Wednesday, September 7, 2016

SinC/Hawaii Speaker for August, 2016: MAUREEN A. FINN

Sisters in Crime/Hawaii members met at Makiki Community Library for the August meeting featuring Guest Speaker Maureen A. Finn.

Maureen had attended the Hawaii Book and Music Festival in May, 2016, in Honolulu. She stopped by the SinC/Hawaii booth to visit with members and learn about the chapter. After a short discussion, she was asked to speak at our August meeting and she eagerly accepted.

Maureen A. Finn worked for twenty-eight years as a forensic scientist in the Toxicology Lab of the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office in Chicago. She recently moved to Honolulu with her husband, who is now with the Honolulu Police Commission. Her college degree was in biology and chemistry. She interned in the Illinois State Police crime lab.

Larry and Rosemary Mild and Dennis Keating listen as
Jenny presents a lei to Maureen

SinC/HI members welcomed Maureen at Makiki Community Library where they hold their monthly meetings. She was greeted in true Hawaiian fashion with a lovely flower lei, presented to her by member Jenny Delos Santos.

As you can see, we take over the mystery section of the library - so appropriate for crime writers!

Maureen A. Finn and Jenny Delos Santos

After introductions to the group, Maureen opened her talk about working in the Toxicology Dept. with, “I really learned on the job.”

Relying completely on SinC/HI Secretary Rosemary Mild's minutes, here are highlights of Maureen's riveting talk.

--The Medical Examiner must be an MD and board-certified in forensic pathology. In 1976 Cook County switched to an ME from a coroner, who doesn’t even have to be a doctor. (Often a political appointee.) The ME’s office there (includes the morgue) has about 4500 cases a year of unexplained deaths (when no doctor is present).
--When Maureen was still in training, she got to do testing on the late Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, who died suddenly at age 65 of a heart attack.
--Her lab received the corpse of a “body packer”: a mule, who had swallowed 33-34 packets of cocaine; three broke, sending cocaine throughout his intestines. He died in his hotel room. The drugs were worth millions. Late at night she called her boss for instructions: to put the evidence bag in the freezer. DEA agents came two days later to pick it up. Maureen had to sign it out in the presence of witnesses.        
--Tissues are kept for one year; blood for two years. DNA is done in the Crime Lab.
--The infant mortality rate in Chicago is high, often because of drugs. Her lab had a rash of cocaine babies (also heroin or alcohol). They would examine every part of the baby, including tissue, brain, etc. to confirm death by drug overdose.
--While testing for overdoses of illicit and prescription drugs, she had to observe strict protocols. A full tox screen takes eight weeks or more. In her lab, fifteen of the eighteen workers were scientists.
--A few of Maureen’s favorite books: Fatal Vision, Helter Skelter, and In Cold Blood.

Photos taken at the meeting and contributed by Leslie Foster:

Photos with Maureen: Larry & Rosemary Mild, Kent Reinker, Lizbeth Hartz, Jenny Delos Santos, Gail Baugniet, Larry & Rosemary, Dawn Casey, Leslie Ishimi, Sandy Ritter, and Shauna Jones. In attendance but missing from the photographs are Rose Mary Thompson and Vicki White (we'll get you in the photos next time!)  

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