Few similarities between autopsy files, expert says

07/11/2003 9:05 AM

11/20/2007 6:42 AM

The newly released autopsy report for a pregnant woman whose body was found in the San Francisco Bay has few similarities to autopsy information leaked in the Laci Peterson case, an expert said Thursday.

Attorneys for Scott Peterson, who is accused of murdering his wife and their unborn son, Conner, had sought the San Francisco police file on Evelyn Hernandez, citing similarities between the deaths.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami denied that request Wednesday, saying it was "highly speculative" that the file had information relevant to the Peterson case.

San Francisco investigators maintain that the cases are not connected.

Hernandez's autopsy report is a public document. Laci Peterson's autopsy report has been ordered sealed, but elements have leaked out.

Both Peterson and Hernandez were about eight months pregnant when they disappeared. Partial remains from Hernandez's body were found last July in San Francisco Bay. Peterson's partial remains and the body of her unborn son were found in April along the bay's eastern shoreline.

But that is where the similarities end, said Dr. Michael Baden, a New York forensic pathologist who worked on O.J. Simpson's defense team and helped Chandra Levy's family after the Modesto woman's remains were found in Washington, D.C.

"There's no evidence of disarticulation in the Hernandez case," Baden said, referring to amputation or separation at a joint.

Hernandez's remains -- the lower part of her torso and her legs -- were found floating in the water about 16 feet from the sea wall along the San Francisco waterfront, according to the autopsy report.

In the Peterson case, the torso was recovered with extremities missing, sources said.

"There was intentional removal from the parts of her body, Laci's body -- the extremities and head -- by a human," Baden said.

Dismemberment theory disagreement

But Dr. Richard T. Mason, forensic pathologist for the Santa Cruz County coroner's office, disagreed.

"I really don't think there's been any dismemberment (in the Peterson case)," he said, adding that the loss of limbs could have come from decomposition.

Hernandez's autopsy report indicated that there was "no evidence of sharp or blunt force injuries noted."

In both cases, the cause of death is listed as undetermined.

Bee staff writer John Coté can be reached at 578-2394 or jcote@modbee.com.

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