Summary of About Face Forensic Files Case of Scarlett Wood and John Wayne Boyer
|Date of Incident||2002-2004 (body discovered after 18 months in 2004)|
|Region and Location||Marshlands, Wilmington, North Carolina|
|Forensic Files Case||About Face (Season 12, Episode 26)|
|Victim||Scarlett Wood (Scarlett Lee Wood)|
|Culprit||Sentence ends in July 2015 in a North Carolina prison|
|Type of Crime||Murder, possibly sexually motivated|
|Forensic Evidence||Skeleton, skull, tooth, a biopsy sample|
|Forensic Techniques Used||Skull photo-video superimposition, DNA profiling, Luminol test|
|Charged For||Second-degree murder|
|Punishment||12 years in prison time|
|Conviction Status||Sentence ends in July 2015 in North Carolina prison|
|Where is Now||Trial for other 2 murder cases|
In 2004, a human skeleton was found in the marshlands of North Carolina. By analyzing the weather conditions and stage of decomposition, the body was there for 18 months.
There were multiple fractured ribs, skull, nose, and pelvic areas (indicating multiple stab wounds).
However, there were still missing bones.
For proper collection, anthropologist Dr. Midori Albert, and her students volunteered in the crime area and managed to recover 80% of skeletal remains.
By studying sutures and bone development, Dr. Midori stated that the victim could be a Caucasian female, around 30 years old and 5’4″ tall.
On searching the missing-person files in the local area, investigators narrow down the search to one single female: Scarlett Wood, 31 years old, unmarried. She was living at home with her mother, Gloria Wood, who was suffering from liver cancer. Scarlett used to care for and support her mother.
Meanwhile, forensic scientists tried to use dental records and DNA testing for identification. But they failed to recover any biological samples because of a degraded skeleton.
However, Dr. Albert and her collaborator, Shane Baptista came up with the idea of using skull photo-video superimposition techniques. For this, they use GIMP photo editor software.
Principle of analysis: A photograph of Scarlett Wood was superimposed over the skull comparing anatomical landmarks. They concluded that the skull features highly belonged to Scarlett Wood.
However, the evidence was still inconclusive.
Authorities now sent the skeletal remains to a private laboratory in Pennsylvania. And it works. Forensic scientists were able to recover the DNA.
Procedure: They first dissect a tooth and remove the pulp tissue to extract DNA. Finally, more reliable evidence was in the hands of investigators, and they only need a comparison sample of Scarlett Wood.
When searching her medical records, detectives also got Scarlett’s tissue sample from a hospital where she had a biopsy surgery on her finger. This also confirmed that the skeletal remains belonged to Scarlett Wood.
Detectives now turned their attention to the reconstruction of the events that might happen on the day she disappeared.
As per Wood’s friend, Lynn Bollinger, she was last seen at a party at a local motel. He informed the police that everyone had left the party around 2:00 A.M., except Scarlett and 47-year-old truck driver, John Wayne Boyer.
On questioning Boyer, he said that she used to babysit his ex-girlfriend’s children. So, he knows her.
And on the party night, Scarlett called him for a ride home but he was asleep and refused, so in frustration, she left on foot.
Detectives wouldn’t believe him, and how they could?
It was a freezing 17 degrees cold night and her home was 7 miles away.
So, they do what they are best at— questioning. In multiple questioning sessions, Boyer changed her story and added a sexual angle to it.
He admitted to having a sexual relationship on that day. And after failing to perform, she mocked him. This ends up in a violent clash.
Boyer added he pushed her and she accidentally hit the nightstand table and died. He then transported the body in his truck and disposed of her near the industrial area of the motel.
But there was more to it.
As per the forensic medical report, the head was forced to be made into a table. The lower multiple left rib fractures also show signs of beating. Moreover, there were very multiple stab wounds on the lower pelvic area with a sharp instrument.
Finally, John Boyer was arrested in 2005, and in a plea agreement, he was charged with second-degree murder. He was sentenced to a 12-year prison term for killing Scarlett Wood.
One more thing. Detectives also believed that he was also involved in the murder of another woman, Rose Marie Mallette (26 years). He was still a suspect in the case.
Forensic Evidence Against John Boyer in the About Face Forensic Files Case
|Forensic Evidence and Analysis||Significance in the Case|
|Anthropometric Measurements||Estimates the skeleton belonged to a Caucasian female, 5’4″ tall and around 30 years old|
|Skull Photo-Video Superimposition||Indicated a strong likelihood of victim’s identity|
|DNA Extraction from Tooth||Obtained DNA profile for identification|
|DNA Matching with Biopsy Sample||Confirmed Scarlett Wood as the victim|
|Study of Broken Nose and Ribs||Suggested the victim’s struggle and cause of death|
|Examination of Stab Wounds||Indicated frustration and possible motive or postmortem mutilation|
Forensic Analysis in the Scarlett Wood and Boyer’s Case of About Face
A. Analysis of Bones
How it was performed?: Forensic anthropologists were able to estimate the height, race, and age of the living person from skeletal remains.
There were also signs of trauma, such as a broken nose, shattered ribs, and multiple stab wounds on the bone region of the pelvis (as cuts).
Significance: The anthropological data help investigators to narrow down the possible missing person as the victim of the case i.e. Scarlett Wood. The presence of these injuries indicated that Scarlett Wood had been violently attacked and suggested the possible motive behind her murder.
B. How do Anthropologists Calculate the Stature of Skeletal Remains of Scarlett from Femur?
For estimating the stature from long bones such as a femur, there is an equation called Pearson’s formula. It is a mathematical equation where any long bones (most accurate with the femur) are used to calculate the stature.
- Measuring Points for Pearson Formula: Top head to apex of the inner condyle of the femur.
- Pearson’s Formula of Dried Femur Bone (F):
- Male Height (in cm): 81.306 + 1.880F
- Female Height (in cm): 72.884 + 1.945F
In the case of “About Face” Forensic Files, Dr. Albert was able to estimate the height of a female to be 5ft and 4 inches.
So, now, I reverse it to find the height of the femur of the skeletal remains of Scarlett Woods.
Step 1: Conversion into cm:
- 5 feet * 12 inches/foot + 4 inches = 60 inches + 4 inches = 64 inches
- 64 inches * 2.54 cm/inch = 162.56 cm
Step 2: Calculating the Height of the Femur bone from the Female Height
-> Female Height (in cm) = 72.884 + 1.945F
-> 162.56 = 72.884 + 1.945F
-> 162.56 – 72.884 = 1.945F
-> 89.676 = 1.945F
Finally, divide by 1.945 to solve for F:
F = 89.676 / 1.945 = 46.07 cm
So, the estimated femur height (F) in the case of Scarlett’s bone was approximately 46.07 cm.
Read More: Beaten by a Hair [Forensic Files] Case Study: Hadden Clark And Laura Houghteling
C. Estimating the Age from the Bones of Scarlett?
Forensic Anthropologists mainly use the ossification of bones to estimate the age of a person from skeletal remains.
As in this case, Scarlett’s 160 bones (about 80%) were successfully recovered. And when taking the ossification of bones into consideration, majorly long bones and skull area are used.
Common bones of determining the age of the person from skeletons:
- Lower and upper ends of the humerus (up to the age of 16)
- Fusion of suture of human skull. Here is the image representation.
|Suture||Start of Fusion||End of Fusion||Notes|
|Spheno-occipital||20 years||–||Earliest to fuse|
|Coronal||25 years||40 years||Frontal suture|
|Sagittal||25 years||40 years||Frontal suture|
|Lambdoid||25 years||45 years||Posterior suture|
|Pterion||40 years||65 years||Front minor suture|
|Masto-occipital||45 years||80 years||Back minor suture|
E. How it was estimated that the Bones Belonged to Caucasians?
To determine whether a skeletal remain belonged to Caucasians (White) or Negroids (Blacks), there are various distinctive markers and mathematical equations.
Following are some of the anthropometric techniques in determining whether a skeleton belonged to a Caucasian or Negroid.
Long Bone Indices for Racial Differences: Caucasians Vs Negroids
- Brachial Index: (Length of radius/Length of humerus bone) x 100
- Crural Index: (Length of tibia/length of the femur bone) x100
- Intermembral Index: [Length of (humerus +radius)/ Length of (femur+ tibia)] x100
- Humerofemoral Index: (Length of humerus/Length of the femur) x 100
F. Skull Photo-Video Superimposition
How it was performed: Dr. Midori Albert and her colleague Shane Baptista used a free image editing program called GIMP to perform skull photo-video superimposition.
They overlaid a photograph of Scarlett Wood onto the skull of the skeletal remains, searching for anatomical landmarks and points of similarity.
Significance: The results of the superimposition indicated a strong likelihood that the remains belonged to Scarlett Wood. This gave investigators a solid starting point for building their case and connecting the evidence to the potential culprit.
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G. DNA Extraction from Tooth and Matching with Biopsy Sample
How it was performed?: After struggling to extract DNA from the bones, the skeleton was sent to a private laboratory in Pennsylvania.
There, scientists successfully obtained a DNA profile by drilling into a tooth (by getting the pulp). This DNA profile was then matched with a biopsy sample that had been taken from Scarlett Wood’s finger shortly before she went missing.
Significance: The DNA match confirmed Scarlett Wood as the victim, providing more solid evidence in the case. This helped strengthen the investigators’ case against the perpetrator and led to further insights into the events surrounding her missing.
H. Luminol Test
How it was performed: Luminol is a chemical that reacts with blood, causing it to emit a blue glow as an indication of blood at the crime scene.
In this case, the luminol reagent was spread over the suspected rented area where two males lived at the time Scarlett went missing.
Significance: The luminol test was negative which excludes the nearby rented area as a crime scene.
Read More: A Shot in the Dark Forensic Files: Martin and Earnestine Case Study
What does Scarlett Wood’s mother say about her daughter’s relationship with John Boyer?
As per Scarlett’s mother, “Boyer was a former neighbor and Scarlett had never a romantic relationship with him.” She only babysits Boyer’s ex-girlfriend’s children when she was a teen. And on grown-up, Boyer was just a casual adult friend.
How was John Boyer arrested?
As per reports, John Wayne Boyer was arrested on January 28, 2005, in a homicide case of Scarlett Wood in Georgia. He was arrested after 3 years from the date Scarlett was missing (in 2002). Boyer’s murder trial was held in Tennessee and was charged with second-degree murder.
Who was Scarlett Wood?
Scarlett Wood (31yrs), a woman from Wilmington, North Carolina went missing in 2002 and was a victim of John Boyer. She was unmarried and lived at home to care for her mother. She disappeared after telling her mother that she was going to a party. Her skeletal remains were found in the marshlands 18 months later.
How was Scarlett Wood’s identity confirmed?
First, forensic anthropologists are able to define the probable age of the person from skeleton remains. Secondly, in searching the local missing reports, they found a possible victim name Scarlett Wood. Thirdly, using skull photo-video superimposition, anthropologists were able to define that the skeletal remains might belong to Scarlett. Finally, DNA extraction from a tooth, and matching it with a biopsy sample confirmed her identity.
What were the main forensic techniques used in the case?
Skull photo-video superimposition, DNA extraction, forensic anthropology, analysis of trauma on bones, and the luminol test are some of the forensic tests and techniques used in the case of “About Face” Forensic Files.
Who was convicted of Scarlett Wood’s murder, and what was their punishment?
John Wayne Boyer was convicted of Scarlett Wood’s murder and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He received a 12-year prison time which ended in 2015.
What evidence led investigators to suspect John Boyer as Scarlett Wood’s murderer?
Investigators were able to place John Boyer as the last person seen with Scarlett Wood. They also found inconsistencies in his initial statements, and when confronted with evidence, he confessed to the crime and was charged with 2nd-degree murder.
- Forensic Files – Season 12, Episode 26 – About Face [YouTube]
- Find A Grave Memorial [link]
- Data Base of Serial Killers [link]
- Norman Kloss & Graham King [A Leg to Stand On] Forensic Files Case
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