Chinese police said it was a truck-pedestrian accident but
a board-certified pathologist says it's a murder
In early 2007, I came to a critical turning point. So many questions remained (and still remain) unanswered. Because of the fight involved in getting my son’s body back for burial, which took weeks, and because the consulate did not notify the FBI (the issue of which remains an open question), no autopsy had been performed.
On March 14, 2007, my son’s body was exhumed and autopsied by a board-certified pathologist and forensic examiner. This examination constitutes the only set of scientific findings as to cause and manner of death in this case to date.
Word for word: The Chinese police report
On receiving a call: At 4:30 am, April 14, 2005, Darren Russell was hit by a truck on the road in front of the World Trade Center located at Huan Shi East Road, Guangzhou. Darren was sent to the hospital, but efforts to rescue him were unsuccessful and he died on the same day. The truck driver fled.
At 4:40 am, Dongshan Brigade of the Traffic Police received a call from their operations center 110 reporting the accident and dispatched duty policemen to the scene.
At the scene: The policemen started an investigation on this case upon arrival at the scene. They found a pool of blood sized about 60 cmx 100cm and a headlight cover, but no vehicle. Darren had been transported to the hospital by the time police arrived.
On the same day, Dongshan Brigade identified Darren’s identity and interviewed the witness who reported the accident. The witness indicated, “Around 4:30 am, April 14, 2005, I was driving past the area where the accident occurred. I saw a pedestrian paying attention to the traffic, and when he walked to the lane next to the barrier, a truck (green-blue in color) was speeding eastwards. The right front corner of the truck hit the pedestrian. The driver stopped for less than 10 seconds then left. On seeing what was happening, I tailed the truck and called 110. For fear of danger, I gave up tailing the truck.” Based on the witness’s account and the investigation at the death scene, the truck with the license plate AG3535 or AG3532 loaded with vegetables was deemed suspected. On April 15, the police interviewed the other witness, who reported basically the same information on this accident.
Dongshan Brigade initiated a search for the aforementioned truck. However, two vehicles with these license plates were examined, and neither was determined to have been involved in the accident. The police concluded that the vehicles associated with the license plates did not match the description of the truck given by eyewitnesses.
Dongshan Brigade also sought assistance from local media to search for the vehicle’s whereabouts, and urged the truck driver to voluntarily confess the crime. In the meantime, the police were scanning local vegetable markets around the clock for signs of the vehicle matching the eyewitnesses’ description. Up to now, there have not been any new clues.
On April 29, Dongshan Brigade arranged for the personnel authorized by the deceased’s family to identify the body, and had relevant departments conduct a superficial examination of the body. (Autopsy was not conducted per family’s request.) Superficial examination of the body revealed that Darren’s injuries matched those for a death resulting from severe craniocerebral injuries sustained in a traffic accident.
Due to the fact that the driver is still at large, and that the deceased’s family did not file an application with the police for a “Traffic Accident Certificate” in accordance with article no. 47 of the “Traffic Accident Operating Procedures,” Guangzhou Public Security Bureau has not issued a certificate for this case.
Ongoing investigation: Guangzhou Public Security Bureau is still searching for the suspected vehicle.
Verbatim: Autopsy conclusion and opinion
Based on these autopsy findings and the historical and clinical information available to me, in my opinion, Darren E. Russell, a 35-year-old gentleman, died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head and brain.
Mr. Russell was teaching in China, and on the morning of April 14, 2005, he sustained severe blunt force injury to his head and brain resulting in immediate unconsciousness and subsequent death. According to the Chinese officials, Darren was atttempting to cross the street near the World Trade Center located at Huan Shi East Road, Guangzhou, China when he was struck by a fast moving truck. He was subsequently taken to Guangdong Number 2 Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine by Guangzhou Emergency Center where all efforts at resuscitation were unsuccessful.
Mr, Russell was exhumed and autopsied on Wednesday, March 14, 2007. The autopsy findings in conjunction with the photographs taken at the hospital, the mortuary in Guangzhou, China, and Gromons Mortuary, Mission Hills, California disclosed injuries of blunt force trauma to the head and brain and recent craniotomy, but there is no evidence of injury to suggest Mr. Russell was involved in a motor vehicle accident. The blunt force injuries consist of contusions, abrasions, and laceration of scalp, skull fracture with extension into the base, recent or acute subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhage, contusions and laceration of the right cerebrum, cerebral edema, herniation of the brain, and recent craniotomy with a large segment of the right calvaria missing.
There are contusions on the anterior and posterior left shoulder as well as contusions and edema on the dorsum of the right and left wrists and hands. The latter injuries are suggestive of defense injuries.There are no bumper injuries or contusions and abrasions that would be seen if Mr. Russell had been struck by a fast moving truck or any other type of motor vehicle.
Incident reconstruction and injury pattern analysis suggest Mr. Russell sustained a blow to his left chest resulting in the fracture of ribs 4, 5, and 6 with contusion of the underlying parietal pleura and left lung; blunt force injury to the left side of his face; and blunt force injury to his left shoulder. The injury pattern on his head suggests he was either hit on the right side of his head or from behind by a blunt object resulting in the lethal injuries to his head and brain.
There is a history of acute bronchitis, and this is found primarily in the left lung, and there is evolving pneumonia in the left lung suggesting either a pre-existing pneumonia or consistent with short term survival (following the blunt force injury to his head and brain) resulting in a hospital acquired or nosocomial infection. The bronchitis and pneumonia did not cause or contribute to Mr. Russell's death.The pattern of injuries is not consistent with what would be expected from an accident (motor vehicle or otherwise) and the manner of death is moded as a homicide.
CAUSE OF DEATH: Blunt force trauma to the head and brain
MANNER OF DEATH: Homicide
Case No. GP-808-7
Greenoaks Medical Pathology Group
by David M. Posey, MD, Forensic Pathologist, BCFE, BCFM