Guest blogger Forensic Scientist Kat Sanders shares her views about evidence in David Carradine’s death
The Case of David Carradine in the Eyes of Forensic Science
It was a death that created shock waves, more so because of the sexual
connotations associated to it than because it was that of a movie star. David
Carradine is not that big a star in Hollywood, but he is relatively well known
because of his recent work in hit movies like the Kill Bill volumes.
Those of you who follow the movie industry news will know that this
aging Kung Fu star was recently found dead, hanging inside a closet in his hotel
room in Bangkok where he was shooting for the movie Stretch. The death made the
headlines because of the many ropes tied around the body – one around the neck,
the other around his genitals, and the third around his hands.
who has a little knowledge of the strange and kinky sexual world would know that
this was a case of autoerotic asphyxia, where death is caused when the person
tries to simulate eroticism through near-strangulation. David Carradine was
known for his deviant and kinky sexual behavior, according to reports from his
ex-wives (he has been married and divorced five times).
forensic investigator examined the marks on the ropes and concluded that there
had been no struggle. Also, the records on the hotel’s closed circuit cameras
were checked and did not show any signs of an intruder or even a partner who
engaged in the sexual play.
There have been some public claims that it
was a case of murder by secret Chinese societies who feared he might expose them
and their activities to the world, when you look at the case through the
forensic angle, it would seem to be an impossible proposition. For one, there
was no sign of struggle, and for another, the actor’s hands were tied above his
head and not above his back as reported by most newspapers.
Carradine’s past behavior and knowing of his sexual tendencies, this does seem
like a case of attempted sexual pleasure through self bondage and autoerotic
asphyxia gone horribly wrong. It could neither be classified as a suicide
because there were ropes other than around the neck, nor could it be termed as
murder because the hotel’s CC cameras did not show signs of an intruder and also
because the ropes did not show signs of a struggle.
I am a writer, a reader and a collector of books including some prized first
editions. My first edition collection is modest. It includes The End of An
Affair by Graham Greene (signed). Collecting books is a passion for many
readers. For others it is an investment. Whatever your motivation for buying a
book to add to your library price is always a consideration.
Since my books were published by various Thai publishers over the years, and
the print runs were modest by large publishing house standards, in recent years,
the second hand market has seen my books register eye-popping prices. Below is
an example of the some of the prices. A reprint edition of Spirit House (as seen
below) on offer for $449.
You can order the same edition of Spirit House is for
sale for $13.95 plus shipping, it would seem there is a price disconnect.
Or if not, I suggest you order half a dozen, sell five and use the profit for a
trip to Thailand, and read the 6th copy on the plane on your way to Bangkok.
Maybe people receive comfort ordering from a bookseller located in America,
Canada, England or Germany and fear dealing with a Thai supplier. The reality is
that thousands of my books have been sold to readers overseas without a
There are regular letters to the local English language newspaper about
unfairness of the dual pricing system that drives many foreigners into a fit of
rage. Here’s the reverse of that situation: where a foreigner can pay a price up
to 32 times higher in the States for a book than if she or he bought the same
book through the Thai publisher. With that can of spread, one would have
thought book buyers would have taken notice. But I am not so certain that has
If you are a book collector, it is worth having a look at the prices
Moore, Christopher G. Spirit House Heaven
Lake Press. - 9748669483 Visible shelf wear -- may have some notes/markings on
pages. [Bookseller: Beagle Books] Buy
From: AbeBooks - $
Moore, Christopher G. Spirit House Heaven Lake Press. Good 9748669483 Visible shelf wear--may have some
notes/markings on pages. [Bookseller: Alibris]
Buy From: Alibris - $
Christopher G. Moore A Haunting Smile
Satisfaction Garantie! Unser Kundenservice steht ihnen gern zur
VerfÃ¼gung in deutsch und in englisch. Anlieferung 10 bis 15 Werktage
Weltweit. [Bookseller: amazon.de] Buy
From: amazon.de - $
Moore, Christopher G. A Bewitching Smile (Land of Smile, Book
2) Heaven Lake Press. - 9748578704 Visible shelf wear -- may have
some notes/markings on pages. [Bookseller: Beagle
Books] Buy From: AbeBooks - $
Moore, Christopher G. Waiting for the Lady Heaven
Lake Press 2005 - This is the true first (Thai) edition of Moore's sixteenth
novel in paperback. Very rare in this form, with a red stamp to the title page
(publisher's mark? Author's mark? We don't know), but otherwise new.
[Attributes: First Edition; Soft Cover]
[Bookseller: Partners & Crime] Buy From: AbeBooks - $ 225
The Relationship between Western Men and Eastern Women
East is East, and West is West and
never the twain shall meet. Or said Rudyard Kipling. Always beware of the half
truth; it trips people up, makes them swallow a half as if it were the
The truth is in 2009 they do
meet—online, chat rooms, Skype, bars, shopping malls, Starbucks, museums,
bookstores, and through mutual friends. Why is that suddenly the whole concept
of globalization shuts down the minute sex enters the equation? This is no
longer Rudyard Kipling universe. But from the opinions and reviewers I’ve read
about a recent book (see below) by IHT journalist Richard Bernstein, it is as if
the sun still never set on the British Empire.
Men from the West date, marry, or
live together women from Asia. It is a common sight to see a
farang with a Thai girlfriend or wife. The problem for many people in the
West is that all East/West relationships are tainted. Prostitution is the
elephant in the room. And outsiders have great difficulty in distinguishing
sexual services offered in entertainment areas from the usual boy meets girl
world, which is often far removed from such areas.
One reviewer of Bernstein’s book wrote that: “What could be
worse, one is tempted to ask, and only the sex trade in Bangkok comes to mind:
just as sordid and exploitative, but without any drama offstage.”If one has such ill-founded, ignorant
opinions, it would be best to keep them confined to a narrow circle of friends
rather than parade them in newspaper reviews read across the globe. No offstage
drama in Thailand? Where may one ask has such a person been living?I wasn’t aware that San Francisco had
cave dwellers; but obviously I am wrong. Karen refugees streaming across the
northern border with the Burmese army in hot pursuit; daily bombings, beheadings
and shootings in the South; and military flare ups along the Cambodia border
over a dispute involving a temple apparently don’t count as drama if you are in
San Francisco. But from where we sit, it is drama enough.
Try to let a little light into the
densely packed assumptions. That is hard. People love their guns. People love
their religions. People love their fixed ideas about prostitution almost as
much. Trying to have a rational discussion about prostitution is about as likely
as having a rational discussion about evolution with a creationist. Nothing will
change their mind.
When it comes to discussion of sex
nuance is sacrificed. That would require accepting that complexity makes broad
generalizations about farang and Asian relationships more akin to a
child’s coloring book. There is a great deal of stupidity, conjecture,
half-formed thoughts, and ignorance about cross-cultural relationships. Emotions
cloud clear thinking and the discussion of sex across racial lines in Asia is
Here’s a flavour of Laura Miller’s take on Bernstein’s
“The most pervasive paradigm for
the East-West erotic reverie, as even Bernstein is forced to realize as he roams
the streets of Bangkok, interviewing 73-year-old American men with 22-year-old
Thai "girlfriends," is prostitution. The power and wealth of Westerners --
officials of colonial Britain, American GIs stationed in Vietnam, European
expats in Thailand -- when introduced into poor Asian societies where women have
few other options, makes commercial sex pretty much inevitable. For all the
rhapsodies about silken hair, "surrounding sensuousness," esoteric erotic arts
and the ultrafemininity of Asian women, it is this economic imbalance that makes
places like Bangkok so magnetic to Western men. A dollar goes much further
there, whether you're buying hours of someone's labor at a sweatshop sewing
machine or sexual services.”
There have been hundreds
of comments posted on Salon about Laura Miller’s essay and Bernstein’s
Here is one
“Most Average American Women are unsuitable.
“After going through a
long list of disappoints, terrors and what the hell was that abouts, a man wants
to try something different. The hope is that perhaps another culture will be be
more influential than american "culture" like Oprah, Dr. Phil and Sex in the
“Honestly, white women
tend to creep me out. This is due to behavior. They are not like they used to be
at all. I would say that everything went south when Dr. Phil went on the
“Before the 80s, people
were sure a lot more human. What happened?”
Writers, by their nature, observe,
notice, and process life. That is the conventional view. But what happens when
the accelerated is pressed to the floorboard, and life becomes a blur. How well
can we observe and make sense of the jumbled motion?
Life in Bangkok flies by at warp
speed. One sanctuary is a park off Sukhumvit Road. A place of peace and
contemplation located deep inside the boiling pot of daily distractions.
Everyone is looking for meaning and most are looking for it in the wrong place.
The destination isn’t so much a place for the state of mind a place
I came across this group at
Benjasin Park. It was nearly dusk. I had a dinner appointment. But I surprised
myself by stopping and parking myself on the park bench. As the light faded, I
watched their grace of movement; something in the scene made me think about my
unmindful state as I drift through the day. No more aware than a cloud,
incapable of experiencing and processing what I am doing as I do it. Instead, my
distracted mind runs fragments as if a half dozen movies are playing on the same
Just watching the movement of these
people, listening to the music, was enough to bring back an awareness of how
much I give up by rushing through life as if there is a prize for crossing the
finish line first. The ten minutes reconnected me to myself.
Have you thought of spending ten
minutes to reconnect with yourself?
Anyone who has learnt to speak Thai
understands the difficulty of the task. Mastering a new vocabulary, grammar, and
syntax requires patience and practice, and if one is persistence, after a few
years, you find yourself speaking and understanding the
Why is learning a new language such
as Thai so difficult. Part of the answer is that our brains have been wired for
a grammar and syntax template that is alien to its counterpart in Thai. That is
what makes literal translations, well, so literal, and often so over the top
funny. There are entire websites devoted to the humorous translations found
throughout the world.
Menus are another constant source
And to accompany your rude chicken,
you’ll need something else such as:
Leaving aside the humour of signs
and menus, some serious research is being done into how learning a language
wires out brain in perceive patterns in a particular way. If you speak Russian,
English, German, Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, or Thai you will have a
different perception of time, space, direction, and color are a few
In Thai the jai phrases create a
universe of the heart that isn’t found in another language. Over the years as I
revised my book Heart Talk, I continued to expand the metaphors in Thai that
used heart in a descriptive way to express emotions, relationships, cultural
norms, and social dealings. It was one thing to learn the phrases, it has been
another to rewire the brain to automatically perceive the circumstances or
situations in terms of a heart phrase.
On The Edge website, I came across LERA BORODITSKY who is an
assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience, and symbolic systems at
Stanford University, who has given some answers to the question: HOW
DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK?
“People's ideas of time differ
across languages in other ways. For example, English speakers tend to talk about
time using horizontal spatial metaphors (e.g., "The best is ahead of us," "The
worst is behind us"), whereas Mandarin speakers have a vertical metaphor for
time (e.g., the next month is the "down month" and the last month is the "up
month"). Mandarin speakers talk about time vertically more often than English
speakers do, so do Mandarin speakers think about time vertically more often than
English speakers do? Imagine this simple experiment. I stand next to you, point
to a spot in space directly in front of you, and tell you, "This spot, here, is
today. Where would you put yesterday? And where would you put tomorrow?" When
English speakers are asked to do this, they nearly always point horizontally.
But Mandarin speakers often point vertically, about seven or eight times more
often than do English speakers.”
Thai, the way people refer to the past and present has a loose, stretched out
feeling to it. Over the years, I’ve heard Foreigners complain that Thais are
late for appointments. Yes, and they often blame traffic jams. Sometimes that
may be true. Mostly though, lateness is our perception. English speakers are
wired to view time with a high degree of precision. We aren’t as able to flip
over to the idea that time is about morning, afternoon and night. That is a
range of hours and anytime within that range is “on time.” Of course, like most
generalizations, there are Thais who are more precise about time than an English
speaker and English speakers who live in a time warp of their own making. But as
a general rule the language of time creates an expectation; and that language
differs and when those difference are ignored conflicts and misunderstandings
come into play.
Pundits have for the past year
danced around those shoveling dirt onto the grave of traditional publishers. Not
that publishers will vanish into the hole any time soon. But the emergence of
ebooks seems ready to drive the mass of readers to electronic readers.
Darknessis the ebook you’ve been waiting
for. You have the chance to read one of my standalone novels on a different
God of Darkness is available as an ebooks that can
be downloaded to a variety of readers.
Can I read eBooks (Mobipocket) on
my PDA or on my phone ?
(3) pick up a second hand copy in
the collectors’ market. Secondary market for: Christopher G. Moore God of
Darkness. Used [Publisher: Heaven Lake Press]
[Bookseller: amazon.co.uk]. Buy From: amazon.com $
62, amazon.com $ 79, amazon.co.uk - $ 100, At one
point there was a copy on sale for $2,400.00!
As for speed, ebooks win hands
down. There is no waiting a couple of weeks for delivery via the post. Best of
all you avoid paying shipping and handling charges. Mailing a book from Thailand
cost almost $14.00. With an ebook, you have it instantly and it cost $6.99.
That’s half of the shipping cost. Add on the cost of the physical book the total
amount increases to $26.00 per book. In other words for about 26% of the cost of
the physical book, you have God of Darkness on your reader for the
About God of
God of Darkness, has unraveled the safety nets in the City of Angels. Even the
rich are in a free-fall state when the Thai economic boom goes bust in 1997. A
young American, Hurley Ransom Conover, follows his Thai girlfriend to her
homeland and finds himself at the center of her family’s turmoil. Hurley trips
along the edges of Bangkok days and nights giving the performance of his life as
the relationship with his girlfriend falls apart and her father needs him to
rescue the family empire.
Given the economy once again has
gone bust, God of Darkness remains as timely today as when it was first
published in 1998. The foreigners caught in the economic freefall face the same
problems that Hurley encountered in 1997. Welcome to the world of collapsing
“The stories of other
writers—locals and expats—maybe likened to sketches or drawings, while those of
Christopher G. Moore are paintings or murals.” –-Bangkok Post
I’d appreciate if you’d tell
a friend. Spread the word. God of Darkness will let others have a chance to read
one of my books or if you missed this one the first time around, here’s a second
chance. And ever so often technology offers up a second act. Let’s see where the
play goes from here.
One of the great challenges to
creativity is the Internet as a portal to seemingly unlimited information.
Entering that portal turns many of us into yak shavers. We finish with one yak,
then another comes along, and another and at the end of the day, the floor is
covered with pretty much an indistinguishable amount of yak hair which we’ve
done nothing to weave into the next magical garment of the mind. Piles and piles
of that hair build day after day until we no longer remember why we came to
shave the yak or what in God’s name we will ever do with all the hair we’ve
We are not
We enter the Internet as an
individual but once inside we become part of a hive. Yes, the metaphors (hive
and yak shaving are mixed) are jumbled but so is pretty much everything else
inside the hive. Creativity is not a collective venture; that is the place of
mash ups and remixing. Nothing wrong with that activity. It is the honey
that hives produce and consume. And it can go viral so all of us are drinking
from the same cup.
Being alone, disconnected with the
hive mind is where creativity dwells. Stay away too long and you find yourself
fit only for life inside the hive. There lies our existential danger. Yak shave
long enough and you will ultimately get lost in the process and never find your
I’ve written over 20 books. In the
future, will we produce writers who have retained the ability for sustained
creativity outside of the hive experience? Of course there will always be the
rebel who takes a different path. But for the rest of us; the community of
readers who also unplug from the hive each time they open a book, will they fade
away like an evolutionary dead end experiment? It is no good being a rebel if
there is no one left to notice.
What has inspired this walk around
the hive is an interview with Bill Wasik.
And how did I stumble across this
interview? Yak shaving. Buzzing around endlessly in the
“I would say that if there's one thing that's causing the
novels of the world from getting written right now, it's surfing the Internet. I
do think that a lot of creative people want to be working on their craft, they
want to be thinking big about what they should be doing and my belief is that
the culture is encouraging them to think small. To me, the challenge is to try
to find ways to partially unplug ourselves. To carve out spaces in our lives
away from information. Away from the sort of constant buzzing of the hive mind.
I think some of these constraints can just be arbitrary. Tuesdays, I'm not going
to look at the Internet. I think that can often be effective. Another way of
working on it is to develop more effective filters of information. Instead of
just freely clicking around from site to site to site, and before you know it,
you've spent four hours following your whimsy every which way, instead pick out
a few sources of information that you feel like are not just crucial and
well-done, but also fairly broad based and representative. To me, the most
important step is recognizing that you can't possibly take in all the
information that's out there. [You need to] make a wise intervention into your
information consumption and try to make it manageable so that you can live a
happy life and save time for the thinking of higher things.”
Dying under mysterious
circumstances in Thailand if you are a famous American actor is bound to attract
international coverage. I first saw the first coverage on Thursday night on the
BBC news around 10.00 p.m. News of Carradine’s death has been picked up in
virtually every major newspaper around the world. David Carradine’s death in a
Bangkok hotel on 4th June 2009 will shine a spotlight on Thailand,
the tourism industry and police investigations and methods used when a foreigner
is found dead.
The first order of business in an
unnatural death investigation is to find out what happened, when it happened,
who was at the scene, and what material evidence at the scene may support the
cause of death. But this is no ordinary death and that fact will no doubt have
significant implications in what happens next. This is true for any police
force. High profile deaths are one of the few circumstances where the general
public takes interest in the professionalism of police investigators.
The established facts are few. Mr.
Carradine was found dead in his room at the Nai Lert Park Hotel. He’d been in
Bangkok since 2nd June working on a film. His body has apparently
been removed to Chulalongkorn hospital and there will be an autopsy.
Some local press have called
Carradine’s death a suicide.
Others have been more cautious and
have left open the possibility of murder or misadventure in sexual game playing.
Reports have been contradictory, some saying the actor had hanged himself with a
rope, others saying it was a curtain cord, and others saying it was a shoe lace
with one end tied around his neck and the other around is penis suggesting a
sexual ritual gone wrong.
In a high profile case such as
this, senior officials wake up to the fact that the world is watching them. Such
attention can make people sweat. Giving out premature statements before the
facts have been established often happens but not when the international media
is watching. Then it becomes embarrassing.
The last 24-hours has only
increased speculation and rumors about the circumstances of Carradine’s death.
In other words there is confusion over what and how it happened but no end of
people who sure they know the answers nonetheless. Unless properly handled, it
has the makings of public relations disaster. The buck passing will kick into
high gear. The Press quotes the police who’ve had no time to launch an
investigation and analysis the evidence, the US embassy passes the buck to the
police, and the police can refer matters to the medical authorities.
We live in an age where everyone
wants instant answers. Like a CSI program, the answers should follow within one
hour. Right? Only in real life, the circumstances of unnatural deaths such as
Carradine’s are often murky, the evidence conflicting or inconclusive, and the
outside pressures to come to a conclusion intense.
If Colonel Pratt and Calvino were
on the case, they’d be checking the hotel CTV camera footage in the lobby and
entrance (and on the floor of the room – assuming such a camera system was
installed) for the time period prior to Carradine’s death, interviewing the
doormen, receptionists, bellboys, other guests in adjacent rooms, the last
person(s) who saw him, members of the film crew. That is a lot of work.
Also Colonel Pratt would likely
order a full toxicity test on the body to test for alcohol and drugs. He’d have
sealed off the room and photographed (among other things) and preserved the
footprint that apparently was found on the actor’s bed. He’d be looking for
fibers on the rope, cord, and shoestring, whatever it was found around the
actor’s neck. A room sealed off as a crime scene, allows the possibility for the
forensic team to find fingerprints, hair, skin, marks on the body,
fingernails, and DNA traces that might yield evidence as to whom else (if
anyone) was in the room at the time of the death.