This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," November 16, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Dr. Baden joins us here in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Dr. Baden, your day started today speaking to the family of Kathleen Savio?
DR. MICHAEL BADEN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Yes. Yes, speaking to Kathleen's father, who was next to me, and the rest of the family and going over what their concerns were and what they wanted to learn from the autopsy and how I was going to proceed.
VAN SUSTEREN: What did you hear from them? What did you learn from them before you did the autopsy?
BADEN: Well, what I had learned was that the family had certain concerns because the way that Kathleen was in the bathtub and that she hadn't been heard from for some 36 hours before she — before the body was discovered, that her habit was to take off her jewelry and put her in her up before she took a bath, which wasn't done that time. So they had certain concerns that there were suspicious things in that bathtub.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, after meeting with the family — how long did that meeting take?
BADEN: About an hour, a little over an hour.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Then where did you go?
BADEN: Went — we met in the coroner's office. The corner was very helpful, this O'Neil. We gave us all his facilities. We went from there, drove over to the morgue where the autopsy was done. And everybody was very helpful.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, this — there was an autopsy done when she died in March 2004.
BADEN: In 2004.
VAN SUSTEREN: Then there was one done yesterday, right?
BADEN: The day before, yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And so then yours — your autopsy today was the third.
VAN SUSTEREN: How many people were in the room today?
BADEN: There were five Illinois State Troopers who came down. One of them took photographs, took notes. We exchanged some information. There was a coroner, an administrative coroner, who was there, very helpful. We went over the X-rays. There was Steph Watts from your office who was there, who was very helpful.
VAN SUSTEREN: He's the one who videotaped you...
BADEN: He did the videotape, and he was very helpful in taking notes and helping out. And it was a big, very nice autopsy room. They do about 500 autopsies a year in that room, so it's not a small operation. And when the autopsy was done two days ago, about 13 X-rays were taken, which I was able to review. They have an X-ray view box. They had the X-rays. No fractures. And when I did the examination, there were no fractures on the body.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And so the viewers know that, Steph Watts, when he videotaped you, we were very careful not to videotape the remains and being...
BADEN: That's right.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... respectful of the seriousness of the situation...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... and for the family and the dignity of Kathleen Savio. Now, just as background, how many autopsies have you done?
BADEN: I've done, over the past 45 years, over 20,000 autopsies.
VAN SUSTEREN: And how many post-exhumation? Because that's a little different type of autopsy.
BADEN: Much different. Over 200 exhumation autopsies. And exhumations are always done because some information arises that was not known at the time of the first autopsy, and the exhumations can be a year later, three years later, even 30 years later, when additional information comes up not know initially.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, we're going to get to your conclusion in a second, but I first want to know is, were there any particular challenges presented to you today in doing that autopsy?
BADEN: Well, there's always a challenge in doing an exhumation autopsy because there always is some deterioration of the body. But the advantage is we have more information when we're doing the exhumation than was known at the time of the first autopsy, so it's a more focused autopsy. That is, there was various information that was gathered that led to the exhumation in the first place that wasn't known initially.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, the condition of the body, I understand, wasn't an ideal situation because the casket hadn't been sealed.
BADEN: Well, the casket may have been sealed, but a lot of water got in. It wasn't effectively sealed. A lot of water had gotten in and there was a lot of deterioration of soft tissues.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did that inhibit you from reaching a conclusion — which we'll get to in a second, but the soft tissue damage from the water, would that — did that inhibit you from reaching a conclusion?
BADEN: No, because there was enough information there, together with all the other information that's been available from the other two autopsies, that permits me to arrive at a conclusion as to cause and manner of death.
VAN SUSTEREN: One of the things that we read about in the autopsy report that was done back in 2004 is that there was a lot of blood in Kathleen Savio's hair. Was that a determination you were able to make today, whether or not that — or had she been — you know, did the funeral home clean that up or — could you make that determination?
BADEN: Any blood in the hair was already cleaned up by the funeral home. At the time of the first autopsy and when the exhumation was done, there was no more blood in the hair.
VAN SUSTEREN: What conclusion did you reach as to the manner of death after doing the autopsy today?
BADEN: That was a homicide.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any doubt in your mind whatsoever that it's a homicide?
BADEN: To a reasonable degree of medical certainty is the standard we usually use. It's my opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it's a homicide, and that's what I would have put down on the death certificate.
VAN SUSTEREN: Had you been the initial medical examiner doing the autopsy in...
BADEN: Even initially, there was enough information that it was a homicide because of the fact that she was an adult, healthy, hadn't been drinking or anything, found dead in a bathtub. It does not happen accidentally. No history of seizures or illness. And in addition, there were indications then of multiple blunt force traumas, of being beaten up. And one of the things we were able to look at today is those bruises were still there, and we could see with the naked eye that they were fresh.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, you say that you can — I mean, that makes a big difference, if the bruises were fresh...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... I mean, close to the time of her death. How do you make that determination now, you know, three-plus years later, looking at the remains, that those are fresh bruises?
BADEN: Well, even in 2004, the doctor who did the autopsy describes them as fresh bruises. And now the color is what is very helpful. It gives us a purple, fresh color, like in a boxing match. A person gets struck in the eye, and then, the next round, there's a purple discolorations around it. A bright purple discoloration is indicative of fresh hemorrhage, and that should be always confirmed by looking at it under the microscope. That wasn't done previously, but we've taken sections of that to look at it under the microscope to determine conclusively whether it's fresh or not.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. One of the things that I would have thought is that you would had bruising to indicate someone was held down under water. Because she drowned, right? I mean, that — you agree that she got...
BADEN: Yes. I agree with the very first autopsy...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... the drowning — but it's whether or not someone caused her to drown. I would have expected bruises on her back or on her arms to hold her down, or something. Did you find anything like that? And is that even relevant?
BADEN: That — no, those weren't found. They weren't found, bruises on the arms. There were bruises on the hands that could been part of a struggle. There were bruises on the chest, the abdomen, the thighs, but not on the arms, no evidence that she was grabbed by the arms, which can leave characteristic bruising.
However, in this kind of a drowning, what could happen is that the head is pushed down into the water by a stronger person, and there need not be any bruises on the body.
VAN SUSTEREN: I assume you looked to see whether there was any indication whether she'd been strangled.
BADEN: No indication of strangulation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Positive about that?
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, in terms of — there had been reported in the autopsy that there was a laceration to the head. Was there any — I realize the condition of the body was a challenged one, but any indication of a laceration to the head?
BADEN: No, that laceration was no longer present, either because it was removed at the first autopsy or because of deterioration of the soft tissues. However, it's clearly described in the first autopsy. And that kind of a laceration indicates a very strong blunt force impact, which in itself can cause unconsciousness.
VAN SUSTEREN: But we don't — but there's no way you could determine today whether, in fact, that happened, right?
BADEN: We can't tell if somebody's unconscious or not before death. We have to go by the history. She could have been unconscious. She could have been placed into the bathtub. Her face could have been pushed under the water, and that could cause death.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any conceivable theory, based on your examination today, under which you could say that there's a possibility it was an accident?
BADEN: No, I don't think there's any possibility this was an accident, and I don't think there's any indication that this was a suicide.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I guess you would agree that there's — based on your finding, you've determined — you conclude that it was — it was a homicide, but there's no way you can say, based on your examination, who did the homicide.
BADEN: That's correct. The autopsy tells you what happened. The police tell you who done it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there — have you taken any samples away from the autopsy for further examination?
BADEN: Yes. With discussion with the family, we did remove some samples to look at under the microscope to see how fresh the bruises were, and also to do toxicology examination.
VAN SUSTEREN: To see if she was drunk or doing drugs.
BADEN: Well, that was ruled out in 2004. No drugs, no alcohol. What wasn't looked for were certain poisons. And poisons should be looked for. In fact, I just spoke with the chief about it. He felt also that there should be a search for poisons. And that will be easily done, even after three-and-a-half years.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is there anything from her hands or any part of a body that would indicate a struggle, other than the bruises? I mean, I don't...
BADEN: Well, there were bruises on the hand which would indicate some defensive type of activity.
VAN SUSTEREN: Like what? What were the bruises like?
BADEN: Like punching somebody or warding off punches.
VAN SUSTEREN: But can you get — I guess it's — like, suppose someone scratched somebody. Would you — is it too late to look for DNA under fingernails?
VAN SUSTEREN: Too late for that?
BADEN: Too late for that. And also, she had very short fingernails, even back in 2004. So that wasn't looked for, but it reads as if it would not have been very helpful.
VAN SUSTEREN: Then you reported this all back to the family.
BADEN: Spoke to the family. Spoke to the Illinois state troopers. Spoke to the family. And now we're speaking to you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it hard to talk to the family after this? Or I mean — or...
BADEN: Oh, sure, it's hard. It's always hard to talk to a parent or a sibling about the death of a young person. I mean, the parents are supposed to die before children, and it's just horrible when the children die first. And this family, in particular, seemed to be very close to Kathleen. That is, there's a tremendous amount of love from her siblings and that they still, after three years, are not over it. And one of the reasons they asked me to do the autopsy was if they could bring some kind of closure to this pain that's been in their hearts so long.
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