Forensic geology exposes massive cover-up in the Enrique Camarena case in Mexico (1985) The laboratory of the Federal Bureau of Investigation remains today one of the world leaders in both research and case examination in forensic geology. The 1985 disappearance of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena and the subsequent investigation of his murder is an example of the laboratory’s ability to provide significant evidence. Although U.S. concern for Camarena’s disappearance elicited a Mexican government response of “why are you concerned about the loss of one agent, when we lose over 200 each year in the fight against drug trafficking,” the FBI launched a full investigation into Camarena’s death. FBI special agent Ron Rawalt, a forensic geologist assigned to their Washington, D.C. laboratory, requested soil samples from the body of Camarena and from the location where the body was discovered in the state of Michoacan. There was abundant evidence that the body had been previously buried and exhumed because body fluids from all sides of the body had become intimately intermixed with rock material. This rock material consisted of tan to brown vesicular volcanic ash and rhyolite fragments. Soil samples collected at the scene where the body was “found” in Michoacan contained relatively coarse greenish to black basaltic glass; thus the body had been exhumed and moved to a new location. With assistance from scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, the FBI forensic geology unit determined that the rhyolite and volcanic ash from the body were consistent with material from the El Tequilla ash flow in the Guadalajara Basin, approximately 100 kilometers to the north. Extensive field studies were made to narrow the location of the original grave site. Several factors were taken into account in the search; specifically, the preserved ash flow needed to be at least 6 to 8 feet thick with rhyolite present, needed evidence of a recent grass burn because of charred plant material, and needed the same mineralogy and size distribution as the material collected from the body. Using these search criteria, the search area was narrowed, and finally cadaver dogs were used to locate the original grave site, which contained rock and mineral samples that compared with the samples removed from the body. In the analysis, comparison was made involving over 30 characteristics. Analysis of color was not possible because the material removed from the body had been cleaned in an oxygen plasma, thus potentially altering the color. These studies contributed significantly to the development of evidence supporting a massive conspiracy among certain drug traffickers and the Mexican Federal Judicial Police to cover up the torture and murder of agent Camarena. The Mexican Federal Judicial Police (MFJP), faced with mounting pressure from the U.S. government to investigate Camarena’s disappearance, conspired with drug traffickers to exhume the body and deliver it to a farm in the state of Michoacan. The MFJP then raided the farm, killing all the occupants and announcing that those killed had been responsible for the murder of agent Camarena. The evidence that the body was originally buried in the area of Guadalajara and then exhumed and dropped at the farm in Michoacan exposed the deception of the attempted Mexican cover-up. After several years and numerous trials, many of those responsible for agent Camarena’s death and the subsequent cover-up were eventually convicted. Further interesting reading: see John McPhee, 1996, Death of An Agent, in The Gravel Page: The New Yorker (magazine), v. 71, n. 46, January 29, 1996, p. 60-69. References: Rodgers, David J., (n.d.). Forensic geology exposes massive cover-up in the Enrique Camarena case in Mexico (1985), Forensic Geology Case Histories, (material taken from Forensic Geology, by Raymond C. Murray and John C.F. Tedrow (1992)) retrieved September 22, 2008 from http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/forensic_geology/Geoforensics%20Case%20Histories.htm Reflection Questions: 1.) In this case study, what proved to be important physical evidence? 2.) What did Ron Rawalt determine from the body of Enrique Camarena? How did he reach this conclusion? 3.) What do you think it means to conduct field studies? How do you think this process helped the investigators? 4.) What do you think would happen in a court if color had been a part of the study? 5.) Knowing both the Frye opinion and Daubert criteria, what burden of proof must the geologist provide to the courts? In other words, why was this evidence accepted? 6.) What can you infer or deduce about physical evidence from this case study? 7.) Suppose you discover physical evidence, what must you do with it to make it admissible in court?