Crime-Solving Science

Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Melinda McGunnigle speaks with students in OCC's Criminal Justice Club.

Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Melinda McGunnigle speaks with students in OCC’s Criminal Justice Club.

It was a case that attracted national attention. The wife of a prominent local doctor was found dead in her home after a mysterious fall in the shower. It took nearly two years for her husband to be charged in connection with her death. Ultimately he was tried, convicted and sent to prison. The key to his prosecution was blood evidence at the crime scene. It told a different story than the one Dr. Robert Neulander was telling about what happened to his wife, Leslie. One of the people who understood what the evidence showed was Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Melinda McGunnigle. She and District Attorney William Fitzpatrick successfully prosecuted Neulander.

McGunnigle goes over a layout of the Neulander home.

McGunnigle goes over a layout of the Neulander home.

Eight months after the conclusion of one of Central New York’s highest profile trials ever, McGunnigle was invited to campus by the College’s Criminal Justice Club to discuss the forensics of the case. Her 45-minute presentation was well attended by students who asked questions throughout the event.  McGunnigle explained how she was involved in the case from day one. She was called to the scene and in the home hours after Leslie Neulander’s death.

McGunnigle used photos and diagrams of the house to explain what happened and where it happened. Robert Neulander claimed his wife had collapsed in the shower and suffered significant injuries. He said he moved her to the bedroom to try to revive her but was unsuccessful. Thanks to photos taken at the crime scene along with physical evidence and testimony from forensics experts, blood-related evidence proved she had been fatally wounded in her bed. “The forensics that we found, the blood splatter, the injuries, nothing matched up to the defendant’s story, “McGunnigle told students. “Everything was discredited in his story.”

Students who listened to McGunnigle and participated in the discussion enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the science of evidence gathering.  “I thought it was absolutely fascinating,” said Sandy Klinzman. “It was amazing to see and hear how they pieced together what happened.” Student Jamie Garner shared a similar opinion. “It was an awesome experience. I learned so much just from listening to her!”

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