t well-digested.”

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